Cottage cheese has always been a bit polarizing. Some people just can’t get over the lumpy texture. Others associate it with their grandmother’s food, jiggly gelatin salads or the old-fashioned “diet plate” featuring a scoop of cottage cheese on canned fruit.
Those days are over. Now cottage cheese is the new Greek yogurt. Or maybe it’s the new cauliflower because there’s nothing those curds can’t do.
The Viral Spread of Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is being introduced to a new generation via TikTok, where #cottagecheese has racked up over 200 million views. Recipes with cottage cheese have gone viral, especially cottage cheese toast that is rivaling avocado toast in popularity.
Other TikTok creators are making a range of dishes with blended cottage cheese, which is simply whipping cottage cheese in a blender until it’s smooth and creamy. “Blended cottage cheese recipes” became a breakout search term on Google, meaning it has grown by more than 5,000% over the last year.
Blended cottage cheese is being used in dips, smoothies, pasta sauces, mashed potatoes, queso, salad dressings, pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream and other desserts.
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Types of Cottage Cheese
Long neglected as a sleepy category, cottage cheese is now following in the footsteps of Greek yogurt with a slew of new innovations, including single-serve cartons with fruit on the bottom, snack cups with crunchy toppings and smooth cottage cheese without the curds.
Cottage cheese varieties range from fat free to double cream (6% milk fat) and include small or large curds, lactose-free and flavored, such as pineapple, blueberry acai, bacon-ranch, garlic parmesan and everything bagel seasoning.
One company, Kemps, is trying to introduce kids to cottage cheese with its new fruit-flavored smooth cottage cheese with added probiotics that has twice the protein of most kid-friendly yogurts. Cottage cheese is also evolving into completely new forms, such as flavored dips and spreads from Canadian brand Natrel and frozen cottage cheese bars from Speka that are coated with chocolate or caramel.
Chefs are even making their own cottage cheese in-house and serving it in creative savory ways on menus, giving it an upscale image closer to its European cousin ricotta.
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Is Cottage Cheese Good for You?
What’s behind the cottage cheese craze? For starters it’s an impressive source of protein, actually providing even more than Greek yogurt. One cup contains 28 grams of high-quality protein.
The protein-packed attributes of cottage cheese have made it a favorite among athletes and exercise enthusiasts who are using cottage cheese as a post-exercise recovery snack. After all, cottage cheese contains casein and whey protein, which are found in protein powders and shakes.
Long in the shadow of yogurt, cottage cheese offers a comparable nutrient package beyond protein — including B vitamins and the minerals calcium, selenium and phosphorus. Cottage cheese also has a low-carb halo, which appeals to the keto crowd, says Donna Berry, a food scientist and dairy foods expert based in the Chicago area. The whole milk (4% milk fat) small curd varieties of cottage cheese are especially popular, with some people comparing it to the inside of burrata cheese.
As a fermented food, some varieties of cultured cottage cheese contain live microbes, which will be indicated on the label. Other brands are heat-treated after fermentation so they no longer contain live and active cultures.
[See: High-Protein Breakfast Ideas.]
What Is Cottage Cheese?
Similar to ricotta and feta, cottage cheese is a fresh cheese. That means it isn’t aged or ripened the way hard cheeses like cheddar or parmesan are.
It’s made by adding acid-producing starter cultures to milk, says Berry. The acidity causes the casein proteins to coagulate and form curds. The liquid whey protein is drained away. After the soft, small fresh curds are washed and drained, it’s added to cream and milk with some salt.
Slow cooking is involved at this stage to develop a desirable consistency, she says. Some overly processed brands of cottage cheese use gums and stabilizers to thicken the dressing. Many of the newer products leave out these fillers and make cottage cheese the old-fashioned way — or “what cottage cheese should taste like,” says Berry.
Believed to be one of the first cheeses made in the U.S., cottage cheese is thought to be named after the country homes where it was made from any left-over milk after making butter.
Ways to Enjoy Cottage Cheese
Some social media influencers are declaring cottage cheese the food of 2023. If you’re ready to reconsider cottage cheese, here are some of the trending cottage cheese recipes to inspire you.
Cottage Cheese Toast
One of the biggest cottage cheese trends is cottage cheese toast. As a breakfast, light lunch or snack, cottage cheese toast can take a sweet or savory turn — adding berries and honey or topping with avocado, tomatoes and a poached egg.
Cottage cheese toast is frequently made with large slices of crusty sourdough or multigrain bread and sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning, red chili flakes, za’atar, flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and then drizzled with hot honey, balsamic glaze or extra-virgin olive oil.
