Can You Freeze Cottage Cheese?
Can you freeze cottage cheese? Yes – yes, you can! In this post, we will go over how to freeze/preserve cottage cheese and answer additional questions like should you freeze it and what to do with cottage cheese after it’s been frozen.
Among all the fermented dairy products out there, cottage cheese definitely ranks high on the list of the most popular ones. It’s creamy, smooth, versatile, and pairs beautifully with a good slice of toast. We love it, so much so that we often overbuy containers of cottage cheese, thinking we’re going to use them all. Spoiler alert: we don’t.
No matter how many cottage cheese toasts, dips, lasagnas, or Alfredo pastas we make — when our love for this milky deliciousness takes over, we never seem to get rid of it. The first time this happened, we started searching for a myriad of ways to preserve it for as long as possible, but out of all the ways to do so, one stuck with us… Can you freeze cottage cheese?
Freezing is a great way to preserve almost any food, and we say “almost” because some things can’t even be frozen. Fortunately, cottage cheese can be frozen, but before you do, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. If you want to know which ones, just keep scrolling!
But… Should You Freeze Cottage Cheese?
While you certainly can freeze cottage cheese, should you do it? Well, the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than a plain “no.”
Cottage cheese falls into the category of soft cheeses, as does ricotta cheese — which we will talk about soon in another post — and brie cheese. These cheeses have a high moisture content, which means that freezing them significantly alters their flavor and texture.
Ideally, the best way to store cottage cheese is in the fridge, inside the same container it came in. Some people even recommend storing the container upside down, as this creates a “vacuum effect” that can prevent bacteria growth. But if you have lots of cottage cheese that you don’t plan to eat anytime soon and the only alternative to it going bad is to freeze it, so be it. The temperature drop will not damage the cheese or make it inedible — it will only alter its creaminess and a mild taste.
Potential Issues With Freezing Cottage Cheese
As mentioned above, the main issues with freezing cottage cheese are the change in taste and texture. This is not only true for cottage cheese; in fact, it is also quite common for dairy products to experience those same changes after freezing and thawing.
In the case of cottage cheese, its texture will change from creamy to chunky, and its flavor will become slightly more bitter after freezing. For educational purposes — and for you to decide whether it is worth freezing your cottage cheese or not —, let’s dig deeper into these changes.
Changes in Texture
Like all soft cheeses, the milk fat in cottage cheese will separate from the rest of the cheese during the freezing process, making it watery rather than creamy. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that stirring it will make it creamy again.
You see, milk curds hold liquid within them, and when they freeze, they release that liquid, thus making the cottage cheese even waterier and chunkier. If you stir it to try to even out the texture, the cheese will not return to its natural creamy state, but instead will adopt a ricotta-like texture. In some recipes, that texture doesn’t matter (more on that later), but if you want to have it on a piece of toast, for example, it won’t spread out in the same way as it normally would.
Also, keep in mind that the higher the fat content in the cheese, the better it will freeze. The additional fat in high-fat cottage cheese will help its texture remain somewhat creamy, while low-fat or zero-fat cottage cheese will just dry out in the freezer.
Changes in Flavor
In addition to losing some of its creaminess, frozen cottage cheese will not be as rich in flavor as it was before freezing. It definitely won’t taste yucky after thawing, but it will certainly lose a lot of its tastiness.
The good news is that cottage cheese will retain most of its nutrients after freezing. So if that worries you, no worries — it won’t lose its nutritional value.
P.S: Speaking about nutrients, cottage cheese is packed with antioxidants and essential amino acids. So much so that it is considered one of the healthiest cheeses out there, perfect for a weight loss diet. If you want to know more about its nutritional value, here is a post where we talk more about it and discuss other highly healthy foods!
How to Freeze Cottage Cheese
Learning how to freeze cottage cheese is easy as long as you follow the proper steps — it’s not just throwing it in the freezer and calling it a day.
- The first thing to keep in mind when freezing cottage cheese is that you shouldn’t freeze it if it’s starting to go bad. Make sure it’s fresh, and if it’s not, don’t even bother freezing it.
