Cottage Cheese

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Dairy
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May cause allergic reactions.

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cottage cheese on a table before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat cottage cheese?

Cottage cheese may be introduced to baby as soon as they are ready to start solids if you purchase a low sodium brand, use a low sodium recipe, and/or rinse it under water to remove excess sodium.

The best cheeses for babies are naturally low in sodium and made with pasteurized whole milk with no additives. Think fresh goat cheese, mascarpone, fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta and Swiss (or Emmental cheese). These cheeses are naturally low in sodium and do not require much modification to be appropriate for babies.

Adie, 12 months, eats cottage cheese and toast.
Cooper, 14 months, eats cottage cheese.
Leila, 16 months, eats cottage cheese with a spoon.

Is cottage cheese healthy for babies?

Yes if it is low in sodium. Homemade cottage cheese and “no salt added” store-bought brands of cottage cheese can be healthy additions to your baby’s diet. On the plus side, cottage cheese has plenty of healthy fats and protein, plus some B vitamins, calcium, selenium, and zinc, too.

The downside is that the vast majority of cottage cheese on the market is packed with sodium, with as much as 800 milligrams in one cup—that’s almost four times as much sodium as a medium-sized serving of fries from a fast-food joint.1 Even the brands marked with “low-salt” can have levels of sodium that are on the high side for little ones.

When selecting cheese for your babies, you want to look for options that are:

  • Pasteurized
  • Low in sodium (ideally less than 100mg sodium per serving)
  • Made from whole milk
  • Without added preservatives or sugars

Another important consideration when it comes to all dairy products: the quality of the milk matters. In the United States, cottage cheese is made with cow’s milk. Studies show that 90 percent of American-raised cows live on a diet of commodity feed that contains genetically modified corn, cottonseed, and soy.2 Antibiotics, herbicides, pesticide, and synthetic growth hormones get into the milk, with levels of often exceeding government limits.3 So if dairy is a priority for you in your little one’s diet, this is a good area of food to buy organic if you can.

Is cottage cheese a common choking hazard for babies?

It can be for the youngest babies. The curds in cottage cheese vary in size and can be accidentally swallowed whole. To minimize the risk, flatten large curds gently with the back of a fork before serving.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is cottage cheese a common allergen?

Yes. All dairy products are top food allergens. Research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6 and many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow’s milk as early as their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.4 5

As with all allergens, it is wise to introduce in scant amounts for the first couple of exposures. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you prepare cottage cheese for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Avoid store-bought cottage cheeses due to high sodium levels. Instead, make a batch from scratch (see recipe). Soft cheeses are easy to spread on baby crackers, thin rice cakes, or serve on their own in a bowl to scoop up with little hands!

12 to 24 months old: Serve on its own in a bowl with an age-appropriate spoon. Encourage your baby to self-feed by modeling how to use the spoon and if needed, pre-load your baby’s utensil to help move things along. You can also try serving cottage cheese as a dip alongside your favorite fresh fruit. Toddlers love to dip!

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Cut the salt by rinsing store-bought cottage cheese in a fine-mesh colander with cold water. This step can reduce sodium levels by as much as 80 percent.6

Recipe: Homemade Cottage Cheese

two square bowls filled with homemade cottage cheese, one topped with minced fresh herbs, one dusted with a brown spice

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions

  1. Place the milk in a non-reactive pot, uncovered, on low heat. Place a thermometer in the pot to monitor the temperature. As the milk warms, stir occasionally to prevent scalding. Once the milk has reached 180 degrees, slowly pour in the vinegar, stirring to combine.

  2. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

  3. Drain the mixture in a fine-mesh colander to separate the curds (cottage cheese!) from the whey (the protein-rich liquid used to make other delicious cheeses, like ricotta!)

  4. Rinse in the colander with cold water to remove some of the sour flavor from the vinegar. Set aside, letting the water drain from the cottage cheese.

  5. Place the cottage cheese in a mixing bowl and add the heavy cream to moisten the curds. Stir to combine. Eat immediately or store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Flavor Pairings

Cottage cheese is both creamy and tangy: a flavor combination that pairs well with sweet and tart fruit. Try serving alongside blueberries, citrus, kiwi, raspberries, peaches, pears, or pomegranate to start. For added flavor, mix in minced herbs (basil, chives, and mint are delicious!) or warm spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg.

  1. McDonald’s. Medium World Famous Fries. Retrieved August 4, 2020
  2. Giraldo, P. A., Shinozuka, H., Spangenberg, G. C., Cogan, N., & Smith, K. F. (2019). Safety Assessment of Genetically Modified Feed: Is There Any Difference From Food?. Frontiers in plant science, 10, 1592.
  3. Welsh, J.A., Braun, H., Brown, N., et al. (2019). Production-related contaminants (pesticides, antibiotics and hormones) in organic and conventionally produced milk samples sold in the USA. Public Health Nutrition, 22(16), 2972‐2980. DOI:10.1017/S136898001900106X. Retrieved August 4, 2020
  4. GiKids – Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. (2020, February 26). GiKids. https://gikids.org/digestive-topics/cows-milk-protein-allergy/
  5. Wood, R. A., Sicherer, S. H., Vickery, B. P., Jones, S. M., Liu, A. H., Fleischer, D. M., Henning, A. K., Mayer, L., Burks, A. W., Grishin, A., Stablein, D., & Sampson, H. A. (2013). The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 805-812.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060
  6. Vermeulen, R. T., Sedor, F. A., & Kimm, S. Y. (1983). Effect of water rinsing on sodium content of selected foods. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 82(4), 394–396. Retrieved August 4, 2020