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Cottage cheese — overall, I think it gets a bad rap. I mean, most people think of it as a diet food that can only be eaten with peaches, pineapple, and beets. I like to eat cottage cheese just by itself, and I think it’s great in several recipes.

But if you are skeptical of cottage cheese, I don’t blame you. It looks a little odd and maybe a little intimidating if you haven’t tried it before. So if you’re wondering what does cottage cheese taste like, you have come to the right place.

Let’s get into it! Here are the facts about cottage cheese (including the taste of cottage cheese).

How is cottage cheese made?

Image of cheese-making process. Cottage Cheese has a unique subtle flavor

Cottage cheese-making begins when good dairy bacteria start transforming lactose into lactic acid (in essence, the milk is fermented slightly). As the milk acidifies, it coagulates, until it forms a solid curd, which separates from the whey. Once the curd forms, it is cut into small cubes.

Next, the curd is cooked, causing it to release moisture. Then, it is drained, rinsed, and drained again, this time possibly for hours, as the longer the curd drains, the drier it will become. Then, the curd is refrigerated.

Before final preparation, the curd is often salted to enhance its flavor, or cream is sometimes added to give it a rich taste and texture.

See Taste Differences Between Small Curd and Large Curd Cottage Cheese below for more information on how cottage cheese is made.

What are the various types of cottage cheese?

I went to buy some cottage cheese last week, and the array of choices made my head spin. I’m easy to please — I like full-fat or 4% milkfat small curd cottage cheese, but there is a type of cottage cheese made for everyone. Here is a brief explanation of the types of cottage cheese that are available.

Dry Versus Wet Cottage Cheese

Once the curd and whey are separated, there is essentially one big curd left, and that’s what dry cottage cheese is. The curd resembles feta cheese in that it appears crumbly, but it doesn’t have the same texture as feta cheese.

dry cottage cheese. dry cottage cheese doesn't contain milk or cream and may have a more sour flavor.

Nothing (like the milk and cream most Americans prefer in their cottage cheese) is added to dry cottage cheese. The curd is simply rinsed, cut into small curds, and often salted.

Wet cottage cheese is simply dry cottage cheese with cream, milk, or a “cream dressing” of milk and cream added to it to give it more richness and body.

Cottage Cheese Milk Fat Content

When it comes to cottage cheese, there are four different milk fat content percentages offered: 4% milkfat (regular or full-fat), 2% milkfat, 1% milkfat (low fat cottage cheese), and nonfat (AKA fat-free or skim).

A 4-oz serving of 4% milkfat cottage cheese contains:

  • 107 calories, 12 gm of protein
  • 4.7 gm of fat
  • 1.9 gm of saturated fat

While a 4-oz serving of nonfat cottage cheese contains:

  • 52 calories
  • 7.5 gm of protein, and 0.2 gm of fat
  • 0.1 gm of saturated fat.

If one option has too few calories, and one has too many, you can try 1% milkfat (low-fat) or 2% (reduced-fat), which will give you an option in the mid-range.

Small Curd Versus Large Curd Cottage Cheese

Small versus large curd cottage cheese…so, one is smaller than the other, right?! Well, yes, but there is more than one reason for the differences between the two sizes of cottage cheese.

Variations in Ingredients

Both large and small curd cottage cheeses are the solids or curds resulting from acidified milk. However, there is more than one way to start the fermentation process. Either good dairy bacteria can be used to produce lactic acid or rennet, an enzyme that acts upon milk proteins, can be used to do the same.

close up of a bowl of cottage cheese. Curds are created with the help of good bacteria.

Traditionally, rennet has been taken from ruminants’ (cattle, goats, sheep, American bison, elk…) stomachs, and the practice is still common. However, there are now alternative non-animal types of rennet being used. These vegetarian (or even vegan) types of rennet are made from vegetables or they are isolated from animal genes and then added to yeast or fungi.

By either method, one is left with solids or curds that separate from the liquids or whey, and the curds are called cottage cheese.

Manufacturing Process Variation

Commercially, cottage cheese is made in huge stainless steel vats (referred to in the industry as agitators). Most of them measure around 20 ft x 5 ft x 3 ft (L x W x D, respectively). Once the curd in the vat has separated from the whey, a large screen (referred to in the industry as a knife) is inserted into the vat at one end and pulled all the way through the solid, cutting it. Then, a “knife” is inserted into the opposite end and pulled through the solid again.

Once large curd cottage cheese is separated, a knife (screen) with 1-inch openings is used, but for small curd cottage cheese, the knife’s openings are only a half-inch. The curd is also cooked during this process, and though most professional cheesemakers have an instinct for knowing the precise point at which the curd is cooked properly, a Curd-O-Meter is often used.

image of man processing a vat of cottage cheese.

The Curd-O-Meter is a device invented in 1957 for taking precise measurements of the firmness of the curd. The device drops a weight down into the cooking curd, and tells you, according to how far down the weight pushes the curd, whether the curd is cooked properly. Erik Lundstedt created and patented the Curd-O-Meter. He is an icon in the world of cheesemaking, and he was the American Cottage Cheese Institute’s first president.

