Greek yogurt has long been the reigning king of the healthy living community, but there’s a new health food hero coming for its crown. *Drum roll* Say hello to quark, the protein-packed German soft cheese that’s about to hit the shelves of a health food store near you.
If you’re nodding your head and thinking, You had me at soft cheese, you’re in luck. We went straight to the experts to get the inside scoop on what could become your favorite new superfood. (Finally, one that’s not a vegetable!)
What is quark? (Not the kind NASA studies, at least.)
Quark is a soft, creamy cheese, originally from Germany, and popular in Europe. Keri Gans, a New York-based dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet, tells Well+Good that it’s similar to Icelandic or Greek yogurt, and that it’s usually made with grass-fed whole milk and buttermilk cultures. (Other people say that it’s kind of like a cross between cottage cheese and yogurt.)
Dietitian Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., CDN, author of the Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, says that the quark-making process is similar to other cheeses; the difference is that when you get to the curdling stage of the process, you simply stir to keep the curds soft and creamy—that’s where quark’s trademark smooth texture comes from.
Is quark healthy, though?
Yes! Both Gans and Amidor agree that the cheese is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and probiotics—making it a great alternative to Greek yogurt, skyr, and other yogurt-type foods.
Nutrition-wise, it really holds its own. A half-cup serving of quark has about 11 grams of protein in it, same to what you’d get from an equivalent amount of plain, lowfat Greek yogurt or skyr. It does have a bit less calcium (80 mg per half-cup compared to 127 mg in Greek yogurt). However, quark is typically made with whole milk, so the calories and saturated fat can come in a little on the high side if you’re used to reaching for low-fat or non-fat options. Since nutrition specifics often vary by brand—and serving sizes between brands can vary, too—be sure to check the labels to make sure you’re getting what you want from your quark.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you may also want to give this one a pass. Although a 2016 article from Prevention notes that quark is actually lower in lactose than many other soft cheeses, it can still cause the same unpleasant side effects that other dairy products do. However, if you find that you can tolerate yogurt and hard cheeses well and you want to try quark, just proceed with caution.
I still can’t wrap my head around quark. What does it taste like…and how do you use it?
Unlike Greek yogurt, quark is known for its “non-tart taste,” Gans says. (So if you hate the tangy after-taste of Greek yogurt, this might be the stuff to you.) Amidor adds that it’s “rich-tasting” but simultaneously a little plain. “To me, it tastes a little like ricotta cheese, just a little more yogurt-y,” she says.
The neutral texture and taste makes it a great blank canvas for various toppings…just like yogurt, says Gans. The possibilities are basically endless: You can top it with fruit, put it in a smoothie, spoon a dollop onto your baked potato, throw it in your salad dressings, add it to muffin batter, spread it on toast, or use it in cheesecake.
Not sure where to start? One of Amidor’s favorite ways to use quark is as a base for a parfait. Simply swap out your usual yogurt pick for quark and top with strawberries, bananas, and chopped almonds. Finish with a light drizzle of maple syrup.
Another option: Mix it with blueberries and serve over whole grain waffles or pancakes for a Saturday morning breakfast that feels indulgent while providing a protein boost to keep you full for the day ahead. You can also mix it with a little honey and cinnamon and spread it on toast or over a baked potato for the perfect savory-sweet pre- or post-workout snack.
This sounds great! I’m ready to try it. Where can I find it?
While quark isn’t necessarily a grocery store staple everywhere you go (yet!), a growing number of brands are getting wise to the growing interest in this yogurt-like cheese. The brand Elli is available a few grocery chains across the US. Tnuva quark products are also sold all over the U.S., including at some Costco, Sam’s Club, and Kroger stores. Wunder Creamery even sells a matcha-flavored quark (because honestly, why not).
So the next time you’re feeling bored with your morning yogurt, consider its quark-y dairy cousin instead. (See what I did there?)
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