These recipes don’t taste anything like your mom’s old-school bowl of cottage cheese.
You know that thick, white goop that usually comes with a plate of cantaloupe or jello? Well, it’s called cottage cheese—and while the texture might be a bit freaky for some people, it’s incredibly good for you.
Cottage cheese is rich in protein and it provides a good source of calcium for bone and heart health, says Maggie Moon, MS, RD. It also has probiotics for gut health, she adds.
Yet, you should still be aware of portion control. “Sodium and added sugar are the nutritional watch-outs. Look for cottage cheese that has less than 400mg of sodium with no added sugars in the ingredients (keep in mind that the natural sugar in dairy and fruit are not added sugars),” says Moon.
Here are a few delicious ways to cook with cottage cheese for filling, nutritious meals:
Sub It in for a Healthier Lasagna
Use cottage cheese to add that creamy, luscious texture to lasagna—without packing on the excess fat and calories. “Personally, I love to include cottage cheese in my lasagnas as a 50-50 split with ricotta cheese,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT.
“If a recipe called for 2 cups ricotta cheese, I'd usually do 1 and 1/4 cups ricotta and 3/4 cup cottage cheese, but it really just depends on the recipe you use,” she says. It will add a bit more liquid, so decrease the sauce slightly to help offset this problem. “Also, I like to switch it up and add zucchini as noodles with cauliflower and broccoli into the layers and a little parmesan cheese into the cheese mixture for flavor,” she adds.
Make a Delicious Stack of Pancakes
Use cottage cheese as a base for protein-packed flapjacks. It couldn’t be any easier, and cottage cheese pancakes can satisfy both savory and sweet palates.
All you need are 2 eggs, 2 heaping tablespoons of cottage cheese, 3 tablespoons of cream cheese, and 1 heaping tablespoon of flour. “Mix ingredients together in a food processor, cook the pancakes on the skillet, and drizzle maple syrup over them for a classic stack,” says Chef Fabio Viviani at Siena Tavern in Chicago. For added flavor, use fresh fruit, spices, herbs, or nut butters—anything you’re in the mood for!
Use It in Your Favorite Dip
You can easily use cottage cheese in a savory, rich dip, says Shaw. Try a spinach dip, where the greens and cheese work well together, to help boost the protein and lower the total fat, she says. While you’d typically use sour cream or mayonnaise for dips, swapping in cottage cheese saves a ton of calories and saturated fat, while adding in more nutrients, like calcium and protein. Plus, it tastes great!
“I've also been experimenting with cottage cheese in baked goods and dessert dips and have to say, I'm digging the combo of light cream cheese, 2% fat cottage cheese, vanilla extract, peanut butter, a tad of maple syrup and some chocolate chips,” she says. Serve that with fresh fruit, and you've got a great combo for conquering your sweet tooth.
Add It to Pesto
Much like other dips, cottage cheese adds depth to light pesto. “For the pesto, it doesn't sub for any ingredient, but is added to your favorite pesto, whether it's a traditional basil-pine nut-parm-olive oil-garlic pesto, or one made with pistachios or walnuts,” says Moon. Adding cottage cheese to pesto also makes the sauce more nutritious by increasing protein and lowering total calories per bite.
Fill Warm Breakfast Crepes
You can make sweet or savory crepes and fill them with cottage cheese for creaminess and satiety. “Fill buckwheat crepes with cottage cheese and top with pineapple chunks. Fold the crepe closed and drizzle with maple syrup,” says Moon. Let them cool to room temperature before eating, though it's also fine (and probably nice) if they are a little warm.
Spread It on Toast
Say goodbye to avocado (for the moment) and give cottage cheese a try instead. For a gourmet breakfast toast that’s high in protein and calcium, spread 1-2 tablespoons of cottage cheese on a slice of whole grain bread and then top with 1-2 cut figs for a sweet, nutty taste, says Moon.
To finish, drizzle a teaspoon of 20-year aged balsamic vinegar (or balsamic reduction) and garnish with 1-2 mint leaves, along with some sea salt, to taste.
Make Overnight Oats
There’s nothing easier than waking up to a ready-to-eat breakfast. Overnight oats are super healthy, too—they pack a ton of protein, good fiber, and carbohydrates to provide long-lasting energy.
Moon loves this recipe: a ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup of almond milk, 5-6 oz. of cottage cheese, ¼ cup of blueberries, and a pinch of ground ginger, cinnamon, and salt to finish. You can also use a little agave syrup or honey if you’re in need of some added sugar.
“Place oats, milk, and spices into jar. Top with cottage cheese, then blueberries. Drizzle with agave. Chill in refrigerator overnight and have a nice breakfast in the morning,” says Moon.