The Difference Between Cottage Cheese and Ricotta

Unripened fresh cheeses are popular all over the world because of their versatility in many kinds of food dishes. Two of the most renowned cheese are the cottage cheese and ricotta. These two are so similar that most people often substitute one for the other. How does one tell them apart?

When used in many-layered food such as lasagna, it’s hard to tell cottage cheese and ricotta from each other. The usual substitution ratio is 1:1. While they may seemingly taste the same, there’s a fundamental difference on how they’re made and how they provide nutritional value.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a kind of unripened, fresh cheese generally made from curds. Curds are formed when cream or milk get separated into their primary components- whey and curd. One of the most prominent differences here is that cottage cheese is made from noticeable curds and that ricotta is made using whey. The curds provide a lumpy appearance to cottage cheese as they remain loose in the process. Cottage cheese has a slightly acidic yet mild flavor.

Basically, cottage cheese is made from milk (usually a cow’s) and allowed to coagulate for curd-forming. The coagulation process begins when rennet or any other starter is mixed in to heated milk. The curds start to appear, and the other component, whey, is separated by draining. Whey appears as a yellowish liquid. The curds remain and they are rinsed. Then, they are mixed in with buttermilk or cream until the taste of classic cottage cheese is made.

Cottage cheese can be made using different milkfat percentages- 1, 2 or 4 percent. It’s overall nutrition is based on how much the percentage milkfat is used in the process.


Ricotta is traditional Italian cheese. As mentioned above, it comes from the whey that’s left after hard cheese production (Romano, Mozarella and the like). Ricotta is a kind of fresh cheese coming primarily from whey, called the Brocciu cheese family. The history of Ricotta is such that it was made from a water buffalo or a sheep’s milk whey, but nowadays it is acceptable to create ricotta using cow’s milk (called the North American Ricotta). There’s a subtle difference is taste- the North American ricotta has a sweeter and milder taste than its Italian counterpart. The ricotta is characterized by its smooth and creamy texture with a bit of tartness.

The whey collected from the cheese undergoes a day’s worth of fermentation. Then, it is heated until the curds form and placed into a cheese cloth for the final process. Alternately, ricotta makers can skip the day’s worth of fermentation by adding lemon or vinegar during the curding process. Ricotta can also be made with whole or skim milk instead of the traditional whey.

The Flavor

Cottage cheese has a creamy and a bit of a salty flavor when you taste it. Sometimes there’s a kind of tartness found in different cottage cheese brands. Ricotta is different that it is primarily creamy and has a slight sweetness in it. Cottage cheese texture is characteristically chunky because of the curds involved. It is also moist due to the addition of milk or cream. Ricotta has that smooth texture which becomes a bit grainy when you touch or taste it.

Cottage cheese is an excellent healthy snack because it’s a great source of calcium. The sweet flavor of ricotta makes it a versatile ingredient in many kinds of savory and sweet dishes. There are many kinds of texture available for ricotta, from slightly gritty to light and extra smooth varieties.

Is Cottage Cheese More Nutritious Than Ricotta?

Here’s where the difference lies between cottage cheese and ricotta. Nutrition plays a big factor in our lives, so it’s important to know which of the two cheeses have more nutritive value. The short answer here is that cottage cheese is the more nutritious of the two. Cottage cheese has the advantage when it comes to fat content and calorie count. Just to give you an idea, whole milk ricotta can contain up to 430 calories as compared to the 220 calories of creamed or full-fat cottage cheese. So if you’re conscious about the calories you consume, consider substituting cottage cheese for ricotta where appropriate.

But if you’re worried about daily sodium intake, then ricotta cheese may be the better choice. Cottage cheese is rich in sodium content when put in a side-by-side comparison with ricotta.

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