If you like soft cheeses, then cream cheese and cottage cheese are probably on your list of favorites. They are delicious and good to keep in the fridge as both are very versatile.
But what is the difference between cream cheese and cottage cheese? Cream cheese and cottage cheese are made by curdling milk with an acid, but cream cheese retains more moisture and is blended into a spreadable texture, whereas cottage cheese is drained and retains a bumpy, curdled texture. Cream cheese is sweeter and cottage cheese is sourer.
Both are soft. However, cream cheese is smooth, thick, and spreadable. Cottage cheese is a curd product which makes it not as smooth. Cottage cheese contains less fat and fewer calories than cream cheese, making it a healthier option.
In this article, we have compared all aspects of cream cheese and cottage cheese – from the manufacturing process to nutrition facts, from texture and taste to their uses.
Differences Between Cream Cheese and Cottage Cheese
Cream cheese and cottage cheese are both soft cheese varieties. This means that they are not ripened, are soft, and have high moisture content. While we can find a few similarities between these two cheese varieties, they are quite different.
Cream cheese is made either from milk or from the combination of milk and cream. The pH balance of milk is decreased with lactic acid. This makes the milk (or milk and cream) separate into whey and solids (curds).
The whey is drained and only curds are used for the making of cream cheese. They are treated with heat and stabilized with additional ingredients.
The manufacturing process of cottage cheese also starts with the milk curdling process. This is also achieved through the addition of acidic products, such as lactic acid and vinegar.
In the making of cottage cheese, they must remove as much liquid as possible from the solidified parts. Starches and other natural stabilizers may be used to keep the curds intact. The curds are then drained and rinsed.
Can You Make Cream Cheese and Cottage Cheese at Home?
You can make cream cheese and cottage cheese at home. For both products, acid is needed to make the cream or milk separate into curds and whey.
To make cream cheese, you need to bring milk to a simmer. You then need to add the vinegar keeping the milk on stable low heat. The milk starts to curdle at this point.
Once the curds have separated from the whey, drain the milk. To transform the curds into cream cheese you will need to use a blender or food processor. Blend adding fresh or dried herbs, and spices.
Cottage cheese is made with the same technique. You only skip the blending step as cottage cheese is basically the solids left after the curdling process.
Use a cheesecloth to drain the curdled milk. You can leave some of the whey with the curds or squeeze the curds dry if you enjoy your cottage cheese with little to no moisture.
As both cream cheese and cottage cheese are soft cheese varieties, they contain a lot of moisture.
The moisture content in cream cheese should be at least 30% but not more than 50%. The moisture content of cottage cheese ranges from 55-80%.
Cream cheese and cottage cheese are very different as far as their appearance is concerned.
Cream cheese is smooth while cottage cheese is not. As the latter is a curd product it will acquire a smoother appearance only when blended. You can buy small curd or large curd cottage cheese.
Commercial cottage cheese has a bright white color. The color of cream cheese is not always brilliant white. It may range from white to cream shades.
Flavor and Texture
The flavor of both cream cheese and cottage cheese is mild. The taste of cream cheese is sweet and tangy at the same time while cottage cheese is slightly salty.
Cottage cheese that has a higher percentage of milk fat has a milky taste. The lower the milk fat content is the sourer cottage cheese tastes.
Cream cheese has a spreadable smooth consistency. Compared to cottage cheese, it is much thicker.
Although cottage cheese is a curd product, its texture is very creamy, light, and soft.
Cream cheese contains lots of fat and is high in calories. The fat content in cottage cheese is significantly lower. It also contains fewer calories which makes cottage cheese a good option for those trying to keep their weight under control.
Both products contain similar amounts of sodium and little carbs. They also contain a good amount of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, cobalamin (vitamin B-12). The latter is essential for the health of nerve and blood cells.
Here is a comparison chart of one cup of cream cheese and one cup of small curd cottage cheese.
|Per 1 Cup||Cream Cheese||Cottage Cheese|
|Total Fat||79 g||121%||10 g||15%|
|Carbohydrates||9 g||3%||8 g||2%|
|Sodium||744.7 mg||31%||819 mg||34%|
|Protein||14 g||28%||25 g||50%|
|Cholesterol||255.2 mg||85%||38.3 mg||12%|
|Potassium||320.2 mg||9%||234 mg||6%|
Is Cottage Cheese Healthier Than Cream Cheese?
Cottage cheese is certainly a healthier cheese option.
Cottage cheese is a good source of protein. It will keep you feeling fuller for longer, thus preventing overeating. Due to its high protein content, cottage cheese is also good for people trying to gain muscle mass.
Cottage cheese is said to have a positive impact on bone health. It also contains selenium. The latter is a powerful antioxidant and has a positive impact on the overall health of the body.
Cream cheese is higher in fat and calories and it is recommended you consume it in moderation. But this doesn’t mean that cream cheese has no health benefits. It is a good source of vitamin A and can supply your body with a small amount of antioxidants.
Cream cheese and cottage cheese are versatile ingredients. You can incorporate them in any meal of the day, be it a light snack or a filling dinner.
There are some culinary tasks that cream cheese and cottage cheese are both suitable for:
- Baking. You can use cream cheese and cottage cheese to bake cookies, cakes, buns. etc. For low-fat baked goods, cottage cheese is preferable.
- Making pasta. You can make the ultimate cheese sauce for pasta with cream cheese. You can also top your pasta with cottage cheese and it will turn out equally as delicious.
- Toast or bagel spread. While cream cheese is known as the best spread for bagels, cottage cheese will do a good job too. Spread cream cheese or cottage cheese on warm bread, add some fruit, and have a perfect breakfast ready within minutes.
- No–bake desserts. Both cream cheese and cottage cheese are often used in no-bake dessert recipes.
- Dipping sauces. You have probably made dipping sauces with cream cheese for vegetables and chips. But you may be surprised to learn that you can also use cottage cheese for dips. Both products will make extremely creamy sauces.
- Soups. Cream cheese makes soups of the perfect consistency. But did you know that cottage cheese can also be used to make soups?
Other Uses of Cream Cheese and Cottage Cheese
A popular culinary use of cream cheese is making a cream cheese frosting. You can decorate cakes and cupcakes with it or use it as a filling for desserts.
Cottage cheese, on the other hand, has a range of other uses.
It can be used as a topping for salads, baked potatoes, scrambled eggs, etc. Pancakes and waffles made with cottage cheese turn out delicious too.
If you have cottage cheese at home, your breakfast will never be boring. You can mix it with fruits and granola, and even make a glass of filling cottage cheese smoothie.
Storage and Shelf Life
As cream cheese and cottage cheese are dairy products, they need to be refrigerated at all times.
Cream cheese will keep for over a week in the fridge if it has been opened. Unopened cream cheese will keep well for around 1 month.
An opened container of cottage cheese will keep well for around 10 days. For unopened cottage cheese that has been stored in the fridge, the shelf life is 7 days after its sell-by date.
Can Cottage Cheese Be Used Instead of Cream Cheese?
If you are looking for a healthier cheese alternative for cream cheese, cottage cheese is a good option. You can blend it with a small amount of low-fat milk to smooth out the texture making it similar to cream cheese.
The taste, however, will still differ. Cream cheese is typically sweeter than cottage cheese.
You can use blended cottage cheese instead of cream cheese in many recipes where you need the smoothness of cream cheese with less fat and calories.
But there are cases where you can’t swap cream cheese with cottage cheese. In dishes where cream cheese will be melted cottage cheese won’t work as it doesn’t melt.