Fresh Cheese vs. Yogurt

Fresh cheeses and yogurt are two tasty and nutritious dairy products that share some similarities but also have key differences.

Fresh Cheese vs. Yogurt

Let's compare the texture, taste, nutrition, and uses of fresh cheeses and yogurt to help you understand when to choose one over the other.

What is Fresh Cheese?

Fresh cheeses are a category of soft, unripened cheeses that have a high moisture content. Some examples of popular fresh cheeses include cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, feta, quark, fromage blanc, and mascarpone.

Fresh cheeses are made by coagulating milk with enzymes like rennet or an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. The curds are then separated from the whey and lightly salted, but they are not aged or ripened like hard cheeses. As a result, fresh cheeses have a mild, fresh dairy flavor and a soft, moist texture.

Many fresh cheeses are very perishable and need to be consumed within days or weeks of production. They are popular ingredients in many culinary dishes like lasagna, cheesecake, dips, and sandwiches.

What is Yogurt?

Yogurt is a dairy product made by fermenting milk with friendly bacterial cultures like Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. The bacteria turn the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid, which causes the milk to thicken and develop the tangy flavor associated with yogurt.

Yogurt can be made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats or plant-based milks like soy or almond milk. It has a smooth, creamy texture ranging from liquidy to very thick, depending on factors like the straining method used.

Yogurt is prized for its flavor and health benefits. It's rich in nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamins, and probiotics that support digestive and immune health. It's very versatile and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.

Key Takeaway: Fresh cheeses are unripened and high in moisture, with a mild dairy flavor. Yogurt is fermented milk with a tangy taste and smooth texture.

Comparing Texture

One major difference between fresh cheese and yogurt lies in their texture and consistency.

Most fresh cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta have a loose, crumbly texture with visible curds in a milky liquid. Cream cheese and mascarpone are softer and spreadable at room temperature. Mozzarella begins very soft but firms up when heated. Feta is smooth and creamy when fresh but can harden into crumbles as it ages.

Yogurt has an entirely smooth, creamy texture, ranging from liquidy like drinkable kefir to very thick like Greek yogurt. This thicker, smooth consistency comes from the way yogurt is produced. As the milk ferments, the proteins and fats modify to give a rich, velvety texture. Yogurt’s thickness can then be adjusted through processes like straining or blending with milk or cream.

Fresh cheeses are generally loose and crumbly in texture, with curds in whey. Yogurt achieves a smooth, creamy consistency more similar to pudding or custard.

Comparing Taste

Fresh cheeses and yogurt also differ quite a bit when it comes to taste and flavor.

Most fresh cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta and mascarpone have a very mild, fresh dairy flavor. They taste predominantly like the milk they are made from, without much additional flavor. More aged cheeses develop stronger, more complex tastes from aging and curing processes.

Yogurt has a distinctly tangy, tart taste that comes from the lactic acid produced by the yogurt cultures. Even plain unsweetened yogurt without additional flavors will be noticeably sour and tangy on the palate. The degree of tartness can range from mildly sour to very sharp depending on factors like fermentation time.

Fruit or other sweet flavors are often mixed into commercial yogurts to balance out yogurt’s sharp acidity. But even flavored yogurts retain an unmistakable tang that sets them apart from the milder taste of fresh cheeses.

Nutrition Comparison

Fresh cheeses and yogurts can both be nutritious additions to your diet, but they differ in certain nutritional respects:

  • Protein: Fresh cheeses typically contain 6-15g protein per 100g serving. Yogurt ranges from around 3-10g. Greek yogurt is very high in protein at about 10-18g per 100g.
  • Fat & calories: Fresh cheeses tend to be higher in fat and calories compared to yogurt. For example, cream cheese contains about 34g fat and 330 calories per 100g serving. Plain yogurt contains just 3-8g fat and 60-100 calories.
  • Carbs: Yogurt generally has more carbs in the form of naturally occurring milk sugars. Fresh cheeses have little to no carbs.
  • Probiotics: Yogurt contains active cultures like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that benefit digestive health. Fresh cheeses do not, unless probiotic cultures are specifically added during processing.
  • Calcium: Both provide a good amount of calcium, but the actual content varies widely by product.

So while both can fit into a healthy diet, yogurt tends to be lower in fat and higher in probiotics. Fresh cheeses offer more protein-packed options like ricotta or cottage cheese.

Uses in Cooking and Baking

When it comes to cooking and baking, fresh cheeses and yogurt are used in some similar ways, but also have distinct uses based on their different properties.

Fresh cheeses excel in:

  • Dips
  • Fillings e.g. ravioli, manicotti
  • Cheesecakes and desserts
  • Adding richness and protein to dishes

Yogurt shines in:

  • Marinades and dressings
  • Smoothies
  • Parfaits
  • Sauces and dips requiring tangy flavor
  • Adding moisture, leavening, and probiotics to baked goods

In general, fresh cheeses are used more for their mild flavor and high protein and fat content. Yogurt is valued for its tart taste, probiotic content, and hydrating qualities. But there is definitely some overlap in applications.

Let’s compare a few examples head to head:

  • Lasagna filling: Ricotta cheese or yogurt could both work here. Ricotta offers more protein and a silkier texture that holds together better.
  • Tzatziki sauce: Greek yogurt has the right tangy flavor and smoothness. Substituting fresh cheese would make it blander.
  • Cheesecake: Cream cheese provides the rich flavor, smoothness and structure needed. Yogurt would make it sour and loose.
  • Blueberry muffins: Yogurt adds moisture and tang that enhances the blueberry flavor. Fresh cheese may mute the fruitiness.

