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How to Make Cottage Cheese From Sour Milk

Prep Time:

10 Minutes

Cook Time:

30 Minutes





About the Recipe

Making cottage cheese from sour milk is a great way to reduce waste, save money, and get some extra protein in your diet. Are you tired of dumping sour milk down the drain?


  • half gallon sour milk (whole is best) or fresh milk

  • 3 Tbsp vinegar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • a small amount of cream or whole milk (not sour)


My grandma always used sour milk in baked goods for light and fluffy cakes, muffins, and even pancakes. I’ve used sour milk in place of buttermilk or regular milk in recipes, but it’s nice to have another option. When I find marked down milk at the grocery store, I use it for frugal yogurt, cheese, and baking. Sometimes I don’t use it fast enough and I have sour milk for cottage cheese.

Learning to Make Cottage Cheese

I have found several sites online that give instructions for making cottage cheese from sour milk. The only problem is that each site gave different instructions and they didn’t say how sour your milk can be and still be usable for cottage cheese. I’ve found that it can be curdled, but if it smells really horrible… I dump it to be on the safe side.

If you are concerned about using sour milk to make cottage cheese, I understand and you can use this recipe to make cottage cheese from fresh milk instead. Keep in mind that heating the sour milk to 195F and holding it there for 10 minutes should kill harmful bacteria.

Here’s how I make cottage cheese from sour milk…

Old Fashioned Cottage Cheese


  • Pour sour milk into a saucepan.

  • Turn heat on to medium and use a candy thermometer to measure temperature.

  • Heat milk to 195 F.

  • Remove from heat and add vinegar.

  • Stir gently until curds and whey separate.

  • Pour through a colander lined with cheesecloth.

  • Rinse the curds and squeeze the water out through the cheesecloth.

  • Pour curds into a bowl.

Tip: If your milk doesn’t curdle, add more vinegar or lemon juice to increase the acid.

Experimenting: Cottage Cheese Made From Sour Milk

Here are my thoughts on this process:

The instructions that I read said to heat sour milk until curds and whey separated (without vinegar). My pan of sour milk never separated, so I used the vinegar. I think I could reduce the amount of vinegar to 1 tablespoon and it should work just fine. You could try it without the vinegar and see if your sour milk separates on its own.

On the other hand, a number of people have commented that their milk never separated. Ultra-pasteurized milk may not work in this recipe. This product is becoming more prevalent, so just be aware that it may not be the best milk for making cottage cheese.

One of the recipes called for rinsing the curds until all the whey was removed. I did this and then wondered why you would need to rinse the curds? Upon further reflection, it is probably to remove all traces of vinegar. However, in the future, I won’t spend much time rinsing the curds.

This recipe is basically the same as the queso fresco I posted previously. In this case, you crumble the curds up and add the milk or cream to it. I used cream, but in the future, I will switch to milk. The cream was a little too rich for my taste.

Homemade Cottage Cheese is Best!

I liked this cottage cheese much better than the store-bought version. The curds are denser and the flavor had more tang to it. That may have been from using sour milk. I will definitely be making my own cottage cheese from now on instead of buying it. I never have a problem with cottage cheese going bad in our fridge, but this pretty much disappeared pronto!

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