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Why Is My Yogurt Watery?

What’s with the water on top? Here’s why your yogurt is runny, and whether or not this should be cause for concern.

My wife was opening an Activia yogurt the other day—a family favorite—when she glanced at it, gave me a confused look, and said, “Why is my yogurt so runny?”

And it’s not about the brand: all Greek yogurts tend to get runny. So, for anyone out there wondering about this like my wife, I wrote this article to answer all your questions.

Why Is My Yogurt Watery?

If your yogurt looks watery when you open it, don’t worry. That liquid is normal, and it’s simply a byproduct of how yogurt is made.

The cloudy, yellowish liquid in yogurt is called whey. It’s a nutritious and protein-rich liquid that’s left over milk curdles and gets strained.1Crowley, S. V., Molitor, M. S., Kalscheuer, R., Lu, Y., Kelly, A. L., O’Mahony, J. A., & Lucey, J. A. (2019). Size classification of precipitated calcium phosphate using hydrocyclone technology for the recovery of minerals from deproteinised acid whey. International Journal of Dairy Technology, 72(1), 142-151. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0307.12570

Whey is totally safe to eat, packed with protein, and contains various vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins B2, B12, B6, and A.2 Nutrifox. (2023). Nutrition facts and calories for whey, acid, fluid. https://nutrifox.com/nutrition/whey-acid-fluid

Before you asked, the whey pools on top because the yogurt itself is thick, so it has virtually nowhere else to go.

Is Watery Yogurt Safe to Eat?

So, about that runny yogurt… Can you eat it, or should you throw it away?

I have good news for you: If your yogurt is watery, it’s still safe to eat. That cloudy, yellowish liquid—the whey—doesn’t mean the yogurt has gone bad. You can drink it, mix it back into the yogurt with your spoon, preserve it for later use in a recipe, or simply discard it if it doesn’t appeal to you.

Don’t be put off if you see a lot of liquid in your yogurt. The larger the yogurt container and the longer it’s been in your fridge, the more likely it is to have water, and the more of it it will have.

How Do You Fix Runny Yogurt?

There’s more than one way to salvage watery yogurt. Which one is best comes down to whether you made the yogurt at home or brought it back home from the store.

There’s a simple fix for runny yogurt: Simply pour out the whey (remember, you can drink it or save it for later use in a recipe), then mix the remaining yogurt well to blend in any whey that’s left inside.

The above method works wonders for store-bought yogurt. However, if you made homemade yogurt and it turned out really, really watery, try straining it overnight in the fridge using a cheesecloth or paper coffee filters.

Why Some Yogurts Are Runnier Than Others

Not all yogurts are the same. And when it comes to the liquid in the container, various factors can affect how much whey is in yours.

Robert F. Roberts, a professor and the head of food science at Penn State University, tells Madeline Buiano of Martha Stewart that strained yogurts, like Greek yogurt, which have more protein, typically have less liquid than regular yogurts.

You don’t find whey in most cheeses since it’s pressed out, nutrition expert Amanda Sauceda tells SELF (unless we’re talking about fresh mozzarella, which is sold floating in its own whey.) For yogurt, the whey is kept there because it helps to give it that creamy and smooth texture.

Bringing It All Together

That water on top of your yogurt doesn’t mean it’s spoiled. It’s called whey, a healthy liquid rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins that’s a byproduct of the yogurt-making process.

Drink it, mix it back into the yogurt with your spoon, or pour it out and refrigerate it for later use in a recipe, but don’t throw it out.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.