Gluten-Free Cottage Cheese

Updated April 2016

cottage cheese with cucumber slices in bowl
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Cottage cheese, in its simplest form, consists of just three ingredients: milk, something to curdle the milk (usually lemon juice or vinegar), and salt (for taste) ... and it's gluten-free, assuming you use a gluten-free vinegar to make it.

But since cottage cheese you buy in the grocery store often contains five or more lines of ingredients — some of which are basically unpronounceable — we need to know which brands are safe for those of us following the gluten-free diet due to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Most of the cottage cheese on the market contains no gluten ingredients (I detail the one exception I've found below, so make sure to avoid that brand). Many do use a starch (one that's not derived from gluten grains) to thicken their products.

But as with most other processed food products, the risk of gluten cross-contamination in manufacturing varies dramatically from brand to brand, and I've included that information for those who are sensitive to lower levels of trace gluten, in addition to information on the use of organic ingredients and bovine growth hormone-free milk.

Which Brands Make Gluten-Free Cottage Cheese?

Here's the list of cottage cheese brands commonly available in the U.S., plus what each manufacturer has to say about their products' gluten-free status:

  • Axelrod Foods. Axelrod makes seven different cottage cheeses including large curd, small curd, whipped, low-fat, non-fat, salt-free and pineapple flavors. All are considered gluten-free to levels of less than 20 parts per million (GF-20 levels), according to a company representative. None of the products are made in a gluten-free facility. The company also makes yogurt and sour cream.
  • Breakstone. This brand makes a wide variety of different types of cottage cheese, including small and large curd plain, fruit-topped cottage cheese, single-serve packs and yogurt-like cartons with live active cultures. Breakstone is an arm of Kraft Foods Inc., a company that discloses all gluten-containing ingredients on its labels but does not guarantee the gluten-free status of foods not actually labeled gluten-free. It's possible that cottage cheese products from Breakstone could be subject to gluten cross-contamination since Kraft does not disclose potential cross-contamination risks on its labels.
  • Cabot Creamery. Cabot offers regular and non-fat cottage cheese in several different sizes. Everything Cabot makes — with the exception of its spreadable cheddar cheeses and cheese that's repackaged at local stores — is considered gluten-free to GF-20 levels (less than 20ppm). The products are produced in a gluten-free facility.
  • Crowley Foods. Crowley makes six different types of cottage cheese, including a no-salt version and a pineapple cottage cheese. All contain modified corn starch. Crowley shares the same parent company as Axelrod — dairy company H.P. Hood — and like Axelrod cottage cheese, all Crowley cottage cheese is considered gluten-free to less than 20 ppm (GF-20).
  • Daisy Brand. Cottage cheese from Daisy contains just three ingredients: cultured skim milk, cream, and salt. Low-fat cottage cheese includes those three ingredients plus vitamin A palmitate. According to the company's Frequently Asked Questions page, all Daisy Brand products are considered gluten-free to 20ppm, or GF-20 levels. The company makes only sour cream and cottage cheese and operates a gluten-free facility. It also uses milk free of artificial growth hormones and doesn't use starch in its products.
  • Darigold. Darigold makes four different types of cottage cheese, including full-fat, low-fat, fat-free and pineapple-flavored versions. All are labeled gluten-free (to 20ppm, or GF-20, levels), and the company does not make any gluten-containing products. Darigold also uses milk free of artificial growth hormones.
  • Horizon Organic. This all-organic company is the top U.S. producer of organic milk and also makes two different types of organic cottage cheese: regular and low-fat. According to Horizon Organic's Frequently Asked Questions page, "we make every effort to ensure that Horizon organic products are free of wheat, wheat gluten, rye, oats, barley, and malt. While it is virtually impossible to be certain that each carton is 100% free of all gluten, Horizon organic products are suitable for most people with wheat and gluten allergies. People with severe allergies should consult a doctor before introducing a new food." Both types of cottage cheese include carrageenan (read more on that controversial ingredient in Is Carrageenan Gluten-Free?).
  • Organic Valley. This is the one brand of cottage cheese I found that's most definitely not considered gluten-free. Organic Valley uses a barley enzyme as part of the fermentation process in its two cottage cheese products. In theory, the enzyme is consumed as part of the production process and doesn't appear in the final product, but Organic Valley — wisely, in my opinion — does not test for trace gluten and does not want to label the product gluten-free. Many of us react to products that use barley-based enzymes as part of the manufacturing process, even if traces of barley are not supposed to pass into the final product (see Is Rice Dream Gluten-Free? for more information on that).


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