Every year, it seems like there's a new "healthier" ice cream trend that manages to go mega-viral the second we cross into ice cream season. There's always "nice cream" — the phrase alone makes me want to gag — made with blended frozen bananas. And recently, the buzzy Ninja Creami appliance has proven itself capable of turning just about any liquid into a frozen dessert. But those who don't equate bananas with ice cream or have a spare $230 to blow on new gadgets appear to have turned to an entirely unexpected ingredient for making homemade ice cream this year: cottage cheese.
Here's the deal: TikTokers have been touting a frozen concoction made with blended cottage cheese and various mix-ins as "high-protein ice cream." Though a few of them will add the base to an ice cream machine, 99% of them just toss the mixture back into the cottage cheese container to freeze — no special equipment required.
After watching nearly a billion videos of folks making this, with small variations here and there, I decided that I couldn't live another day without trying it in my own kitchen. I also reached some conclusions on what made for seemingly-tasty results vs. subpar ones:
• Using fat-free cottage cheese, the variety that most of these TikTokers opted for, is a hard no in my book. These people always ended up plunging their spoon into what looked (and sounded) like a literal ice rink, so I knew I needed to use cottage cheese with the highest fat content possible. That's usually 4% for most brands, but the bigger the number, the better.
• Cottage cheese is salty, which means it needs a decent amount of sugar to counteract its salty bite if you're going to make it into a palatable dessert. And keep in mind: Colder foods actually need more salt, sugar, or flavor in general to taste great when they're frozen, so I knew I'd likely need to use more than the measly splash of maple syrup that these TikTokers were adding.
• While I do think putting the base into an ice cream machine to churn it would technically be cheating, I knew it would still be important to give the whole mixture a generous stir every hour or so as it sat in the freezer. Keeping things moving is the best way to avoid massive ice crystals without any special equipment, and it adds very little extra work to the entire process.
My final consideration: Given the "cheese" of it all, I gravitated toward the cheesecake-inspired recipes over some of the other flavors I was seeing. I landed on raspberry cheesecake as the flavor profile I was going for, and in the end, I actually think it was pretty darn convincing.
With my strategy in place, I ran to the store and picked up the ingredients I'd need to make it.
Here's how I put the whole thing together.
STEP #1: I used an immersion blender and a large blender cup to combine all the cottage cheese, half the raspberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract until the mixture had no visible chunks remaining.
Y'all, I cannot stress the "no visible chunks" thing more. You might be blending this mixture for up to two minutes before it's 100% smooth, and if it takes you that long, so be it.
I gave it a taste, just to make sure it was sweetened and flavored to my liking, and I'll be the first to admit that I would've eaten the entire thing like that, room temp.
STEP #2: Next, I chopped up the remaining raspberries into teeny, tiny pieces.
Then, to get them a little mushier, I used the side of my knife to mash 'em into a paste-like consistency...with some chunky bits here and there for texture.
STEP #3: I used a mortar and pestle to break the graham crackers into large crumbs.
STEP #4: I layered the ingredients back into the original cottage cheese container. First, I added half the blended cottage cheese mixture and topped it with half the mashed raspberries and graham cracker bits...
...and then I repeated those layers with the remaining ingredients.
STEP #5: Before popping on the lid and tossing it into the freezer, I gave everything a gentle swirl. (You'll want layers and streaks of raspberry and graham crackers throughout, so use a light hand here.)
Finally, I tossed it into the freezer.
STEP #6: Since most TikTokers mentioned it took anywhere from three to four hours for the mixture to reach soft serve consistency, I decided to give it a decent stir every hour, breaking up as many ice crystals as I could each and every time.
My salted raspberry cheesecake ice cream (that's what I'm calling it) reached the consistency of a firmer soft serve in about three and a half hours. Following the wisdom of the TikTokers who came before me, I let it rest on the countertop for about 10 minutes before scooping it — but if you were less diligent about mixing it up as it froze, you might have to wait closer to 20 minutes until it's perfectly scoopable.
I scooped it...
...I took a seat...
...and I absolutely devoured every last bite in about 15 seconds. Sorry! I genuinely loved it.
I'm not all that sure why I loved this as much as I did — after all, it's far from the best bowl of ice cream I've ever had — but I do have a working theory. As someone who loves a) salted desserts, b) cheesecake, and c) frozen yogurt, this recipe low-key feels like it was made in a lab to exist as a hybrid of all of those things. The saltiness brings out the freshness of the raspberries, the graham cracker crumbs beautifully mask any residual icy bits, and the entire thing has a perfect tang that helps to offset some of the sweetness going on. If "balance" were a dessert, this would be it.
As we wrap things up, let me do some light level-setting in an attempt to spare my DMs the outrage messages when this doesn't come out like the most glorious, velvety-smooth pint of ice cream you've ever tasted.
Will it taste like ice cream?
No! It's slightly tangy from the cream cheese, and actually kind of salty, though not in a way that's unpleasant. It legitimately has the flavor of a frozen cheesecake, not traditional ice cream.
Can I leave it in the freezer for longer than three or four hours?
I wouldn't! It'll turn into a solid, frozen mass and be pretty tricky to defrost to an enjoyable texture. You could always try blitzing it up in a food processor for Round Two, but I haven't tried this myself so don't yell at me if it doesn't work.
Why should I make this instead just buying a pint of regular ice cream?
You should probably just buy some regular ice cream at the store if you're already there — odds are it'll be cheaper, anyway. But if you happen to have a container of cottage cheese hanging around your fridge (or if you just really love the stuff), this recipe is very much worth trying out.
If you try this recipe out yourself, shoot me a comment below to let me know what you thought of it. 👇
And a round of congratulations to the cottage cheese lobby for yet another strange-but-delicious use for one of the most polarizing dairy products ever. Every time I think that we, as a society, have exhausted all the ways we could possibly utilize cottage cheese, I end up eating my words. Today was no different!