Cottage cheese, the retro snack and ingredient, is popular again

Of all the things to make a comeback this year, I never would have put cottage cheese on the bingo card. Thanks to TikTok it’s having a resurgence, and what a resurgence it is. Cottage cheese is on its way to being the Gen Z version of avocado toast: the food trend that suddenly takes over and becomes loaded with symbolism about an entire generation. I can just feel it. Soon, there will be a think piece in The Atlantic about how Gen Z’s love of cottage cheese is actually a symptom of extended adolescence and is destroying the housing market. Until that day comes, we have this much more factual report from Yahoo. They give us a rundown of cottage cheese’s rise and fall and rise again, and theorize why it’s become so popular on TikTok all of a sudden. They also talk to influencers on the platform who use cottage cheese in unusual ways, including blending it and turning it into “ice cream,” and believe me, I have some thoughts about that.

Cottage cheese used to be cool: 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 pineapple or peaches, and 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.

It could be popular again because it’s high in protein: 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.

Bethenny Frankel and Katie Couric are cottage cheese influencers now: 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…Katie Couric also acknowledged the trend and took 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.

People like it because it’s a way to make indulgent foods healthier: 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, of 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.”

[From Yahoo]

The article lists some of the things people use cottage cheese for, including “ice cream”, lasagna, cheesecake, a replacement for Alfredo sauce, and as a replacement for cream cheese on a bagel. Growing up I always ate cottage cheese with halved cherry tomatoes, fresh cracked pepper, kosher salt, and Fritos. I know it sounds random but try it, it’s really good. I don’t eat it currently, because I can’t find Knudsen full fat cottage cheese where I live. Growing up in Southern California, it was always available, and the full fat version is creamy, mild, and never watery. Every other brand I’ve tried since I moved out of state has been disappointing. I love Nordic baking culture, and there are some Finnish baking recipes that use cottage cheese that I’d like to try out. But I have to say this: I can’t imagine blending it and eating it as ice cream. I don’t think there’s enough fat in it–even in my beloved full fat Knudsen–for it to have the creamy, smooth quality of frozen yogurt or ice cream. Calling it “ice cream” seems like…a scam. If anyone has tried this format and liked it, please tell us about it in the comments because I’m morbidly curious.

I suspect there’s another reason why people are into cottage cheese right now that has nothing to do with blending it up into fake ice cream or protein cheesecake. The article didn’t touch on this but it was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this story. Compared to other protein sources, especially animal proteins like chicken or beef, cottage cheese is relatively inexpensive. With high food costs continuing even as inflation has eased since last year, cottage cheese might be an appealing option for people looking to save money.

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44 Responses to “Cottage cheese, the retro snack and ingredient, is popular again”

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  1. OriginalMich says:

    Fun fact, it is incredibly easy to make cottage (and ricotta) cheese. Sooooo easy. And so tasty.

    Also, mixed with mandarin orange slices…delicious!

  2. girl_ninja says:

    Cottage cheese with chives on toast, drizzled with olive oil is my jam 🙌

  3. Jan90067 says:

    Gotta say, I’ve always loved cottage cheese. I used to use non-fat, but moved up to low fat (Knudsen’s of course). I mix it with berries, pineapple bits, melons… it’s a great light meal, and very filling.

    Of course, if the liquidity of cottage cheese bothers you, try “Farmers’ Cheese”. It’s basically a “brick” of the “curds” (cheese) w/out the “whey” (the liquid part). It’s really yummy, too!

    Carina, you might try Amazon shopping for Knudsens. They do same day delivery, so it may be available to you that way…?

    And welcome to CB! Nice to “meet” you! 😊

    • Christine says:

      Knudsens is the only one I eat, but I LOVE it. Watery cottage cheese gives me the heebie jeebies.

  4. Lightpurple says:

    Years ago, my nutritionist told me to switch from yogurt to cottage cheese because there’s more protein and less sugar, especially in the low-fat varieties. She suggested adding a sprinkle of cinnamon, fresh fruit, & a spoonful of granola. It’s my go-to snack.

    • Anners says:

      My friend recently discovered she’s diabetic and one of the tricks her doctor gave her was to puree cottage cheese as a yogurt substitute as it won’t spike her sugars. She talked us all into trying it. It most definitely *does not* taste like ice cream, but blending it (in a food processor) makes it light and fluffy and a bit sweeter somehow? I ate mine with a spoonful of strawberry jam mixed in and it was okay. I certainly prefer the texture of whipped cottage cheese to straight out of the container, but I’ll stick to plain greek yogurt or skyr 🙂

  5. Carobell says:

    I grew up with cottage cheese and love it because it can be made to be a savory snack. Cottage cheese with cracked pepper, salt, chive, green onion spread on toast or eaten by itself. So satisfying. So many yogurts have crazy ingredients and texturizers and taste artificial.

