Cottage cheese is an incredibly versatile ingredient with small curds of dairy, a creamy texture, and a very mild flavor. The mildness of cottage cheese means it can be used to transform either a sweet or savory dish, as it largely just adds some texture and creaminess while taking on the flavor of whatever you mix with it. With the addition of things like sugar, vanilla extract, citrus zest, or jam, it can make a tasty dessert. Or, add in fragrant fresh herbs and a pungent dose of garlic and you have a great filling for pasta or a layer for lasagna. The options are truly endless with this star ingredient.
However, if you’re trying to craft a recipe and simply don’t have a tub of cottage cheese in your refrigerator, don’t worry — there are quite a few substitutes that can do a good job replacing it in a dish. As with any substitution, you want to take a moment to review the recipe and determine what function the cottage cheese is serving in the dish, whether it’s adding creaminess, adding texture, or even helping to add some thickness to a particular component. Once you know what you’re trying to replace, you can choose the ideal substitute based on what you have on hand. Here are 10 suggestions to consider.
1. Ricotta cheese
As a general substitute for cottage cheese, ricotta is one of your best bets, according to The Daring Kitchen. While ricotta is smoother than cottage cheese, possessing a spreadable texture a bit more similar to cream cheese, it still does contain delicate curds, giving a hint of that signature texture. It also has a very mild flavor, which means, like cottage cheese, it can be used in both sweet or savory recipes, as it can be flavored in a variety of ways.
The one key difference that you may want to take into consideration is the fat content. While there are different varieties of cottage cheese on the market, from the super low-fat varieties to ones with a bit more, it’s generally a very low-fat item — ricotta, on the other hand, has more. If you’re looking to keep the fat content of your dish low, you can address this concern by looking for non-fat or part-skim ricotta options.
Ricotta is great in sweet items like cakes, and if you’re going savory, it’s particularly well-suited to Italian dishes, such as stuffing in cannelloni or layering between sheets of pasta in lasagna. For best results, given how similar ricotta and cottage cheese are, you can do a direct substitution, says The Daring Kitchen. So, if your recipe calls for a cup of cottage cheese, you can add a cup of ricotta instead.
2. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are generally found close to one another in the dairy aisle, and it turns out, they are actually good substitutes for one another as well (via Cook Novel). Like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt has an element of creaminess and a bit of tang that adds a great flavor to any dish. The one thing to consider is that Greek yogurt has a silky smooth texture, lacking the curds found in cottage cheese, which may be an issue depending on the type of dish you’re creating. It also has a bit more tanginess. This substitute is best suited to sweet dishes, and works very well with fruit in particular.
One of the benefits of this substitute is the availability: You can find plain Greek yogurt at just about every grocery store. Another perk is that it offers a bit of customization, since you can find everything from 0% fat Greek yogurt to slightly more indulgent versions with a higher fat percentage. You can stick to something low-fat if you’re trying to craft a healthier dish, but you can also select Greek yogurt with a higher fat content for a bit of added richness. While there are some differences in the texture, the relative similarity of these two items means you can do a direct substitute, using a half-cup of Greek yogurt in place of a half-cup of cottage cheese in a recipe, for example.
3. Fromage blanc
Fromage blanc, which translates simply to "white cheese," is a fresh cheese that has a very soft, creamy, spreadable texture, almost like cream cheese. While the flavor profile is a bit more buttery and almost yogurt-like than cottage cheese, overall it has quite a mild taste, which makes it a versatile addition to many dishes, and a great substitute for cottage cheese. As an added bonus, it also manages to be both high in protein and low in fat, so this substitution won’t change the nutritional content of your dish too much.
There are just two downsides to this particular substitute. First, the difference in texture — while in some recipes, the smoother texture might actually be a bonus, you’ll want to be aware of the difference if you’re substituting fromage blanc in a recipe that really calls for the curd-like consistency of cottage cheese. Second, while tasty, this particular substitute can be a bit challenging to find in all grocery stores, and is relatively pricey, so it may not be ideal for budget-conscious cooks with limited stores to shop at.
