12 Unexpected Ways You Should Be Using Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is the Bebe Rexha of the dairy aisle. As a modern-day pop singer, Rexha's had her share of hits and is exceptionally talented, yet nobody gives her the fame or recognition she deserves. Cottage cheese has the same problem. It's tasty. It's good for you, packed with protein, vitamin B12, calcium, potassium, and more. It's also low-calorie, affordable, and incredibly versatile. Yet, even with all that going for it, it's a dairy product people rarely talk much about or embrace. Instead, cottage cheese is relegated to being the weird, floating white stuff in that terrifying green Jell-O salad your great aunt always brings to family functions. Or, it's the meal replacement your health-conscious co-worker begrudgingly swears by. No respect.

It's time for that to change. Cottage cheese is more than either of these things — it's an ingredient to celebrate and champion. This fresh cheese made from the curds of cow's milk is more than just a soft, creamy, mild-flavored snack. It's also a wonder food and super ingredient that can make almost anything it's paired with taste better. Want to add creaminess, moisture, and tang to your food? Look no further than an added scoop of cottage cheese. From appetizers to entrees to desserts, cottage cheese can make countless foods even more delicious and satisfying. Here are 12 of our favorite ways to put this powerhouse ingredient to work — tasty and unexpected uses that you may never have thought of before!

Add it to smoothies

People dump a lot of unusual things into their blenders in an effort to make a creamy, nutritious drink first thing in the morning. Protein powders, creatine supplements, powdered greens — the list of stuff you can pick up at the health food store to chuck into a smoothie goes on and on. In many ways, cottage cheese is the ultimate, all-natural protein supplement. You can easily add anywhere from ½ to 1 cup (or more) of cottage cheese to your favorite smoothie blend to dramatically boost its creaminess, flavor, and nutritional profile. Best of all, no special technique is needed. Just add your cottage cheese by the spoonful along with your other ingredients, and then blend everything until smooth and frosty.

Feeling tropical? Make a smoothie with cottage cheese, diced pineapple chunks or mango, coconut water, and a nice ripe banana. To add nuttiness and fiber, you can also toss 1 tablespoon of either chia seeds or peanut butter into your blender, as well. How about a vibrant smoothie packed full of fresh berries? Just blend together cottage cheese; your choice of strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries; milk; and, if you want, spinach for an added nutritional punch. For added sweetness, you can also drop in a banana or drizzle in maple syrup or honey. Or, for a smoothie that doubles as dessert, follow the same formula but swap that spinach with 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder and toss in some frozen cherries for added flavor and sweetness.

Put it in your mac and cheese

With mounds of soft, tender pasta and puddles of creamy, golden melted cheddar and Gruyère, mac and cheese — whether from the box or homemade — is the ultimate comfort food. It soothes the soul and can make anyone feel better after a rough day. Whether you indulge in mac and cheese all the time or as a special treat, it's worth knowing that you can instantly make that bowl of macaroni richer, more satisfying, and even more ooey, gooey, and delicious with the addition of a scoop or two of cottage cheese.

Say you're making homemade mac and cheese with pasta, shredded cheddar, Colby cheese, butter, and milk. You can simply add ½ to 1 cup of cottage cheese to your recipe. Cook the pasta until tender, drain, and then combine all your ingredients and mix well. You can then either eat as is or put everything in the oven, top your mac and cheese with some crumbled topping — cracker crumbs, potato chips, and even more cheese are all good options — and then bake until golden brown.

Follow the same basic steps with mac and cheese from a box. Cook your pasta like normal, and then add as little or as much cottage cheese as you'd like when mixing your liquid cheese or cheese powder, milk, and butter with those cooked shells. It's super easy and oh, so delicious!

Mix it into oatmeal

Whether you enjoy starting your day with a hearty bowl of rolled oats, old-fashioned oats, steel-cut oats, or instant oats, you can't go wrong with adding a few tablespoons or more of creamy cottage cheese to this breakfast classic. While cottage cheese and oatmeal may not be the first combination that comes to mind when you settle down with a cup of coffee, it should be. In addition to making oatmeal creamier and more filling, cottage cheese also packs more protein into your bowl of oatmeal, bolsters its creamy texture, and pairs perfectly with any other dairy you might be using in your bowl, from butter to cream and milk.

For an oatmeal cottage cheese breakfast bowl you can enjoy daily, just mix ½ cup of oats with 1 cup of water or milk. Then, stir in ½ cup of cottage cheese once your oatmeal is tender and cooked. Building off this simple dish, you can then add 1–2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter, a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg, sliced bananas, a drizzle of honey, or a handful of fresh berries. 

For a more savory bowl, swap the water in your oatmeal for chicken or vegetable broth, and then top your cooked oatmeal and cottage cheese mixture with a fried egg. Or, for something completely different, make your oatmeal and cottage cheese more like a dessert with the addition of cocoa powder, chocolate milk mix, chocolate syrup, or hazelnut spread.

