In my never-ending quest to make as much from scratch as possible, I’ve conquered many staples that in the past, I would never have thought possible.  Yeast breads and doughs have become second nature, I haven’t bought bottled salad dressing in a year or two, tortillas are so much better homemade, and I kicked my little yogurt container habit to the curb.  This year, I’m hoping to experiment with at least a couple of attempts at cheese making, and it only seemed natural to start out with what everyone says is the easiest cheese to make from scratch – ricotta.

Now that I’ve done it, I can say two things.  First, it really was easy.  I couldn’t believe how quick and simple the process was, and that it only required ingredients I already had on hand.  And second, this totally took ricotta to a whole new level for me.  I’ve never disliked ricotta, but I only used it in things – lasagna, other pastas, etc.  The usual suspects.   I never just enjoyed it on its own.  But this was so much richer and creamier than the stuff from the store.  Next week I’ll be sharing my new favorite use for it.  In the mean time, feel free to mix in some fresh herbs and garlic, spread on crostini and enjoy ASAP.   Preferably with wine.


2½ tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed
2 quarts pasteurized whole milk
1 tsp. salt


  • 01

    Be sure your milk is fresh homogenized or pasteurized – not ultra-pasteurized or ultra-heat-treated (these will not curdle correctly.)

  • 02

    Combine the milk and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk registers 185˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.

  • 03

    While the milk is heating, prepare a colander and line with a double layer of cheesecloth.  (Cheesecloth can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.)

  • 04

    Once the milk has reached the desired 185˚ F, remove from the heat.

  • 05

    Stir in the lemon juice and vinegar.  The mixture will begin to curdle quickly.  Stir just enough to evenly distribute the acids.  Let rest 5-10 minutes.

  • 06

    When the mixture is adequately curdled, it will have separated into white curds and translucent yellow whey.  Gently stir at the edge to ensure that this has occurred.  If there is still milky whey in the in the pot after 10 minutes, add in more vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time and let sit 2-3 minutes more until the curds separate.

  • 07

    Very carefully pour the mixture into the prepared colander.  If you want to reserve the whey, be sure to place a bowl underneath the colander.  Let drain about 8-12 minutes (shorter for a moist result, longer for a drier end product.  Moist is best for an appetizer-type spread, drier is better for lasagna and the like.)  Transfer the curds to a bowl, stir, cover, and refrigerate until chilled.  Store up to 5 days.

  • branny

    I made homemade ricotta for the first time about 2 years ago in my desperate attempt to use up a gallon on whole milk that had gotten away from me. I’ve made it quite a few times since then but never blogged it. It sure is delicious and flavorful!

  • nmm

    Thank you for the step-by-step directions. I have made ricotta in past with great success, and I find your tutorials invaluable. I love being able to make my own cheese because I am able to use a lactose free milk so my entire family can enjoy it. I can’t wait to see and try your other adventures in cheese making!

  • I’ve wanted to do this forever now. I think I’m going to have to make yogurt and ricotta in the same week. You’re always such an inspiration my dear :)

  • Annie, This is a great post. I have been wanting to make ricotta and now I will definately try this. I wonder if you can substitute some of the milk for heavy cream and make it richer?

  • Lauren Ochoa

    I’m hoping your fave use for ricotta is a dessert application. Ever since I found out that cannolis are made with ricotta, I’ve adored it in desserts of all kinds.

  • rita

    Wow, this look really easy and it is very timely in that I’m planning on making a 4-cheese lasagna next week. I love lasagna, but cringe when I have to buy all that ricotta cheese. That will be changing.

    If you do opt to save the whey, what would you use it in? How long can it be stored in the fridge or freezer?

  • Louann Zundel

    Love homemade ricotta! Try it on crostini drizzled with good honey and sprinkled with a little
    sea salt and cracked black pepper – yummmm!

  • Katie Golczynski

    Homemade ricotta was one of my very best discoveries of 2012. The first time I made it was for lasagna and I had to make more because we ate most of the first batch straight from the colander! Anyone could make this, it really is SO easy.

  • Caroline L.

    Homemade staples are the best! I would put this on top of absolutely everything! :)

  • Ashle

    This is actually how I make homemade paneer (Indian cheese). The only extra steps you’d need would be to squeeze out as much water as you can and then let the cheese sit under something heavy (I use a pot filled with canned goods or dry beans) for a couple hours. Then you’ll get a hard cheese that you can cut into cubes.

  • Annie @Annie’s City Kitchen

    America’s Test Kitchen is seriously the best. It’s crazy to think how easy some of this stuff is. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Ali

    I love making homemade ricotta. Delicious on a baguette with some olive oil- yum!!

  • For some reaseon this is not letting me copy and paste?

  • Jean

    I’m going to have to try this. Thanks for posting this! I bet there’s a hugs difference is making your own.

  • annieseats

    Yes, that’s true. You can use the printer-friendly function if you need to print it out.

  • annieseats

    You know, it’s not, but now I have like four ideas of dessert applications. So rest assured, that’s not too far behind :)

  • annieseats

    I haven’t tried it. I think using whole milk is fine, but I guess I would probably use part half and half rather than using cream.

