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Ricotta vs Cottage Cheese

Ricotta and cottage cheese are both common components of a healthy diet. In many ways, the two are similar, which is why people often discuss ricotta vs cottage cheese.

But, the cheeses aren’t as close as they first appear. Instead, there are many differences between them. Those differences influence what each cheese is used for and when one is better than the other.

In this post, we’re taking a detailed look at the two types of cheese. This information should help you figure out, once and for all, which option best suits you.

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What is Ricotta Cheese?

Ricotta cheese

Ricotta is sometimes considered an Italian cheese and is created from whey. Typically, this whey is left over from the production of hard cheeses.

The ricotta cheese sold in the United States is normally made from cow’s milk, while traditional versions often use sheep’s milk or even water buffalo milk.

The flavor of ricotta is mild and somewhat sweet with a hint of tartness. It is also smooth and creamy. Of course, the flavor and texture do vary depending on the type of ricotta you buy.

For example, there are light versions with lower fat content, as well as full-fat options. Some brands will also offer completely smooth ricotta, while others have a grittier texture.  

Ricotta Cheese Recipes

Of course, there are many different recipes that use ricotta cheese. While it isn’t extensive, the list below offers some good choices to get you started – and shows the variety of foods you can make with ricotta.

Making Ricotta Cheese

Most of us will simply buy ricotta cheese and there are many brands to choose from. But, you can also make your own ricotta cheese. The process is actually very easy and only involves a few key steps.

For example, the site The Kitchn offers a simple recipe that takes roughly half an hour. The Food Lab from Serious Eats also has a recipe.

Ricotta is made from whey and tends to have subtle sweet and tart flavors

What is Cottage Cheese?

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is created from curds and tends to have a lumpier texture compared to ricotta cheese. Those curds come from the separation of milk (or cream) into curds and whey.

The cheese tends to have a fairly mild flavor, with slightly acidic notes. Although both are mild, cottage cheese normally has less flavor than ricotta.

As with ricotta, there are multiple versions. These are covered in more detail at The Dairy Dish. But, in general, the types vary based on their fat content (ranging from non-fat to regular), the curd size and the density of the curds.

Regular cottage cheese is sometimes called creamed cottage cheese and contains at least 4% milkfat. For this version, cream is added in after processing.

Cottage Cheese Recipes

Once again, this list isn’t extensive. But, it does show some of the best cottage cheese recipes that you can try.  

Making Cottage Cheese

You can also make your own cottage cheese. The site New England Cheesemaking offers details about how to do so, as does the site Homemade Mommy. The process is a little more complicated than making ricotta cheese but is still easy to do at home.  

Cottage cheese is made from curds. It tends to be lumpier and has less flavor than ricotta

Ricotta vs Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese or ricotta for breakfast

Ricotta and cottage cheese have many similarities. They are both useful for cooking and come in many versions and styles. As with most products, the higher fat versions tend to have more flavor. 

But, there are also key differences, as the comparison below shows.

Ricotta

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    Mild and sweet, with a little tartness

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    Smooth and creamy

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    Made from whey

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    Contains mostly whey protein

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    Can have a grainier texture

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    Extremely versatile, common in recipes

Cottage Cheese

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    Mild with slight acidity (less flavor)

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    Lumpier

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    Made from curds

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    Contains mostly casein protein

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    Can be more watery/wet

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    Most commonly used in snacks

There is also personal preference to consider. Some people like both cottage cheese and ricotta, while others may only enjoy the taste and texture of just one option.

There are also considerable debates about which should be used and when. For example, both ricotta and cottage cheese can be used in lasagna. As the discussions on Serious Eats and Road Food show, people often get passionate about their preferred choice, finding that the alternative doesn’t taste any good.

And finally, there are differences in brand and type. This means it can take time to figure out which type you prefer and the specific products that appeal to you.

There is good information that can help though. For example, the Tampa Bay Times did a taste test article on different cottage cheese brands, while Serious Eats did something similar for ricotta.

Nutritional Differences

Ricotta and cottage cheese are both made from milk but from different parts (cottage cheese is from curds, while ricotta is from the whey). So, it’s no surprise that they have some nutritional differences and some similarities.

Of course, the nutrient profile varies depending on the brand and the specific product. But, the table below shows a general comparison (1,2). The data used here is per 100 grams for the full-fat version of each cheese. Lower fat versions tend to have fewer calories and may contain more carbohydrates.

Swipe left to see more columns.

Ricotta

Cottage Cheese

Calor​ies

174

98

Total Fat

13.0 g

4.3 g

Carbs

3.0 g

3.4 g

Protein

11.3 g

11.1 g

Riboflavin

0.2 mg (11% DV)

0.2 mg (10% DV)

Calcium

207 mg (21% DV)

83 mg (8% DV)

Sodium

84 mg (3% DV)

364 mg (15% DV)

Of the two, cottage cheese is often considered healthier - with fewer calories and less fat. This is why it is popular among people trying to lose weight. 

However, cottage cheese does have considerably more sodium per 100 grams and less calcium. That combination may be unappealing, especially if you plan to have the cheese frequently. 

The protein content is roughly the same, so they would both tend to make you satisfied. Either one would make a powerful snack and help decrease sugar cravings. Nutrients not mentioned in the table are similar between the two options. 

Cottage cheese tends to be lower in calories and fat, which makes it common as a diet food

Which is Best?

Cooking with ricotta or cottage cheese

The best choice depends on what you’re looking for.

Many people turn to cottage cheese for weight loss due to the protein type and the lower calories. That protein is also in the form of casein, which releases energy slowly (3). This type of protein is especially popular among bodybuilders and it can help you maintain muscle mass as you lose weight (4,5).

These patterns make cottage cheese a common snack choice too and the protein can help you stay full until your next meal. For example, Serious Eats has a list of 10 Ways to Dress Up Cottage Cheese. The cheese can also be paired with sweet or savory ingredients, making it a versatile choice.

However, for people on a low carb or keto diet, ricotta might be a better choice. After all, it does have more fat and that's a good thing if you're focusing on low carb.

Of course, which you use will also depend on what you’re making. With dishes like lasagna or stuffed pasta, you can often substitute cottage cheese for ricotta. Livestrong has a useful article that talks about doing this for lasagna, while Leaf.tv talks about doing so for other recipes.

However, more sensitive recipes won’t let you do the same. This means you can’t use cottage cheese in a ricotta cheesecake – the dish simply wouldn’t work.

Turmeric Smoothie

Want to Improve Your Health?

Turmeric Smoothie

Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use. 

Check out my recommended products to see where you can get started. 

Cottage Cheese vs Ricotta

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