Is it possible to make soft cheese without rennet, electricity or a thermometer?
Yes indeed! Milk kefir can be turned into a soft cheese spread, halfway between Greek yogurt and cream cheese. Yum!
Making Kefir Cheese
Making milk kefir cheese takes two steps:
- Make milk kefir.
- Drain it.
It's easy as that!
Makes about 1 cup of kefir cheese.
- 1 litre of milk kefir
- Approx. ½ tsp. salt, to taste
- Spices and pepper, to taste
Tip: Powdered kefir starter is a great choice for getting started and experimenting, while kefir grains are often preferred for long-term production. Read the Milk Kefir Culture vs Milk Kefir Grains Comparison Guide to find out which option is best for you.
To thicken the kefir and turn it into creamy cheese, part of the whey must be removed.
The whey is the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled or strained. To filter out the whey, you can use several tools:
- Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth or coffee filters
- Use a hanging cotton bag
- Pour into the Kefirko Cheese Maker filter
Depending on the option chosen, the draining time may be longer or shorter.
- Pour the milk kefir in the cotton bag or in what you have chosen to drain the whey. The whey should drip off and be a clear, transparent colour.
- Let the whey drain overnight in a cool place (such as the refrigerator).
- For a firmer cheese, apply constant pressure on the kefir after the first phase of draining. You can use a weight such as a plate, or use the all-in-one Kefirko Cheese Maker. Keep it cool and apply pressure for a few hours.
- When the kefir has the consistency of cream cheese, empty into a bowl. Add salt and spices. Mix well.
- Pour into a serving dish, or a small mould to give it a shape. Refrigerate for a few hours.
This creamy cheese is best eaten as is with crackers, or in your favourite sandwich.
For festive occasions, try it on blinis or savoury pancakes with smoked salmon!
You can also use it to make other recipes using milk kefir cheese.
Variants and Seasoning
Fresh kefir cheese is delicious as is, but there are lots of ways to have fun personalizing it! Here are some ideas.
As a Sour Cream and Cream Cheese Replacement
Plain kefir cheese easily replaces sour cream, Greek yogurt, and cream cheese in recipes (that either need baking or not). FYI, it's super good on nachos!
In a Dip
To make kefir cheese dips, let the kefir drain for a shorter period of time to achieve a Greek yogurt texture. Add spices, fresh herbs, etc.
Examples: kefir tzatziki, zaatar kefir labneh, herb kefir dip, etc.
As a Spreadable Cheese
By applying weight or allowing it to drain longer, your kefir cheese will become firmer and mouldable. You can then roll it in the spices of your choice.
Example: trio of cheese ball appetizers.
As Flakes of Hard Cheese to Sprinkle
You can also dehydrate the kefir to give it a denser texture and concentrate its flavours. We love to make flakes, to be used like Parmesan cheese.
Example: Kefir "parmesan" flakes
Milk kefir is very safe, and is very safe culture for fermenting milk. However, that does not mean that we must abandon all hygiene rules!
- If you are using powdered starter, boil and cool the milk before you culture it.
- Thoroughly clean all instruments with hot soapy water.
- If you are using a cotton bag or cheesecloth, sterilize it between each use by immersing it in boiling water for ten minutes.
- If at any stage your kefir has an unusual smell or taste, or visible mould ("furry" and colourful), then discard it.
Conserving Your Kefir Cheese
Milk kefir will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.
Kefir cheese can be stored for a few more days. It should keep its fresh, tangy smell and should not have visible mould.
It is possible to age kefir cheese, but additional hygiene precautions should be taken.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Milk for Making Kefir Cheese?
Kefir cheese can be made from cow, goat, or even sheep milk! You can use any animal milk, really.
The amount of fat in the milk will influence the texture of the cheese. The fattier the milk, the richer and creamier the cheese will be!
When making your kefir you can substitute a cup of milk for a cup of cream of your choice, and it will add richness to your cheese. Yum!
To learn more, read What is the best milk for making kefir.
Why Am I Getting Less Cheese Than Expected?
When you put your milk kefir in the filtration system, the whey will drip out, leaving only the curd in your container.
Unlike other cheeses, kefir curds are very small. If the holes of your device are too wide, the curd will drip out with the whey and you will be left with a smaller amount of cheese.
If you are losing a lot of cheese when draining, add a coffee filter to your device.
What Do I Do With the Kefir Whey?
The whey that drips from milk kefir is packed with probiotics and protein.
To avoid wasting it, use it to replace milk in your smoothies, breads, pancakes and cakes. It will add a subtle and pleasing acidity to your recipes.
It can also be used to inoculate fermented vegetables.
My Cheese is Too Acidic, What Do I Do?
Kefir cheese is naturally a bit more acidic than regular soft cheeses.
The longer the milk kefir has fermented, the more acidic it will be. To make your cheese, use a younger kefir that has been fermented for only 24 hours.
Another technique to reduce acidity is to let the kefir drain in the refrigerator and not at room temperature. The taste will change less, and the result will be milder.
Can I Heat Kefir Cheese?
Yes, it is possible to heat kefir cheese, such as when it is incorporated into sauces or dishes. Just be aware that the health benefits will be milder since heat can kill the good microorganisms.
My Cheese Smells Funny And/Or Has Mould
Trust your senses. If it smells of cheese and acidity, that's fine. If there is a musty smell and magic mushrooms growing on it, throw it away!
It is better to make small amounts of it regularly, and to consume it as you go.