The latest food trend may seem like a throwback — or, possibly, your grandma’s favorite snack.
Cottage cheese has taken over, with food creators experimenting with different ways to eat the often-controversial dairy product. One benefit of cottage cheese, according to those who praise it, is the food’s high protein content.
First, what is cottage cheese?
“Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that is known for its lumpy or curd-like texture,” explains registered dietitian Jordan Hill of Top Nutrition Coaching. “It is made by coagulating milk with an acidic substance, such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then separating the curds from the whey. The curds are the solid portions of the milk that clump together, while the whey is the liquid portion that is drained off.”
Between 1950 and 1975, cottage cheese was all the rage, according to a 2015 NPR segment titled “The Fall Of A Dairy Darling: How Cottage Cheese Got Eclipsed By Yogurt.” At the time, cottage cheese was often used as a base for fruit like pineapples or peaches, and was eaten for breakfast. In 1970, Americans ate a whopping five pounds of cottage cheese per year — but despite its initial popularity, the product was eventually eclipsed by its dairy cousin yogurt.
No one knows the exact reasons for this shift, but one possible explanation is that it’s difficult to get consistent quality when it comes to cottage cheese, while another suggests that cottage cheese simply seems too “old-fashioned” for marketers to invest in, per NPR. Of course, that was before the TikTok crowd discovered it and made it cool again.
Meet cottage cheese, 2.0
While there have been scattered cottage cheese recipes over the years, the cottage cheese trend really seems to pop off around March 2023.
The popularity of cottage cheese today seems connected to the rise in high-protein diets. While social media didn’t start the high protein trend, high protein recipes trend regularly on social media platforms, and cottage cheese is a macro winner in that regard. A one-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese has 185 calories and 25 grams of protein.
“Cottage cheese has a higher protein content compared to other cheese because of the way it’s made,” says Hill. “During the coagulation process, the proteins in milk, primarily casein, form the curds. These curds are retained in cottage cheese, providing a higher concentration of protein compared to other cheeses where the curds are often removed. It’s worth noting that the specific nutritional content of cottage cheese can vary depending on the brand and variety. Cottage cheese is similar to milk in that it is sold in 0%, 1%, 2% and whole fat options.”
How are people using cottage cheese?
There are dozens of ways people are using cottage cheese, proving that it’s a pretty versatile snack. Bethenny Frankel, who calls herself a cottage cheese “expert,” shared on TikTok that she likes her cottage cheese on a cracker with salt and pepper. She also mixes it into marinara sauce.
Katie Couric also recognized the trend and took it to her website in May to share her own recipe for avocado toast with a base of cottage cheese.
If the consistency of cottage cheese doesn’t sound super appealing to you, well, you’re not alone. In fact, many of the more popular cottage cheese recipes of 2023 involve blending cottage cheese first, so that it resembles more of a cheese sauce — allowing anyone who is curd-phobic to enjoy the cheese.
Other ways fans are using cottage cheese include:
Healthy foods with cottage cheese
While cottage cheese certainly has fans for its taste, many people also love it because it’s seen as a way to healthify favorite foods.
Lainie Kates, from California, is a longtime lover of cottage cheese, but is really into it now thanks to certain brands coming on the market that “have better ingredients, are organic and add probiotics to cottage cheese, which I really love.”
Kates shares cottage cheese recipes on social media and uses the product in everything from pizza toast to scrambled eggs — but her favorite is “cottage cheese ice cream and cottage cheese McFlurrys.”
Danny Fix, an entrepreneur from Colorado, uses social media to share high-protein, low-calorie recipes that are both “healthy and delicious,” he explains. Cottage cheese is a base for several recipes, including Oreo cheesecake, ice cream and even pancakes.
“In March 2023, I noticed that cottage cheese was gaining popularity as a healthy food option,” he tells Yahoo Life. “Intrigued by its high protein-to-calorie ratio, I decided to experiment with a cottage cheese ice cream recipe and shared it on my Instagram and TikTok accounts. To my surprise, the recipe was a hit, with 40g of protein per serving. While I wouldn’t make it a nightly ritual, it’s a great way to indulge in a sweet treat while still meeting my daily protein goals.”
Fix adds that he’s lost 45 pounds on his diet and always keeps cottage cheese on hand.
California-based Elisa Snyder also saw cottage cheese pop up online recently. As a big ice cream lover, she thought she would experiment with making ice cream with cottage cheese. The basic recipe involves blending cottage cheese, combining it with a sweetener and flavoring of one’s choice and popping it into the freezer for several hours until it gets an ice cream-like consistency.
“I focus on incorporating high-protein foods in my diet, but I’m not on a strict high-protein diet,” she explains. “I loved it because it seemed like a healthier alternative to ice cream. And since I always have dessert after dinner, I figured it’d give it a shot. I was skeptical at first, but it’s so so good. The perfect alternative for ice cream and fills you up! Just make sure you don’t leave it in the freezer too long (or just make sure to let it defrost for an hour!) so it’s not too icy.”
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