Cottage Cheese: The Super-Ingredient Hiding in Plain Sight
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Cottage Cheese: The Super-Ingredient Hiding in Plain Sight

Cornbread, mashed potatoes, mac and there anything that can't be improved by this stealthy, healthy ingredient?

I have childhood memories of cottage cheese — shallow bowls of it topped with a circle of canned pineapple, which was never out of stock at the salad bar (I would have preferred raspberries). Later, in college (when I was broke), the old-school food truck parked at the edge of campus served huge baked potatoes with salsa and cottage cheese — the cheapest item on the menu. I could subsist an entire day on one of those. Cottage cheese — high in protein, low in fat, and with relatively few calories — is what ladies in the 80s consumed to keep slim ... or people in their 80s ate on doctors’ orders.

After college, I fell in love with spanakopita — head over heels enough to brave frozen phyllo when I tried making it. I was astonished to learn I could use (you guessed it!) cottage cheese. After that, I noticed it everywhere — in my mom’s crustless quiche, in a high-protein smoothie recipe, or in those amazing light and fluffy pancakes. Anywhere you’d see dairy, you could potentially encounter cottage cheese. It was a stealthy culinary superhero, able to sub in for ricotta or even cream cheese when necessary.

Seriously, is there anything cottage cheese can’t do?

These 14 favorite recipes featuring cottage cheese — some straightforward, some surprising — will take you from breakfast to appetizers, dinner, and dessert.

3-Ingredient Cottage Cheese Pancakes

There are many things to like about this recipe. Three ingredients. High-protein. Low-fat. Give the cottage cheese, eggs, and oatmeal a 30-second buzz in the blender and you’re ready to go.

Creamy (and Healthy) Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Nothing about this delicious gluten-free purple smoothie recipe from The Chic Brûlée screams "low-fat cottage cheese" — and that’s exactly the point. The cottage cheese is there to add a little protein and a lot of creaminess to the standard pairing of blueberry, banana, and, in this case, almond milk.

Quick Cottage Cheese Buns

Breakfast cottage cheese recipes might seem obvious — but baking? You bet. These cottage cheese buns from are light and a bit sweet, and the prep time is under 30 minutes.

Cornbread with Chorizo

Cottage cheese can lean savory too. This hearty Southern-style cornbread recipe from Food52 features spicy chorizo and fresh corn. The cottage cheese keeps it creamy — even the next day and beyond (assuming you have any left).

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes With Paprika

In this "no-recipe" recipe from Bon Appétit, carbs come with double dairy: sour cream and cottage cheese. Writes one reviewer, “Think putting sour cream and cottage cheese in your mashed potatoes sounds weird? Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. These were the toast of Thanksgiving.”

Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Super creamy, you say? Why, yes. This recipe from Dinner Then Dessert aspires to the texture of Velveeta without, well, the Velveeta. It succeeds with a full-fat mix of half-and-half, whole milk, cottage cheese, and cheddar — plus a high-speed blender.

Ham-and-Swiss Pizza

Rachel Ray uses equal parts sour cream and cottage cheese, blended, as the base for this brunch-y ham-and-Gruyere flatbread.

Tomato Pie

For a different kind of veggie pie, Yummly recommends this Southern favorite where cottage cheese lightens up all the shredded mozzarella.

Beef Stroganoff Casserole

Also from Yummly, this ground beef casserole recipe uses cottage cheese and cream cheese for extra creaminess.

Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells

You can sneak cottage cheese into almost any Alfredo sauce, really. But why be basic? This decadent stuffed shells recipe from The Pioneer Woman does not shy away from dairy. There's ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese inside the shells — and whole milk and heavy cream in the sauce.

Easy 3 Cheese Lasagna Rolls

This lasagna recipe also packs in a hearty dose of ricotta and cottage cheese. Love, Pasta and a Tool Belt uses store-bought tomato sauce and pre-cooked lasagna for an easy make-ahead meal.

Creamy Spanakopita With Fresh Spinach and Dill

This just might become your favorite recipe for spanakopita. As I said, this pie is how I came to understand the superpowers of cottage cheese. In this case, two cups of it will lighten up a pound of salty feta, which you then mix with fresh spinach, a drizzle of olive oil, and plenty of dill. 

Healthy Cheesecake With Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is so versatile — it works great in desserts as well. In this healthy recipe for cheesecake, it joins Greek yogurt for a healthy, protein-packed alternative to cream cheese.

Guilt-Free Chocolate Brownies

Ally from Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats took out all the ingredients typically excluded from the "diet foods" list (i.e. flour, oil, and butter) and replaced them with egg whites, oats, and — you guessed it again — cottage cheese. Of all the recipes with cottage cheese, this is perhaps the most surprising. “These brownies only take about 30+ minutes from start to finish, and with five different palates in my family, I've found every single one of them loved these little chocolate gems,” she writes. While not exactly fat-free, this dessert errs on the low-carb side.