What is Quark? Everything you need to know about this healthy dairy ingredient
How much do you know about this healthy dairy-swap?
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Quark has long been used by dieters as an alternative to more fatty creams and yoghurts and a source of healthy protein.
What is Quark and why is it becoming popular? Quark (opens in new tab) has been especially popular with those following the Slimming World plan (opens in new tab), with reports that sales of this creamy product rocketed by 40% in just one year, back in 2014.
Said to have originated as far back as the 14th century in Central Europe, Quark is low in calories and fat, and makes a great healthy baking substitute if you're trying to keep on top of eating a little bit better.
This seemingly magical milk product can be added to all sorts of recipes (opens in new tab) and is said to be good for you too, so we couldn't resist - we just had to find out more about this ingredient that seems to be growing in popularity more and more each day in the UK.
So what is Quark? It's officially a cheese, thanks to its soft dairy nature. It looks a little bit like yogurt and can be swapped into all sorts of recipes to cut back on fat or calories when replacing things like yogurt or cream.
What is Quark made from?
It's made from milk that has been altered by the addition of lactic acid. This 'acidification' as it's known, causes the whey in the milk to split from the curd, and then the solids can be gathered up and turned into Quark.
What does Quark taste like?
Quark is mild and creamy, and is often likened to products like yogurt and cottage cheese. We think it is a little bit like a mix of both. It is mild, and neither sweet nor sour, like cottage cheese, but with the texture of a thick, yogurt. The finished product depends on how well it has been strained, but when pushed through a fine mesh it can be made really smooth and result in a silky finished product.
Is Quark healthy?
Most Quark varieties contain no added salt or sugar (as they're not necessary in the actual forming process), and it's naturally lower in the stuff than most other dairy ingredients, meaning it's considered a healthier alternative to things like cottage cheese or yogurt.
Quark also contains no rennet, which some other cheeses do, which means it's vegetarian too.
Lots of people believe Quark is healthy thanks to its high ratios of protein. This means it is really filling without being as fattening as ingredients like cream. It's also high in calcium to help with keeping bones, hair and teeth healthy; packs a lot of Vitamin A, which can help eyesight; and contains plenty of B vitamins, which support our nervous systems.
How to use Quark
Quark can be used in plenty of sweet and savoury recipes that call for dairy staples like cream cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese. Quark can also be eaten as it comes with things like fruit and granola, for a high-protein low-fat breakfast option, or spread on toast for a creamy topper.
Because Quark is a fresh cheese it has a fairly short shelf life, so you're usually better buying small and often, rather than getting in a bulk load of it.
Quark recipes (opens in new tab) are great in that they encompass both sweet and savoury ideas. Whether you enjoy it by itself, stirred through savoury meals for a creamy addition, or use it to make healthier desserts; the options for using Quark in recipes really are endless.
Quark cheesecakes Quark cheesecakes (opens in new tab) are a long-standing favourite from the Quark-loving-community. Used in the place of cream cheese it gives a similarly creamy flavour with the firm texture you need to be able to cut nice, clean slices. Our favourite is Slimming World's chocolate vanilla cheesecake (opens in new tab). Made with a combination of vanilla yogurt, Quark and Bourbon biscuits it tastes rich and indulgent despite its healthy credentials!
Quark dips If you fancy a cooling dip but don't want to rack up lots of extra calories you can substitute Quark for sour cream. Season it with salt, pepper and a handful of chopped chives for a cooling nacho (opens in new tab)-topper or mix through finely chopped cucumber and mint for a healthy twist on a tzatziki (opens in new tab).
Quark cakes Quark can be used in place of fat in some cake recipes (opens in new tab), helping to hold the ingredients together. The mild flavour lends itself to being the perfect base for other ingredients and its texture gives a light finish to baking (opens in new tab). Use it combined with a little oil in the place of butter.
Quark breads You can make Quark bread (opens in new tab) using just two ingredients – Quark and flour. Mix around 200g of strong bread flour with 250g Quark and knead together until you have a smooth dough. Roll out into discs and grill, bake or fry until golden and crisp. You can season this mixture any way you like or flavour it with herbs, spices or condiments. We love ours as wraps for homemade kebabs (opens in new tab) or to make a per-peri chicken (opens in new tab) sandwiches.
Quark mousses If you think achieving a light-as-air texture from Quark is impossible then think again. This simple dairy product can be whipped up, just like cream, until it becomes a fluffier version of itself. Stir through half the quantity of melted dark chocolate to your whipped Quark and leave to set for an almost fat-free chocolate mousse (opens in new tab) dessert.
Quark curries If you love a korma (opens in new tab) or a butter chicken (opens in new tab) but want to cut down on calories then these could be the Quark recipes for you. Instead of using cream, yogurt or butter, stir through a couple of tablespoons of Quark towards the end of cooking for a creamy and smooth finish.
Quark pastas If there's one thing we miss when we're trying to be good it's rich, indulgent pasta dishes made with plenty of cream or cheese. Substituting Quark for these more commonly used dairy ingredients lowers the fat needed but still gives a really lovely finish. Slimming World's mac 'n' cheese (opens in new tab), for instance, uses Quark for the bulk of its sauce and it tastes fantastic. We also love using it instead of a white sauce in lasagne (opens in new tab), simply season well and spread over pasta sheets, between layers of Bolognese (opens in new tab) sauce, and bake in the oven for a gorgeous rich finish.
Where can I buy Quark?
Quark is now available in all the big supermarkets and online grocery shops. You'll find it with the yogurt or cheese in most cases. For around 500g of Quark we think the prices are fairly similar to yogurt, with the average pot typically costing between £1.50 and £2.00.
Rosie is an experienced food and drinks journalist who has spent over a decade writing about restaurants, cookery, and foodie products. Previously Content Editor at Goodto.com and Digital Food Editor on Woman&Home, Rosie is well used to covering everything from food news through to taste tests. Now, as well as heading up the team at SquareMeal - the UK's leading guide to restaurants and bars - she also runs a wedding floristry business in Scotland called Lavender and Rose.
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