The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

using whey in bread dough?

franbaker's picture

using whey in bread dough?

I make my own yogurt, and strain some of it for Greek yogurt/labneh, so I end up with a lot of extra whey -- way more than I need for starting the next batch of yogurt, soaking beans, and making sauerkraut, which use up only a few tablespoons a week. It's got a lot of calcium in it as well as LAB and other goodies, so I hate to waste it. I know I can use it in place of yogurt or buttermilk in baking soda baked goods (blueberry muffin season should start this weekend -- hooray!), but I'd love to be able to substitute it for other liquids when making bread. Since I'm still learning to make bread properly, it's a little early to start substituting things in recipes, but this is something I'd like to be able to do consistently and long term, so I might as well learn how to do it soon. At some point I'll just try it, but if anyone else has tried it, or has ideas about how the pH will affect the fermentation time or anything else, I would love to hear about it.

Elsie_iu's picture

In the past, I subbed yogurt whey from homemade yogurt for 100% of the water. For most of the time, no prominent problem was observed. However, there was once where the dough failed to rise properly. For details, you may like to refer to this post:

Dabrownman explained to me the theory behind in the comments of the post above. The low acidity of whey may hinder yeast activity, especially when the lactic acid bacteria are acidifying the dough at the same time. To play safe, try to limit the use of whey to 20% of total liquid.

I found that whey, though acidic by itself, imparts a sweeter flavour in the resulting bread. The lactose in whey also promotes browning, giving a better  browned crust. It adds complexity to bread so it's worth a try.

Happy baking!

franbaker's picture

That bread you made seemed like it would be delicious, even though the texture wasn't optimal. I read through the post and comments. It seems like the whey may present more problems when: 1) it's more acidic, 2) it's used with sprouted grains, and 3) when it's used with a wild yeast starter; although it may present problems at any time. It's really interesting to me that you used whey many times without any difficulties at all. I wonder if it's possible to predict when trouble will ensue.

I'm pleased that I can use the whey up to 20% of the liquid probably whenever I want to, but would like to be able to use more of it, at least some of the time. I do like the effect is has in quick breads, and the effect a yogurt soaker has on a WW commercial yeast bread. I have a bunch of pH strips, which I've discovered are useless for checking the pH of my starters, but seem to work with the whey; my whey seems to have a pH of about 5 when it's reasonably fresh.

I think for now I'll avoid the whey when I'm working with sprouted grains in warm weather. I've been having issues with doughs fermenting and proofing much more quickly than expected, and don't want that problem to get worse.

I think I could substitute it for yogurt/buttermilk in a soaker in a WW commercially yeasted bread. It sounds like the extra maltose would not be a problem. But I should probably still use plain water in the biga.

In other cases, does anyone know if it would be useful for me to check the pH of the whey and proceed according to what the pH of the dough should be? What should the pH of the dough be? Is there an optimal pH range for sourdough breads, and another for doughs made with commercial yeast?

dabrownman's picture

Lower than 4% and the LAB can just shut down in white bread and at lower pH's in whole grain ones.  The LAB found in yogurt are usually not the ones found in SD cultures for some reason.  I don't know if this makes a difference.though.  Too much acid will restrict yeast like too much sugar can restrict some yeast too.    I don't know what the correct amount for yogurt whey is either but 20-30% should be OK.  I too have had problems, too many times above that amount and the crumb can get gummy so I keep it to 20% to be safe,.  No science though must baking with whey experience at work

mutantspace's picture

i too make my own yoghurt and often use the whey to make bread..i usually sub 25% of total water. All the rest i freeze for future use...check out thispost @


franbaker's picture

is there any special reason why you settled on 25%? The post and comments seemed to deal with dry whey and whey from cheese making, which is less acidic than whey from yogurt.

suave's picture

I use it in straight doughs, and subsitute up to 50%.  Any more and gluten starts to deteriorate - but of course your limit will depend on the properties of your whey.

franbaker's picture

for your experience -- this is helpful to know :-)

Sylvaneer's picture

I'm a little late to this thread, but FWIW, there's a recipe in Jeffrey Hamleman's book for Whey Bread, in which all of the liquid (23.7 oz/3 cupr - 74%) is whey.

Quoting from the recipe description:

"...There is a little bit of acidity in the whey (and it continues to acidify as it gets older), which helps tighten up the otherwise soft gluten structure in the dough.  Residual lactose in the whey contributes to both crust coloration and food value."

littlelisa's picture

I'm even later to this thread, but Dan Lepard also offers several recipes (and pointers to) using whey as a bread ingredient (in combination with starter) in his book, The Handmade Loaf

gary.turner's picture

 I occasionally make coddled cream (the cream in strawberries and cream at Wimbledon), which leaves a goodly amount of whey behind.  I confess I don't measure it unless I make a small  loaf (it happens).  Normally, I use all I have and then make up the difference to the desired liquid total with milk or water.

It has never had a noticeable effect on the mechanics of baking even when used for 100% of the liquid.  The breads tend to be much softer than otherwise and as another poster mentioned, sweeter.

I cannot speak to quick breads, but cannot see any reason, other than the sugar content, to not use as you would buttermilk or yogurt.