Make a dip

Like cream cheese and sour cream, cottage cheese is another perfect vehicle to make any number of uber-creamy dips for veggies, chips, pita slices, and more. In addition to its naturally creamy texture, which is perfect for giving a dip a luscious, velvety consistency, cottage cheese also has a light, mild, and balanced flavor — it's the ideal base for all sorts of added herbs and spices. Plus, it's easy to blend, won't separate when left out for a while at a party or gathering, and is lower in fat and calories, so it's great for making a snack or treat that even more health-conscious folks can enjoy.

One super easy option to consider is an herb and garlic cottage cheese dip. To make your take on this classic, combine cottage cheese, garlic, chopped fresh herbs like parsley or dill, plus a splash of acid (zesty lemon juice or vinegar are ideal). Add everything to a food processor blender, season well with salt and pepper, and then process until smooth. Chill your dip mixture until set, and then serve with sliced vegetables or crackers.

For something a bit spicier, consider throwing together a Southwest-style dip made with cottage cheese, salsa, spices like cumin, chili powder, paprika, or cayenne, and a squeeze of lime juice. Then, blend everything together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Again, chill until cool, garnish with some chopped cilantro, and serve with tortilla chips or veggie sticks.

Put it in pasta and lasagna dishes

Making lasagna from scratch requires a bit of time and determination, but it's also a process that's easy enough for even novice home cooks to quickly master. A few key tips to remember: Use fresh ingredients when possible. Stick with noodles you boil over the oven-ready shortcut variety — the results always taste better. Make sure your meat is nicely browned before you use it, and always boil your pasta to al dente. Layer evenly, and make sure there's plenty of sauce contained within each layer. And, if you want your lasagna to really turn out moist and creamy, make sure you include some cottage cheese in your recipe along with that mozzarella and ricotta.

To add cottage cheese to your lasagna, swap it in a one-to-one ratio for ricotta in your recipe. So, if your recipe calls for 2 cups of ricotta total, you might use 1 cup of ricotta and 1 cup of cottage cheese in its place. (If you like extra creamy lasagna, you might add even more ricotta and cream cheese than your recipe calls for.) Once you have your cheeses measured, blend them together in a food processor or blender until smooth. This will help break down any large curds and create a creamier consistency. And, don't forget seasoning. Since cottage cheese has a mild flavor, be sure to season it well with salt, pepper, and other Italian-style herbs of your choice. Then, layer, bake, and enjoy.

Fold it into mashed potatoes

With their soft, pillowy texture and sweet, nutty, earthy flavor, it's hard not to love a big bowl of freshly made mashed potatoes. Yet sometimes, even beautifully cooked potatoes can end up tasting dry, bland, mealy, or even lumpy. In short, your mashed potatoes can suck if you're not careful! Fortunately, one easy way to avoid many of these issues is by incorporating some added cottage cheese into your mashed potatoes before serving them.

In addition to the moisture and creaminess it provides, cottage cheese can help to create a smoother consistency in mashed potatoes. Incorporating those small curds throughout your dish will help mask any lumps present, making your dish seem smoother and more velvety overall. Cottage cheese can also add a subtle tanginess and depth of flavor to mashed potatoes, enhancing their overall taste without overpowering their subtle, delicate essence.

Working cottage cheese into mashed potatoes is as easy as it sounds. Starting from an average family-sized serving of 1 to 2 pounds of peeled, boiled, cooked, and mashed potatoes, simply add ½ to 1 full cup of cottage cheese to your bowl, along with a couple of tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper, to taste. Then, mix well, either by hand or with a handheld mixer for extra-fluffy, "whipped" potatoes. To this base, you can then also add freshly chopped herbs, grated cheese, diced peppers, truffle oil, or even grated horseradish. Yum!

Spread it on toast or in sandwiches

Avocado toast has had its moment in the sun. Whether you're looking for something new to add to your brunch menu to impress your friends or just looking for another elevated toast option in general, you can't go wrong with cottage cheese on toast — it's one more delicious yet unexpected way you should be using cottage cheese but probably aren't.

While it might sound like an unusual pairing, cottage cheese is more perfect for toast than you could ever anticipate. It's a lighter and less fatty alternative to butter or cream cheese. It spreads easily and has that wonderful, chunky texture. And, of course, the mild tang cottage cheese provides is perfect with toast, as well. It's the ideal complement to eggs, bacon, sausage, salad, or anything else you might be eating for breakfast in the morning.

You can spread 1–2 tablespoons of cottage cheese on toast and then top that creamy mixture with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey or chopped nuts. Or, spread cottage cheese on whole wheat bread and then pile on sliced ripe tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. For a healthier twist on toasted bagels, slather your toasted bread with cottage cheese and smoked salmon slices, chopped fresh dill, capers, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You can even turn your toast into a full breakfast entrée by smearing cottage cheese on top and adding some sauteed spinach and a fried or poached egg.

Use it to stuff chicken

Whether fried, grilled, or especially stuffed, chicken breast is one of the most versatile and pleasing proteins out there. You can create a pocket in any raw chicken breast and fill that crevice with mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, ham, and one of our favorites, a mixture of Fontina cheese and Swiss chard. Cottage cheese is yet another wonderful and unexpected ingredient you can use to make decadent stuffed chicken breasts.

