Whey Protein | American Society of Baking
Commercial Baking Ingredients:

Whey Protein

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is the protein concentrate or isolates of whey—a liquid left after the straining of coagulated milk curd.1

In baking, whey protein is used for its emulsifying, foaming, gelling, stabilizing, browning, and nutritional properties.1 It is also used as a substitute for egg whites.

Types of whey proteins:

  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC): contains 34%, 60% and 80% protein and is the most economical type.
  • Whey Protein Isolate (WPI): highest protein content (up to 90%).
  • Whey Protein Hydrolysate: for infant formulas and medical products.
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Whey protein is a by-product from the cheese industry. It was considered a waste stream up until 1908, when spray dried whey powder was developed.1

In the 1970s, membrane filtration technology opened a new market possibility for manufacturing  a high protein powder from whey with a variety of functional properties due to mild processing conditions.1


Whey protein serves several functions in baked goods:2

  • Emulsification: aids in stabilization of emulsions, and reducing agglomeration of fat globules.
  • Color and flavor development: provides substrate for browning Maillard reaction.
  • Whipping: aids in foam stability and volume. It can be used as an egg substitute.
  • Water binding: retains water and thus aids in retarding staling.
  • Texture: improves texture and mouthfeel by creating moist baked products.
  • Improves machinability
  • Gelling and thickening
  • Nutritional value: provides high quality protein to products.


Typical composition (%) for several whey varieties:1

Whey variety Protein Lactose Fat Ash Moisture
WPC34 34.0 – 36.0 48.0 – 52.0 3.0 – 4.5 6.5 – 8.0 3.5 – 4.5
WPC60 60.0 – 62.0 25.0 – 30.0 1.0 – 7.0 4.0 – 6.0 3.0 – 5.0
WPC80 80.0 – 82-0 4.0 – 8.0 4.0 – 8.0 3.0 – 4.0 3.5 – 4.5
WPCI 90.0 – 92.0 0.5 – 1.0 0.5 – 1.0 2.0 – 3.0 4.5

Whey proteins are recognized as high-quality proteins due to their balance of essential and non-essential amino acids and may have beneficial anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive properties.2

Commercial production

Whey protein is commercially produced through the following process:1

  • Clarification and separation: whey from cheese manufacturing is clarified and the cheese fines and whey cream are removed from the main stream.
  • Pasteurization: whey is pasteurized at 72 oC (162 oF) for at least 15 seconds.2
  • Ultrafiltration: clarified whey is passed through an ultrafiltration membrane to reduce water content.
  • Spray drying: resulting liquid is dried to form whey powder.
  • Storage: whey protein concentrates should be stored in a cool and dry place at temperatures lower than 27oC (81 oF) with relative humidity of <65%.


Some common usage levels of whey proteins and their effects on baked goods include:2

Baked good Usage level Effect
Bread 2% WPC34
  • Soft and tender crumb
  • At high levels may reduce loaf volume
  • May require longer fermentation times
Cake 2% WPC80
  • Enhances gelation
  • Increases viscosity and aids in air retention
  • Increases volume of cake when used as a fat replacer
  • When used as an egg substitute, less sugar should be used
Cookies 2 – 3% of WPC34 or WPC80
  • Improves color, thickness, and chewiness
  • Produces a more tender texture when used as an egg white substitute
Pie crust 2 – 3%
  • Aids in emulsification of shortening
  • Improves color and flavor of the crust
Bake mixes 2 – 3%
  • Improves color
  • Effective egg substitute
Bakery glazes 2 -3%
  • Better microbiological stability
  • Good adhesion to baked goods


Whey protein is considered GRAS by the FDA, when meeting established specifications and its addition should be listed on the label of products.3

In the EU, whey protein is authorized for use as a novel food product by the EU Commission Regulation 2018/1632.4


  1. Guo, M, ed. Whey protein production, chemistry, functionality, and applications. John Wiley & Sons, 2019.
  2. Reference Manual For U.S. Whey And Lactose Products. 1st ed., U.S Dairy Export Council, pp. 1-9.
  3. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). US Department of Health and Human Services. CFR Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 184 Direct Food Substances Affirmed As Generally Recognized As Safe, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1979c , Accessed 16 May 2021.
  4. European Commission (EC). Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1632 Of 30 October 2018 Authorising The Placing On The Market Of Bovine Milk Basic Whey Protein Isolate As A Novel Food Under Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 Of The European Parliament And Of The Council And Amending Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2470.