How To Make Homemade Cottage Cheese
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This homemade cottage cheese recipe is so easy to make and takes only three ingredients. Check out the video, too!
Why Make Your Own Cottage Cheese?
I started making homemade cottage cheese after reading the ingredient list on a carton from the grocery store. Things like “lactose, salt, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, xanthan gum, and carob bean gum.” Why so complicated? Homemade cottage cheese takes just three ordinary kitchen ingredients: milk, vinegar, and salt. It’s also a fantastic way to use extra milk before it goes bad.
You don’t need cheesemaking experience to make homemade cottage cheese. The name itself implies as much: it’s a simple, fresh cheese so easy to make that even a cottager can make it. Or so suggests “Miss Leslie” in the July 1831 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the first reference to “cottage cheese.”
FAQs about Making Homemade Cottage Cheese
When I first shared this recipe in 2013, there were not many other recipes for making cottage cheese on the internet. Since then, dozens of other sites have posted their versions. People arriving at this recipe for homemade cottage cheese sometimes try to combine steps from different versions with disastrous results. So, the questions and answers below will hopefully help you avoid problems while making your own cottage cheese at home.
Can I use organic milk to make cottage cheese?
Organic milk that has been through ultra-high temperature (UTH) treatment will not make cottage cheese. This is because the high temperatures have destabilized the proteins, so they will not form curds. Curds are necessary to make cottage cheese.
Do I need raw milk to make cottage cheese?
You do not need to use raw milk to make cottage cheese, although you can. Raw milk is not legal in every state, so you should check with your locality. Pasteurization partially sterilizes milk but does so at a temperature low enough that it does not keep the proteins from forming curds.
Can I use canned milk or powdered milk?
You can’t make cottage cheese from canned, evaporated, or powdered milk because the processing involved has changed the milk’s proteins. Canned and evaporated milk have been exposed to high temperatures which have destabilized the proteins, so they won’t form curds that hold their shape. Powdered milk has been exposed to long, low heat which accomplishes the same.
Can I use goat milk?
No. The proteins in goat milk differ from those in cow milk, so it’s not a good substitute in this cottage cheese recipe. This recipe is specifically for cow’s milk.
Can I use lactose-free milk to make cottage cheese? Or lower-carb milk?
Lactose-free milk and “low carb” milk have both been through treatments which affect the structure of their proteins. This make them incapable of forming solid curds needed to create cottage cheese. Combining these forms of milk with whey or standard milk does not compensate for the change.
Can I use plant milk or nut milk to make cottage cheese?
Unfortunately, neither plant milks like soy, hemp, or oat milk, nor nut milks like almond or cashew milk are suitable for making true cottage cheese. On their own, these milks do not contain the proteins needed to form curds. Dairy-free cottage cheese made without mammal milk requires tofu and plant-based yogurt as called for in this recipe.
Why are my curds small?
Homemade cottage cheese curds come out small or grainy for several reasons. The most common one arises when people overheat the milk. To make cottage cheese without rennet, the milk needs to reach 190°F, which is just below boiling. (See the video.) It will look foamy but not bubbling. Other things that can cause small curds include not draining it long enough, not rinsing it thoroughly, or handling the ball of curds too roughly when shaping it.
Can I use a different kind of vinegar? Or lemon juice?
Making cottage cheese at home without rennet requires some form of acidic ingredient: white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. This recipe calls for white vinegar, but you can use an equal amount of apple cider vinegar or 1/2 cup of lemon juice.
Can I skip the salt?
If you want to make lower-sodium cottage cheese at home, follow the recipe but omit the salt. Alternatively, you could use half the salt or even a salt substitute. The salt in homemade cottage cheese is just there for flavor.
Can I skip the cream?
Many people prefer their cottage cheese on the creamier side. Adding heavy cream, half-and-half, or even a dollop of yogurt to your cottage cheese adds a nice flavor. If you prefer a low-fat cottage cheese made from non-fat or skim milk, you may want to reserve a few spoonfuls of whey to add at the end so it’s not dry. Alternatively, you can stir in a few spoons of buttermilk, coconut milk, or even your favorite coffee creamer.
Isn’t this ricotta?
Many people confuse ricotta and homemade cottage cheese. In Italian, the word “ricotta” means re-cooked. True ricotta cheese is made starting with whey, which is a byproduct of cheesemaking, and then it is re-cooked, usually with an additional acidic ingredient. If you want to make ricotta, it’s essentially the same process but you’ll use 2 gallons of whey. (Adding milk is optional.) Or visit here for a good ricotta recipe to get you started.
Easy Homemade Cottage Cheese Recipe
Ready to make cottage cheese on your own? Grab a gallon of milk, some white vinegar, and your salt shaker, then let’s get started!