  6. HeyKay says:

    I’ve been eating cottage cheese all along, had no idea it was becoming trendy.
    It is an easy snack on toast with protein and a bonus of being On Sale pretty often.

    • butterflystella says:

      I’ve been eating it all along, too (I’m 49) and didn’t know about the recent trend either! I like it on Triscuit crackers or just by itself. Love the “cottage cheese with…” ideas in the comments here and will try some for sure.

  7. JanetDR says:

    We make a high protein snack with 1/2 cup oat flour; 1/2 cup cottage cheese; beaten egg and a sprinkle of cinnamon- cook it like pancakes! I like it hot with butter and maple syrup or room temperature for lunch with almond butter.

  8. [insert_catchy_name] says:

    Weird. Although I remember eating it as a kid in the 90’s but not when I was older- did it disappear from stores or did it just go out of fashion?

  9. arhus says:

    My husband had a physical a few years back and came back with some high A1Cs so the doc recommended cutting back on things like cereal & milk for breakfast and do cottage cheese instead. It’s been tasty!

  10. Love the stuff always have. Cottage cheese and fresh sweet strawberries in the morning. Yum

  11. Dara says:

    My grandmother always used cottage cheese in her lasagna. I assumed it was because she grew up in the rural Midwest in the early 1920’s and had absolutely no clue ricotta even existed. Cottage cheese is not a good substitute in lasagna, and nothing anyone could say will convince me otherwise. Blech.

    • BeanieBean says:

      My mom used to do a mixture of cottage cheese & ricotta for lasagne, and I remember liking it. But then I was a kid, so what did I know? 😉

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      Dara, you might want to give your grandmother some grace. Maybe she didn’t know ricotta existed or it may not have been available or maybe she knew, that an Italian American recipe of lasagna was made with cottage cheese or ricotta. I grew up with cottage cheese in lasagna. Loved it. Have had ricotta in it too. Love it.

      Might be regional, an ancient Sicilian we know claims authentic, traditional Italian lasagna doesn’t contain any cheese. It’s a meat sauce and bechamel sauce layering.

      I personally loathe parmesan or mozzarella in lasagna.

  12. Rnot says:

    I had no idea it had ever become unpopular. I’ve been eating it all along. One of my favorites is to top a baked potato with chopped up steamed broccoli and a generous scoop of cottage cheese on top. It sounds weird but it’s an easy healthy inexpensive dinner.

    • Mrs. S says:

      I had no idea it is trendy or ever untrendy. Weird. I’ve always eaten it. I have some every night with strawberries, blueberries, or peaches. I use it in lasagna. And I love it in place of dressing on my salads.

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      LOL @Rnot. Outside of lasagna, I didn’t have/try cottage cheese cold until I was 20. Over 30+ years ago. Growing up it was always in our house. My mom loved the combination of peach slices with cottage cheese. Just never had it cold until I was working in food service and one of my supervisors ate a baked potato topped with cottage cheese almost every day for lunch.

      This particular supervisor was a mentor and I respected her opinions. Plus, for a lunch at work, with an employee discount, it cost $1. Cheap eats. So I tried it. Yep, it’s good. It was awkward for a bit when in restaurants and I’d ask if I could have cottage cheese with my baked potato instead of sour cream.

      One of my favorites is small curd cottage cheese with halved grape tomatoes, quartered english cucumber, chives or scallions and cracked black pepper. Fun post Carina. Now I’m thinking about the cottage cheese photo on bread and what looks to be pomegranate arils. Yum.

  13. Gunn S says:

    I live in Norway and use it mostly for baking. I prefer to blend it though.

    Or eating it plain with cinnamon.

  14. Rhiley says:

    I eat it for lunch several days a week. Easy to pack and filling and not too expensive. Didn’t know it was a TikTok thing. Will have to check out some of the recipes to jazz up my lunch.

  15. Ameerah M says:

    That was my first thought as well Carina. It’s a cheap protein source.

  16. Beech says:

    Midcentury baby here, cottage cheese and drained crushed pineapple.

    • NJGR says:

      @beech – also midcentury, and I was thinking the same thing!

    • BeanieBean says:

      Oh, yeah. Or on a couple leaves of lettuce with canned pear halves, and behold! Your classic ‘diet plate’.

