Have you ever heard of quark?
If you haven’t, you’re not alone! I had no idea what it was until I moved to Germany. During that first year abroad I lived with a three German host families (I was an exchange student). The one thing they all had in common? Little tubs of thick and creamy quark in their refrigerators. From the first bite I was in love. I ate quark every chance I got, whether for breakfast, as a snack or in the form of German cheesecake.
What Exactly is Quark?
For years I mistakenly thought quark was a type of yogurt. After all, in German grocery stores it’s sold right next to the yogurt. You’ll also find quark in both plain and fruity flavors, just like yogurt. Many people eat it for breakfast, as a snack or for dessert.
But quark isn’t yogurt at all! It’s actually a soft, unaged cheese. And it’s quite healthy – a great high-protein alternative to Greek yogurt. One thing I love about quark is that it’s not tangy or sour like yogurt often is.
Quark can be prepared in both sweet and savory ways. When I crave a savory breakfast, I spread plain quark on a slice of hearty whole-grain bread. When I want a sweet breakfast or a quick snack, I top a bowl of plain quark with fresh berries and a touch of honey.
And when I’m looking for a delicious treat, I mix in fresh whipping cream and jam to make a decadent fruit quark dessert (see recipe below). Mmmmmm…no matter how you eat it, quark is delightful.
For years I assumed I could only eat quark when I was in Germany. Nobody in the US had ever heard of it! Then, to my surprise, I found some very small, and very pricey, single-serving cups of quark at Whole Foods. I bought one, but was disappointed with the texture and flavor.
Once again, I was resigned to only enjoying quark while traveling in Europe — until I discovered just how easy it is to make at home. I wish I’d known this sooner! All you need is milk, buttermilk, and 12-36 hours. It’s so simple and so good. Why not give quark a try!
How to Make Quark
- 6 cups milk (1.5 liters)
- 1 1/2 cups cultured buttermilk (350 ml)
- Bring milk to a simmer over low to medium heat. Stir frequently. Once the milk has reached a simmer, take the saucepan off the heat and let the milk cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the buttermilk into the milk. Then pour the mixture into a bowl or a couple jars and cover with a clean tea towel. (I’ve used glass bowls, glass jars, and clean plastic yogurt containers and all worked equally well.) Let stand in a warm place for 12-36 hours.
On a warm day, it usually only takes about 12 hours for my quark to set. Sometimes, though, it takes as long as 36 hours. If your quark has not thickened after 12 or even 24 hours, don’t worry. Just let it sit out longer. I’ve found it helpful to set the quark on a warm stove after I’ve baked something in the oven. That tends to speed things up, especially on cold days.
- Once your quark has set, the next step is to drain off the whey and thicken it up. The easiest way to do this is using a large, thin, clean tea towel and a strainer that can sit upright in the sink.
First, cover the strainer with the tea towel. Then pour the quark into the strainer. The next step is to hang the quark so more whey will drain off. There are two ways you can do this.
The first way is to gather the corners of the towel together and tie the towel to your faucet so the whey will drain into your sink.
Or you can tie the towel to a long spoon (or use a rubber band to secure the towel to the spoon) and then place the spoon on the edges of a tall bowl. Just make sure there’s enough room for the whey to gather in the bottom of the bowl. If you use the spoon and bowl method, you can let the whey drain off while chilling in the fridge.
I let the whey drain off the quark for a couple hours. If your quark ends up thicker than you’d like, just mix a little whey back in. Six cups of milk typically yields 2 cups of quark.
You now have plain quark! As I mentioned, I like to spread plain quark on a slice of hearty bread or eat it out of a bowl topped with fresh berries and a touch of honey. When I want something a little more decadent, I make fruit quark dessert.
All you need to make fruit quark dessert is fresh whipping cream, jam, and quark.
For two portions of fruit quark dessert, whip 1/2 cup plain quark with 1/4 cup whipping cream until thick. For a little extra flavor, add a splash of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of vanilla sugar (link #2). Then mix in 1 tablespoon jam. Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!
