Is Cottage Cheese Actually Healthy? A Nutritionist Weighs In

As a vegetarian, I’m always on the lookout for good sources of plant-based protein. I’m not into protein powders or bars that are packed with weird ingredients just for the sake of hitting a protein number. This means that I have to plan my meals to prioritize protein with wholesome ingredients that are as delicious as they are healthful. On my power player list? Eggs, Icelandic yogurt, chocho bean protein, tofu, lentils, and my hero ingredient lately—cottage cheese. I always have a tub of cottage cheese at the ready for both sweet and savory meals. But with all the debate about dairy, I sometimes wonder—is cottage cheese as “healthy” as I think?

So, I asked our resident nutritionist and wellness editor Edie Horstman for her take on the cottage cheese trend. She shared a bit more with me about the health benefits of cottage cheese, how to incorporate it into a balanced diet, and what to look for when you’re at the store.

benefits of cottage cheese

Key Health Benefits of Cottage Cheese:

Cottage cheese is a versatile and economical bang for your nutrition buck! It’s an excellent source of high-quality protein (especially if you prioritize organic cottage cheese), calcium, and vitamin B12. It’s also relatively low in calories and fat, making it a great addition to a well-rounded diet. It’s also naturally gluten-free and vegetarian. These are the top health benefits of cottage cheese:

1. Helps build and repair muscles

Cottage cheese is a complete protein source — meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. These are required for building and repairing muscles — making it an ideal ingredient for anyone, especially athletes, pregnant women, and literally anyone looking to increase their muscle mass!

2. Promotes bone health

CC is a reliable source of dietary calcium, helping maintain strong bones and teeth. 1 cup of cottage cheese = almost 140 mg of calcium, which is about 14% of the recommended daily intake for adults.

3. Supports the immune system

Chock-full of vit B12, cottage cheese supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin B12 also helps with the production of red blood cells and DNA — particularly helpful for pregnant women!

4. Aids in weight management

Because it’s high in protein, cottage cheese is a fantastic food to include in your diet (whether or not you’re trying to lose weight). If you choose full-fat cottage cheese, its protein and fat content makes it particularly satisfying.

cottage cheese

Is cottage cheese a good source of protein?

Yes! More so than Greek yogurt. Comparing a 1:1 serving of 3/4 cup, cottage cheese has at least 5 more grams of protein than Greek yogurt. Cottage cheese is also a great source of leucine (a branch-chain amino acid or BCAA). This is important because some experts say that leucine is the most crucial BCAA for energy during workouts and muscle growth.

And so long as you’re not intolerant to dairy, cottage cheese bodes well in both vegetarian and omnivore diets.

The best cottage cheese to buy

I haven’t found a brand I like more than Good Culture! The consistency, creaminess, and quality of ingredients check all the marks. For the average consumer, ideally they’re buying organic cottage cheese / dairy. As mentioned, Good Culture also makes a lactose-free cottage cheese which is great for those with an intolerance to lactose.

cottage cheese toast

How to Use Cottage Cheese:

Sky’s the limit! You can sub it for Greek yogurt in a parfait / yogurt bowl or chicken salad, whisk it into fluffy scrambled eggs, use it in egg muffins, toss it into a smoothie for more protein, make a dip with it, or dollop a few scoops on a salad for creaminess and more protein. I’ve also seen people make a high-protein mac and cheese and even sub it for ricotta in lasagna or stuffed shells.

I feel like people either love or hate cottage cheese, but for those who are sus, I recommend tossing it into a blender to make a smoothie or dip…because blending it makes the consistency creamy and not lumpy (which deters a lot of people from eating it!). 

Looking for inspiration on new ways to incorporate cottage cheese into your diet? Here are a few cottage cheese recipes I’m loving lately:

soft scrambled eggs with pesto from spoon fork bacon

Best Recipe Ideas for Adding Cottage Cheese to Your Diet

Cottage Cheese Scrambled Eggs

This has been my go to breakfast for the last few months and it hits the spot every time. Crack your eggs into a bowl with a serving of cottage cheese and mix together. Add to your pan and gently stir in the pan until the eggs scramble. It’s a little cheesey, savory, and so satisfying. I like to serve alongside some sauteed kale in the mornings, and top with salsa, hot sauce, or something savory like pesto.

Savory Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl

A soft boiled egg, chili oil, fresh herbs, and maybe a crusty piece of bread are all part of the winning formula that is a savory breakfast bowl that packs as much flavor as it does protein.

Honey and Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl

While I prefer my cottage cheese savory, I like to use it to supplement my sweet breakfast bowls with cottage cheese. Blending a little cottage cheese with greek yogurt, then topping with seasonal fruit, crunchy nuts or granola, and a little honey is the perfect way to make this a sweet breakfast.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

I actually really love making pancakes for breakfast on days I work from home. Pancakes on their own can just feel like a heavy and sugar packed breakfast. But using more wholesome recipes like this one or just adding some blended cottage cheese to a ready made protein mix in place of an egg is perfect. Or, I like adding a spoon of cottage cheese on top of pancakes with a ton of fruit and hemp seeds. It’s perfection.

yogurt toast_filling breakfast ideas

Cottage Cheese Toast

While I love avocado toast, avocados don’t actually have much protein (only about 3g per whole avocado). So for a more satiating breakfast, I like to do a cottage cheese toast and load it up with all my favorite toppings. Whether sweet for a protein packed version of Camille’s Yogurt and Banana toast, or savory and topped with crunchy cucumbers and herbs, the options are endless.

Savory Cottage Cheese Dip

There’s nothing I love more than a snack plate that can be assembled in fives minutes when I’m working from home and am slammed with meetings. For a well rounded and balanced plate that satisfies all my cravings, I’ll often pull together chopped vegetables, something crunchy like my favorite chips or crackers, a handful of pistachios or marcona almonds, and a bowl of cottage cheese. Blended or just mixed with a little olive oil, a generous sprinkling of za’atar, or big spoon of chili crisp, it’s the perfect protein packed dip that is as satisfying as it is delicious.

Mac and Cottage Cheese

I’m not gonna lie, I love a boxed mac and cheese when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s the perfect way to eat something I enjoy while making it a bit more healthy. A boxed version like Banza or other protein pasta makes a great base. Add a spoon of cottage cheese to the cooked pasta with seasonal vegetables and hot sauce and you’ve got a healthful yet delicious protein packed mac and cheese.

Cottage Cheese Lasagna

I actually grew up with my dad making lasagna with cottage cheese so this feels very nostalgic to me. Instead of ricotta or used in tandem with, cottage cheese is an easy addition to any lasagna recipe that makes it a little more healthful.

easy skillet lasagna with eggplant-one pot dinner-barilla

Cottage Cheese Frozen Berry Cheesecake Bites

Consider this my no-recipe recipe dessert. Add a tub of cottage cheese with some fresh berries to a blender with a bit of honey and salt. Then pour the blended mix into a silicone ice cube tray and let freeze. Melt some dark chocolate with a little bit of coconut oil, and dip each of the frozen “cheesecake” bites into the melted chocolate. Set each cube on a parchment lined plate in the fridge until the chocolate has set, then store in an airtight freezer container. They’re poppable, delicious, and the perfect afternoon or evening sweet treat that packs a little protein too.

Cottage Cheese Ice Cream

You might remember the cottage cheese ice cream trend from a few months ago. I’ve tried a few different variations and have found that versions with fruit taste better and have better texture. I also find that cottage cheese ice cream tastes better the same and next day, rather than a few days later for the best texture.

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