Cottage cheese is a versatile and healthy cheese that can be used in many ways. The big question is, can you dehydrate cottage cheese? That’s what I set out to test, and it’s what I’ll share in this article.
I’ll show you step-by-step how to dehydrate cottage cheese, and let you know how long it took to dehydrate it. I’ll then rehydrate the cottage cheese and give you my opinion on how it tastes. And of course, I’ll share photos of the entire process of dehydrating and rehydrating cottage cheese.
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Is it Safe to Dehydrate Cottage Cheese?
Before I get into the how of dehydrating cottage cheese, I want to deal with the elephant in the room, and that is whether or not you can safely dehydrate cottage cheese. Before attempting to do this myself, I did a ton of research on the topic, and I can tell you that opinions are all over this place on this topic!
Some claim you can do it with no problem, and others say that it’s unsafe. I’m not in a position to tell you what to do regarding this. You need to make your own decision. But the fact that I’m writing this article shows that I determined that I feel comfortable dehydrating cottage cheese. After doing your own research, you may come to a different conclusion. You know what they say – your kitchen, your rules!
What Type of Cottage Cheese to Dehydrate
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when it comes to dehydrating cottage cheese is what type of cottage cheese to dehydrate.
The first consideration is small or large curd. If you have the choice, I recommend small curd, simply because the smaller the curd, the easier it will be to dehydrate.
The second consideration is fat content. Typically, cottage cheese is available in 4% fat, 2% fat and 0% fat. Since fat is something that can impact the dehydration process, and even more importantly, the long-term storage success of food, it’s best to go with 0% fat if possible.
Because of that, I chose to dehydrate small curd, 0% fat cottage cheese.
Having said that, you can dehydrate any type of cottage cheese, so if you either have or come across a good deal on large curd 4% fat cottage cheese and want to dehydrate it, be my guest!
Preparing Cottage Cheese for Dehydrating
Technically, you don’t need to do anything to prepare cottage cheese before dehydrating it. You can just open up the carton, and scoop the cottage cheese onto your dehydrator trays.
But since cottage cheese can take a while to dehydrate, I chose to drain off a good amount of the liquid (whey) before dehydrating it.
In my research, I came across a person who used a salad spinner to drain off the whey. I think that is the best option, since it does a good job and only takes a couple of minutes. If you don’t have a salad spinner, you can pick up a salad spinner on Amazon.
In my case, I don’t have a salad spinner, and since I already had cottage cheese on hand that I needed to dehydrate, I decided to use a sieve instead.
I placed the sieve over a large bowl, and dumped in a 24-ounce tub of cottage cheese. I then covered the sieve and bowl with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge.
About every 45 minutes, I stirred the cottage cheese since the liquid on the top of the cottage cheese wasn’t draining through.
I Repeated the Process Two Additional Times
One container was about all the sieve could hold, so I needed to do this three times, one time for each container of cottage cheese.
The first two times, I allowed about 2 1/2 hours for the process. It was then time for bed, so the final time, the cottage cheese had several hours to drain.
Interestingly enough, the cottage cheese that drained overnight wasn’t as well drained as the cottage cheese that I only drained for a couple of hours. I believe the reason for that is that I didn’t stir the cottage cheese that was sitting in the fridge overnight.
The Amount of Whey Removed from the Cottage Cheese
In the images above, you can see how much whey was removed from one tub of cottage cheese after about 2 1/2 hours of straining. Out of the 24 ounces of cottage cheese, just over 4 ounces of whey drained off.
The next morning, after the final straining, I combined all of the cottage cheese into a large Pyrex measuring cup, and weighed it. The weight of the cottage cheese (minus the weight of the measuring cup) from all three containers was 54.76 ounces, a 17.25 ounce reduction from the original weight.
While the cottage cheese was anything but dry, removing about 1/3 of the weight of the cottage in liquid form will no doubt help the cottage cheese to dehydrate faster.
Don’t Throw the Whey Away!
If you’re like me, you shudder at the thought of wasting food. Afterall, whey is good stuff, and you don’t want to waste it, right? The good news is there’s no reason to toss the whey. There are a few different ways to use it.
Here’s what I personally did. I used the whey from the first container of cottage cheese as a dip for chips. It was watery, compared to a typical dip, but still tasted great. You could also use it to dip crackers and vegetables. Just remember, that it’s a bit soupy, so it’s not something you’d put out for a party! You could, however, mix it with sour cream and make a more proper dip out of it.