Cottage cheese serving ideas
Homemade cottage cheese is, of course, delicious on its own or topped with fruit. Or go savory by stirring in chopped tomatoes and red onions, then seasoning it with cracked black pepper. Turn it into a dip with a little homemade Ranch dressing mix, or use it in place of ricotta when making lasagne. Any way you use it, homemade cottage cheese is delicious!
If you use milk that’s about to turn sour, you’ll want to eat your homemade cottage cheese the same day. Otherwise, keep cottage cheese refrigerated in an air-tight container and eat within a week. If you store it upside down, so the lid is on the bottom, it will form a “seal” that keeps it fresh a little longer. Some people report it stays good as long as a week. Signs that cottage cheese has gone bad include a sour odor and discoloration. Do not consume cottage cheese that has gone bad.
What to do with the whey?
One thing you’ll notice while making this Homemade Cottage Cheese recipe is that there’s a lot of liquid coming out of the curds when you drain them. That kitchen scrap is known as whey, and it’s the same as the yellowish liquid that pools on your store-bought cottage cheese, sour cream, or yogurt. Keep it, because whey is a protein powerhouse! Use whey in place of some water when you make stock, toss it into soups, or add it to smoothies.
Easy Homemade Cottage Cheese
- Large pot
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Slotted spoon
- Cheesecloth (or clean kitchen towel)
- Medium bowl
- 1 gallon whole milk NOT ultra-high temperature processed or “long life”
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tbsp heavy cream (optional, see step 7)
- Pour milk into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat slowly to 190°F/88°C stirring regularly so the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat, pour in vinegar and stir a few times. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a colander with a clean piece of doubled cheesecloth or a tea towel. Place the colander over another bowl to catch any liquid (whey) that drips out.
- Spoon the solids from the pot into the lined colander. Let drain for 30 minutes.
- Gather the ends of the cloth tightly together and form a cloth-wrapped ball of cheese. Holding this in one hand, run cold water over the ball, kneading and squeezing it with your other hand until the entire ball of cheese is cool.
- Dump the cheese out of the cloth into a bowl and use a spoon to break it into small curds. Stir in salt to taste.
- For creamy cottage cheese, stir in the heavy cream 2 tablespoons at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Check taste and add more salt if needed. Stir in flavorings if desired. (See blog post.)
How To Make Flavored Cottage Cheese
There’s no need to buy expensive flavored cottage cheese at the store once you know how to make your own at home. You’ll need milk and vinegar, with an optional pinch of salt and dollop of cream, plus your flavoring ingredients. Stir in fresh snipped chives or other herbs. Or for a sweet cottage cheese, add crushed pineapple or pureed berries and their juice. You can even add cocoa powder and sugar or maple syrup for chocolate cottage cheese. To make flavored cottage cheese, stir in your additives in Step 7 when you stir in the cream.
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Do you think this recipe would work with goat milk? I can’t tolerate cow milk 🙁 and really miss cottage cheese!
The proteins in goat milk differ from those in cow milk, so it’s not a good substitute in this recipe.
Not a housewife just a single dad trying to help my boys eat healthier.
As a single parent, you’ve already got your hands full but to do that, too, is fantastic. You’re doing great!
Good for you, sir! I hope you and your kids enjoy the recipe!
I have 2% cows milk that has clabbered naturally. Except for not needing vinegar is the recipe different?
You’re absolutely right about skipping the vinegar when you make cottage cheese using clabbered milk. You also won’t need to heat it as highly: 115-120°F will do it. The rest of the recipe, including drainage and adding salt and cream, remain the same.
I have a farm down the street that sells Raw Cow milk. Can I use this or does it need to be pastuerized?
It does not need to be pasteurized to make cottage cheese.
Is the video still online? I’m not seeing it. I’d love to know what milk at 190F “looks” like. Thanks!
Hi Kristen! The video is at the top of the post. If you have an ad blocker on, you won’t see it.
Can I make it with almond milk?
Unfortunately, plant and nut milks don’t make true cottage cheese because they lack the proteins which form the curds.
Definitely going to try this !! Just had a question : how long can it be stored in the fridge ?
It stays good for about a week. As I explain in the section titled “Storage,” if you put it in an air-tight container and store it upside down, it may keep longer than that.
I’m going to try this because my favorite store bought cottage cheese tastes plasticky ( just a funny taste). I’ll let you know how it went. Thanks for the recipe.
I hope you like it!
Well, I made the cottage cheese and it is delicious. The store only had half and half so i used that to make it a little creamier. I love the texture. I’m not wasting money on nasty store bought anymore. Thank you so much for the recipe.
That’s wonderful, I’m so glad you liked it. Enjoy!