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How to Make a Better High Protein Cottage Cheese Queso

After my recent introduction to the viral TikTok cottage cheese queso, I wanted to make an upgraded version. My take on this high protein queso includes fresh veggies, extra protein, a bit of jack cheese, and a lot more flavor than the original.

dipping a tortilla chip in a bowl of cottage cheese queso

Is cottage cheese the new cauliflower?

If you’re new to the cottage cheese craze, there’s a growing trend of using blended low fat cottage cheese as a high protein cheese sauce. I’ve never been a cottage cheese fan, but I have to admit this application is pretty great.

My first experience with it was in a protein mac and cheese cook off. I liked the sauce so much I ended up using it to make my “ultimate” protein mac and cheese recipe and a spicy jalapeño ranch dip.

How to Make High Protein Queso with Cottage Cheese

The cheese portion of this queso is about as easy as it gets. Add a quart of 2% cottage cheese to a blender with a cup of milk and eight ounces of pepper jack, monterey jack, or colby jack cheese. To avoid incorporating too much air into the sauce, use a low to medium speed for a few minutes to blend the sauce until it’s completely smooth.

That last bit is important. Make sure all the curds from the cottage cheese are blended, because they won’t melt into the sauce. And you want a silky smooth queso, right?

I’ve experimented with adding other ingredients to the cheese sauce like diced green chiles or pickled jalapeño peppers, cheddar powder, and spice blends. If you’re looking for a minimal sauce, without the veggies and beef, these are all great options for making a flavorful queso. But in my version, they got lost in the sauce a bit and didn’t add much.

Cook Method and Additional Ingredients

As for the remaining ingredients in my protein queso, I modeled this recipe after my ultimate smoked queso (not at all Kinda Healthy). In that recipe, cooked hot breakfast sausage, fresh veggies, beer, and a beaucoup of cheese and Velveeta are smoked low and slow for a few hours to make what I think is the best smoked queso out there.

I wanted this version to be a bit more approachable (and Kinda Healthy) so I skipped the smoker and cooked the beef and veggies down in a braising pan with chicken broth and taco seasoning before adding the blended cottage cheese sauce.

Since this recipe makes a huge batch, I mention in the recipe card that you could cook the beef and veggies in a skillet and add everything to a slow cooker to finish the job. That would also be a great option for keeping your protein queso warm for a hootenanny or game day.

And if you do have a smoker, I’m betting this recipe would work perfectly at 250ºF for 2-3 hours stirring every 30-45 minutes.

Optional Pico de Gallo

The recipe also includes an optional pico de gallo that you can easily make while you’re preparing the onion and peppers. Just add a couple of roma tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro to make a perfect salsa fresca for garnishing the finished queso.

What to Serve with Cottage Cheese Queso

Ignore the cucumbers in my photos. Those were for guacamole.

protein queso on a board with sliced cucumber, pork rinds, tortilla chips, and jicama chips

A lower calorie veggie “chip” worth talking about, however, is jicama. This Mexican turnip is the perfect veggie dipping apparatus for something like queso. And the best thing about jicama chips is that there’s no baking or frying required!

Side note: If you’re into lower calorie substitutes like jicama, you’ll want to bookmark my potato substitution guide.

There are plenty of macro friendly chips like lentil chips or baked corn tortilla chip options these days (you can even make your own). But another less talked about “chip” option for something like queso are humble chicharrones or pork rinds. Epic Provisions out of Austin, Texas makes a great baked pork rind in multiple seasonings that I regularly buy from Whole Foods.

Whatever you end up serving your cottage cheese queso with, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the recipe. Let me know about it in the comments or a recipe review. Those are always appreciated!

And if you have any questions about the recipe or ingredients, you can leave those in the comments as well.

dipping a tortilla chip in a bowl of protein queso

High Protein Cottage Cheese Queso

Yield: 12 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

A blended cottage cheese queso with extra lean taco beef, peppers and onions, and a homemade salsa fresca.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 medium White Onion, diced
  • 2 Poblano or Green Bell Peppers, diced
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 handfuls Cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 pound Extra Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 packet Taco Seasoning
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth

For the Cheese Sauce

  • 32 oz Low Fat 2% Cottage Cheese
  • 8 oz Pepper Jack Cheese, grated or chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup Whole Milk*

Instructions

  1. Dice the onion and peppers and place about 1/4 of each in a separate bowl. Add the diced tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, and a pinch of salt to the bowl and place in the refrigerator for garnishing the finished queso.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot, Dutch oven, or braising pan. (You can also cook the veggies and beef in a skillet and transfer everything to a slow cooker.)
  3. Add the remaining onion and peppers along with a pinch of salt to the pot and cook for 6-8 minutes until the veggies being to soften. Add the ground beef and break it apart to fully cook.
  4. To the cooked ground beef and veggies, add the taco seasoning and chicken broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer while preparing the cheese blend.
  5. Add the cottage cheese, pepper jack, and milk to a food processor or blender. Blend on a low to medium speed for 1-2 minutes until completely smooth.
  6. Once most of the liquid has cooked off the beef and veggies, turn the heat to low and add the cheese to the pot with the beef mixture. Stir to evenly incorporate. Gently simmer until the queso is warmed throughout and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes or so.
  7. Garnish with the pico de gallo and serve with your choice of chips or veggies.

Notes

*Using whole milk helps prevent curdling and a broken sauce. If you're using skim milk, be careful not to add the cheese sauce to a very hot pan.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 240Total Fat: 11gCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 24g

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Emily

Wednesday 11th of October 2023

How long does this keep? Making such a huge portion I wondered if if could be frozen.

Mason Woodruff

Thursday 12th of October 2023

I would give it the typical 3-4 days in the refrigerator window for safety. I've not tried freezing it, but I know people freeze similar recipes of mine all the time. I'd just be careful reheating (don't want to expose it to high heat for too long).

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