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Your high school physics class is probably the first and last time you heard the word “quark” — and chances are, they weren’t talking about cheese.
So if you’ve spotted quark in the dairy section of your supermarket, you might be wondering what it is.
Quark cheese is gaining ground on other dairy-based snacks, like yogurt and cottage cheese. (And once you try it, it might even take over your fridge.)
But what exactly is quark cheese — and should you add it to your diet? Here’s what you need to know about this protein-packed up-and-comer.
What Is Quark Cheese?
Quark can be hard to describe. It doesn’t really look like cheese in the traditional sense — it’s not solid like cheddar, not thick and spreadable like cream cheese, and it doesn’t have curds like cottage cheese.
But it’s cheese — just a much creamier variety than most.
“Quark cheese is a cultured dairy product that’s made by curdling milk,” says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, registered dietitian and nutrition manager for Openfit. The curds are then strained, and bacteria is typically added to up the acidity.
The result is a food that is “similar to a cottage cheese curd,” Giancoli says, but has a thick, smooth consistency like yogurt. It’s perfect for snacking, and can even be used as a lower-calorie replacement for ricotta cheese in certain dishes.
Is Quark Cheese Healthy?
Yes — quark cheese can be an “excellent source of protein and [a] good source of calcium depending on the brand,” says Giancoli.
A half cup of quark has only around 100 calories with 13 grams of protein on average. You’ll also get about 100 mg of calcium per serving.
So how does quark cheese stack up to Greek yogurt? Greek yogurt has fewer calories in the same serving, but some brands may have less protein than quark cheese. And while quark cheese doesn’t seem to have the same probiotic benefits as traditional yogurt, it’s still a healthy option for smashing hunger pangs or as an after-dinner dessert.
“Enjoy it as a snack or dessert by adding fresh fruit and a little granola on top,” Giancoli says. One quark cheese brand, Elli, even sells a variety with bits of dark chocolate and granola you can add to it.
Is Quark Better Than Cottage Cheese?
There’s one major nutritional difference between quark cheese and cottage cheese: the sodium content. Quark cheese has about 30 mg of sodium per half-cup serving, while low-fat cottage cheese with 2% milkfat can have 300 mg or more per half-cup serving. (To put it into perspective, the FDA’s recommended daily value for sodium is less than 2,300 mg per day — lower if you have certain health conditions.)
Of course, you still need to read the nutrition label: “Salt can be added to quark, so it depends on which brand you buy,” Giancoli says.
Both types of cheese have health benefits, but quark cheese may be the better choice for you if you’re trying to cut down on the amount of sodium in your diet.
Where to Buy Quark Cheese
Quark isn’t quite as easy to find as yogurt or cottage cheese (yet), but it’s still pretty readily available at Whole Foods, on Amazon, and at a growing number of grocery stores. Here are a few yummy brands to check out.
Elli Quark may be the most mainstream quark brand on the market right now, and their product line includes fun flavors like brownie batter and sea salt caramel. You can find Elli Quark at stores like Target, Wegmans, Giant, and Harris Teeter.
This brand sources milk from grass-fed cows on family owned farms in upstate New York, and the yummy flavors include matcha, coffee, and blueberry. Find Wünder quark at a local supermarket.