Quark is a soft unripened cow’s milk cheese also known as kvarg, ser bialy, séré, topfen, and twaróg across northern Asia and Europe. Quark is easy to prepare: cultures are added to warmed cow’s milk, and once curds form, they are skimmed and drained. Traditionally, quark is made with unpasteurized skimmed milk and left to rest at room temperature, which lets the air’s naturally-occurring bacteria begin fermentation. In contrast, most modern food processing uses pasteurized milk and citric acid or rennet (an animal enzyme). Processing techniques also create different styles with distinctive textures: quark can be creamy like yogurt, crumbly like cottage cheese, pressed like paneer, or whipped like cream cheese.
Sebastián, 10 months, eats quark with fruit.
Yes, when made from pasteurized milk. Traditional quark cheese is made from raw milk, but pasteurized versions of quark are now widely available. Unpasteurized (raw) milk and the dairy products made from it can harbor pathogenic bacteria and other contaminants that can increase the risk of foodborne illness, which can be severe or even fatal in babies, whose immune systems are still developing.
Nutritionally, quark contains protein, which babies need for cell development; vitamin B12 for nervous system development; and some calcium to build strong bones. It’s also rich in probiotics to help support a healthy gut and digestion. When quark is made from buttermilk, cream, and whole milk, it offers higher levels of certain fats called phospholipids, which are the same types of fats that form the protective layer around cells. Plus, quark has much less sodium than most cheeses, making it an excellent choice for babies starting solids.
When shopping for cheese for babies, look for the following:
Low in sodium (less than 100 milligrams per serving)
Made from whole milk (ideally)
For more information on how much cheese babies can eat and other frequently asked questions, see our cheese page.
No, quark is a spreadable, soft cheese and doesn’t pose a high choking risk. That said, in theory, an individual can choke on any food. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Quark is typically made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies. Keep in mind that dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products. If baby is allergic to dairy, know that it is an allergy that often disappears with time. 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.
Milk is a known cause of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES. FPIES is a delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration. Thankfully, like other forms of milk allergy, FPIES which presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time the child has reached 3-5 years of age.
For those with older children who are lactose intolerant (keep in mind this is uncommon for infants and toddlers), some good news: compared with milk and certain other dairy products, many cheeses may be better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, particularly aged cheeses, which have a very low lactose content. While quark does have a lower lactose content compared to milk, it is higher in lactose than aged cheeses. Note that if your child is lactose-intolerant, it’s important to find calcium-rich foods to consume regularly to ensure a balanced diet and support bone health. Search for naturally low-lactose cheeses and dairy products labeled “lactose-free.”
If you suspect baby may be allergic to milk, consult an allergist before introducing dairy products like cheese. Based on baby’s risk factors and history, your allergist may recommend allergy testing, or may instead advise dairy introduction under medical supervision in the office. If the risk is low, you may be advised to go ahead and introduce dairy in the home setting. As with all common allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
There are lots of easy ways to enjoy quark. Mix it into a smoothie, fold it into eggs, or serve on its own in a bowl with fresh berries. Quark can stand in for yogurt in almost any savory or sweet recipe. Try whipping quark with herbs and seasonings to make a dip for fresh fruits and vegetables—or a spread for bagels, bread, or sandwiches. Because it does not melt, you can crumble it into frittatas, omelets, and kugel or blend it into soups, stews, or sauces for meatballs and pasta. Mix quark into batters for muffins, pancakes, or waffles. It also tastes delicious in mashed vegetables. Try mixing quark into mashed potatoes and mix any leftovers with sauerkraut to make pierogis—the stuffed dumplings popular across Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Spread a thin layer of quark on toast for baby to grab and munch on. You can also add quark to egg strips or frittatas, or stir quark into mashed vegetables for baby. A word of caution: quark tastes delicious in desserts and drizzled with syrups, but try to hold off on foods with added sugar until after the second birthday—and be sure to steer clear of honey to minimize the risk of infant botulism.
As baby’s fine motor control develops, try sticking fruit or vegetables in a bowl of quark for baby to grab and dip. You can also add quark to egg strips or frittatas, or stir it into mashed vegetables or grains for baby.
Anything goes! Continue offering quark on its own, stirred into mashed vegetables, added to sauces and stuffing, or mixed into batters for muffins, pancakes, and quick breads. You can use the cheese as a vehicle to introduce new flavors from herbs and spices. You can also offer quark with a small bowl of seasoning on the side, and invite toddlers to flavor the cheese as they see fit. Toddlers enjoy choice and like to practice their independence, so if they reject seasoning, don’t fret. Simply presenting new flavors builds familiarity and positive associations with food over time.
Mix up your mornings with ideas from our guide, 50 Breakfasts for Babies & Toddlers.
1 cup (240 milliliters)
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (quark). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. Always check the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as quark. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.
Wash, dry, and cut the cucumber into age-appropriate sizes. Set aside.
Place the quark in a mixing bowl. If the quark is very thick, whisk in a splash of milk or water. The consistency should be a little loose and saucy.
Wash and zest the lemon. Stir the zest into the quark. Store the fruit for another use.
Wash and dry 3 or 4 sprigs from each type of herb that you are using, then store the rest for another use. Finely chop the herbs and stir them into the quark. If you are using dried herbs, start with ½ teaspoon (1 gram) of each, then increase the amount to taste.
Whisk the garlic powder into the quark, then let the mixture rest for 10 minutes to let the flavors infuse the cheese. If you are in a rush, it’s okay to serve the dip right away. It will be delicious either way!
Serve the Quark:
Scoop some dip into baby’s bowl and top with some cucumbers. Serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
Serve and let baby self-feed. If baby struggles to pick up the food, swipe a piece of cucumber in the dip and pass it in the air for baby to grab from you. Eat some dip alongside baby to model how it’s done!
To Store: Kräuter Quark (Herb Dip) keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. Cut cucumbers keep in an airtight container filled with water in the refrigerator for 4 days.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
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