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How To Make Ricotta Cheese

If you have always wanted to know how to make ricotta cheese, then look no further!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese is really easy to make with just milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice and so much tastier than store bought cheese!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese in a terracotta bowl with bottle of milk and a lemon in the background.
So tasty and versatile!

Fresh ricotta cheese is so versatile and I have so many recipes using ricotta like ricotta cavatelli, fried sfingi, spinach ricotta ravioli, and Sicilian cheesecake just to name a few. But the beauty of homemade ricotta cheese is that you have the pleasure of eating it warm, as soon as it’s ready. Just spread it on fresh bread, on crackers, or simply spoon the warm homemade ricotta cheese into a bowl, with just a drizzle of honey, it’s perfect!

Cheesemakers learned how to make ricotta cheese as a by-product of the cheese-making process. Ricotta is Italian for ‘recooked’ or ‘twice cooked’ and in fact, was traditionally made from leftover whey. A little milk was added to the leftover whey and then reheated to make fresh whey ricotta cheese. Today much of the ricotta cheese is made from whole milk similar to this recipe.

You’ll love learning how to make ricotta because it’s:-

  • Fresh – you won’t get anything fresher than homemade cheese and you’ll really notice the difference. By choosing a good quality dairy, you have control over the finished product. Whether it’s Italian Ricotta Cheese, German Homemade Quark, or other fresh cheese recipes, the best quality dairy is important.
  • Creamy – by making your homemade ricotta cheese, you get to customize the texture and make it as moist or thick as you like.
  • Flavorful – homemade ricotta cheese is more flavorsome than the store-bought variety because you have complete control over the quality of ingredients. High-quality ingredients result in a better more flavorful ricotta cheese.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

Ingredients for this recipe as shown in the recipe card.
  • Whole milk – pasteurized milk is perfectly fine to use. The better the quality the better the ricotta. Lactose free milk is suitable but ultra-pasteurized milk (UP) or ultra-high temperature milk (UHT) won’t work well.
  • Cream – pure heavy cream with no additives is what you need for this recipe.
  • Lemon Juice – use fresh lemon juice that has been strained so that it has no lemon pulp. Don’t use Meyer lemons because they don’t have enough acidity. 
  • Salt – any non-iodized salt will be fine to make ricotta cheese.

See recipe card for quantities.

Instructions

Line a colander with dampened cheesecloth and sit it over a large bowl or saucepan if you want to keep the whey. We’ll talk about what you can do with the whey a bit later.

Close up of milk in saucepan with a thermometer in the milk.

Heat the milk, cream and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until 185ºF/85ºC. Stir regularly so that the milk doesn’t scorch.

Milk in a saucepan with measuring cup of lemon juice about to be poured in.

Add in the lemon juice and whisk briefly to combine.

Curdled milk in saucepan with lid being place on.

Turn the heat off and immediately place the lid on. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes.

Curds being scooped in to cheesecloth lined colander.

The curds will have formed and separated from the whey. Scoop the ricotta cheese into the cheesecloth lined colander.

Ricotta cheese can be eaten immediately while still moist and creamy or drained for 3 hours or overnight for a drier cheese. Put it in the fridge to drain.

Hint: Be patient when heating the milk and cream. It will take some time to come to temperature but don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to hurry it along. Stir regularly so that the milk doesn’t scorch.

Substitutions

  • Milk – use lactose free milk instead.
  • Cream – use lactose free cream and milk to make this lactose free ricotta cheese.
  • Lemon juice – substitute white vinegar for the lemon juice for the same results. Alternatively, one teaspoon of citric acid dissolved in one tablespoon of water can be used.

Variations

  • Light – omit the cream and replace with extra whole milk for a lighter variation
  • Deluxe – substitute one cup of milk for an extra cup of cream for a richer, creamier version.
  • Creamier or drier – for a creamier, softer ricotta cheese only drain for 20 minutes. Alternatively, if you need a drier, thicker ricotta, drain for 8 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Equipment

Before making homemade ricotta cheese, you’ll need to gather a few essential but not expensive pieces of equipment. A large saucepan is required that comfortably holds the milk and cream plus a wooden spoon or spatula to heat the milk and cream.

Invest in a thermometer. It’ll last forever and you’ll use it more often than you think. Once you learn how to make ricotta cheese, you may not need the thermometer. I still like to use it.

