What are the best cottage cheese brands to feed your family? Mamavation took a look at a report that dove into the cottage cheese industry and the ingredients used to create their protein-packed products. Which brands have healthy cottage cheese with simple ingredients vs. cottage cheese that is more of a processed dessert than a food? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best organic milk, our consumer study on ketchup and PFAS “forever chemicals”, and our consumer study on parchment paper and PFAS, now join us for a look at all the most popular cottage cheese brands ranked via ingredients and organic practices.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
What Cottage Cheese Is Made Of & Its History
Cottage cheese is real food that can be easily made at home with real ingredients like milk, kefir, and salt. Cottage cheese with those three simple ingredients is likely how your grandparents ate it with none of the bad stuff and chemical preservatives that we find today. Its creamy texture, cheese curds, high protein & full fat is a classic food that can be paired with berries, or just eaten alone.
Cottage cheese originated in the 1800s as a way to use the leftover fermented milk after making butter. During the First World War, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) encouraged Americans to eat more cottage cheese because of the protein it had as a replacement for meat during the national food shortage. They noted that cottage cheese had more protein “than a pound of beef, pork, or poultry.” By the 1950s cottage cheese was hailed as a health food and it was used by fitness enthusiasts. By the 1980s, it started to lose its luster and was replaced by yogurt as a health food. At that time brands started to incorporate other ingredients into cottage cheese like nuts and flavors.
According to the USDA, in the 1970s at the peak of its popularity, the average American ate 5 lbs. of cottage cheese per year. Americans do not eat as much cottage cheese as they used to today primarily because they have swapped to other types of foods, including yogurt, plant-based milk beverages, and other non-dairy-type products.
Health Benefits of Good Brands
Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, healthy fat, calcium, phosphorus, complex B-vitamins, & selenium. This real food has plenty of health benefits associated with it such as the following:
- Packed with Protein: One cup of cottage cheese = 25 grams of protein
- Muscle Repair: The casein found in cottage cheese is slow-digesting and feeds your cells over long periods of time helping reduce muscle breakdown.
- Controls Hunger: People who eat cottage cheese feel fuller longer because it controls the amount of hormone ghrelin.
- B-12 Vitamins: About 24% of your daily recommended B12 intake is found in 1 cup of cottage cheese.
- Selenium: About 30% of your daily recommended selenium is found in 1 cup of cottage cheese.
- Boosts Bone Health: Many dairy products like cottage cheese can be an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, which work together for optimal bone health in the body.
Organic is Superior Even with Some Industry Flaws
Hands down the best cottage cheese is organic cottage cheese. When you decide to choose organic cottage cheese, you avoid most of the pitfalls associated with conventional dairy products.
- No rgBH hormones. Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) is used on conventional dairy farms to increase milk production. Cows treated with rBGH tend to develop udder infections (mastitis) and are then given more antibiotics than cows that don’t receive rgBH. This also increases the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the local community. Some studies have also linked this practice to human cancers. This practice is banned in organic dairy.
- No Toxic Synthetic Pesticides. No conventional pesticides are used in fruit or other “stir-in” ingredients, which will decrease the amount of pesticides you are exposed to on a given day.
- No GMOs. Cows are not given feed made from genetically modified (GMO) crops that are altered to withstand being doused with the pesticide glyphosate. Glyphosate has been deemed a “likely carcinogen” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
- More Nutritious. Organic dairy is more nutritious because the cows must graze at least 30% of the time and that makes their milk higher in omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and obesity.
Problematic Ingredients to Avoid
There are several problematic ingredients we found present in conventional cottage cheese. Here’s a list of ingredients that are found in cottage cheese that we believe have no business being there.
- Carrageenan–There are many forms of carrageenan and not all forms are problematic to human health, but some are linked to ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The problem is there is no way of knowing what is being used. The organic industry still allows for use of carrageenan, but it’s very controversial in the industry and most brands have opted out.
- Emulsifiers and gums–There are many ingredients used as fillers, emulsifiers, and gums in cottage cheese like guar gum, acacia gum, xanthan gum, and soy lecithin. These give the cottage cheese a creamier “mouthfeel” and prevent everything from separating. These extra ingredients are not needed and some people may be very allergic to them.
- Artificial flavors and colors–Artificial colors are made of petroleum and have been linked to hyperactivity in children and cancers. Artificial flavors are linked to some concerning effects in animals.
- Maltodextrin–Most maltodextrin (unless organic) is likely to be genetically modified corn. Maltodextrin is a high glycemic additive that can raise your blood sugar. Over time eating high glycemic foods is linked to insulin resistance and diabetes. Maltodextrin has also been linked to Crohn’s disease and other problems.
