Cottage Cheese vs. Cream Cheese

Last Updated on May 25, 2023 by Aaron

When it comes to cheese, the variety is endless. From cheddar to gouda, blue to brie, the world of cheese is as diverse as it is delicious.

But today, we’re focusing on two types of cheese that are staples in many kitchens: cottage cheese and cream cheese.

What is Cottage Cheese?

The name “cottage cheese” originated because this simple, fresh cheese was often made in cottages from any milk left over after making butter.

Cottage cheese is not aged. In the past, it was common for households to have a few dairy cows. After the cream was skimmed off the milk to make butter, the remaining skim milk was used to make cottage cheese.

This process allowed for efficient use of the milk and minimized waste, which was important at a time when refrigeration was not widely available.

How It’s Made

Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese curd product with a mild flavor. It’s made by curdling milk with an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then draining the whey to leave behind the curds.

The result is a lumpy, chunky creamy cheese that’s high in protein and low in fat. Varieties of cottage cheese include large or small curd, high or low fat, and flavored or unflavored.

The process involves acidification, which causes the milk to curdle, followed by draining, not pressing, so some whey remains and the individual curds remain loose.

The curd is usually washed to remove the acidity and some lactose, giving cottage cheese a sweet taste.

What is Cream Cheese?

Cream cheese, on the other hand, is a soft, slightly tangy-tasting cheese. It originated in the United States in the late 19th century and quickly became a favorite for its smooth, spreadable texture.

The term “cheese” in “cream cheese” refers to this process of fermentation and curdling that transforms the milk and cream into a form of cheese.

Despite its name, cream cheese is technically classified as a fresh cheese, and it’s known for its mild flavor and smooth, spreadable texture.

How It’s Made

The process of making cream cheese involves adding a starter culture to the mixture of milk and cream to initiate fermentation. This causes the mixture to coagulate and form curds.

The curds are then heated and strained to remove the whey, leaving behind the creamy, soft cheese that we know as cream cheese.

The result is a rich, creamy cheese that’s a staple in both sweet and savory dishes. Cream cheese comes in various forms, including whipped, block, low-fat, and flavored.

We have discussed the brands of cream cheese, and which one is actually better for you, here in this article.

Additionally, the production of cottage cheese and cream cheese typically does not involve the use of rennet. However, some manufacturers may use rennet in their cottage cheese-making process (3), so it’s always a good idea to check the ingredients list.

For Philadelphia cream cheese lovers, it is made without using rennet and is suitable for vegetarians.

Nutritional Comparison

Cottage cheese and cream cheese differ significantly in their nutritional content. Cottage cheese is high in protein, making it a favorite among athletes and health-conscious individuals.

It’s also lower in fat and calories compared to cream cheese.

On the other hand, cream cheese is higher in fat and calories but offers a rich source of vitamin A.

Here are the average nutritional facts from the USDA FoodData Central for a 100g serving of each:

  • Cottage Cheese (1): 103 calories, 11.1g protein, 4.2g fat, 4.6g carbs, 350mg sodium, 88mg calcium.
  • Cream Cheese (2): 343 calories, 5.79g protein, 34.5g fat, 4.6g carbs, 368mg sodium, 97mg calcium.

From a nutritional standpoint, both cheeses have their benefits. Cottage cheese, with its high protein content, can help with muscle repair and growth, making it a great post-workout snack. It’s also lower in fat and calories, making it a good choice for those watching their weight.

Also, cottage cheese contains essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and selenium.

Furthermore, cottage cheese also provides a good amount of Vitamin B12, which is crucial for nerve function and the production of red blood cells.

Cream cheese, while higher in fat and calories, is a good source of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision and immune function. However, due to its high-fat content, it should be consumed in moderation, especially by those monitoring their calorie intake.

Two tablespoons (30-gram) serving of cream cheese contains about 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbohydrates.

Recent scientific research has shed light on the health benefits of fermented dairy products, such as cottage cheese and cream cheese. A study published in Frontiers in Microbiology (4) highlighted the potential of lactic acid bacteria, present in these cheeses, to produce bioactive compounds during fermentation. These compounds have been associated with health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-hypertensive effects, as well as immune modulation and microbiome modulation.

Culinary Uses

Both cottage cheese and cream cheese are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Cottage cheese can be enjoyed on its own, added to salads and smoothies, or used as a topping for toast and crackers.

It’s also commonly used in baking and cooking, adding a creamy texture to dishes like lasagna and pancakes.

Cream cheese, with its smooth and creamy texture, is a popular spread for bagels and toast.

It’s also a key ingredient in cheesecake and is often used in other desserts like frosting for carrot cake. In savory dishes, cream cheese can be used in dips, pasta sauces, and stuffed chicken breasts.

Cottage Cheese as a Substitute for Cream Cheese

Cottage cheese is lower in fat and calories than cream cheese, making it a healthier substitute. However, it has a chunkier texture and a less creamy taste.

To use cottage cheese as a substitute for cream cheese in a recipe, you can blend it until smooth.

This works well for dips, spreads, and some baking recipes. However, it may not provide the same rich, creamy texture in recipes where cream cheese is a key ingredient, like cheesecake.

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