I used the whey from the two additional containers of cottage cheese in our green smoothies. I make green smoothies for my family for breakfast every morning. The whey made a great milk replacement in the smoothies.
You can also use whey in baking. For instance, instead of using buttermilk in making buttermilk biscuits, use whey in place of the buttermilk.
Dehydrating Cottage Cheese
Now let’s get into the process of dehydrating cottage cheese.
Choosing a Dehydrator
I have two dehydrators, this Cosori (Amazon), and my trusty Nesco (Amazon | Pleasant Hill Grain). I like both dehydrators, but when I’m working with something that’s a bit messy or liquid, I prefer my Nesco. The reason is that it’s simply easier to fill the trays in a stackable dehydrator, than it is to put the soupy stuff on a tray, and then carry the tray over to the dehydrator and sliding it in.
Having said that, any dehydrator you have will work with one caveat. When dehydrating cottage cheese, it’s very important to use a dehydrator with a temperature gauge. If your dehydrator doesn’t have a temperature gauge, and if you don’t have a ton of cash to spare, then I’d definitely go with the Nesco, since it’s about half the price of the Cosori.
Placing the Cottage Cheese on Dehydrator Trays
In spite of straining the cottage cheese, there was definitely still some liquid in the cottage cheese. So, I put a fruit leather tray on the bottom dehydrator tray. Note that this was just to catch any drips. I didn’t actually put any cottage cheese on this bottom tray.
If I hadn’t strained the cottage cheese, I probably would have used fruit leather trays for all of the cottage cheese. But since I did strain a lot of the liquid from the cottage cheese, I didn’t think the fruit leather trays were necessary. Since the fruit leather trays block much of the airflow, I instead, used the mesh tray liners.
I spread out the cottage cheese on the dehydrator trays as evenly and thinly as possible (without pressing down on it). I was surprised to find some large chunks of cottage cheese, even though I started with small curd cottage cheese. My guess is that the straining process may have resulted in the cottage cheese compacting, which resulted in occasional large chunks. I gently broke up large chunks with the spoon I used to put the cottage cheese on the tray.
The Number of Dehydrator Trays Per Pound of Cottage Cheese
It’s important to thinly spread the cottage cheese on the trays. Even if, like me, you strain a lot of the whey off the cottage cheese, it will still likely take quite a while to dehydrate. So, the big question is, how many dehydrator trays do you need per pound of cottage cheese?
The answer to that question is that it will vary dependent on the size of your dehydrator trays. However, as a general rule of thumb, we’ll use what fit on my Nesco dehydrator as an example.
I started with three 24-ounce tubs of cottage cheese, which is equal to 4.5 pounds. I used five dehydrator trays. Again, the number of dehydrator trays you need when dehydrating cottage cheese will vary based on the size of the trays on your dehydrator, but as a general rule of thumb, expect to need one tray per pound of cottage cheese.
Note that if you didn’t strain the cottage cheese ahead of time, you’ll be working with more volume, and may need to use more than one tray per pound of cottage cheese.
Dehydrate at 115 Degrees Fahrenheit
In all the research I did, people dehydrated cottage cheese at temperatures ranging from 115 degrees Fahrenheit to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. I chose to go with 115 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 125 degrees, primarily because the cottage cheese tends to discolor as it dehydrates, especially when using a higher temperature.
Also, since I like to preserve as many nutrients as possible when dehydrating, I chose to dehydrate my cottage cheese at 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rotate the Trays
If you’re using a stackable dehydrator like my Nesco, I highly recommend that you rotate the trays at least a few times. This will help the cottage cheese to dehydrate more evenly, and help to speed up the process.
Cottage Cheese After 3 Hours in the Dehydrator
I decided to check on the cottage cheese after it had been in the dehydrator for three hours. I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere close to being dehydrated, but I wanted to see how it was doing. As you can see in the image above, it was barely starting to dry.
I rotated the trays at this point, putting the bottom tray on the top, and moving the top tray to the bottom. (I rotate the other trays as well, but the top and bottom trays were reversed, with less drastic changes in position in the middle trays.)
If you compare the photos above of the previously top tray (on the left) and the previously bottom tray (on the right), you can see what a difference the tray position makes.
Cottage Cheese After 5 1/2 Hours in the Dehydrator
After five and a half hours in the dehydrator, I again checked on the cottage cheese. it was making progress, but was still very moist. Also, the cheese had turned a slightly yellow color. Based on the research I did, this was completely normal. I once again rotated the trays.
