cottage cheese ricotta

The Differences You Need to Know: Ricotta vs Cottage Cheese

cottage cheese ricotta

Let’s Unravel the Creamy Truth! When it comes to the world of cheeses, two contenders often find themselves on our plates: ricotta cheese and cottage cheese. Both are creamy, both are delicious, but are they the same thing? In this exploration of dairy delights, we’ll take a closer look at ricotta and cottage cheese to answer the age-old question: Is ricotta cheese the same as cottage cheese?

This post is all about ricotta vs cottage cheese.

History of Ricotta Cheese and the Process of Making Ricotta

Ricotta cheese hails from Italy and carries a rich history. Its name, “ricotta,” translates to “recooked” in Italian, which gives you a clue about its made. It’s considered a ‘whey cheese’. Cheese is made when you separate milk into two distinct parts – the curds and the liquid. The curds are the solid parts that are separated out and pressed to make a cheese. The liquid is known as ‘whey’. Most cheeses are made from the curds of the milk. 

Ricotta is crafted from the whey left behind after making other cheeses, usually from cow, sheep, or goat’s milk. It’s also traditionally made with raw milk rather than pasteurized.  Raw milk is difficult to find in the United States since most states banned it. However, it can be made with pasteurized milk, but NOT ultra pasteurized milk. The recipe is slightly different if pasteurized is used. The whey is heated, and the proteins that remain are collected to create the smooth, slightly grainy texture we associate with ricotta.

What is Ricotta Cheese Used For

Ricotta cheese is used for a wide variety of recipes like lasagna, eggplant rollatini, and even cannoli. Although its exact origin isn’t known, it may have originated in the Arab-Sicilian era in Sicily during the 9th century.  It is thought that it was initially made by cheesemakers using the leftover whey from mozzarella or provolone. Thus, it’s technically classified by Italian legislation as a cheese by-product. 

The ricotta made in the United States and that made in Italy are different because of what is used to make the cheese. In the United States whole milk is used to make ricotta instead of the whey, which gives it an overall different taste.

ricotta vs cottage cheese

Ricotta Cheese Characteristics – What Sets It Apart

Although it might seem to some like ricotta cheese and cottage cheese are the same, they are very different as to their appearance, flavor, and how they’re made.

Typically ricotta has the following characteristics:

  • Creamy Texture: Ricotta is prized for its velvety, creamy texture, making it suitable for both sweet and savory dishes alike.
  • What does ricotta cheese taste like? Its flavor is mild, acting as a versatile backdrop to a wide range of ingredients and culinary traditions.
  • Versatility: In Italian cuisine, ricotta stars in classics like lasagna and stuffed pasta. It also adds a luxurious touch to desserts like cannoli and cheesecake.

History of Cottage Cheese and How It’s Made

Cottage cheese has a slightly different story. Although its origins can be traced to Europe and a “newer” cheese in comparison to ricotta. It originated in the 19th century, and gained popularity in North America. Unlike ricotta, which relies on whey, cottage cheese is born from milk curdled with acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. The curds are then separated from the whey, resulting in the signature lumps that cottage cheese is known for. Another difference is the type of milk that’s used. While ricotta uses a full fat milk, cottage cheese is commercially made with pasteurized skim milk or reconstituted, low-fat milk products.

When cottage cheese is made the whey is drained, but not pressed from the curds. The way it is made makes it a low-fat option and popular for those on a low-fat diet. By adding cream to cottage cheese, it’s then sold as creamed cottage cheese. Creamed cottage cheese must have a 4% or more fat content.

cottage cheese and ricotta

How Does Cottage Cheese Differ?

Now that we know the characteristics of ricotta, let’s take a look at those of cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is known for:

  • A curdy texture: Cottage cheese is renowned for its curdy texture, featuring visible lumps that give it a distinct appearance and feeling.
  • Tangy Flavor: A hint of tanginess sets it apart from ricotta, thanks to the acid used during its production.
  • Protein Boost: Cottage cheese stands out for its high protein content, making it a favorite among health-conscious individuals.

They seem like they would be similar in their approach to making them, but there are distinct features with both. We’ll now do a comparison.

Ricotta vs. Cottage Cheese – The Key Differences

Are ricotta cheese and cottage cheese the same? Absolutely not. Here’s a quick summary of the key distinctions:

The texture of these two types of cheeses are different. Ricotta is smooth and creamy, while cottage cheese is curdy and lumpy. They taste differently – ricotta boasts a mild flavor, while cottage cheese offers a subtle tang. There are differences in how they’re produced/ Ricotta is made from whey through heating after another type of cheese has already been made. Traditionally, it’s made from raw milk but pasteurized milk can be used when raw milk isn’t available. Cottage cheese on the other hand is created by curdling milk with acid and skim milk is used. They both have differences in their culinary uses. Ricotta is versatile, making appearances in both sweet and savory dishes. Cottage cheese is often enjoyed as-is, in salads, or blended into smoothies.