However, if you happen to have it on hand, it makes a great substitute. Given the similarities between fromage blanc and cottage cheese, this is a direct substitution situation (per The Eat Down) — so, if your recipe calls for a half-cup of cottage cheese, you would add in a half-cup of silky fromage blanc instead.
4. Egg whites
If you’re trying to make a recipe dairy-free, it can be challenging to find suitable alternatives without simply buying a vegan version of whatever that ingredient is, whether it’s maybe made with nut milk, nuts, or tofu. In the case of cottage cheese, though, there’s one great substitution if you’re looking to make your dish dairy-free (although not vegan) while steering clear of too many processed ingredients: egg whites (via The Eat Down). Like cottage cheese, egg whites are incredibly high in protein and low in fat. This substitute is also one of the most accessible ingredients out there — just about every grocery store or corner market will carry a carton of eggs.
For this particular substitution, while you certainly could mix the egg whites into a dish raw, depending on what you’re making, you may want to consider cooking them first. When cooked in a soft scramble, egg whites have a similar curd-like texture to cottage cheese, making them a great dairy-free alternative. The only thing is, you’ll want to be aware of the difference in taste — you may need to amp up your spices and seasonings a little bit in order for the eggs to truly take on the flavor you want them to.
For best results, do a direct substitution, using the volume of the eggs rather than the number for ease. So, if your recipe calls for a quarter-cup of cottage cheese, crack enough eggs until you have a quarter-cup of egg whites.
Another fantastic cottage cheese substitute for those looking to address dietary restrictions is tofu, according to Cook Novel. Using tofu in place of cottage cheese can transform a dish into a dairy-free or even vegan offering, depending on what else is in the recipe. One benefit of this substitute is that tofu doesn’t really have a lot of flavor on its own, which is a good thing when using it in a recipe, meaning you can season the tofu however you want and it’ll pick up those flavors and enhance your dish, whether you’re whipping up something sweet or something savory.
One important thing to consider is the texture, as there are a few tofu varieties on the market, from soft versions sold in containers to extra-firm versions that can be diced up. You can easily crumble a block of firm tofu to create a curd-like texture, or even stick it in a food processor until you have your desired feel. (In some recipes you may want silky smooth soft tofu, although then you’ll be lacking the curds found in cottage cheese.) If you pick the firm variety, you may also need to add a bit of liquid to truly mimic the consistency of cottage cheese.
For best results, this is another substitute where you can use equal measures. So, if your recipe calls for a half-cup of cottage cheese, use up a half-cup of tofu instead.
6. Heavy cream
If you enjoy whipping up decadent desserts and rich, creamy sauces, there’s a good chance you may have a carton of heavy cream in your fridge. While it makes a great addition to many recipes, it also serves as a good substitute for cottage cheese, according to The Eat Down. Though the liquid is thicker than most given the high fat content, to truly make a stellar substitute, don’t add the heavy cream straight from the fridge. Whip it first to get a smooth, slightly more voluminous consistency.
The one issue is that the texture doesn’t have the same curds as cottage cheese does, so this substitute is better for dishes where you want a smoother consistency. It’s particularly well-suited as a substitute for puddings or sauces.
The one major downside (and major difference) with this substitute is the fat content. While cottage cheese is a healthy ingredient packed with protein and low in fat, whipped heavy cream is significantly higher on the fat scale. If you want to make a rich, decadent dish, then you may not be worried about that; however, if the nutritional content of a cottage cheese-based dish was the reason you were drawn to a particular recipe, this may not be the best substitute for you. For best results, you can do a direct swap, according to The Eat Down, using a half cup of whipped heavy cream in place of a half cup of cottage cheese, for example.
7. Mascarpone cheese
If your beloved tiramisu recipe is the only time you use mascarpone cheese in your kitchen, trust us, you’re missing out. This versatile, tasty ingredient can be used in a wide variety of dishes, and if you happen to have a container on hand, it also serves as a great substitute for cottage cheese, according to SF Gate. Mascarpone will deliver that same creamy, cheesy texture, and add a ton of richness and decadence to your dish.