      • SpankyB says:

        I remember as a kid in the 70’s seeing the “diet plate” on menus and it was usually a hamburger patty with a side of cottage cheese on top of lettuce with fruit cocktail on top.

        I always like it on lettuce with just pepper on top.

      • Agreatreckoning says:

        The hamburger patty may have been dropped, there are 3 restaurants in my area that carry on their lunch menu’s, a cottage cheese plate with fresh fruit.

  17. pamspam says:

    Before I stopped eating dairy, I would swirl it into hot pasta and veggies and it was really tasty!

  18. Becks1 says:

    I love cottage cheese. I buy those little individual packs of it and they’re great to have on hand as a quick snack when I want something relatively filling but not sugary.

    I will also have a bowl with cherry tomatoes, Everything but the Bagel seasoning, and maybe some avocado or something added.

  19. Barb Mill says:

    I’ve been Lifetime on Weight Watchers under my goal weight for over 5 years. Fat Free plain yogurt has been a zero point food for many years but recently FF cottage cheese has been added as a zero point food. This means that you can eat these foods without tracking and they don’t take away from your daily point allowance. I can’t tell you how many people have started eating this from adding to scrambled eggs to blending and making dips and yes to making ice cream, baking into muffins, adding to pancakes.

  20. NotSoSocialB says:

    Plain full- fat on crispy, thin sourdough toast- yum!!!

    • Concern Fae says:

      A 60s kid and forever cottage cheese lover too. They started carrying at the food cart at work a few years back. Explained to one of the youngins that it’s what people used to eat before people ate yogurt. My current fave is Hood’s with pineapple.

      My real memory of childhood cottage cheese was going out to the local diner style restaurant with my grandparents. Gran would always order the “diet plate” – naked hamburger patty, salad of lettuce and tomato, and a big scoop of cottage cheese on top of a slice of canned pineapple. It used to be on the menu everywhere. I wasn’t a terribly adventurous eater and I loved it. I’m no longer as picky, but I frequently make it myself at home as a comfort meal.

      • SpankyB says:

        I didn’t read down far enough, I just posted about the diet plate above. My parents never let me order it though, no idea why. I guess they thought I wouldn’t like the bunless patty (which is the way I eat burgers now ).

  21. StellainNH says:

    I was so excited that Lactaid makes a lactose free cottage cheese. Skinnytaste has a recipe for cheesey scrambled eggs with cottagee cheese. They are so good!

  22. Cosmic Cow says:

    High protein, creamy, easy to flavour, nothing to cook, portable and come’s in it’s own dish.

  23. Claire says:

    The best snack ever — dip salt and vinegar crisps in cottage cheese… you’ll thank me later. Knudsen is by far the superior brand due to the smooth texture and small curds. Hard to find on the East coast though!

  24. Miasys says:

    I must be the outlier here because just looking at it makes me gag a little. My mom loved it with canned peaches. I have used it as a ricotta replacement and in instant pot egg bites. Can’t do it on it’s own, the texture just feels gross.

    • BeanieBean says:

      No, I’m with you on this. This is one of those foods from my youth for which I have zero nostalgia & vaguely recall gagging the last time I tried it, which would be quite some time ago now.
      And Carina, this cracked me up!: “Soon, there will be a think piece in The Atlantic about how Gen Z’s love of cottage cheese is actually a symptom of extended adolescence and is destroying the housing market.”

  25. SofiaInTX says:

    I’m a millennial who lived with grandparents, so I grew up with it: dipping Doritos into cottage cheese, having it on the side of refried beans, or mixing it into guacamole. I’m an adventurous eater, but thought of combining it with fruit really grosses me out.

  26. SenseOfTheAbsurd says:

    Fine by me. I eat at least two tablespoons of cottage cheese straight from the container every day, but have no idea what normal people do with it.

    It’s pretty good with fresh strawberries, but you wouldn’t if there was the option of whipped cream.

  27. The Recluse says:

    Low-fat cottage cheese and peaches, pears, or cranberry sauce. Yum. Yum.

  28. Nx2 says:

    Funny – I just saw a recipe a few weeks ago for chocolate mousse made with cottage cheese. I forget where I saw it but it did stick in my mind that the writer said it was really delicious, with a good protein percentage too. Now I’ll have to hunt it down and try it!

  29. L4Frimaire says:

    I really like ricotta cheese but find cottage cheese a bit more watery and bland to me. It’s ok but not going out of my way to eat it. It’s one of those foods that seem so mid century, like jello salads, grapefruit diets,and tuna casseroles.

  30. Jumpingthesnark says:

    I used to eat it with Tabasco or other hot sauce. So good! Need to start eating it again