Finally, you’ll need a colander lined with cotton muslin cloth or cheesecloth which will allow you to strain the excess liquid without losing any curds.

Uses for Whey

The yellowish liquid that is left after you’ve scooped up the ricotta cheese curds is known as whey. It’s full of vitamins and minerals and has multiple uses. Instead of wasting the whey that is left after making homemade ricotta cheese, you can use it instead of water in recipes. Here are some uses for whey.

  1. Replace water with whey in pizza or bread dough.
  2. Use it instead of milk when making pancakes.
  3. Substitute it for milk when making creamy sauces.
  4. Use it to cook rice.

Storage

Store homemade ricotta cheese in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Ricotta is a fresh cheese with a short shelf life. However, for longer storage, you can freeze ricotta cheese for up to two months. Read all the tips in my “Can you freeze ricotta cheese” article.

Top tip

Overhead view of ricotta cheese in a terracotta bowl surrounded by milk bottle, lemons and cheesecloth.

Beginning with good quality dairy is very important when making homemade ricotta cheese. You can add a little more cream for a creamier cheese or make it only with whole milk so that it’s not as rich. It’s your choice.

Heat the milk and cream slowly and stir regularly to avoid scorching the dairy products. Be very attentive and don’t leave the milk and cream unattended. If the milk and cream catch on the bottom of the pan and scorch, the burnt flavor will spread throughout.

After adding the lemon juice, stir to combine and turn off the heat immediately. Avoid agitating and continually stirring the mixture after adding the lemon juice. This can cause the ricotta to be rubbery and grainy. Overheating can also cause this.

FAQ

How to make ricotta cheese creamy?

Including cream in the recipe will make homemade ricotta cheese creamy. Too much cream will make the ricotta heavy and not as fluffy. Not heating the milk and cream too quickly will keep the ricotta creamy.

​​Can you make ricotta cheese with lactose free milk?

Yes! Lactose free milk and cream is perfectly fine to make ricotta cheese.

Is it worth making your own ricotta?

Definitely! This homemade ricotta recipe is so easy to make plus is tasty and luscious! It’s worth making because you can control the texture – drain it for longer if you want thick ricotta or keep it moist if that’s what you’re after.

Serving suggestions

Close up of a spoonful of ricotta cheese.

Once you know how to make ricotta cheese you’ll never go back to store bought again! Use it to fill Eggplant Involtini or for your Easter Pizza Gaina. Homemade ricotta cheese makes an excellent Ricotta Pie and makes a luscious Cannoli Cake. In fact, it’s so flavorsome that you’ll want it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Made this recipe?
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Homemade Ricotta Cheese in a terracotta bowl with bottle of milk and a lemon in the background.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe

With this recipe, you'll learn how to make ricotta cheese with just 4 ingredients. It's easy and the results are so good!
4.97 from 27 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings:10 servings
Author: Marcellina

Equipment

  • 1 Large saucepan
  • 1 Wooden spoon or rubber spatula
  • 1 Thermometer
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1 Colander
  • 1 large bowl

Ingredients

  • 9 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Combine the milk, cream and salt in a large saucepan. Heat milk and cream mixture over medium heat until 185ºF/85ºC. It will be steaming and frothy on the top and just before boiling point. Stir regularly so that the milk doesn’t scorch.
  • Whisk in the lemon juice. Turn the heat off and immediately place the lid on. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, the curds will form. Scoop the ricotta cheese into a cheesecloth lined colander which has be set over a large bowl or saucepan.
  • Ricotta cheese can be eaten immediately in a creamy state or drain for 3 hours or overnight for a drier cheese. Put it in the fridge to drain. Makes about 1 ½ pounds or 680 grams.

Notes

Tips for Success
  • Use good quality dairy products.
  • Heat the milk and cream slowly and stir regularly to avoid scorching.
  • Use a thermometer to avoid overheating.
  • Don’t stir the mixture continually after adding the lemon juice or the ricotta could become rubbery and grainy. 
For more information, read the post above.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 323mg | Potassium: 360mg | Fiber: 0.02g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 706IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 286mg | Iron: 0.03mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

Food safety

  • Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
  • Wash hands after touching raw meat
  • Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
  • Never leave cooking food unattended
  • Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove

See more guidelines at USDA.gov.

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