What does cottage cheese taste like?

Cottage cheese is in a food category virtually all on its own. Its combination of consistency, texture, and flavor is like no other in the encyclopedia of foods that we eat, but what does cottage cheese taste like?

Consistency

The consistency of cottage cheese curds depends on the type that you buy. If you get the dry variety, the cheese is somewhat similar to ricotta cheese. However, the curds of ricotta cheese are tiny — much smaller than those of cottage cheese.

If you opt for the wet cottage cheese, the consistency will be more on the, well, wet side. By that I mean the milk or cream in the mixture will cause more of a creamy consistency rather than crumbly.

Texture

Similar to the consistency discussed above, the texture varies depending on which type of cottage cheese one is speaking of. If one is speaking of dry cottage cheese, it contains only the curds (since they’ve been separated from the whey and rinsed), so the consistency is somewhat dry.

a close up spoon of cottage cheese. wet cottage cheese that most Americans eat has a creamy texture.

However, Americans buy mostly wet cottage cheese, which has a creamy texture because milk, cream, or both are added to the curds. The creaminess of different brands and varieties varies depending upon whether a mixture of milk and cream is used or only one or the other.

Flavor

So, what does cottage cheese taste like? Well, it depends…

Different brands and varieties of cottage cheese have a varied taste. Dry cottage cheese generally has somewhat of a sour taste due to the fact that you can still detect a bit of the whey flavor (sometimes, not all the whey gets washed off in the rinsing process).

Because cream or milk is added to make wet cottage cheese, it usually doesn’t have a sour taste at all. Wet cottage cheese has a silky, rich flavor if only cream is added. Or it has a more watery, less creamy flavor if only milk is added. Many brands of cottage cheese also add a bit of salt to their cottage cheese for flavor.

It’s pretty safe to say that if you pick up a container of 4% (full fat cottage cheese) you will likely detect some of the following characteristics:

  • Tones of sour cream (though it is not nearly as sour flavored)
  • Slightly salty taste
  • Creamy texture
  • Generally mild flavor (not a strong cheese flavor)

Taste Differences Between Small Curd and Large Curd Cottage Cheese

Large curd cottage cheese is made with rennet, an enzyme found in a ruminant’s stomach, and its taste, a creamy, mild one, is preferred by most. Small curd cottage cheese will have a somewhat creamy (if wet), salty (if salted), and sour taste.

The hint of sour cream stems from the fact that it is made with plant-based or microbial and genetically modified “rennet”. Most vegetarians and many others prefer small curd cottage cheese because of this.

Is cottage cheese good for you?

A bowl of cottage cheese with fruit. Eating cottage cheese can offer a lot of protein and calcium. But watch out for the sodium content.

Cottage cheese brings with it many health benefits. Because it contains a lot of calcium, it helps keep bones and teeth healthy and keeps osteoporosis at bay. It may also aid in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.

Cottage cheese is a great source of energy. It can be helpful in preventing metabolic syndrome, and promoting weight loss, fat loss, and lean muscle gain. And if you are looking for healthy ways to get into shape, you might also consider supplementing with a protein shake, such as Shakeology.

High in vitamin A and B vitamins, as well as calcium, an average serving of plain, regular cottage cheese has over 23 grams of protein, almost 11 grams of carbohydrates, around 5 grams of fat, 251 milligrams of calcium, and 183 calories. But it has almost 700 milligrams of sodium, so watch out for that if you are trying to keep a low-sodium diet. Of course, there are low-sodium cottage cheese brands as well as low-fat brands.

How is cottage cheese served?

Wondering what to eat with cottage cheese? Well, there are a multitude of ways to use it. For breakfast, it can go into pancakes, scrambled eggs, quiche, and more. When using cottage cheese for lunch, try adding it to enchiladas, spinach pie, or pita sandwiches. Incorporating it into dinner, putting it into meatloaf, stuffed shells, or fettuccine Alfredo works well. For dessert, it’s great in cheesecake, cherry tarts, or rugelach.

FAQ

Can you freeze cottage cheese?

Cottage cheese can be stored in the freezer. However, doing this can cause both the texture and taste to change. In the freezer, it can last up to 6 months if it hasn’t been opened. Cottage cheese that has been opened will last around half that time. If you need extra freezer storage, see our reviews for the best chest freezers or decide what freezer is right for you.

How long does cottage cheese last?

If cottage cheese is kept refrigerated at all times, it should last around one week past its “Sell by ” date. If you freeze an unopened container of cottage cheese, it should last up to 6 months, while an opened container of cottage cheese will only last around 3 months in the freezer.

How can I tell if cottage cheese has gone bad?

Fresh cottage cheese is consistent throughout and tastes and smells fresh. Cottage cheese that’s gone bad has three signs — what it looks like, smells like, and tastes like.

If cottage cheese has an overly sour taste or has a very off-putting smell, it’s gone bad. Also, if it is turning a yellowish color, has developed pockets of water, or is moldy, it’s gone bad.