Quark cheese is a high-protein, low-fat alternative to soft cheese and yogurt that can be used for baking, cooking and blending. Quark, the white cow’s milk cheese, is like smooth cottage cheese, equally reminiscent of yogurt and has a mild, but versatile flavor. If the menu calls for sweet or savory, hot or cold, quark cheese works well in place of almost any dairy.
The Queen of Quark, a German-born author and advocate for quark and healthy eating, even founded World Quark Day in 2019, which is celebrated annually on January 19. On the first celebration of the holiday, she gave away quark recipes and copies of her new book, “The Ultimate Quark Guide and Cookbook.”
Not to be confused with the physics term, quark traces back to the 14th century where it was popular throughout Europe, and still is to this day. It is made by warming sour milk, which allows it to curdle, then it is strained before adding mesophilic culture, which ferments the lactose and increases the acidity. Depending on the variety, quark cheese might have added salt, though it usually doesn’t.
But what exactly is quark? Is it cheese? Yogurt? Is it something better? Well, quark is technically a cheese, but it’s unlike any other thanks to its super-thick consistency, which is a cross between cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. Unlike yogurt, though, quark doesn’t have a tart taste. Instead, it has a mild flavor that can be used as a sweet or savory snack.
Quark cheese is a lactose-free dairy product that is sugar-free, low-carb and high in protein. Not to mention, quark is also high in calcium, Vitamin A and the B Vitamins. And it’s almost always vegetarian, unless rennet (an enzyme from animal stomachs) is added to the mix, though rennet usually isn’t included. However, quark is not vegan since it is obtained from dairy cows.
When quark has a lower fat content, it takes the form of spreadable cheese, which can be used as a cream cheese replacement. But, when it’s made with fatty whole milk, it resembles creamy yogurt, which can be paired with vegetables, granola or just on its own. Quark can also be added to cake for added moisture. In fact, in Germany, cheesecakes are made with quark instead of cream cheese for a milder, more savory dessert.
Aside from baked goods, quark cheese can also be used as a lighter substitute for mayonnaise in coleslaw, or to make a creamy pasta that isn’t overwhelmingly rich. Alternatively, it can be treated like sour cream on a baked potato with fresh herbs. In terms of common uses, quark cheese is multifaceted in the kitchen, but it should be eaten relatively quickly once opened since it has a ten-day shelf life.
While it’s very popular in European countries like Russia, Ukraine and Belarus since it’s regarded as good for infant health, quark cheese is rare in the US. Only a few dairies in Vermont, Illinois and California make quark in the country. One such dairy is Wunder Creamery, which made its debut in the US market in 2018, but quark can be found in some Whole Foods Markets and Safeway locations.