- After checking that you have fresh cottage cheese, divide it into smaller portions. Freezing it inside the container it comes in is the fastest way to do so, but the downside is that once you thaw it, you will have to use the whole batch as soon as possible. By splitting it into different containers, you can thaw a small portion each time you need it. For this, you can use airtight plastic containers or freezer bags.
- If you are using freezer bags — the best option to avoid freezer burns —, be sure to lay the bag flat and remove all the air from them. This will prevent ice crystals from developing inside the bag.
- This last step is optional, but we suggest that you label each batch with the date you froze them. It will allow you to keep track of how long the cottage cheese has been in the freezer and know when it is time to discard it.
How Long Will Cottage Cheese Last In The Freezer?
For starters, cottage cheese itself does not have a long shelf life. While it can last up to two weeks when unopened, once opened, the expiration clock starts ticking. In about 5 days or so, it will start to go bad.
However, if you freeze it, opened cottage cheese can last 2-3 months in the freezer, and 3-6 months if unopened. While you can keep it in the freezer for quite some time, it’s best to eat it before the 6-month mark. The longer it stays frozen, the more its texture and flavor quality will decrease.
Also, cottage cheese should be used within 3-4 days after thawing, and should never be refrozen. This type of cheese is sensitive and very prone to bacterial growth, so the less you subject it to temperature changes, the better.
How to Thaw and Use Cottage Cheese
Before you grab that frozen cottage cheese and run it under the hottest stream of water ever, hold your horses — it’s best to thaw it slowly.
When it comes to thawing just about anything, there’s nothing better than the good ol’ trick of transferring the container from the freezer to the fridge. Yes, it’s a slow method — you’ll have to do it the night before you plan to use the cheese —, but it’s the safest. In the morning, you’ll have a perfectly thawed cottage cheese ready to use!
You can also give the container a cold or lukewarm water bath if you need to thaw the cheese a bit faster. Just submerge it in a bowl and change the water every 5 minutes, or whenever you feel the water is getting too cold.
One last thing: Like cream cheese, leaving cottage cheese out on the counter overnight at room temperature is an absolute no-no. Bacteria love dairy products, and unrefrigerated cottage cheese is a perfect breeding ground for them. Oh, and of course, exposing it to direct sunlight to thaw is a total crime — don’t do it!
Once you’ve thawed your cottage cheese, you may be wondering, “how do I use it?” Well, you can use it in many ways! Actually, cottage cheese is so versatile that you can even use it frozen in soups, smoothies (yes, smoothies with cottage cheese are a thing), and curries. But once thawed, you can use it to prepare various recipes such as:
- Creamy sauces
- Baked cheesecakes
- Fluffy pancakes (adding cottage cheese to pancakes sounds a little crazy, we know, but they’re delicious)
- Rich casseroles and pastas
Pro-Tip: After thawing, cottage cheese will not fully return to its original texture. However, adding a teaspoon of cornstarch or sour cream and stirring can help thicken it up a bit.
How Can I Tell if Cottage Cheese Has Gone Bad After Freezing?
By now, we know that the answer to the question “can cottage cheese be frozen?” is yes, it can be frozen. But… Is there any way to know if the cheese has gone bad after freezing? Absolutely, starting with the smell.
Frozen or not, cottage cheese should have a mild, almost neutral smell. But if you open the container it’s stored in, and a soured milk-like smell hits you, that’s a clear sign that the cheese is not in its best shape.
A quick taste-test is also a way to spot any negative changes in cottage cheese: Does it taste sour and disgusting? It’s spoiled, period. However, we highly suggest you consider this as your last resort. Tasting spoiled dairy products triggers nausea almost instantly… Been there.
Check the color of your cottage cheese as well. If it has turned from white to a yellowish tinge and it stays like that even after you stir it, it is likely no longer fit for consumption.
If you suspect that your frozen cottage cheese has gone bad, it’s best not to take any chances — toss it in the trash and get a fresh one. Food poisoning is no joke!