From the images above, you can see that there wasn’t a huge difference in the cottage cheese on the top and bottom dehydrator trays. The reason for this is that rotating the trays helps evening out the dehydrating.
Cottage Cheese After 12 Hours in the Dehydrator
The cottage cheese was completely dehydrated after 12 hours in the dehydrator. No doubt it would have taken longer had I not drained off a good portion of the whey before dehydrating.
I also suspect that the dehydration process would have taken longer had I not rotated the trays. However, it may have gone a bit faster if I put less cottage cheese on each dehydrator tray.
The bottom line in terms of the amount of time that it takes to dehydrate cottage cheese is, “it depends.” It depends on the temperature you use (I used 115 degrees Fahrenheit). It also depends on the type of dehydrator you use, and whether or not you rotate the trays if you use a stackable dehydrator, like my Nesco (Amazon). The amount of humidity in your home, as well as how thick you spread the cottage cheese also impacts the amount of time.
Having said all of that, for planning purposes, 10 – 14 hours is a good ballpark figure when it comes to how long it takes to dehydrate cottage cheese.
Weight After Dehydrating
Remember that I started with 3, 24-ounce tubs of cottage cheese, for a total original weight of 72 ounces, or 4.5 pounds.
After straining off some of the whey, the weight of the cottage cheese was reduced to 54.67 ounces, or 3.42 pounds.
The final weight of the strained, dehydrated cottage cheese was 11.04 ounces, so less than a pound.
As always, dehydrating is a great way to reduce the weight and the amount of space compared to fresh food, so it’s an excellent choice for preppers with limited space.
How to Rehydrate Dehydrated Cottage Cheese
Rehydrating the cottage cheese was the most challenging aspect of this entire process. It wasn’t difficult, but it takes more time to rehydrate than most foods I’ve dehydrated.
To rehydrate the cottage cheese, add about twice as much water as the amount of dehydrated cottage cheese. For instance, if you have 1/2 cup of dehydrated cottage cheese, cover it with about 1 cup of water.
Put a lid on the container (or if you use a bowl or container without a lid, cover with plastic wrap or foil) and place in the refrigerator.
How Long it Takes to Rehydrate Cottage Cheese
When I first rehydrated the cottage cheese, I used room temperature water. When I checked it the next morning, it had rehydrated quite a bit, but wasn’t all the way rehydrated.
I took some additional dehydrated cottage cheese, and covered it with boiling water. After allowing it to sit in the hot water for about 30 minutes, I placed it in the fridge.
The boiling water method definitely helped to speed up the rehydration process, and after a few hours, the rehydrated cottage cheese was comparable to the cottage cheese that had been sitting in the fridge overnight. (Note that regardless of whether you start with room temperature water, or boiling water, be sure to refrigerate the cottage cheese after the first 30 minutes.)
In the image above, you can see what the “fully” rehydrated cottage cheese looks like after about 15 hours in the fridge. I put fully in quotes, because it still had a bit of bite to it, though it was certainly a pleasant texture.
I decided to put it back in the fridge and tested it again the next morning, and it was for the most part, very similar to fresh cottage cheese.
Note that you will likely have some standing water on the rehydrated cottage cheese. Simply drain that off before serving, or using in a recipe.
The rehydrated cottage cheese tastes delicious and would be suitable for using anyway you use fresh cottage cheese.
How to Store Dehydrated Cottage Cheese
Depending on how long you plan to store your dehydrated cottage cheese, you may be able to get away storing it in any container with a lid or perhaps even a Ziploc bag. But I prefer to vacuum seal all of my dehydrated food, especially food such as meat and dairy. You can vacuum seal in mylar bags (Amazon), but I prefer to use mason jars. To vacuum seal in mason jars, you’ll need a vacuum sealer and these attachments, both available on Amazon.
The Final Verdict on Dehydrating Cottage Cheese
I was very pleased with how the dehydrated cottage cheese turned out, and plan to dehydrate more. The only challenge is the amount of time it takes to rehydrate the cottage cheese. Even if you use the boiling water method, it pays to plan ahead when rehydrating cottage cheese.
I have heard of others rehydrating cottage cheese within 15 or 30 minutes using the boiling water technique. It’s possible that they had broken the cottage cheese into smaller bits, or that they have a different idea of what “fully rehydrated” means. From my perspective, it’s best to plan to start the rehydration process at least two hours before using.
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