When M and I were in Germany we ate quark at the breakfast buffet we enjoyed when we were visiting Mainz. This fresh cheese is really delicious and is way easier to make than I ever realized. If you’ve never made cheese this is a great recipe to start with. Thanks to Cate from International Desserts Blog for contributing this to MarocMama!
Cate is a former expat turned part-time nomad on a quest to find the best desserts and sweet treats around the world. Join her delicious adventure – and pick up helpful travel tips and delicious recipes along the way – at the International Desserts Blog.
Tuesday 14th of April 2020
Could you please comment on exactly which kind of buttermilk you are using in the USA that makes successful quark? I ask this because most cultured buttermilk in the USA is low fat and you don't specify in your recipe which kind you use. Thank you!
Thursday 2nd of February 2023
@Mary M, You can use low fat buttermilk and it doesn't have to have cultures. I just made a different author's Quark recipe using 8 cups of milk( I used whole and 1% milk because I didn't have enough whole milk left over) accidentally brought milk to 83° instead of 86° ( was supposed to be 86° and misread recipe) stirred in the lowfat buttermilk after it came to temp then just left the mixture in the pot with lid half cracked in my oven for 36 hrs, then strained with a 00 fine mesh yogurt strainer I got off Amazon for 24 hrs and it turned out like the texture I usually get from straining greek yogurt to make it thick ( a thick cheese like consistency) and tasted like sour cream.
Thursday 20th of May 2021
True Buttermilk is the stuff leftover after having made butter using heavy cream. that I don't think will work. I make quark using a commercial grade of cultured buttermilk. Buttermilk is low fat. Borden makes it plus the grocery stores usually carry it (around here it's in a green label container - )
I think you need the enzymes in the cultured buttermilk to successfully make Quark. I use it to make German Cheesecakes. those are similar to a ricotta cheesecake. light, kinda fluffy and really good!
The author is right - not one around here Northern Illinois has ever heard of it. but in Wisconsin there are a few cheese shops that do. must be the German Culture.
Thursday 16th of April 2020
Honestly this was a guest post. I haven't made this recipe while in the US. I would say to find the highest fat buttermilk you can in the US and use that.
Monday 2nd of December 2019
We live in Zimbabwe and I've been looking for a quark recipe to use so I can finally make a German Stollen for Christmas. I can't get cultured buttermilk here...so I substituted it with milk kefir 1:1. It's AMAZING! It was so easy to make and took only 8 hours in this heat. Thanks for the recipe!
Wednesday 1st of January 2020
Charlotte I also live in Zimbabwe. Where did you get the milk kefir?
Tuesday 1st of October 2019
I used this recipe 2 days ago and used it to make my Herman Cheese cake. The recipe came out perfectly. I doubled the recipe and used full fat milk and butter milk. Thank you for sharing.
Friday 20th of September 2019
I have asked LIDL and ALDI stores close to me, neither of them has quark. I have lived in Germany many years and used to eat quark for breakfast. Now I will tray your reciepi with thanks.
Saturday 21st of September 2019
I think it can be hit or miss. I just saw it at the Aldi by my mom is the US this summer but have no idea if they carry it regularly. Maybe check back every now and then.
Friday 23rd of August 2019
I'm very happy to have found you. I always thought I could buy quark in the US! What a disappointment! Thanks for the recipe, it is not too difficult! Question: is ricotta cheese the US version of quark? Please advise.
Thursday 20th of May 2021
that's an interesting question. I know that ricotta cheesecake is similar to one made with quark. I do make ricotta and it's made in a similar fashion but requires you to heat your ingredients to a particular temperature and then add either lemon juice or vinegar until it curdles. then drain. there is a gal on FB and youtube who has a wonderful! group. look up Mary's Nest. she has all sorts of recipes for natural foods and homemade stuff. I use her ricotta recipe frequently. I'd rather make it than buy it and it's less $$
Friday 23rd of August 2019
No it's not - BUT I did discover that Aldi's sometimes has quark!