Hard kefir cheese is a great way to use up over-cultured kefir. Pressed kefir curds turn into a thick crumbly cheese that is similar to fresh feta cheese. It is flavorful, tangy, and probiotic!
How to Make Hard kefir cheese
There are two methods for making hard kefir cheese. The hanging ball method makes a softer, spreadable cheese. Pressing the curds results in a firm, crumbly feta-like cheese.
In either case, follow the recipe at the bottom of the post, then finish the cheese using one of these two methods.
1. Hanging ball method
The hanging ball method is the EASIEST way to make a firm cheese. It results in a soft cheese that is most similar to Bulgarian-style feta. While it can be crumbled into salads, it’s also delicious as a spread.
Here is how to make kefir cheese using the hanging ball method.
- After straining and salting the cheese curds as directed in the recipe, knot the ends of the cheesecloth and hang the ball of cheese over a large bowl or measuring cup. (See photo above).
- Leave the cheese to drain for 24 hours.
- If it is warmer than 21C / 70F in your house, then I recommend allowing the cheese to drain in the fridge to prevent further souring.
2. Pressed kefir cheese
Making pressed kefir cheese doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow the recipe at the bottom of the post, the press the cheese at whatever weight you want. The amount of weight will dictate the firmness of the cheese.
- For a crumbly ricotta-style cheese use about 2 lbs of weight.
- A firm, feta-like cheese requires around 5 lbs of weight.
- Using 20 lbs of weight will result in a cheese that is firm enough to be sliced and grated!
As you can see from the photo above, I usually use whatever is on hand for my weight. The weights from my scale and a large can of tomatoes add up to 5 lbs of weight.
For a really DIY cheesemaking experience, here is how to make a simple cheese mold out of a large tin can.
Here are the steps for making pressed kefir cheese:
- Line a cheese mold with butter muslin.
- Pack the salted curds into the lined mold.
- Press at 2 lbs of weight for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, turn the cheese over and increase to 5 lbs weight.
- If you are using more than 5 lbs weight, turn the cheese one more time and increase to the final weight.
- Press the cheese for 24 hours, then store in the fridge until ready to serve.
How to use kefir cheese
I am constantly making kefir cheese because it is an affordable, zero-waste, and healthy alternative to cream cheese, feta, and ricotta.
The consistency of the cheese depends on how long the cheese is pressed and much weight is used for pressing. See more information in the sections above.
Here are just a few recipes that are perfect for kefir cheese:
- Use the hanging ball method to make a soft, spreading cheese. My kids love Boursin flavored cheese.
- Cheese pressed with 2 lbs of weight is similar to firm cream cheese. It is perfect for making cream cheese frosting or herb-marinated cheese balls.
- To make a feta-like cheese, press with 5-10 lbs of weight. Firm kefir cheese is a delicious alternative to ricotta in lasagna or feta in spanakopita.
Firm Kefir Cheese
Learn how to turn over-cultured kefir into a firm cultured cheese! This simple recipe doesn’t require any cooking or rennet. See the sections above for information on how to finish the cheese by hanging it or pressing it.
- Cook Time: 8 hours
- Total Time: 8 hours
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Cheese
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Probiotic
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 4 cups of thick curded milk kefir
- 1/2 tsp of salt (non-iodized)
- While kefir cheese can be made from accidentally over-cultured kefir, it’s better if the kefir is intentionally allowed to curdle.
- To curdle milk kefir for cheese, remove the grains from well-cultured, thick kefir. Allow the kefir to sit out on the counter for an additional 12-24 hours until it has fully separated into curds and whey.
- Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the curded kefir into the colander to drain away most of the whey. I recommend catching the whey because it is full of probiotics and perfect for culturing all sorts of other ferments. See the notes at the bottom of the recipe for some suggested ways to use kefir whey!
- Allow the curds to drain for 4 to 6 hours.
- After this initial draining, sprinkle on 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir it into the thickened kefir. The cheese can be used at this point for soft cheese. However, I recommend making a firm cheese using the hanging ball method or pressing the curds. Both of these options are described in detail in the sections above.
- Store homemade kefir cheese in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
- This recipe is for cheese made from milk kefir. To make cheese from yogurt, follow this recipe for labneh.
- Kefir whey is incredibly useful. It can be used for baking, culturing vegetables, or adding a dose of probiotics to dips and sauces.
- If this is your first time making cheese, I recommend reading my post on how to make cheese at home for more details on each of the steps involved.
Keywords: kefir cheese, pressed cheese, simple, homemade, cheesemaking, over-cultured kefir, separated kefir, kefir feta, kefir ricotta, kefir cream cheese
Thank you for sharing this valuable information
I never add salt. Does that kill the probiotics? I do like a bit of ginger mixed in to ‘hanging ball’ method. I never have extra whey since it is a good drink straight. I do not cook with the cheese since that kills the probiotics but it is good on celery sticks, as a salad dressing or just with a spoon.
Salt slows down the action of yeast, but won’t kill the probiotics. It makes the kefir cheese taste more cheese-like (since cheese is usually salted for flavour). I’ve never tried flavouring it with ginger, how unique.
Fantastic!!!!!!!! I never knew you could make hard cheese out of kefir thank you!XXXX
One question left: is it possible to make a gruyere style cheese with kefir? if so at the same temp (6 months at 11-13 C), and same method (regulary turning on wood) ?
