Is Ricotta Cheese Gluten Free – What is it and Recipes

  • Ricotta is an Italian cheese that is well-known among connoisseurs across the world.
  • Plain ricotta cheese is generally gluten free.
  • But if vinegar is used in its making, a malt variety will lead to gluten content in the cheese.
  • Cheese thickeners and stabilizers with gluten content may also do the same.

Is ricotta cheese gluten free | Health benefits of ricotta cheese |Home made ricotta cheese recipe | How cheese is made | Gluten free ricotta cheese brands | Recipes

Is ricotta cheese gluten free? Like we mentioned many times before, cheese in general is gluten free, however some brands add flavourings or seasoning that may contain gluten so you should be careful.

In this article we will talk about what ricotta cheese is, some popular brands of gluten free ricotta cheese and a few recipes.

Among the cheeses gifted by Italy to the world, ricotta offers a lot of versatility. Crumble it on salad, tuck it in some lasagne, or put it in cheesecake – ricotta will always shine.

You cannot miss the smooth creaminess, thick texture, and light flavor, which can complement different dishes. 

Now, is this super-delicious and versatile cheese for everyone? Can people who are gluten intolerant enjoy the beauty that is ricotta?

Ricotta cheese is made from milk, like most other cheeses. And, this makes it free from gluten, since gluten free cereal is used in making this cheese.

However, you need to remember that vinegar may be used to make ricotta cheese.

Now, the type of vinegar may impact the gluten content of the particular variety of ricotta cheese. If the vinegar used is made with barley, then the cheese will contain gluten.

Besides, stabilizers and thickeners with gluten content may also be present in the cheese. So you have to be careful.

Is Ricotta Cheese Gluten Free – What is Ricotta Cheese

is ricotta cheese gluten free

Ricotta cheese is known for its beautiful balance of sweetness and saltiness. It is popularly used in both savory and sweet dishes across the world.

Interestingly, it is made from whey, which is the liquid left behind after other cheeses are made from milk. You can say that it is a cheese made from the byproduct of cheesemaking!

To turn the whey into ricotta, it is first fermented to make it more acidic. After that, it is then exposed to heat.

The combination of acidity and high temperature helps in denaturing the protein, which eventually leads to the formation of fine curd.

Then, the liquid left in it is strained out using a fine cloth. The curd derived from this process is the ricotta cheese. 

Ricotta cheese prepared like this comes from the milk of animals like goat, cow, sheep, or water buffalo.

There is no gluten content used in the making of ricotta. So, ricotta is a naturally gluten free cheese. However, additional ingredients may change this. 

Look out for vinegar content on the label. This is because vinegar is an acidifier used for making ricotta cheese. In that case, you will also need to find out what kind of vinegar has been used.

If it is malt vinegar made with malted barley grains, then it will add gluten to the cheese. 

In addition, find out if stabilizers and thickeners are used in the cheese to modify its texture. Sometimes, these additives can contain gluten.

And, naturally, they can make the cheese glutinous. Then there’s always the chance of cross-contamination. So, you need to be careful. 

Health benefits of ricotta cheese

If you’re allergic to gluten, you can trust ricotta cheese in general, unless you’ve picked up some exceptional variant of it.

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Besides that, ricotta cheese also has a number of other health benefits. This cheese is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and is a great inclusion in any kind of diet.

In fact, for many people, that’s often the most important reason to have ricotta in the first place. 

One serving of this beautiful cheese can help you reach 51% of your daily calcium goal. Besides, it is rich in riboflavin, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B-12, and vitamin A.

It’s also high on protein. However, unless you’re big on workouts, do remember not to go overboard with it, as it is also quite high in calorie content. 

Related: Is Crisco gluten free | Is Philadelphia cream cheese gluten free

Besides, it can also throw you off your weight-loss journey – unless, of course, you’re on an LCHF diet.

A hundred grams of ricotta contains 174 calories. It has 13 grams of fat, 11 grams of protein, and 3 grams of carbs. Whole milk ricotta’s calorie and fat content can discourage some people from enjoying this Italian beauty. 

But, if you enjoy it responsibly, you will not need to worry about its fattening effects or cardiovascular concerns that might be caused by the high cholesterol content in it.

You can choose fat-free ricotta cheese to reduce this problem. it will also mean reduced sodium

Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Did you know that you can make Ricotta cheese at home? We have for you two simple recipes to make gluten free ricotta cheese at home!  