- Monoglycerides and diglycerides–These ingredients can be contaminated with trans fats, which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Technically, trans fats are not allowed in American food anymore, but monoglycerides and diglycerides are considered an emulsifier, so it has their own loophole. Some companies attempting to circumvent the FDA’s rules are using these ingredients to add trans fat to your food.
- Polysorbate 80–While the FDA maintains this ingredient is “safe” it’s linked to inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
- Potassium sorbate–We don’t mind this chemical inside personal care products, however eating this ingredient is a completely different story. Consumption of this ingredient is linked to being a genotoxic and mutagenic compound when digested.
Here’s a list of all the ingredients found in cottage cheese according to the Cornucopia Institute. Some of them are problematic while some of them are fine.
- tri-calcium phosphate
- locust bean gum
- citric acid
- vitamin A palmitate
- carbon dioxide
- live and active cultures
- monoglycerides & diglycerides
- guar gum
- citric acid
- cane sugar
- lemon juice concentrate
- fruit and vegetable juice concentrate
- potassium sorbate
- calcium phosphate
- artificial color
- artificial flavor
- natural flavor
- modified food starch
- modified corn starch
- vitamin d3
- black carrot juice and purple carrot juice (color)
- caramel color
- vanilla bean seed
Mamavation’s Investigation on Cottage Cheese
Mamavation utilized the Cornucopia Institute’s Report Weighing the Curds: How to Differentiate Nutritious Brands from Overly Processed Concoctions to weigh the cottage cheese brands and products available at the grocery store today. We separated brands into categories: not our favorite, better, & best. The “not our favorite” category comprises products that received 1-2 stars, the “better” category received 3-4 stars, and the “best” category received 5 stars.
Rankings for Cornucopia were done considering the following: milk quality, brand commitment to organics, ingredients, use of carrageenan, use of artificial colors, use of artificial flavors, use of sweeteners, the amount of sugar, use of preservatives, use of thickeners and gums, whether the brand was certified USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, whether corn or food starch or maltodextrin is used, & whether they use Vitamin A. Palmitate.
Not Our Favorite Cottage Cheese
These cottage cheese brands scored a 1 or 2 on the report as of December 31st, 2021. Rankings for Cornucopia were done considering the following: milk quality, brand commitment to organics, ingredients, use of carrageenan, use of artificial colors, use of artificial flavors, use of sweeteners, the amount of sugar, use of preservatives, use of thickeners and gums, whether the brand was certified USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, whether corn or food starch or maltodextrin is used, & whether they use Vitamin A. Palmitate.
- Borden Large Curd (1)
- Borden 1% (1)
- Borden Fat-Free (1)
- Borden Small Curd 4% (1)
- Breakstone’s 4% (2)
- Breakstone’s 2% Cottage Cheese (2)
- Breakstone’s Small Curd 2%, 30% Less Sodium (2)
- Breakstone’s Small Curd 2% (1)
- Breakstone’s Fat-Free (1)
- Breakstone’s Strawberry (1)
- Breakstone’s Peach (1)
- Breakstone’s Honey Vanilla (1)
- Breakstone’s Pineapple (1)
- Breakstone’s Blueberry (1)
- Breakstone’s Mango Habanero (1)
- Breakstone’s Raspberry (1)
- Cabot 4% (1)
- Cabot No Fat (1)
- Dairy Pure Mix-in Pineapple (2)
- Dairy Pure Mix-in Peach & Pecan (1)
- Dairy Pure Mix-in Blueberry (1)
- Dairy Pure Mix-in Strawberry & Almond (1)
- Good Culture 4% (2)
- Good Culture Blueberry 2% (2)
- Good Culture Strawberry 2% (2)
- Good Culture Pineapple 2% (2)
- Good Culture Peach 2% (2)
- Great Value Small Curd 4% (1)
- Great Value Small Curd 1% (1)
- Great Value Large Curd 4% (1)
- Great Value Small Curd Fat-Free (1)
- Harris Teeter Small Curd Fat-Free (1)
- Friendship California Style 4% (2)
- Friendship Pot Style (2)
- Friendship Strawberry 1% (1)
- Friendship No Salt Added 1% (1)
- Friendship Small Curd 1% Lowfat (1)
- Friendship Peach 1% (1)
- Friendship Whipped 1% (1)
- Friendship Pineapple 1% (1)
- Friendship Pineapple 0% (1)
- Friendship Small Curd 0% (1)
- Kemps Small Curd 4% (1)
- Kemps Large Curd (1)
- Kemps w/Chives 4% (1)
- Kemps Peach (1)
- Kemps Pineapple (1)
- Kemps Honey Pear (1)
- Kemps Fat-Free (1)
- Kemps 2% (1)
- Kemps 1% (1)
- Kemps Mixed Berry (1)
- Knudsen 2% (2)