So consider the specific qualities you want when deciding whether fresh cheese or yogurt is the better choice.

Key Takeaway: Fresh cheeses have a milder, dairy flavor compared to yogurt's tangy tartness. Yogurt tends to be lower in fat and higher in probiotics than fresh cheese.

Storage and Shelf Life

Another important difference is that fresh cheeses and yogurts have quite different storage requirements and shelf lives.

Because fresh cheeses have very high moisture content and near-neutral pH, they are highly prone to spoilage. They need to be stored correctly and consumed within a short window for food safety.

On the other hand, the cultures and acids in yogurt inhibit mold growth. Properly stored yogurt remains fresh and safe to eat for weeks or months beyond the expiry date.

Here is a comparison:

  • Fresh cheeses
    • Require refrigeration at 40°F or below
    • Only last around 7-10 days past the use-by date
    • Can develop mold, sliminess or off-odors when old
  • Yogurt
    • Stays fresh for 1-2 weeks when refrigerated
    • Can be safely consumed for many weeks beyond sell-by or use-by dates
    • Becomes more tart and separates when old but not unsafe to eat

So yogurt has a clear advantage when it comes to prolonging shelf life. The exception is aged yogurts like labneh meant to intensify in flavor.

Proper storage is still important though - letting yogurt sit a room temperature or get contaminated can make it spoil faster.

Health Benefits

Both fresh cheese and yogurt offer important nutrients and can promote health in different ways:

Fresh cheeses provide:

  • High-quality protein for muscle tissue
  • Bone-strengthening calcium
  • Phosphorus, B vitamins, zinc

Yogurt offers:

  • Digestive-friendly probiotic cultures
  • Immunostimulating nutrients
  • Bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D
  • Cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid

Additionally, studies link yogurt intake to better weight maintenance, improved metabolic health markers, lower blood pressure and reduced diabetes risk.

So while fresh cheeses mainly support protein and bone health, yogurt provides more widespread benefits - especially for digestion, immunity and chronic disease risk.

Still, both foods can absolutely coexist in a healthy diet. Yogurt makes the better daily snack, but fresh cheese still has its place in moderation.

Making Homemade Fresh Cheese vs Yogurt

If you want to DIY either of these dairy products at home, yogurt is generally faster and easier:

Homemade fresh cheese like mozzarella, ricotta or cottage cheese requires:

  • Raw milk or additive-free pasteurized milk
  • Coagulant like rennet, lemon juice, or vinegar
  • Thermometer for monitoring temperature
  • Time, equipment and some skill for cutting, cooking and draining the curds
  • Must be eaten shortly after preparation

Making yogurt at home involves:

  • Heating milk gently then cooling to 110-115°F
  • Mixing in a yogurt starter culture
  • Incubating at 110°F for 8-12 hours
  • Refrigerating once set to stop fermentation
  • The whole process takes as little as 20 total minutes hands-on work

So homemade yogurt is simpler, requires less equipment and results in a longer-lasting product. But cheese making can be rewarding for the more skillful cook!

Key Takeaway: Fresh cheeses spoil faster than yogurt when stored improperly. However yogurt offers more widespread health benefits, especially for digestion and immunity.


What are some other differences between fresh cheeses and yogurt?

A few other differences include:

  • Fat content - Most fresh cheeses are higher in fat than yogurt.
  • Allergens - Some fresh cheeses made from goat or sheep milk may be tolerated by those with cow milk protein allergy.
  • Price - Ounce for ounce yogurt tends to be more affordable than gourmet fresh cheeses.
  • Ingredient uses - Yogurt works better than fresh cheese for marinating meats or making salad dressings.

Is one better than the other?

It's hard to claim one is better overall since they are quite different products. Yogurt could have an advantage for digestive and general health thanks to its probiotics. But the higher protein content of some fresh cheeses makes them more beneficial for certain diets or athletic needs.

Can fresh cheese be substituted for yogurt or vice versa?

Sometimes yes but with caveats. Using yogurt instead of cream cheese frosting would give it a tangy twist. Subbing ricotta for yogurt in tzatziki dip would make it mild instead of tangy. The differences in moisture, texture and flavor mean substitutions don't always work out.

Can people with lactose intolerance eat either food?

Usually, yes. The cultures used to make both convert most lactose sugars into other compounds. Residual lactose ranges from about 0-3 grams per cup serving for various fresh cheeses and yogurts. Some lactose intolerant folks can tolerate this amount whereas others still need fully lactose-free options.

What kinds of milk can you use to make fresh cheese or yogurt?

Fresh cheese and yogurt can both be made from cow, goat or sheep milk. Yogurt is also commonly made from plant-based milks. Taste, texture and nutrition will vary based on milk type used.


Fresh cheeses and yogurt do share some common dairy roots and nutritious components. But they differ in texture, taste, shelf life, probiotic content and how they are best used in recipes or diets.

In general yogurt has more widespread benefits thanks to its live cultures that boost digestion and immunity. It also has a uniquely tangy flavor important for many savory dishes and dressings.

Fresh cheeses offer indulgent richness perfect for dips, desserts and baking. Comparatively high protein levels also help support a pre or post workout meal. And the simplicity of fresh cheeses can let high quality dairy shine through.

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!