Cottage Cheese vs. Kesong Puti

Cottage cheese and kesong puti (also spelled quesong puti) are two types of fresh, unripened cheeses that have some similarities but also key differences.

Cottage Cheese vs. Kesong Puti

Cottage cheese is a soft, white cheese made from the curds of cow's milk. It has a mild flavor and a curdled texture resembling that of ricotta cheese.

Kesong puti is a traditional Filipino fresh cheese made from carabao (water buffalo) milk. It has a soft, creamy texture and a tangy, mildly salty flavor.

Origins and History

Cottage cheese traces its origins to medieval Europe. When milk started to sour, curds would naturally form which were then drained and consumed fresh. The name comes from it being a simple cheese traditionally made in cottage countrysides rather than commercial creameries.

Kesong puti is native to the Philippines, where water buffaloes (carabaos) have been used as work animals since being introduced by Spanish colonialists in the 16th century. Filipinos learned to make use of the abundant fresh carabao milk for cheeses like kesong puti. Specific variants are associated with the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, and Cebu.

Key Takeaway: Cottage cheese has European origins while kesong puti is a traditionally Filipino fresh cheese dating back to Spanish colonial times.

Milk Source

The type of milk used is a key difference between the two cheeses. Cottage cheese is made from regular cow's milk. Whole milk with higher fat content produces better curd formation and creamier texture. Lower fat milk can still be used but may need more curdling agent.

Kesong puti uses carabao or water buffalo milk. Carabao milk has less cholesterol and higher amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron compared to cow milk. It also yields more curds resulting in greater cheese output. When carabao milk is not available, fresh cow or goat milk may be substituted.

The difference in milk source means the two cheeses will inherently differ in nutrition and flavor profiles. Cow milk cottage cheese will taste lighter while carabao milk kesong puti has a richer, more distinct tangy sweetness.

Curdling Agents

The curdling agents added to the milk to form solid curds differentiate the two cheeses:

  • Cottage cheese uses rennet or food acids like vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk. Rennet comes from the stomach enzymes of calves or other livestock. It produces larger, firmer curds that result in drier cheeses. Acid coagulation makes small, soft curds leading to creamier textures.
  • Kesong puti primarily uses acids to curdle the milk, particularly white cane vinegar (sukang paombong)or calamansi juice. Rennet extracted from carabao stomach lining may also be used but is not as common. The acid agent produces creamy soft curds with a tangy flavor.

So while both cheeses use animal rennet or acid to coagulate the milk, cottage cheese can use either method interchangeably whereas kesong puti mainly uses acid coagulation.


The differing coagulation processes lead to different textures between the two fresh cheeses:

  • Cottage cheese has distinct soft, loose curds in a milky white base. The curd sizes vary depending on whether rennet or acid was used. Rennet curds are typically larger while acid curds are finer. The moisture also ranges from dry and crumbly to creamy.
  • Kesong puti has an evenly smooth, homogeneous texture, similar to soft cream cheese or buffalo mozzarella. This comes from the acid curds breaking down into an amalgamated mass instead of retaining their shape. The texture can range from soft and spreadable to slightly firm.

So cottage cheese is characterized by visible, discrete curds while kesong puti blends the curds into a uniform creamy paste.


Both cheeses are mild in flavor, but some noticeable differences include:

  • Cottage cheese is mildly sweet and milky tasting, with a fresh dairy flavor reminiscent of yogurt or sour cream depending on moisture content. Salt is added to bring out taste but it does not have an inherent saltiness.
  • Kesong puti has a mildly salty, tangy flavor brought by the salt and vinegar curdling agents. There is a subtle sweetness as well that balances out the salt and tartness. The carabao milk also lends a distinct richness.

So cottage cheese highlights the sweetness of the milk while kesong puti enhances the contrasting tangy and salty tasting notes.

Best Uses

The differing textures and flavors lend cottage cheese and kesong puti to different culinary uses:

  • Cottage cheese works well in both sweet and savory dishes. The curds provide texture contrast in dips, salads, lasagnas or breakfast bowls. The mild flavor allows it to be paired with fruits or used in desserts.
  • Kesong puti is best used simply as is or in predominantly savory cooking. Its soft, creamy quality makes an excellent spread on breads. It can be added to seafood stews, tossed into vegetable stir fries, used as a pizza topping, or enjoyed by itself with a sprinkling of sugar.

So cottage cheese's versatility allows both cooking and snacking uses while kesong puti is preferred as a breakfast spread or enhancement to cooked savory dishes.

Key Takeaway: Kesong puti has a more specific use as a soft table cheese compared to the wide adaptability of cottage cheese curds in sweet and savory cooking.

Shelf Life

As fresh cheeses, both cottage cheese and kesong puti have shorter shelf lives than aged hard cheeses:

  • Cottage cheese lasts 1-2 weeks past its sell-by date when properly stored in the refrigerator. The shelf life ranges based on curd size, moisture and salt content. Proper storage is important as the higher moisture allows mold growth.
  • Kesong puti only keeps for about 1 week in the refrigerator. Softer versions may only last several days before expiring. Freezing should also be avoided as ice crystals damage the smooth texture of the cheese.

So of the two fresh cheeses, cottage cheese stays consumable slightly longer than kesong puti. But neither can match the months-long shelf life of aged cheeses.


Both cheeses offer high protein options:

  • Cottage cheese made from cow's milk is an excellent source of protein and calcium. Specific amounts vary based on fat content - low fat has less calories but high fat has more vitamin content. Other nutrients include B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus.
  • Kesong puti from carabao milk has elevated amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron compared to regular dairy cheeses. The nutrition is comparable or superior to that found in goat or cow cheeses. It is also lower in cholesterol than cow dairy.

So those looking for high protein, high calcium vegetarian options would do well with either cottage cheese or kesong puti. Kesong puti offers more micronutrients, especially for those watching cholesterol intake.


What is the difference between cottage cheese and ricotta?

While both are fresh cheeses made from the curds of cow's milk, cottage cheese has visible curds in liquid whey while ricotta has a drier, more homogenous texture from the curds blending together. Ricotta also has a slightly sweet taste compared to cottage cheese's mild milky flavor.

Can you use cottage cheese as a substitute for kesong puti?

Not as an exact substitute. While both are unaged fresh cheeses, cottage cheese uses regular cow's milk while the authentic kesong puti is made from carabao milk. The tastes and textures also differ significantly with cottage cheese having loose curds compared to kesong puti's smooth, creamy consistency.

Is authentic kesong puti available outside the Philippines?

It would be very difficult to find authentic kesong puti made from fresh carabao milk outside of the Philippines or Southeast Asia. Your best bet for achieving its flavor and texture would be to make it at home using the traditional vinegar curdling method on available whole milk.


Cottage cheese and kesong puti represent two kinds of simple fresh cheeses, one Western and one Filipino. Both are made using basic ingredients through an uncomplicated curdling process.

The resulting cheeses differ based on the type of milk used, curdling agent, texture, taste and common applications.

Cottage cheese offers a versatile ingredient for cooking, snacking or even desserts.

Kesong puti brings a uniquely Filipino soft table cheese highlighting the rich carabao milk and contrasting sweet, salty and sour flavors.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!