- Knudsen Fat-Free (2)
- Knudsen Small Curd 4% (2)
- Knudsen Pineapple Low Fat (1)
- Lactaid 4% (2)
- Land O’Lakes Small Curd Fat-Free (1)
- Land O’Lakes Small Curd (1)
- Land O’Lakes Small Curd 4% (1)
- Land O’Lakes Small Curd 2% (1)
- Market Pantry 1% (1)
- Market Pantry Fat-Free (1)
- Market Pantry 4% (1)
- Muuna Classic 4% (2)
- Muuna Plain Low Fat (2)
- Muuna Vanilla (2)
- Muuna Mango (1)
- Muuna Black Cherry (1)
- Muuna Pineapple 2% (1)
- Muuna Peach (1)
- Muuna Blueberry (1)
- Muuna Rasberry (1)
- Muuna Strawberry (1)
- Publix Small Curd (1)
- Publix Large Curd (1)
- Publix Low Fat (1)
- Publix Fat-Free (1)
- Trader Joe’s Fat-Free (2)
- Trader Joe’s Small Curd (2)
- Westby Large Curd (1)
- Westby Small Curd Low-Fat (1)
- Westby Small Curd 2% (1)
- Westby Fat-Free (1)
Better Cottage Cheese
These cottage cheese brands scored a 3 or 4 on the report as of December 31st, 2021. Rankings for Cornucopia were done considering the following: milk quality, brand commitment to organics, ingredients, use of carrageenan, use of artificial colors, use of artificial flavors, use of sweeteners, the amount of sugar, use of preservatives, use of thickeners and gums, whether the brand was certified USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, whether corn or food starch or maltodextrin is used, & whether they use Vitamin A. Palmitate.
- 365 Organic 4% (4)
- 365 Organic Low Fat 1.5% (4)
- Clover Organic 1.5% (4)
- Clover Organic 2% Low Fat (4)
- Daisy Low Fat (3)
- Horizon Organic Regular Small Curd 4% (4)
- Horizon Organic Low Fat (3)
- Good Culture Organic 2% (3)
- Good Culture Organic Strawberry Chia (4)
- Good Culture Organic Mango (4)
- Good Culture Organic Blueberry Acai Chia (4)
- Good Culture Organic Pineapple(4)
- Organic Valley 2% Low Fat (4)
- Organic Valley 4% (4)
Best Organic Cottage Cheese
These brands scored a 5 on the report as of December 31st, 2021. Rankings for Cornucopia were done considering the following: milk quality, brand commitment to organics, ingredients, use of carrageenan, use of artificial colors, use of artificial flavors, use of sweeteners, the amount of sugar, use of preservatives, use of thickeners and gums, whether the brand was certified USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, whether corn or food starch or maltodextrin is used, & whether they use Vitamin A. Palmitate.
- Dutch Meadows A2A2
- Good Culture Organic Whole Milk
- Kalona Super Natural 4%
- Kalona Super Natural 2% Reduced Fat
- Nancy’s Organic Probiotic Low Fat
- Nancy’s Whole Milk
- Westby Organic Small Curd 4%
I just tried Hood Cottage Cheese large curd and I thought it was quite good. Where is it ranked among other cottage cheeses?
Great Value (walmart brand) large curd 4% is the best. It is better than brands that cost 4-5x as much. Never watery. Salty and firm
Deans cottage cheese is the BEST. Chive 4percent. Available in the Midwest. Can’t find any better. Love in south West now. Miss it!Doug Sch
Totally agree with you on Dean’s Dairy having the best cottage. I’ve tried just about every brand out there, but nothing compares to Dean’s. I gave up on buying cottage cheese because I kept throwing all of them out due to poor quality taste.
I love Breakstone 4% and Good Culture 2%, don’t ever buy Daisy as it is super thick and taste like your just eating globs of sour cream 🤢
Read carefully, this appears to be a fake comment complete with bad spelling and grammar, likely sponsored by a competitor to disparage Daisy Brand with disinformation. As the original poster said, read the list of ingredients for this excellent cottage cheese.
I live in the Chicago area and I have a severe allergic reaction to Free Processed Glutamic Acid (MSG). The only cottage cheese I have found in my area that I can eat is “Daisy”. It is not Organic, but this is the ingredient list, cultured skim milk, cream and salt.
Are fat free varieties just not healthy? Why aren’t there any? 😩
This cheese is really delicious and appealing to my family, I can make it into many different dishes, it’s amazing!
I am curious as to why Green Valley organic lactose free isn’t listed?
Please share your valuable insight.
I am disappointed in several brands!
Thank you for this valuable information!
Curious about DARIGOLD pineapple cottage cheese 2% milk fat minimum.
I see that it does contain carrageenan.
Thanks for your hard work.
I would think Darigold is not very good. It’s not even organic is it?
Curious about organic valley?
Yes! Me too. Thank you.
Organic Valley is listed. One of the best.