What is quark? All You Need to Know
Meet the dairy product Germans are crazy about
Technically a cottage cheese but closer in taste and texture to yogurt, quark is certainly Germany’s, and perhaps even the world’s, best kept dairy secret. This creamy, spoonable cheese can be eaten plain or in combination with granola, nuts, fruits, roasted vegetables—just about anything your taste buds fancy. It’s packed with protein, calcium, and vitamin A, making it a fantastic alternative to yogurt, but unless you live in Germany or certain parts of northern Europe, you’ve probably never heard it.
Allow us to do you the honor of introducing, and unleashing, quark in the name of dairy lovers everywhere. Spoiler alert: We’ll also tell you how to make it at home!
So, what exactly is quark?
As with yogurt, buttermilk, or cream—when it comes to quark, it all starts with milk. The biggest difference is that during the process, more liquid will be extracted, making quark a thicker dairy product than the others. Pasteurized skim milk is first mixed with lactic acid bacteria and rennet, then warmed until it curdles—when the solid and liquid components separate. After straining, the result will be a creamy, thick, and mildly sour tasting miracle called quark!
Cream can be additionally added depending on the desired fat content level: In Germany, there is the “basic” skimmed quark (called Magerquark) with less than 10% fat by dry mass, but you can also find quark with a higher fat level—between 20 - 40% fat by dry mass—which is slightly sweeter than the skimmed version.
How healthy is quark?
Quark is low in calories and contains lots of healthy proteins and calcium which has been shown to have positive effects on bone strength. This is why athletes like to use quark as a cheap and effective protein source in order to foster healthy muscle growth—there’s even the German saying, "Quark macht stark“ or “Quark makes strong"so yes, there are lots of reasons why Germanslove their quark.
Quark contains an average of 12 grams of protein per 100 gram serving, regardless of the fat content level. The more fat, the more calories—the value differs between 76 kcal per 100 grams of skim quark and 176 kcal per 100 grams for quark with 40% fat by dry mass.
Where to find quark
Quark is still very much unknown to most North Americans—you won’t always be able to find it at your nearest grocery store,but rest assured that it’s definitely out there. While it isn’t widely available, supermarket chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joes will likely carry it. If you can’t find quark in your city, there are also a couple of online sources that will ship it directly to your door.
Since quark contains only small amounts of lactose (between 2 and 4 grams per 100 gram serving), it’s often okay for people who are lactose intolerant. Nevertheless, there also are more and more lactose-free quark options on the market, as well as dairy-free, nut-based alternatives.
Substitutes for quark
If you still can’t find quark near you, there are ways to substitute for it, but it highly depends on the recipe. Since quark tastes similar to yogurt, this would be a substitute that might first come to mind, but yogurt is generally not as thick, so you may need to adjustyour recipe to account for that. However, in generalin doughs or batters you can use yogurt or sour cream instead of quark—adjusting as needed. In dips, switch it out with cream cheese or crème fraîche.
For a truly authentic taste, why not make homemade quark? It’s easier than you think, and we’ll show you exactly how to do it.
How to make homemade quark
With only a little time and patience, you can make your own quark with only two ingredients. For about 1 cup (250 grams) of quark you’ll need:
- 4 ¼ cups (1 l) fresh milk
- ⅓ cup (75 ml) buttermilk
- one bowl with a lid
- one bowl without a lid
- one fine sieve
- two clean kitchen towels or cheesecloths
The process: It only takes a few minutes to prepare, but you should give your quark at least two days for resting, plus two hours in the oven.
1. Add milk and buttermilk to a bowl with a lid, whisk to combine, and cover the bowl. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 48 hours.
2. Place a kitchen towel in your oven and set the covered bowl onto it. Heat your oven to 85-95°F (30-35°C) and let the mixture warm for approx. 2 hrs. This is when the liquid will curdle.
3. Place a clean kitchen towel or a cheesecloth over a fine sieve set on top of the second bowl. Pour mixture into the towel or cloth over the sieve and let it drain until all the liquid has dripped off. If needed, wring out the last remaining liquid using your hands.
4. Transfer the quark to a container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Now that you’ve got this wonderful creamy and healthy quark, you might ask yourself: What should I do with it?
Our favorite recipes with quark
Quark is a real all-rounder in the kitchen. You can serve it in savory and sweet dishes alike, combine it with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices of your choice, or add a bit of heft and creaminess to a dish with just a dollop of quark on top. The German dish called „Kartoffeln and Quark“ (potatoes and quark) is probably one of the easiest lunch options, combining boiled potatoes with cool quark that can be topped finely chopped herbs and linseed oil, if desired. It’s nothing fancy, we know but it’s important to enjoy the simple things in life, right?
Instead of preparing a typical yeast dough or batter, try adding some quark. Whether it’s a pizza crust, a hearty quiche, challah, or yeast buns—quark is never a bad idea.
For this onion tart, you don’t need any yeast for the crust—just quark! Simply prepare the dough, add the toppings, and bake the tart right away.
Unlike American cheesecake, the German version uses quark to provide that tender, creamy, and fluffy texture. You could also combine quark with any kind of fruits in a cake, such as this fruity zebra cheesecake with peaches and apricot jam. And if you’re a big fan of strawberries (like me), this chocolate and strawberry cake is a must-try.
One of the greatest things about quark is that you can whip up a delicious and easy dessert in no time. Here’s our refreshing layered quark dessert combined with crunchy cookies and aromatic coffee.
Since waffles can be enjoyed either savory or sweet, quark is just the perfect ingredient to deal with both options! These ham and cheese waffles are a quick low-carb,gluten-free lunch, done in just 10 minutes. The real question is, what’s the reason to not try it?
Last but not least, our fluffy sweet soufflé might not be easy as pie, but it’s a stunning, gluten-free dessert to impress friends and family with. The recipe is still not rocket science, so we’re 100% sure you can make a wonderful soufflé even if you’re not the most advanced pastry cook.
Have you ever tried quark before? If so, what did you think? Tell us in the comments below!
Published on April 18, 2019