How to Make Ricotta Cheese

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Learn How to Make Ricotta Cheese at home. It’s quick and easy: all you need is milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt. Above also, it’s rich, creamy, and absolutely delicious.

Homemade ricotta cheese in a blue bowl with a knife resting along the side.


 

Technically, authentic ricotta cheese is made from cooked whey, which is a by-product of the cheesemaking process. However, this is a recipe for an easy milk-based ricotta, which is more like a fresh farmer’s cheese.

Homemade ricotta cheese has a wonderful flavor and works perfectly well in all sweet desserts and savory recipes. Filled pasta such as manicotti, ravioli, and lasagna taste even better with homemade ricotta. Fresh lemon ricotta pancakes make the best breakfast ever.

Or, try a dollop of ricotta on spaghetti and other simple pasta dishes, on soup, or even spoon it on toast. You can even use ricotta in place of heavy cream in some recipes. And ricotta cheesecake is as good as it sounds!

Recipe ingredients

Ingredients for making ricotta cheese at home.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Milk: Use pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized / UHT) whole milk. You can use milk from cows, sheep, or goats. And if you like buffalo mozzarella, you will love ricotta made from the milk of water buffalo.
  • Lemon juice: Use regular lemons (do not substitute Meyer lemons; they don’t have enough acid to curdle the milk). Some cooks prefer citric acid as it curdles the milk without adding the taste of lemon.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Line a colander or fine-mesh strainer with a triple layer of cheesecloth and set in the sink. In a liquid measuring cup, combine fresh lemon juice and vinegar.
Ingredients and cooking tools needed to make ricotta cheese.
  1. In a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat, heat milk and salt to 185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (do not boil). Stir frequently with a rubber spatula to prevent scorching.
Ricotta cheese ingredients being temped.
  1. Remove pot from heat and gently stir in lemon juice and vinegar until the mixture curdles, about 15 seconds. 
Ricotta cheese being made in a silver pan.
  1. Let rest, without stirring, until the mixture fully separates into solid curds and translucent whey, 5 to 10 minutes. If curds do not fully separate the whey looks milky, stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar and let sit 2 to 3 minutes longer. Repeat this process until curds separate.
Ricotta cheese being made in a silver pan.
  1. Gently pour mixture into prepared colander. Let rest, without moving, until whey has drained from edges of cheese but the center is still very moist, about 8 minutes. For a drier texture, let it drain even longer.
Ricotta cheese being strained.
  1. Gently transfer cheese to large bowl, keeping as much whey in center of cheese as possible. Stir well to break up large curds and incorporate whey. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours, or up to 5 days. Stir ricotta before using.
Ricotta cheese in a clear bowl.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 2 pounds (4 cups) of ricotta cheese, or 32 (1-ounce) servings (2 tablespoons each).
  • Storage: Store ricotta covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Leftover whey: Add it to smoothies for a protein boost or use it in place of water when making bread and pizza dough (it feeds the yeast).
  • Simple spread: Drizzle some fresh ricotta cheese with honey, then sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts. Serve with toasted baguette slices.
  • Salt: Substitute 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt for the table salt.
Ricotta cheese in a small dish surrounded by pieces of bread.

Put your ricotta to work

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Homemade ricotta cheese in a blue bowl with a knife resting along the side.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Learn how to make ricotta cheese at home. It's quick and easy: all you need is milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 32 servings (2 tbsp each)
Course Pantry
Cuisine American
Calories 73
4.93 from 38 votes

Ingredients 

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar plus more as needed
  • 1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (not ultrapasteurized or UHT)
  • 2 teaspoons Salt

Instructions 

  • Line a colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and set in sink. In a liquid measuring cup, combine lemon juice and vinegar.
  • In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat milk and salt to 185 degrees. Stir frequently with a rubber spatula to prevent scorching.
  • Remove pot from heat and gently stir in lemon juice and vinegar until the mixture curdles, about 15 seconds. 
  • Let rest, without stirring, until the mixture fully separates into solid curds and translucent whey, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • If curds do not fully separate the whey looks milky, stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar and let sit 2 to 3 minutes longer. Repeat this process until curds separate.
  • Gently pour prepared mixture into prepared colander. Let rest, without moving, until whey has drained from edges of cheese but center is still very moist, about 8 minutes. 
  • Gently transfer cheese to large bowl, keeping as much whey in center of cheese as possible. Stir well to break up large curds and incorporate whey. 
  • Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours, or up to 5 days. Stir ricotta before using.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Milk: Use pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized / UHT) whole milk.
  2. Lemon juice: Use regular lemons (not Meyer lemons; they don’t have enough acid to curdle the milk).
  3. Yield: This recipe makes 2 pounds (4 cups) of ricotta cheese, or 32 (1-ounce) servings (2 tablespoons each).
  4. Storage: Store ricotta covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  5. Leftover whey: Add it to smoothies for a protein boost or use it in place of water when making bread and pizza dough (it feeds the yeast).
  6. Simple spread: Drizzle some fresh ricotta cheese with honey, then sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts. Serve with toasted baguette slices.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tbsp (1 oz)Calories: 73kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 196mgPotassium: 159mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 192IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 134mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. i had some whole milk, cream, and half and half and used a combination of all ….! i struggle with cheese cloth, and always use a pillow case : ) ….. used vinegar instead of lemon juice ….perfect recipe! rich and creamy …. delicious !!!!!5 stars

  2. Spot on chef 👍👌👏. I just made it and I will make Malfatti ( spinach ricotta dumplings) yammy 😋, part of the whey bread. Thank you for your effort 🌹🌞😎.5 stars

    1. You’re so welcome, Jasson! Thank you for the comment, I hope your Malfatti comes out amazing! – Meggan

  3. I followed this recipe. Had to add more lemon juice.
    I don’t like cheese cloth so I used one of my bags.
    While the whey was finishing to drip I made 2 liters of fruit flavored drinks.4 stars

    1. Hi Francoise, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry it needed more lemon juice to come together. Take care! – Meggan

    1. Hi Joyce, I’m sorry it didn’t come out properly. It should come out somewhere between white and a light cream color. Did you use store-bought lemon juice rather than fresh? I wonder if there could have been an added coloring to it that would have changed the color of the cheese. Hope this helps! – Meggan

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