Did you know that it is quite easy to make your own cottage cheese at home? This simple cottage cheese recipe uses ingredients that you probably already have on hand. With a small modification to the method, you can make your own ricotta cheese, if that is what you’d prefer. Simplify your grocery list by making homemade cheeses and avoid the additives sometimes used in the store-bought versions!
My initial attempts at cottage cheese-making were truly an exercise in frustration. Luckily, I chose not to give up, and my recipe success is what I am sharing with you today.
Like yogurt, cottage cheese may contain beneficial live, active cultures. I originally wanted to make cottage cheese with live cultures, since this product can be challenging to find in the stores.
Another benefit of making your own cottage cheese is that you can make it much lower in sodium than store-bought versions. If you are on a low-sodium diet, you may have noticed that it can be difficult to find low-sodium cottage cheese. Making your own is an easy solution to this problem.
I tried this recipe to make your own cottage cheese at home, put out by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Unfortunately, as much as I love much of the information put forth by Cooperative Extensions, I could not get this recipe to work. It was a complete flop!
So, what went wrong with my initial attempts at making cottage cheese?
First of all, the Cooperative Extension recipe claimed that “high quality raw skim milk is necessary to make a good cottage cheese…” I’ve read from other sources that raw milk is NOT needed to make cottage cheese, so I used store-bought pasteurized milk. Perhaps it is easier to make cultured cottage cheese with raw milk; this may have been one issue.
The FDA advises choosing pasteurized dairy products to help prevent foodborne illness. Raw dairy products are considered “high risk.” Indeed, there was an outbreak of E. coli O157 in my state several years ago linked to raw milk.
With raw milk-linked health problems occurring so close to home, I feel more comfortable choosing pasteurized milk. The Cooperative Extension recipe has people pasteurizing the raw milk before making cottage cheese. I think the store-bought pasteurized milk is not what led to the failed batch, but it may have been a factor.
Second, the Extension recipe requires the use of either buttermilk or sour cream. I chose buttermilk labeled as having “live, active cultures,” hoping to end up with probiotic-packed cottage cheese. I’m thinking an issue with the buttermilk is ultimately why the recipe failed.
The buttermilk I used was a bit old (not expired), so perhaps the cultures were no longer live and active. Or maybe the buttermilk, in the amount used, did not provide enough acidity to separate the curd from the whey.
Either way, what I ended up with after the curd-setting time looked exactly like the milk I had started with. Since the milk had been sitting in the food temperature “danger zone” for many hours, I had to throw it out. Though it pains me to waste food, I’m not willing to risk foodborne illness.
When I fail at a recipe, I keep experimenting until I find something that works!
The recipe for cottage cheese that I am sharing below is a far easier method than that used in the Extension recipe. The downside here is that you aren’t getting a cultured cottage cheese, as you would with the other method.
If you’ve already had success making homemade yogurt, you need to make your own cottage cheese at home. It is so much easier! Additionally, it is versatile; you can use it as ricotta cheese with a minor tweak to the recipe below.
One of my favorite recipes uses only 1 cup of ricotta. This is half of what you typically get in the smallest containers of ricotta sold in stores. With this recipe, I can get precisely the amount of ricotta I need and then use the rest as cottage cheese.
Aside from simplifying your grocery list, there are other benefits to making this recipe a regular addition in your life. For example, this recipe doesn’t contain the additives that you may find in store-bought cottage cheese.
Yet another benefit: you get to decide whether this is a lower fat or higher fat recipe.
Yes, you can modify this recipe as needed to make it lower or higher in fat. It should work with skim milk, reduced-fat milk, and whole milk. In full disclosure, I have not tried this recipe with whole milk yet since cream is added in at the end.
However, I have used both skim milk and 2%. One-half gallon of skim milk yielded about 2.5 unpacked cups of cottage cheese. One-half gallon of 2% milk got me about three unpacked cups of cheese.
Your yield will vary depending on how well you drain and squeeze out your curds. You could end up with less or more cheese than me depending on how thoroughly you express the whey.
The curds absorb the cream that is added at the end of the recipe. As you may notice in the photos, the end product is not liquidy at all.
This may come as no surprise, but the skim milk curds absorbed more cream than the low-fat milk curds. I used about ½ cup of cream with the skim curds and 6T of cream with the 2% curds. Depending on the amount of cream added at the end, starting with skim milk may not result in a lower calorie cheese.
So, grab a pot, a colander, a candy thermometer, some cheesecloth, and your food ingredients. Let’s get on with the recipe, shall we?
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Make Your Own Cottage Cheese at Home (and Ricotta Too!)
- ½ gallon milk, 2%
- 6 tablespoons white vinegar
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- On the stovetop, bring the milk to 180°F while whisking occasionally. Use a candy thermometer to ensure that you are getting the right temperature.
- Once it reaches 180°F, take the milk off of the heat and stir in the vinegar right away. You should begin to see the yellowish whey separating from the curds immediately.
- Allow the curds and whey to cool at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes.
- Line a colander with a double-layer of cheesecloth. Put the colander in a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey into the lined colander. Let drain for 5 minutes. The curds will stay in the cloth while the whey will drain into the bowl. (The whey can be discarded or saved to be used in another recipe.)
- Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth so that the curds are collected into a tight ball. With clean hands, squeeze the ball gently over the sink to release more whey. If you are concerned about a vinegar taste remaining, you can run the ball under gently running water and squeeze again, if desired.
- Unwrap the cheesecloth. You can use the cheese before you as ricotta in your recipes. If you want cottage cheese instead, continue on...
- Put the cheese ball in a bowl and gently break up the curds with a spoon. Stir in the salt and heavy cream. You will find that the curds readily absorb the cream, so the finished cottage cheese does not contain much liquid.
- This recipe makes approximately three cups of loosely packed cottage cheese (six ½-cup servings). Enjoy!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Cottage cheese is an excellent choice for a snack or as part of a meal if you desire weight loss. According to Cronometer, ½-cup of 2% cottage cheese provides 12 grams of protein for only 92 calories. My favorite way to enjoy cottage cheese is with fruits such as pineapple, mango, or strawberries. If you are trying to reduce your calorie intake, keep in mind that one tablespoon of heavy cream provides 50 calories. Adding a few extra glugs of cream into your cottage cheese can easily mean a few hundred additional calories. Unlike milk, heavy cream should be thought of as an added fat, similar to butter. Though cream is fine (and delicious!) to use in moderation, it’s not the best choice if you are looking to lower your saturated fat intake. I've heard that lemon juice may work in place of the vinegar in this recipe but I have not tried this yet.
What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy cottage cheese? Let me know, and don’t forget to leave a rating if you try to make your own cottage cheese at home! I’d love to hear how it went.