Why We Love Cottage Cheese

You might write off cottage cheese as “diet food," but it’s a true protein powerhouse and a great secret ingredient. Here are the many reasons to love it.

You might write off cottage cheese as “diet food," but it’s a true protein powerhouse and a great secret ingredient. Here are the many reasons to love it and some new ways to try it.

What Is Cottage Cheese?

Cottage cheese is cheese curd (or “lumps” for lack of a better word) made from cow’s milk that has been washed to remove some of the natural acidity. Washing the curds leaves this cheese with a mild flavor to go along with its chunky and creamy texture. Since it has a pretty plain taste, it pairs well with both sweet and savory foods.

Cottage cheese is available in small, medium or large curd -- small curd is the most common. The flavor of the three types are very similar but their consistencies vary; it’s really up to your preference. Cottage cheese is also available in non-fat, low-fat and full-fat varieties. Low fat is my top pick because it’s more creamy than non-fat but still has a minimal amount of fat and calories (see more nutrition info below).

Farmer's cheese is actually another form of cottage cheese. It's what happens when more liquid is removed from cottage cheese (by straining) and the cheese becomes firm and solid.

Nutrition Facts

Here’s where cottage cheese gets impressive. One half cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 90 calories, 1 gram of fat and 16 grams of protein -- that’s as much as two ounces of cooked chicken and more than double what you’ll find in a equal portion of low-fat plain yogurt. All that protein means a small serving will keep you feeling full because protein takes longer to digest. That’s why cottage cheese made our list of 5 Snacks to Fight Off Hunger.

When it comes to sodium, some varieties are saltier than others -- a typical half-cup serving has about 360 milligrams (about 15% of the daily recommendation). Many markets carry low-sodium brands if you need to keep an eye on your salt intake or just prefer a differ flavor.

What To Do With Cottage Cheese

You can enjoy cottage cheese similar to yogurt. From the basic: Top it with fresh fruit and maybe a small amount of granola, nuts, or flax seeds for a light breakfast or snack. To more advanced: Use it to replace some or all of the higher=calorie ingredients in pancakes, biscuits or baked pasta dishes such as noodle kugel or baked ziti. You can even use cottage cheese to lighten up your favorite cheesecake recipe. When blended in a food processor or blender, cottage cheese becomes smooth for velvety dips and salad dressings. I like to mix some with sautéed spinach and caramelized onions, spices and egg, then wrap it up in phyllo dough and bake it -- that's my lower-calorie version of spanakopita.

    Recipes to try:
[Photo: ~Jen~ / Recipezaar ]
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