The name pot cheese likely developed in farmhouse kitchens, where home cooks turned just-collected milk into a simple, fresh cheese in a big pot on the stove. It's basically a variation of cottage cheese, with larger curds and a thicker consistency, and most cheese-eating cultures around the world have their own version, using cow, goat, sheep, or other types of milk. Pot cheese really falls between the wetter cottage cheese and the drier, more crumbly farmer cheese in texture. Pot cheese should be eaten within a few days.
- Milk source: Cow, goat, sheep, or other
- Texture: Soft and loose
- Aged: Fresh and ready for immediate consumption
What Is Pot Cheese?
A fresh cheese similar to cottage cheese but drained of more whey, pot cheese may be sold in stores as dry-curd cottage cheese or "pot-style" cottage cheese. While it's not widely available commercially, it's quite easy to make at home. It likely originated on family farms for personal use as it doesn't last for more than a few days. Since most people no longer live on farms, recipes that once called for pot cheese often specify ricotta instead.
Pot Cheese vs. Cottage Cheese and Ricotta
Pot cheese uses the same production method as cottage cheese and resembles it in flavor, but the curds in pot cheese may be larger, and the texture becomes drier as more whey gets drained away. Producers sometimes add milk or cream to the finished cottage cheese, resulting in a richer texture. Ricotta cheese, on the other hand, is made from the whey, resulting in a much smaller curd and a grainier texture than pot cheese or cottage cheese. Ricotta also tends to taste sweeter; cottage and pot cheese, although still quite mild, do have a slight tang reminiscent of Greek yogurt.
How Pot Cheese Is Made
You can use raw or pasteurized milk to make pot cheese, but avoid ultrapasteurized varieties, which don't form curds well. To make it, you need to bring milk to 86 F on the stove, managing the heat to keep it gently warmed. At this point, you can add a starter culture, followed by rennet to form the curds. Or you can use an old-fashioned recipe that relies on more readily available ingredients such as sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar to acidify the milk and start the formation of curds. In this case, you need to heat the milk to 195 F, or just below boiling, before adding the acidifying ingredient.
Once the curds form, you want to separate them, rinse them, lightly salt them, and pour them into a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain for at least an hour or until they reach a consistency you like.
If a recipe calls for pot cheese, you can use cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, or farmer cheese, but you may need to adjust the amount of liquid to compensate for the varying textures. Cottage cheese tastes the most similar, and you can drain most of the whey to achieve the drier consistency of pot cheese. Farmer cheese starts off drier and firmer than pot cheese, but it shares the same mild flavor. Ricotta tastes sweeter and creamier, but it can make a good stand-in for pot cheese in desserts.
Serve fresh pot cheese as you would cottage cheese for breakfast or a snack with fresh fruit or on top of toast drizzled with honey. You can stuff it into home-style blintzes, use it as the filling for sweet cheese pastries, or blend it into a Passover kugel. It adds creamy texture to casseroles or a reduced-fat lasagna. It can also stand in for ricotta in a cheesecake, get stuffed into pasta, or tossed in a salad. You can season it with fresh herbs and blend it into a dip for raw vegetables, bake it into a quiche, and sprinkle it on an omelet—or make it your secret ingredient to keep cookies and brownies super moist.
Fresh pot cheese should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within four or five days. It does not freeze well.
Pot Cheese Recipes
Use your homemade pot cheese in recipes calling for cottage cheese. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the liquid slightly or add a little cream or fresh whole milk to your pot cheese so it mimics the wetter consistency of cottage cheese.