Can I make ricotta cheese at home?

Yes, you can make ricotta cheese at home using milk, cream, an acid (vinegar or lemon juice), and salt. Homemade ricotta is simple to prepare and yields a fresh, flavorful cheese.

Is ricotta cheese healthy?

Ricotta cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. It can be a healthy addition to your diet when consumed in moderation. However, like all dairy products, it should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

Can I substitute ricotta cheese in recipes if I don’t have it?

Yes, there are some substitutes for ricotta cheese, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, or tofu, depending on the recipe. Keep in mind that the flavor and texture may vary.

How do I store ricotta cheese?

Store ricotta cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Consume it within a week for optimal freshness.

Can I freeze ricotta cheese?

While you can freeze ricotta cheese, its texture may change upon thawing, becoming slightly grainy. It’s best used in cooked dishes after freezing rather than for dishes like cannoli or as a topping.

Is ricotta cheese suitable for people with lactose intolerance?

Ricotta cheese is lower in lactose compared to some other dairy products, making it easier for some lactose-intolerant individuals to digest. However, individual tolerance may vary.

Are there variations of ricotta cheese, such as low-fat or vegan options?

Yes, you can find low-fat ricotta cheese in stores. There are also vegan ricotta alternatives made from ingredients like tofu or nuts for those with dietary preferences or restrictions.

What are some dessert recipes that feature ricotta cheese?

Some popular dessert recipes with ricotta cheese include ricotta cheesecake, ricotta-filled cannoli, ricotta pancakes, and ricotta-based ice cream.

Is ricotta cheese safe for pregnant women to consume?

Generally, ricotta cheese is safe to eat during pregnancy if it’s made from pasteurized milk. However, it’s advisable for pregnant women to consult with their healthcare providers regarding dietary choices.

Is cottage cheese healthy?

Cottage cheese is considered a healthy dairy option as it’s rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. It’s often included in diets for its nutritional benefits.

What are the common uses for cottage cheese?

Cottage cheese is versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s often used as a topping for salads, baked potatoes, or as a filling for stuffed pasta or crepes.

Can I eat cottage cheese if I’m lactose intolerant?

Cottage cheese is lower in lactose than some other dairy products, which may make it easier for some lactose-intolerant individuals to tolerate. However, tolerance varies from person to person.

What are the different varieties of cottage cheese available?

Cottage cheese is available in various fat levels, including low-fat and fat-free options. Some brands also offer small-curd and large-curd varieties.

How long does cottage cheese last in the refrigerator?

Typically, unopened cottage cheese has a shelf life of several weeks in the refrigerator. Once opened, it’s best consumed within about 5-7 days for optimal freshness.

Can I freeze cottage cheese?

While you can freeze cottage cheese, its texture may change upon thawing, becoming slightly grainy. It’s better suited for cooked dishes after freezing rather than for direct consumption.

Are there vegan or dairy-free alternatives to cottage cheese?

Yes, there are plant-based cottage cheese alternatives made from ingredients like tofu or nuts for those with dietary preferences or restrictions.

Can I use cottage cheese as a substitute for other cheeses in recipes?

Cottage cheese can be used as a substitute in some recipes, such as lasagna or stuffed pasta, but it may alter the texture and flavor compared to using other cheeses like ricotta.

Is cottage cheese safe to eat during pregnancy?

  Cottage cheese made from pasteurized milk is generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy. However, pregnant individuals should consult their healthcare providers regarding dietary choices.

Is there a difference between small-curd and large-curd cottage cheese?

The main difference between small-curd and large-curd cottage cheese is the size of the curds. Small-curd cottage cheese has smaller, finer curds, while large-curd cottage cheese has larger, chunkier curds. Some people have a preference for one over the other in recipes.


In the grand debate of ricotta vs. cottage cheese, the winner depends on your culinary intentions. Ricotta brings creamy richness to Italian creations, while cottage cheese offers a protein-packed, curdy delight. So, next time you’re crafting a recipe, remember that ricotta and cottage cheese, though they share a dairy aisle, are distinct cheeses with unique characteristics. Happy cooking!

This post was all about ricotta vs cottage cheese.

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