  • wow.. i remember my mother used to make her own yogurt.

  • Tracy

    I’ve been wanting to make my own cheese for awhile. Your instructions are so clear and make the process so inviting to try. I can’t wait to make my own ricotta!

  • dek2711

    I didnt realise that Ricotta and panner is the same…we have to remove all the water content completely and form it into a solid mass….thats the only difference.

  • Anne@eatcleaneatreal

    Thanks so much! Ive made cottage cheese using a similar method. Im always looking for new recipes to make things from scratch!

  • Lauren

    What??? That’s all there is to it? I need to try that. I have been wanting to make mozzarella. I have heard that is really easy, but it’s nothing on this. Thanks!

  • wholesome kids

    I feel like I’m 8 years old again! My mother made this (using buttermilk) and it was amazing. As a treat she would put raisins in it. Yum yum yum.

  • AnnaZed

    I always wondered how to do this; thank you so much! (I’m pining it)

  • I love how simple this is! I need to try it – I love the idea of ricotta on appies.

  • becca givens

    Annie — these are delightfully clear and simple directions. Can’t wait to try. I love ricotta, and my imagination is tickled with the upcoming end results of fresh and homemade.

    Have you tried it with lower fat milks? or even with alternatives like almond milk? I’d be interested in knowing how these work, and if additional ingredients or steps are needed.

  • annieseats

    I haven’t, but I think you could use reduced fat. I wouldn’t recommend skim. I’m not sure about non-dairy milks. You’ll have to experiment. Keep in mind that the results will vary and will likely be less than ideal when you make such substitutions. Good luck!

  • becca givens

    I will stick with the original recipe — I was just being curious. Thanks again!!

  • Loretta E

    So cool! I bet this tastes amazing…

  • JanetFCTC

    I have seen recipes before that show how to make ricotta, but have never been brave enough. Maybe now I’ll get the nerve up to give it a try :-)

  • Niki Theo

    Dumb question, but for a dessert application like cheesecake or canolli, would you let it strainer longer for drier or shorter for moister?

  • Love this post and the step-by-step photographs. Will definitely be making the ricotta and checking out the cookbook! I love America’s Test Kitchen.

  • mariescuisine

    This is great! I always have all of these ingredients on hand!
    I will try this sometime soon for when I make lasagna :D

  • annieseats

    It would actually depend on what the dessert was. I would have to read the rest of the recipe and know whether I would want a drier or more wet ricotta.

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    Wow, this really does look easy! I’ve been wanting to try to make homemade cheese and ricotta looks like a perfect place to start.

  • I never realized how easy this would be to do. I am always in awe of the time you spend making life easier for all of us. Thanks,

  • Kelsie

    Have you ever tried making mozzarella cheese? My husband tried a month or two ago and then used the whey to make ricotta. We then used both to make Cook’s Illustrated’s Simple Lasagna the next day–it was amazing!

    PS-Thanks so much for all of your recipes! I’ve been following your blog for years and made countless recipes from here and they’re always showstoppers. You and Cooks Illustrated are my two sources I can always trust to make a successful dish! I even mashed bits from a few of your recipes with a few of my own together to make a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake mousse pie with truffle filled raspberries and won a pie contest with it :)

  • Melanie G

    This DIY saved my bacon today, Annie. And the beauty is that it takes so little time (as opposed to homemade yogurt, which we love, but requires the long culturing process). When I found myself out of ricotta and needing it ASAP (praying not to have to run to the store with the kids), I remembered your post. Looked it up and 30 minutes later, I had ricotta. Thank you!

  • annieseats

    Love it! Glad it worked out for you :)

  • Do you reuse your cheese cloth? If so do you just rinse it with plenty of water? I’ve been making my own yogurt for some time (thanks for the great inspiration!) and am curious about making ricotta but am going through quite a bit of cheesecloth. Wondering if I can reuse it a few times.

  • annieseats

    I haven’t tried reusing it. I’m not sure if that is an option – I’ll have to look into that sometime!

  • Tara

    I am so glad I tried this. It is so easy! Plus, I love having ricotta on hand because I’m finding new ways to use it. Thank you, Annie.

  • mmkperez

    No need to reuse cheese cloth. Too much mess. I use a very thin white kitchen towel to drain my yogurt and it works very well.

