Homemade cottage cheese is easy to make, as you can see in my video. If you’re looking for a healthy, high protein food without complicated ingredients, this is it!
Even if you’ve never been a fan of the stuff, I’ve got some flavor variations that can actually make cottage cheese taste good and some quick snack ideas that may just win you over. So grab your milk, salt, and vinegar or lemon juice, and let’s get cooking.
Clean Ingredients Make the Best 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? You need just three ordinary kitchen ingredients: milk, vinegar, and salt. That’s right: you make homemade cottage cheese without using rennet!
Printable Homemade Cottage Cheese Recipe
⚠️ For the best results you should review the section of Frequently Asked Questions. There, I explain what types of milk you can use, what you can substitute or skip, and how to ensure your curds don’t come out small or wispy.
Easy Homemade Cottage Cheese
- Large pot
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Slotted spoon
- Cheesecloth (or clean kitchen towel)
- Medium bowl
- Cooking thermometer
- 1 gallon whole milk
- ¾ cup white vinegar or 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 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 gently squeezing it with your other hand until the entire ball of cheese is cool.
- Transfer the cheese from the cloth into a bowl and use a spoon to break it into small curds. Stir in salt to taste. (For best flavor, chill for 30 minutes before serving.)
- 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. Add ingredients for flavor variations if desired.
Keep cottage cheese refrigerated in an air-tight container and eat it within a week. If you store cottage cheese upside down so the lid is on the bottom, it will form a “seal” that keeps it fresh a little longer.
Cottage cheese made with milk that’s about to spoil will only be good for the day. Signs that it has gone bad include a sour odor and discoloration.
Not a fan of cottage cheese on its own? Try these serving ideas, or read on flavor variations!
Savory Cottage Cheese Salad: Combine 2 cups of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons chopped red onions and a sprinkling of furikake seasoning or black pepper.
Cottage Cheese Ranch Dip: Blend 2 cups of cottage cheese in a food processor or blender with 2 tablespoons of homemade Ranch dressing mix. Chill 30 minutes or more to let the flavors combine.
Lasagna: Use cottage cheese in place of ricotta in your favorite lasagna recipe. To keep it from tasting grainy, stir in 2 tablespoons cream for every 2 cups of cottage cheese used.
Quick Cottage Cheese Snacks
Check out my slideshow for quick snack recipes featuring homemade cottage cheese, like smoothies, stuffed pickles, and a satisfying granola bowl.
Not a fan of plain cottage cheese? Try combining 1 cup of it with any of the ingredients below.
Garlic Herb Cottage Cheese: Add 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives or other herb.
Fruit-Flavored Cottage Cheese: Add 1/2 cup crushed pineapple or 1/2 cup frozen berries (thawed) or 1/2 cup applesauce.
Chocolate Cottage Cheese: Add 1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cream in Step 7. Chill 30 minutes before serving.
Cinnamon Maple Cottage Cheese: Add in 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 tablespoon maple syrup.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve put together the questions and answers below so you can produce the best homemade cottage cheese possible. If I haven’t answered your question, please leave it in the comments.
Is ricotta the same thing as cottage cheese?
Many people confuse ricotta and cottage cheese. In Italian, the word “ricotta” means re-cooked. True ricotta cheese is made with whey left over from making other forms of cheese.
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.
Can I use organic milk ?
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?
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, evaporated 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. This homemade cottage cheese recipe is specifically for cow’s milk.
Can I use lactose-free 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 the type of solid curds needed to create cottage cheese.
Can I use plant milk or nut milk ?
Neither plant milks (soy, hemp, or oat) nor nut milks (almond or cashew) contain the proteins needed to form curds with this method.
To use plant or nut milk, you’ll need tofu or plant-based yogurt as called for in this recipe for dairy-free cottage cheese.
Why are my Homemade Cottage Cheese curds small?
Homemade cottage cheese curds come out small or grainy for several reasons. The most common one arises when people overheat the milk or try to heat it too quickly.
- Heat the milk slowly. Heating the milk too quickly does not allow the proteins to form curds. Keep your stovetop temperature just below medium-high heat.
- Watch the temperature closely. Heat the milk slowly to 190°F, which is just below boiling. (See the video.) It will look foamy but not bubbling.
- Spoon the curds gently. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds from the pot to the lined colander. Dumping them will crush the curds, so they’ll come out small.
- Let it drain in the colander. Hanging the cheese from the faucet, as you would for paneer or other forms of cheese, allows its weight to squeeze out too much whey.
- Squeeze gently when rinsing. Being too rough with the ball of curds when you’re rinsing will break them up into small pieces.
Can I use a different kind of vinegar? Or lemon juice?
Making cottage cheese 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?
Sure! The salt is just there for flavor. If you want to make lower-sodium cottage cheese at home, follow this recipe but omit the salt, use half as much, or swap it with a salt substitute.
Can I skip the cream?
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.
What can I substitute for the cream?
If you’re out of heavy cream, try half-and-half, a dollop of yogurt, an equal amount of coconut or butter milk, or even a splash of your favorite coffee creamer to give your homemade cottage cheese a richer flavor.
What to do with the whey from making cottage cheese?
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 liquid is whey. It’s the same as the yellowish stuff that pools on your store-bought cottage cheese, sour cream, or yogurt.
Whey is a protein powerhouse, so don’t throw it out! Use it in place of some water when you make stock, toss it into soups, or add it to smoothies. It’s a versatile kitchen scrap that you can freeze until needed.