The Simple Cottage Cheese Hack For Protein-Packed Meatballs

Most meatball recipes call for turkey, chicken, or pork meat, so they're fairly high in protein. For example, a 3.5-ounce serving of turkey meatballs contains around 17 grams of protein. That said, there are a couple of things you can do to take meatballs to the next level. For starters, add cottage cheese to the mix to boost their protein content. This creamy ingredient boasts a whopping 28 grams of protein per cup and can be a good source of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals.

Protein increases satiety, keeps your metabolism up, and preserves muscle mass, according to 2012 evidence published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Your body also needs protein to make blood cells, repair damaged tissues, and fight disease.

This cottage cheese hack can also make a batch of meatballs more appetizing, lending them a creamy texture you wouldn't achieve with meat, eggs, and breadcrumbs alone.

Cottage cheese, the secret ingredient for high-protein meatballs

Cottage cheese is chock-full of casein, a type of protein that's slowly absorbed into the body. It fuels your muscles over several hours and keeps you full longer than other high-protein foods. Casein can also boost metabolism and reduce muscle loss, notes a 2017 review featured in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Additionally, it's rich in calcium and other minerals that promote bone health and may protect against osteoporosis.

As a general rule, use a half-cup of cottage cheese for every pound of meat. (You'll also want to avoid these mistakes you might be making with meatballs, such as overmixing the meat.)

Plus, the cheese will act as a binder and hold the mixture together, which can come in handy when using lean meats. Its mild tanginess will add depth of taste, giving the meatballs a flavor boost.

Vegan alternatives to cottage cheese

If you're vegan, you can use soy, quinoa, tempeh, beans, lentils, or jackfruit as meat substitutes. These plant-based ingredients are rich in protein and can replace pork, chicken, or turkey in some recipes. For example, a cup of cooked lentils has around 18 grams of protein, plus large amounts of potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper, and manganese.

As far as cottage cheese goes, you can substitute it with a mixture of soy or oat yogurt, firm tofu, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. Add a pinch of garlic or onion powder for extra flavor. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and then add the vegan cheese to the meatballs, just as you'd do with regular cheese. 

Alternatively, you can add nutritional yeast, ground flaxseeds, or chia seeds to the meatballs. You can also stir 1-2 scoops of vegan protein powder or a few tablespoons of soy flour into the mixture for a nutritional punch.