Here are some cottage cheese toast ideas from some of the creators on TikTok who have helped it go viral:
— Spread your toast with smashed avocado, cottage cheese, lemon zest, fresh dill, chili flakes and chili oil. Brittany Arnett @toasted.table, who created an entire series on #cottagecheesetoast.
— Top toast with a layer of cottage cheese followed by a grated hard-boiled egg, chopped chilis, arugula and a drizzle of olive oil. Kelly Rizzo @eattravelrock.
— Spread multigrain sourdough toast with pesto and cottage cheese, then top with sliced tomatoes, flaky sea salt, black pepper, red chili flakes and balsamic glaze. Paige MacDonald @paigeejenna.
— For a pizza toast twist, top your toasted bread with warm marina sauce, cottage cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, dried oregano, fresh basil and hot honey. Jamie Vespa @dishingouthealth.
Cottage Cheese Bowls
As a versatile canvass, cottage cheese has become a coveted foundation for a high-protein breakfast or lunch bowl. The cottage cheese can be spooned straight from the carton or blended in a food processor for a creamy base similar to a yogurt bowl.
— Add cottage cheese to a bowl and top with chopped cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, oregano and a drizzle of red wine vinegar. Mackenzie @nibbletonourish
— Top cottage cheese with sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, scallions, soft-boiled egg, smoked salmon, everything bagel seasoning and drizzle of olive oil. Ereka Vetrini @erekasfood
— Roast fresh green beans and strips of carrot with olive oil and za’atar; add to cottage cheese with fresno pepper sauce and freshly ground pepper. Justine Doiron @justine_snacks.
— For a breakfast bowl, top cottage cheese with berries, granola, peanut butter, honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Kelly Nardo @eatthegains.
— In a bowl of cottage cheese, add fresh raspberries, strawberries, small chunks of chocolate, sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey. Marina @allweeat
Cottage Cheese and Eggs
Cottage cheese is a popular pairing with eggs — combined with scrambled or poached eggs and used as an ingredient for #copycat baked egg bites, egg salad and deviled eggs.
— Whisk eggs with cottage cheese and scramble; top with fresh chives and serve with tomatoes and toast. Yumna @feelgoodfoodie.
— Combine cottage cheese with egg whites, chopped red onion, green onion, pico de gallo and shredded cheese for an omelet. Top with a corn tortilla. Teresa Parent @transformingteresamarie.
— Blend cottage cheese, eggs and shredded pepper jack cheese; add chopped ham, salt, pepper and paprika. Bake in muffin tins for egg bites. Leigha @leilulemon.
— For egg salad, add cottage cheese to hard-boiled eggs with Dijon mustard, lemon juice, freshly chopped dill, green onion, salt and pepper; serve on toast with sliced avocado and top with sliced jalapeno. Sarah Thomas-Drawbaugh @healthyishfoods
Cottage Cheese Dips
Dips are another popular way to enjoy cottage cheese, including with the curds or whipped in a blender to make it smooth. It’s rivaling hummus as a high-protein dip, and it’s being swapped for sour cream in dip recipes. Nacho Cheese Doritos dipped in cottage cheese also trended as a TikTok taste challenge.
— Blend cottage cheese with garlic, lemon juice, artichoke hearts, tahini, olive oil, salt and pepper. @joeywellness.
— Sauté cherry tomatoes in olive oil, garlic and hot pepper flakes; add cottage cheese with smoked paprika and cumin. Kasey Benavides @kb.rd.nutrition.
— Blend cottage cheese, avocado, fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Krista @hellofrozenbananas.
— Other creators are making simple cottage dips with za’atar and olive oil, powdered ranch seasoning, finely chopped pickles and pickle juice, grated cucumber and lemon juice, honey and chopped pistachios, and diced tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.
Blended Cottage Cheese
Here’s where it gets really creative. Whipping cottage cheese in a blender creates a high-protein ingredient that is amazingly versatile.
— For a high-protein, low-fat cacio e pepe, blend cottage cheese with pecorino cheese, black pepper and salt until smooth; heat in skillet and add cooked pasta with a little pasta water. Jake Cohen @jakecohen.
— Combine cottage cheese with cheddar cheese, milk, diced chipotle peppers in adobo, garlic powder and salt; microwave and blend until smooth for an easy cheese sauce. Tom Walsh @stealth_health_life.
— For pancakes, blend together cottage cheese, old-fashioned oats, baking powder, vanilla extract and an egg. Pour batter on griddle. Lex @lex.alger.
— To make a simple cheesecake dessert, blend cottage cheese with fresh raspberries and vanilla extract until smooth; add to bowl and top with reduced-sugar raspberry preserves and granola. Ravleen @flexibleeatingdietitian.
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Cottage Cheese Recipes and Nutrition Benefits originally appeared on usnews.com