The cooking process couldn't be more straightforward. Let's say you'd like to make pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken. All you need to do is slice into a chicken breast to create a pocket. Then, spread basil pesto inside that space. Top the pesto with ¼ cup of cottage cheese and an equal amount of shredded mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper. Finally, fold the chicken breasts over to enclose the filling before baking.

You can swap your filling options in countless ways: cottage cheese, kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, and feta; cottage cheese, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheddar; cottage cheese, artichoke hearts, parsley, and Parmesan — the options go on and on, each tastier than the last.

Melt it in a quesadilla

Beef, shredded chicken, shrimp, grated cheese, avocado, black beans — there are many extraordinary ingredients you can stuff into a crisp, melty quesadilla. As you're planning out your next Mexican-inspired lunch or dinner and grabbing those quesadilla essentials, make sure you also include a carton of cottage cheese on your list. While not the first quesadilla filling you might think of, cottage cheese is a fantastic addition to any style of quesadilla you might be craving. That salty, mild cheese melts wonderfully when cooked in a skillet with other quesadilla ingredients. It won't get stringy and puddle up like cheddar or queso, but it will soften and break down, turning even smoother and creamier — precisely the kind of filling every quesadilla needs. The flavor of cottage cheese also intensifies when exposed to heat. That tang becomes more pronounced and even more delicious.

Try adding cottage cheese to a mushroom and spinach quesadilla or a vibrant chicken, pesto, and sun-dried tomato quesadilla. It's perfect for BBQ pulled pork quesadillas and a showstopper in all sorts of classic Mexican-style quesadillas, from black bean and corn options to spicy ground beef, queso, and caramelized onions.

Whip it into pancake batter

From using the wrong pan to not measuring ingredients correctly, there are many mistakes we all make with pancakes. Not considering cottage cheese as a potential mix-in ingredient for pancake batter is another common flub you can add to that list. Cottage cheese is a great pancake addition for many reasons. It makes pancakes more nutritious, boosting their protein content significantly. It also provides a wonderful textural addition to the batter, making pancakes chewier and more pleasing as you bite into them. Perhaps best of all, as with anything you add cottage cheese to, pancakes also become significantly moister and more creamy with the addition of a tablespoon or two of cottage cheese to their batter.

While cottage cheese is incredible on its own in plain pancakes, you can also pair it with fruits like blueberries and lemon zest, ripe mashed bananas and chopped nuts, shredded coconut and diced pineapple, and — for an out-of-this-world savory pancake option — chopped fresh herbs like parsley or dill. When your dill cottage cheese pancakes are cooked, finish them off with a dollop of sour cream and some smoked salmon. You may never want plain, maple syrup–topped pancakes again!

Put it in stuffing for peppers or mushrooms

Stuffed peppers and mushrooms are incredible dishes, as beautiful on the plate as they are delicious to dig into. Well — most of the time, that is. Both of these comfort food classics can also be plagued with dry, dense fillings. But, a little added cottage cheese can quickly help that problem go away. As we've already detailed, few things are better at helping to keep foods moist and creamy than cottage cheese. So, it makes sense that this dairy staple is also ideal for adding creaminess and body to stuffing. It's a lot like Goldilocks in that way — it can ensure that a stuffed pepper's filling is not too soft and not too firm but just right.

Whether your veggies are stuffed with rice, ground meat, quinoa, diced vegetables, or a breadcrumb mixture, working cottage cheese into any recipe is easy. Start small with 1 tablespoon, stir it into your stuffing mixture before adding it to your peppers or mushrooms, and see how it looks. If the filling still seems dense or dry, add more. Then, once you're happy with the stuffing's overall consistency, go ahead and stuff and bake your peppers or mushrooms like normal.

Scramble it with your eggs

Finally, when it comes to unexpected ways you should be using cottage cheese in the foods you cook, make sure you always reach for that carton when eggs are on the menu. From frittatas to scrambled eggs and omelets, cottage cheese can work its magic in any sort of egg-based dish, adding flavor, moisture, and incredible creaminess to each. Beyond those essential qualities, cottage cheese also adds texture and mild richness to eggs. It absorbs the flavors of herbs and spices and makes those flavors more pronounced in your egg-based dishes. With all its built-in moisture, cottage cheese also helps eggs avoid becoming dry and rubbery as they cook.

To add cottage cheese to scrambled eggs, for instance, try this recipe that serves two. Start by whisking together 4 large eggs and ½ cup of cottage cheese. Then, heat a skillet over medium heat, add the egg mixture, and cook, stirring gently, until the eggs are creamy and just set. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. From this base, you could also add grated cheese, caramelized onions, diced fresh herbs, sauteed mushrooms, and more.

Making a frittata or omelet instead? Just add 1–2 tablespoons of cottage cheese to your egg mixture before you put it on to cook, either in place of other dairy or in addition to what you would normally use if you want your eggs to be super creamy. Enjoy!