Traditional Ricotta from Whey

Ingredients:

  1. Whey (fresh): 2 gallons
  2. Milk: 1 gallon
  3. White wine vinegar: Half cup 
  4. Non-iodized salt or cheese salt

Instructions:

  1. Mix the whey and milk together If using both whey and milk in a bowl.
  2. Heat the mixture gently to 195 F. If you use a double boiler, it will prevent the mix from getting scorched. 
  3. Stir the mixture constantly and keep checking the temperature. It’s important to make sure that you don’t boil it. 
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat when you reach the desired temperature. 
  5. Now, add the vinegar. This will make the whey curdle.  
  6. Take a colander and line it with muslin. Place it on a bowl. 
  7. Now, pour the curdled mixture into it. You can also spoon it in. 
  8. Let it sit in the colander for an hour or two. 
  9. Discard the liquid, and transfer the cheese in the colander to a container. 

If you want your ricotta to be really firm, leave it in the colander for around six hours. To enhance its taste, mix salt. You can keep this cheese for up to a week. 

Ricotta Cheese without Whey

Ingredients:

  1. Whole milk: 3 cups
  2. heavy cream: 1 cup 
  3. Kosher salt: ¾ tsp
  4. White wine vinegar: 1½ tsp
  5. Lemon juice: 1½ tbsp 

Instructions:

  1. Take a sieve and line it with two layers of wet cheesecloth. Now set it on a bowl. 
  2. In a heavy pot, put the milk and the cream together, and add salt. 
  3. Stir well and then turn on the heat to medium. 
  4. Once the mixture comes to a full boil, remove the mixture for the heat. 
  5. Now, add the lemon juice and the vinegar. Stir gently. 
  6. Then, let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes.  
  7. Once you notice that the mixture has started curdling, pour it over the cheesecloth in the strainer. 
  8. Allow it to sit in the strainer for 1-2 hours, after which you can squeeze out the liquid and transfer the cheese from the cheesecloth to an airtight container. 
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Remember that the longer you let the acidified mixture sit in the strainer lined with cheesecloth, the firmer and dryer your cheese will be.

If you let it sit for an hour, your ricotta will turn out tender and spread evenly.  If you let it sit longer, you can get firm cheese that can be crumbled into salads. You can store this freshly made ricotta for 4-5 days.

BONUS: Vegan Ricotta Cheese Recipe 

Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean that you have to stay away from all things cheesy. Here’s a recipe for you to whip up some delicious ricotta cheese that’s free from gluten and soy. 

Ingredients:

  1. Cashews: 2 cups
  2. lemon juice: 3 tbsp
  3. Dried oregano: 1 ½ tsp
  4. Sea salt (powdered): 1 ½ tsp
  5. Dried basil: 1 tsp
  6. Garlic powder: ¼ teaspoon 
  7. Black pepper: To taste 
  8. Cashew milk: Half cup 

Instructions:

  1. Soak cashews in cold water. Keep it covered, overnight. Drain the water and rinse the cashews. You can also soak the cashews in water that’s extremely hot, and keep it soaked for two hours. 
  2. Place the soaked and rinsed cashews, along with the other ingredients, except the milk into a food processor. 
  3. Blend them all on a high speed, until you have nothing but small bits. 
  4. Now, start adding the cashew milk slowly and keep blending until it matches the curd-like texture of traditional ricotta cheese. 

You can store this cheese for 5-7 days. 

How Cheese is Made

Cheese, in general, is made from milk. Bacteria are first added to this milk. Different kinds of bacteria are used to make different cheese types.

Good bacteria starts the process of fermenting lactose in the milk. After that, rennet is added to divide the solids in the milk from the liquid. That is how you get the curd and the whey.   

High heat and constant stirring further help with the separation process. The whey needs to be drained off, and the curd is turned into cheese.

Sometimes, colorants, salt, and more are added to the curd, too. However, this whey is not useless.

When it is boiled and acidified, it helps with the coagulation of the albumen in the whey to give you some lovely cheeses. Ricotta is one such cheese. 

Gluten Free Cheeses

As you must have understood by now, most cheeses are gluten free. But be careful about the gluten content of the following cheeses:

  1. Processed cheese 
  2. Cheese with low amounts of salt or fat
  3. Flavored cheese
  4. Plant-based cheese
  5. Cheese with ingredients like wheat starch, modified starch, and malt vinegar

It’s essential to check the list of ingredients of the cheese you’re buying, especially if you’re buying cottage cheese, queso, American cheese, or even ricotta.