There are just two key things to consider with this substitution: the overall texture and the nutritional content. While cottage cheese contains those signature curds, mascarpone has a velvety smooth texture, so it works best as a substitute in recipes where the curds aren’t an important part of the dish. Finally, mascarpone has more calories, more fat, and less protein than cottage cheese. It may not be an issue if you’re just looking to craft a tasty dish and aren’t worried about the nutritional content, but if you’re trying to boost the protein in your dish and reduce the overall fat and calorie content, it’s something to be aware of. For best results, you can do a direct swap with this substitute, using a half-cup of mascarpone in a recipe that called for a half-cup of cottage cheese, for example.
8. Cannellini beans
If you’re always trying to find alternatives to transform a dish into something that aligns with a dairy-free or vegan diet, here’s another solid substitute for cottage cheese that just so happens to fall into that camp. While they may not be the first thing you think of, beans work as a great substitute for cottage cheese in a variety of dishes (via Cook Novel). While you could use just about any type of bean, cannellini beans are an ideal option because they have a mild flavor, and a neutral color that shouldn’t impact your dish the way that something like black beans or dark red kidney beans might.
One plus with this substitute is that you can adjust the texture: The beans can be pureed until they’re very smooth, or, if you want a texture that more closely mimics the curd-like texture of cottage cheese, you can pulse them in a food processor until they’re smooth, but still have some larger pieces. This substitute is best for savory dishes, and fits particularly well in things like baked pastas. Another plus with this particular substitute is that they’re quite readily available — you can find canned or dried beans in just about any grocery store. For best results, you’ll want to do a direct substitute, using a half-cup of pureed or mashed beans in place of a half-cup of cottage cheese in your recipe.
9. Cream cheese
If you’re in a pinch and need a cottage cheese substitute, and the only dairy-based product you have in your refrigerator is cream cheese, don’t worry — it actually makes a pretty good substitute, according to Boat Basin Cafe. Depending on whether you have a fat-free or full-fat version on hand, cream cheese is typically higher in this department than cottage cheese, so the amount of saturated fat is something to be aware of if the nutritional content of your dish is important to you.
Also, cottage cheese has a much higher sodium content than cream cheese, which means you may want to take a closer look at the amount of salt your recipe calls for — chances are, you may want to incorporate a pinch more salt.
Additionally, from a textural perspective, cream cheese has a bit of a thicker consistency than cottage cheese, as well as having a hint of inherent sweetness. These traits mean this particular substitute is best suited for desserts and baked dishes, or dishes in which it can melt into the other ingredients, such as pasta sauces. For best results, you can do a direct substitute with this product, using a quarter-cup of cream cheese to replace the quarter-cup of cottage cheese your recipe requires, for example.
10. Homemade cottage cheese
Sometimes, if your recipe calls for a large enough amount of a particular ingredient wherein you feel a substitution might compromise the overall dish, you want to find something that is as close to that original ingredient as possible. For ingredients where making a homemade substitution is possible, it’s often the easiest way to mimic the taste and texture of the original. And luckily, cottage cheese is possible (and not too difficult) to make at home.
While there are different recipes and variations, Food Network has a recipe for quick cottage cheese that takes less than an hour to make and yields two cups of the ingredient. All you need is some skim milk, white vinegar, kosher salt, and half-and-half or heavy cream. The process involves heating the milk, adding in the vinegar, and stirring until you see some of those curds forming. Then, allow it to sit for a while, and then drain out the excess liquid and add in the salt and cream to finish it off.
At the end of it all, you’ll have a homemade cottage cheese substitute that tastes remarkably similar to (and perhaps even better than) what you would buy from the grocery store. For this substitute, you can use a direct swap, adding in a cup of your homemade cottage cheese in a recipe that calls for a cup of store-bought cottage cheese.