☰ menu   

No Citric Acid? No Problem!

The previous recipe, my first DIY cheese-making blog, was pretty straightforward. But there was just one problem: citric acid was really difficult to find.

A cheese-making friend of mine ran into this problem a few weeks back—and she hasn’t made cheese since. The grocery store attendants didn’t know what citric acid was and figured she was using it for a nefarious plot. Perhaps she should have referred to citric acid as “sour salt” to avert suspicion.

You can order citric acid/sour salt online, but who wants to pay extra for shipping and handling? Rennet tablets were another “controversial” ingredient. My friend surprisingly never heard of rennet tablets even though she makes cheese all the time.

The mozzarella recipe is doable, but if you’re still looking for citric acid and don’t have rennet on hand this ricotta recipe is the next best thing. And it will help you avoid confused grocers.


Urban Cheesecraft’s Claudia shared her photos and recipe for less-than-an-hour homemade ricotta—and you can use vinegar or lemon juice as a citric acid substitute! She makes ricotta twice a month and teaches how-to classes. It’s safe to say Claudia’s an authority on cheese-making, and she also has a video (scroll down to view) to accompany the recipe.

Makes 1 pound fresh ricotta


  • ½ gallon whole milk at room temperature (raw or pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized)
  • ½ teaspoon citric acid OR 1/8 cup vinegar OR lemon juice
  • Salt and herbs, to taste


  • Stainless steel, glass or enamel-coated pot (not aluminum or cast-iron)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Thermometer
  • Large colander
  • Large spoon (not aluminum)

Step 1: Get Your Acid Ready

Mix the citric acid (if you can get your hands on it) with ½ cup water and stir to dissolve. Otherwise, if you are using vinegar or lemon juice, you do not have to mix either with water.

Step 2: Add the Acid to the Milk

Pour the milk into pot and pour citric acid solution/vinegar/lemon juice into milk and mix thoroughly. Claudia says you can’t use ultra-pasteurized milk because the curd will have trouble forming.

Step 3: Heat the Milk and Form the Curds

Turn the stove on medium and heat milk to 185°F (make sure it doesn’t boil over). Check and stir so milk won’t get stuck or scorch (avoid breaking up curds as they form). Turn off the heat when curds and whey clearly separate. Allow pot to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Step 4: Drain the Cheese

Line a colander with cheesecloth. Pour pot’s contents into lined colander (pour over a bowl if you’d like to save the whey*). Drain curds for 15 to 30 minutes (Claudia suggests hanging the cheesecloth “sack” by a cupboard handle).

Step 5: Season the Cheese

Add salt and herbs to cheese or use plain for other dishes such as crepes or pizza. Store the leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Step 6: Enjoy

Claudia had this sweet idea for a quick dessert: chop up dark chocolate, dry fruit and/or nuts and lemon zest, mix into ricotta, and drizzle with honey.

*Note A reader asked, How do you use the extra whey? You can use it as a water replacer in smoothies, pancakes, pizza dough or rice. If you’re sensitive to lactose, however, beware! Otherwise, whey is the way to go! (Pun not totally intended, but hey, we’re culture: the word on cheese—let the cheesiness ensue!)  

Click the image below to watch Claudia’s video on homemade ricotta

Recipe and Photos by Claudia of Urban Cheesecraft

Amanda Furrer

Amanda is a BU gastronomy grad who is still getting used to repeating herself when people ask what she's studying. Although it took her longer than the average human to like all kinds of cheese besides the gooey stuff on pizza, Amanda is now proud to be a gorgonzola lover, brie bandwagoner, and pumpkin cheesecake baker.

2 thoughts on “No Citric Acid? No Problem!”

  1. bibliophage says:

    In North America, you can usually find citric acid in the canning aisle of Walmart and some grocery stores and hardware stores. It’s easier to find in late summer and early autumn. Home canners use it to lower the pH of certain foods (especially tomatoes) that are somewhat acidic but not quite acidic enough to safely can in a boiling water bath unless extra acid is added.

  2. Dina says:

    If you can find a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern grocery store, they always have citric acid.