Retro it may be, but there’s no need to mess with a classic. My fridge is never without cottage cheese. Some may consider it a throwback to the dieter’s plate at best or the curds and whey that frightened many away at worst. To the haters I say this: cottage cheese is a delicious, lean protein and a versatile low-fat dairy option. Today there are many brands that put flavor first, capable of knocking the canned pineapple ring right off your grandmother’s dieting block. It’s time for cottage cheese to have its due.
Nutritionally, cottage cheese is your friend. One cup has 28 grams of lean protein, more than twice as much as the same amount of plain yogurt. Calorically they’re about the same; cottage cheese has 160 to yogurt’s 150. It also has less sugar: 3 grams compared to yogurt’s 10. Oh, and don’t be fooled into thinking that cottage cheese is only a mealtime pursuit. It, and other casein-based dairy, can also help you catch your ZZZs. Our curdled queen is not without her drawbacks, however: Cottage cheese has a lot of sodium —about twice as much as yogurt — meaning it might not be right for every diet.
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Cottage cheese has more chew than yogurt, which I think makes it feel less like a slurp and more like a meal. On its own, cottage cheese is sublime. But it cannot be beat with cinnamon and sugar or sprinkled with garlic salt. It also adds creaminess and protein when tossed with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and black olives, or just about any other combination of salad vegetables. While it is delicious with any sweet, acidic fruit (peaches and pineapples, we’re talking to you!), it is ethereal scooped into the center of half a cantaloupe — a simple dish far more than the sum of its parts.
Big cottage cheese has taken note of yogurt’s portability and flavors, and the market is starting to update this long-lost cousin. If you were forced to eat cottage cheese as a child, know that its flavor, texture and self-identity have come a long way. Small, regional brands like Cowgirl Creamery, Traders Point, Nancy’s, Kalona SuperNatural and Muuna offer delicious, well-crafted and often organic options that taste great. Single-serving cottage cheese containers are not new, but they are looking for more mass appeal in grab ‘n go snacking. Hood offers single-serving containers in flavors like honey and pear or cucumber and dill. Good Culture’s brand offers single cups flavored with kalamata olive or blueberry acai chia.
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In the kitchen, yogurt’s flavor is either sweetened or sour, limiting its play with other foods. But cottage cheese’s wild-by-mild properties make it a cooking ninja, able to play the role of a number of other more high-fat foods. Use it instead of mayonnaise in tuna or egg salad. Try it atop a bagel in place of a cream cheese schmear. Cottage cheese can happily take the place of ricotta, too, drained or as-is, stuffed into pasta, centered into omelets, or stirred into pancakes. Use less butter and sour cream on your baked potato and replace it with — you guessed it — cottage cheese to add some moisture and creaminess. Even cheesecake is a welcome home, as cottage cheese can take the place of the cream cheese in the mix.
No matter how you scoop it, cottage cheese makes a tasty, nutritious mark.