  • Renee

    I don’t know about reusing actual cheesecloth, but I find that the cheesecloth that you find at the grocery store is way too thin to do a good job without using tons of layers anyway. I use cloth diapers, and at various baby showers received some of those Gerber flat diapers — you know, the ones that are way too thin to be useful as diapers. I looked at them, realized they were fairly useless as diapers, and was given the suggestion from a friend that they make good cheesecloth. She was right! Note that I’m not suggesting using diapers that have been used as diapers, just go out and buy a 10 pack or two of the flat Gerber diapers specifically as cheesecloth. Those *can* be washed and reused. I just rinse the big chunks out in the sink, then let it dry out on a towel rack in the kitchen so that it doesn’t get stinky or moldy in the laundry hamper. When it comes time to do kitchen laundry (I keep that separate, because I use vinegar instead of fabric softener on anything that might come into contact with food), I put all of my “cheesecloths” through a quick wash cycle to rinse them out before I add the rest of the towels, dishrags, potholders, etc. If you use less cheesecloth than I do, or if you have trouble with bugs or mice, you might want to actually rinse it out thoroughly at the sink, so that you’re not storing yogurt/cheese/whey/whatever in your laundry hamper. Personally, I don’t like to take the time to rinse it that well, it comes of the laundry perfectly clean, and I’ve never had trouble with bugs or mice in the laundry room.

  • Krissy Gibbs

    I have now done this twice in one week (once for lasagna and once for stuffed chicken) and I wanted to write in to thank you. This is awesome. I have always been intrigued by cheese making but I have been too timid. I feel all brave now. Thank you. :)

  • Anne Campbell Slater

    1) Save the whey to use as soup base or for stews: nutritious!
    2) make more ricotta from whey: bring to boil (don;t let it boil over). Cool, drain/strain! Season, refrigerate up to 1 week max

  • Stephanie

    I think I will try this. I use a very thin white cotton kitchen towel in place of cheesecloth. When I’m making lasagna I thaw a pound of frozen chopped spinach, and wring the spinach dry using the cloth. Nothing else I’ve tried removes as much water from spinach. Have you ever made mozzarella?

  • annieseats

    Not yet, but it’s on my list to try very, very soon!

  • walkabouttigger

    Unfortunately, the only type of milk we could find was ultra-pasteurised. While this did not make visibly large curds, using the prescribed amount of freshly-squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon worth) and vinegar mixed into 180F whole, lactose-free milk worked tolerably well. We continued to stir the mixture until the temperature dropped to 155F and poured it through 3 layers of 1/32nd inch cheesecloth.
    This resulted in a very finely-textured ricotta.
    If using ultra-pasteurised milk, the whey has separated when the mixture takes on a slight yellow colour.

  • mary k

    Looks really easy.will try it soon

  • Jaimie

    My husband and I are living in India for a year, and ricotta cheese is nowhere to be found. When my friend wanted me to make lasagna, I came across your recipe — and it worked perfectly!! Even with very limited experience and resources :) Thanks for your recipe!

  • KM

    I’ll try using cow’s milk tonight. I’ve used goat’s milk, and it works well too.

  • Laura

    Thanks for the great step-by-step recipe! I made this last night and got lucky that my local grocery store carries regular milk that is just pasteurized, so I got away with making the entire recipe for under $2.50- cheaper than buying a tub of ricotta!

  • Laura Remeselnik Lawrence

    Anyone know if you could use almond or coconut milk?

  • Angela

    I did it! This recipe was so easy to follow and the results are perfection. Thank you. Only four more things that I’m scared to make.

  • annieseats

    What are they? Maybe I can help take some fear away :)

  • Angela

    That is so sweet. Thanks. Well, croissants are a huge fear. I am planning on making your recipe this weekend. To be honest, most of them are on your site already. :)

  • annieseats

    Well good! Getting over the mental block is the biggest hurdle, almost always. Just give it a go! Even if you have a fail, you learn from that too and will do better then next time.

  • Meg

    I’ve always been apprehensive about making cheese, probably because of the curdled milk thing, but I bit the bullet and made this tonight to go with the roasted zucchini and ricotta sandwiches, and OMG. This is seriously so simple and infinitely tastier than the store bought variety. Fortunately the dairy in my town sells awesome milk that is only gently pasteurized, so I was able to walk up town to get it rather than drive to Whole Foods. (And I love the nostalgia of glass milk bottles!) I am never going back to store bought ricotta. Thanks for the fail-proof recipe and instructions! Another kitchen fear conquered!

  • Erin Corcoran Garris

    VERY curious about this as mozzarella and ricotta are 2 of my favorite cheeses to cook with and getting both out of the same gallon of milk speaks to my frugal heart. I found a recipe for homemade mozzarella I feel comfortable trying (from a blogger on Annies-Eats blogroll), but would I take the whey that is left and follow the instructions above or would I have to do something else?

  • annieseats

    Unfortunately you won’t be able to use whey from one batch of cheese to make more cheese. The milk fat coagulates to form the curds that make the cheese. Once removed from the milk and separated from the whey, they are no longer there so another batch isn’t possible. You need fresh milk for each batch of cheese.

  • Kirsten Thune McClelland

    Annie- do you think moist or dry is a better consistency ricotta for the tomato tart you recently posted? I plan to make it this weekend and I’m going to try homemade ricotta…can’t wait!

  • annieseats

    Oops, sorry for the late reply! I drained my ricotta for about 8 minutes for this pie, for future reference. Hope you enjoyed it!

  • Mindy Pannell

    This has been on my list to make for soooo long and I’m so glad I finally made it! I served it on a toasted baguette with fresh tomatoes, lemon zest, and basil. Yum! Thanks Annie!