I think it wouldn’t turn out to be exactly like Gruyere. Each type of cheese has its own specific culture. However, you could make a cooked curd cheese with milk kefir. If you want to try making a ripened hard cheese with milk kefir, I would use the kefir as a mesophilic culture, then add rennet and follow a recipe like my farmhouse cheese using the washed rind finishing method: https://www.fermentingforfoodies.com/farmhouse-cheese/
If you just want to curd cheese with kefir, then I would eat it fresh or brine it like feta. Good luck!
My question is do I salmorate kefir cheese before pressing it or after it has been previously pressed. Thanks Marie
I’m not sure what salmorate means… maybe a typo? If you were wondering when to add salt, I add it after draining before pressing. Just work it into the curds. The salt will help to draw out the whey. Enjoy!
Thank you so much for your information…something I have needed for some time. I have been making Kefir for some time now but I have learned just what I needed by reading your articles on making soft and hard cheese. A big thank you.
Thanks! I really needed the kudos today. 🙂 I’m glad that my resources were helpful. Be well, Emillie
Hi, do you cook the curdled kefir? I was told to heat max to 158 F before getting the liquid out.
I personally haven’t bothered with cooking curded kefir (because I use it as a no-fuss, fresh cheese). However, I have used kefir to culture cheeses that were set with rennet. Here’s a blog post on how to cook cheese curds. https://www.fermentingforfoodies.com/preparing-cheese-curd/ Cheers!
I’m having fun experimenting! I’m hoping to make a feta-like (salty) cheese – don’t want to use rennet or press the cheese. I am wondering if after draining it for awhile I could work in a little plum vinegar to the curds. Then drain them even longer to achieve a crumbly consistency. Do you think that might work? I have no idea if vinegar would be a no-no or not. Thank you for your input.
Vinegar is good at curdling milk, however, I imagine you’re draining your kefir after it has fully separated into curds and whey? If not, then perhaps just let the kefir sit out until it has fully separated. Adding vinegar at a later point will probably just flavour it, not cause it to curd more. Another way to draw out whey is to salt the curds then continue draining. You could try that. Kefir “feta” is one of my favourites as well. Enjoy!
Thank you, Emillie ~ my kefir didn’t over culture, but you could see some small pockets of whey forming at the bottom of the jar before I strained it and removed the grains. I’ve been letting it sit nearly 10 hrs. and I can’t imagine the curds and whey separating more. I will drain it and the whey will flow to the bowl below – will add a little salt to the curds in the lined sieve. Tomorrow, I’ll add some plum vinegar (which has a naturally salty flavor) and let it drain longer. Love experimenting – hope this works! Thank you for the confidence you’ve been giving me.
Fermenting is a great way to get creative in the kitchen. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for posting this!
Glad it was useful for you!
Would you know how best to preserve kefir cheese? I’m the only one in our house that eats it so would love to keep in the fridge for a bit. I tried putting balls into olive oil(via the hanging method and adding oven roasted tomatoes and basil) but they fell apart. Might pressing it, cutting up and then putting in oil work or would you have another suggestion?
You could freeze it. It will last (and be probiotic) for up to 6 months. In the fridge, it will continue to ferment and age. If you can do a proper job of pressing it, then you could brine it, like feta. You could also put it in oil, but I’m not sure if that will prolong the shelf-life. Enjoy!
Hi emillie, thank you for posting this. My question is if it’s possible to age kefir cheese? (I’ve made soft kefir cheese balls which has been very successful in the past) I am interested in experimenting but with my lack of cheese making knowledge, I’m just afraid if it’s gone bad and I wouldn’t be able to tell.
Thank you in advance!
You can age kefir cheese, but only if you somehow heat the curds after culturing. Otherwise, the kefir keeps on fermenting, becoming more tangy and sour. For example, you can use the milk kefir culture to make my farmhouse cheese. It’s a cooked curd cheese set with both culture and rennet. It can be eaten fresh or aged for several months for a firm, slicing cheese. Cheers!
Thank you for this recipe!
How long does it need pressure with the 5lbs?
It depends on how firm you want it. Aim for 8 to 24 hours (flipping 1 or 2 times during the pressing process). Enjoy!
Thanks . That was the only thing that was not clear in the recipe.
I’m going to have some for dinner with a mixed salad
I can’t wait to try your process! If I wanted to make strawberry flavor, would I add puree or an extract, do you suggest? and how much would you do?
Hum… I would add it as a puree. Then I would either swirl it in when adding the salt or just add it as a topping afterward. I nearly always choose herbs and garlic flavors. Though I’ve done soft cheese with fruit. Let me know how it goes!
Hi, I often make hard cheese from my kefir and use a very similar recipe to the one you published although I tend to use a great deal more weight for a longer period (about 50 lbs over three days (undressing and flipping the cheese about twice or three times a day) but I wonder if a) heating the kefir to about 90 F and adding (vegetarian) rennet might make the paste less crumbly. Have you ever treated this cheese the way you would treat curds that were cultured for 40 -60 minutes or is there too much acidity in kefir cheese for heating and rennet to make any difference? Thanks.
I have used kefir as culture for renneted cheese. I use it like a mesophyllic culture. So, like you mentioned, I control how much it cultures before I add the rennet. That way it’s not too acidic. I usually control the culturing by adding 1/4 cup of milk kefir to a gallon of milk, then letting that culture for a while, rather than using the grains to curd my gallon of milk.
Using rennet to curd the cheese will definitely make it less crumbly. But it does need to be heated, so it’s a bit more work than straight milk kefir cheese so I don’t do it as often. Cheers!