A Guide To The Dizzying Number Of Cottage Cheese Types Out There

It's time to talk about curds.

It’s been a couple of decades since cottage cheese enjoyed its heyday, but we’ll be the first to admit that our love for this lumpy cheese has always been strong. If you’re new to cottage cheese, there are a few things you should know.

First, it makes an awesome addition to a healthy diet because it’s full of good protein.

Second, there’s more than one kind of cottage cheese out there. If you peruse the labels at the grocery store, you’ll see that it comes in different fat percentages (skim, 2%, 4%, etc.), different wetnesses (dry vs. wet), different curd sizes (small vs. large), and other confusing variations. That’s right, there’s a whole world of cottage cheese to explore, and it all begins with the curds.

According to Jim Wallace at New England Cheese Making, cottage cheese is historically a homemade cheese made with “older” milk on the back of a wood stove. Natural bacteria would make enough acid to cause the cheese to curdle, which was then cut into curds, cooked (to dry the curds) and washed. In acidic cheeses like cottage cheese, whey ― the byproduct of cheese making ― is sour. The rinsing of the whey is what naturally makes cottage cheese taste a little sweet. Eaten like that, it’s known as dry cottage cheese. This kind of cottage cheese is a good option for those with lactose intolerances, because the bacteria has broken down the lactose found in milk.

At some point in history, a cream dressing ― made of a combo of milk and cream ― was added to the curds. This made the cheese richer and sweeter. It’s what is commonly found commercially today and is known as wet cottage cheese.

Other options you can find in the cottage cheese section are small curd cottage cheeses and large curd cottage cheeses ― and Wallace says the difference between those comes down to how the curds are cut. Whether one is cut small or large is all a matter of personal preference. (Some companies refer to these as California style and pot style, but it’s really just about the curd size.)

The choices for cottage cheese go on to include full-fat, reduced-fat and nonfat options of all sorts, depending on the brand you’re buying. Those are all dependent on the type of milk made to use the cheese ― and it’s no secret that the more fat, the more flavor.

Whichever route you go, just be sure to try it in some of these great recipes.