You also need to be careful about the manufacturing, processing, and packaging facilities of the cheese to make sure that there is no chance of cross-contamination. Some of the best gluten free substitutes of ricotta are:

  1. Cottage cheese 
  2. Cream cheese
  3. Goat cheese
  4. Feta cheese
  5. Mascarpone cheese
  6. Paneer
  7. Sour cream

Gluten Free Ricotta Cheese Brands

Here’s a list of the most reliable brands that you can turn to for gluten free ricotta cheese:

Lamagna – This brand makes ricotta cheese with whole and skim milk, and uses no added flavoring or texturing agents, stabilizers, or preservatives. It’s a gluten free recipe with only vinegar and salt. 

Breakstone’s – This brand offers complete clarity by mentioning gluten content, if any, on the list of ingredients. In any case, you can trust their ricotta cheese, which is made without glutinous items.

Gluten Free Recipes with Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is a delicious cheese that can be used in various recipes every day. So, here are some gluten free recipes in which ricotta is the hero ingredient.

a) Gluten Free Ricotta Pancakes

Is ricotta cheese gluten free
Illustration only – Actual results may look different

This is a delicious breakfast recipe to kickstart your day on a cheesy note. 

Ingredients:

  • Flour blend (gluten free): Half cup 
  • Baking soda: Half tsp
  • Brown sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Eggs: 6 (medium, separated)
  • Ricotta cheese: 1 ½ cups
  • Orange/lemon: Half
  • Butter

Instructions:

  1. Put the ricotta cheese in a bowl and add salt, baking soda, egg yolks, and orange/lemon zest. 
  2. Using a hand mixer, mix these at slow-medium speed.  
  3. Sift the gluten free flour into this mixture. 
  4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form firm peaks.
  5. Now, fold the beaten egg white gently into the batter. 
  6. Take a non-stick pan and put it on medium heat. 
  7. Add butter to the pan to cover its bottom. 
  8. Put the batter into the pan in small batches to form small circles in the pan. Continue to cook until there are bubbles formed at the edges. Then, flip the pancakes and cook them for another 1-2 minutes. 

Your gluten free ricotta cheese pancakes are ready!

b) Gluten Free Ricotta Gnocchi

Is ricotta gluten free - Gnocchi recipe
Illustration only – results may look different

Making gnocchis doesn’t have to be a nightmare! This simple recipe is easy and healthy. 

Ingredients:

  • Flour blend: 1 ¼ cups 
  • Xanthan gum: Half cup (Don’t use if your flour blend contains it)
  • Kosher salt: Half tsp
  • Parmesan cheese (finely grated): 1 cup
  • Egg: 1
  • Ricotta cheese: 450 g
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dried herbs 

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, place all the ingredients except the olive oil and the dried herbs. 
  2. Pulse to form a mixture. Then, turn it on at high speed to get a smooth, thick batter. 
  3. Sprinkle flour lightly on a flat surface and pour the mixture out of the food processor into it. 
  4. Form a round disk out of the dough and cover it with cling film. Refrigerate it for 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove the plastic off of the chilled dough and place once again on the lightly floured flat surface.  
  6. Cut small chunks off the dough and roll them evenly into 6-inch ropes. Then, cut them into pieces with a half-inch diameter. Collect them on a plate. Sprinkle flour on them to prevent them from sticking to each other. 
  7. Now, roll them with your fingers roughly to get flattened or elongated pieces, without pushing down in them. Continue to sprinkle them with flour. 
  8. Boil water in a deep pan and put the gnocchi in small batches. 
  9. Once they start to float, cook them for another 2 minutes till they are al dente and remove from the heat. 

Your gnocchi is ready. Spoon in some olive oil and sprinkle dried herbs on the top. You can serve it with any sauce of your choice. You can also saute it in olive oil, herbs, garlic, and sun-dried tomato. Pretty, simple, isn’t it?  

Conclusion:

You can say that like most cheeses, ricotta cheese is gluten free, as long as it:

  • isn’t acidified with malt vinegar;
  • doesn’t contain flavoring, coloring, or texturing agents derived from gluten-containing ingredients; and
  • has no possibility of cross-contamination.

You should add ricotta cheese in moderate amounts to your diet to get vitamins and minerals – and an oh-so-delicious, cheesy touch!

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About the Author: Johnny

I am the senior editor and writer of Gluten Free Heroes, before that, I wrote for various well established online magazines about food and health. I love working out, traveling and eating healthy.