The 11 Essential Items to Buy from the Dairy Aisle in 2021

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Credit: Courtesy of Land O' Lakes, inc

If you’re not loyal to one particular brand of sour cream (or cream cheese or cottage cheese … ), we are here to change that. Because there really are differences. Which brands should you be buying on repeat? We’ll tell you.

The Kitchn editors spent months tasting, testing, and debating our favorite finds in the diary aisle in order to round out this section in our 2021 version of Kitchn Essentials. We ended up with a double cream ricotta (!!!), the tangiest sour cream, and the smoothest cream cheese. Ready to take a look?

1 / 11
Best Butter
Land O' Lakes

For an unsalted butter that's ideal for baking, it’s this grocery-store staple for the win. Not only is it Good Butter, but it’s also from a farmer-owned cooperative! Also, did you know that you can store butter in the freezer? Grab an extra box and never run out again when baking inspiration strikes.

2 / 11
Best Spreadable Butter

We can all use an easy-to-spread butter in our lives, and the creamy, delicious pure Irish butter from Kerrygold is where it’s at. Slather some on a hunk of good bread and prepare to feel downright decadent.

3 / 11
Best Sour Cream
Daisy Brand

Had one sour cream, had them all? No way. Daisy brings the best texture and makes for the dreamiest of dips, perfectly tangy cheesecake, and even the best banana bread.

4 / 11
Best Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese deserves more recognition — especially Hood Cottage Cheese. These salty, creamy curds make a wonderful blank canvas for a protein-packed breakfast or filling afternoon snack. Use this cottage cheese like it's yogurt or try one of our go-tos: under some sliced avocado and a soft-boiled egg.

5 / 11
Best Snacking Cheese

Cheese snacks are not just for kids. This grown-up, slow-aged, extra-sharp cheddar is a dream with a beer or a perfect pairing with an apple. And you have to love that this is a family-owned cooperative that cares for their animals, their employees, and their land.

6 / 11
Best Fancy Cheese
Fromager d’Affinois

Fancy cheese is one of the great joys of life. Happily, you don't have to live near a fromagerie to enjoy this ultra-luscious, ooey-gooey French double cream cheese. (We seriously spot it at most mainstream grocery stores!) Let it sit out and soften for a bit before you eat it so that you get the maximum liquid center. And oui! You eat the rind.

7 / 11
Best Shredded Cheese
Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's took their tangy, crumbly cheddar that’s reminiscent of a hard, aged Italian cheese, and put it in shredded form. Why? For quesadillas, mac and cheese, and well, all our cheese-sprinkling needs. Thanks for looking out for us, Trader Joe’s! If you buy just one cheese at TJ's, it should be this one.

8 / 11
Best Ricotta

How do you make ricotta even better? Double the cream, of course! Galbani Double Cream Ricotta went all in on their decadence game with just four perfect ingredients — and a double helping of cream. Sheela Prakash, Senior Contributing Food Editor, goes out of her way to shop at stores where she can find the stuff. If you do too, your lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and ravioli will never be the same. Just don’t forget that ricotta plays oh-so well with desserts, too!

9 / 11
Best Cream Cheese

It's all about the cheese in the creamy, smooth, rich goodness of Tillamook’s Cream Cheese Spread. This farmer-owned cooperative puts love into everything they touch and you can taste it in every tangy bite of this satisfying spread.

10 / 11
Best Plain Yogurt

Sure, there’s a place for flavored yogurts. But for a seriously versatile ingredient, plain yogurt is a must-have. And Stonyfield’s Organic Plain Whole Milk Yogurt is the one you'll find in Executive Food Editor Nina Elder’s fridge. She has it on the daily with Wyman’s frozen blueberries as breakfast, but it’s also a (delicious) workhorse for all types of cooking.

11 / 11
Best Flavored Yogurt

The yogurt aisle has gotten a little crowded lately, yeah? You can try to sort through the offerings, or go straight to the best. We love velvety Noosa and its bright packages and fun flavors. You can't go wrong with any of them, but the Lemon is an editor favorite.