Queso Fresco is a type of cheese that originated from Mexico. This cheese can be made either from raw cow milk or a combination of cow and goat milk. If you're buying in the states, you'll probably be buying the pasteurized version (unless you know where to look!). Queso Fresco's flavor is both distinct and delicious, most commonly being described as fresh, milky, bright, and mild.
Queso Fresco makes a perfect match for many dishes, including enchiladas, salads, and grilled veggies; it’s great for both heavy and light dishes. This cheese is widely-known for its salty and sour taste, and although it is naturally creamy and fresh, it is not overly buttery or rich tasting.
Queso Fresco is firm but crumbly cheese, and classic varieties will not melt upon being heated. However, as the cheese has grown in popularity, many new variants have been created that will give you that perfect melty texture you can get with more common cheeses. It is also staple in Mexican dishes because of its ability to give such dishes a wonderfully creamy texture. These dishes include quesadillas, empanadas, and enchiladas. It is also a great addition for many kinds of desserts, soups, and works especially well for salsas.
For storage, this cheese is usually best consumed while it is still fresh. If you end up with leftovers, you can simply wrap them tightly inside a plastic bag before storing them inside your refrigerator. Queso Fresco usually stays fresh for about 2 weeks of refrigerated storage, so you won't need to rush to finish it all right away.
Mexican cheeses are especially popular because of the distinct flavor it can provide to dishes. The taste of Queso Fresco and other Mexican cheeses can become a little tangy over time, but people love it all the same. Here are just a few reasons why this is our Mexican cheese of choice:
- It is made from cow milk or a combination of cow and goat milk: simple ingredients that go through a simple process. To make Queso Fresco, the milk is first heated and acidified using vinegar, lemon juice, or any other acidifying agents. After the acidification, it is stirred continuously until it is ready to curdle. The curds are drained through a cheesecloth and the whey is separated. Wait for a few hours, and boom. Your delicious homemade Queso Fresco is complete.
- Why does this creamy cheese go so well with so many dishes? Its fresh, milky, and bright characteristic are what gives it its versatile edge. It is also a great complement to both heavy or light dishes, and it doesn’t have an overly buttery taste.
- Mexican cheeses comes in various types. The farmer-style cheese, which is Queso Fresco, is the most common of all five types. The other four are Queso Blanco, Queso Panela, Cotija (also known as Mexican Parmesan), and Queso Oaxaca. These cheeses suit several different purposes. For some, Queso Panela is a great choice for grilling, while others prefer to use Queso Oaxaca for melting. Given that there are so many varieties, it is very easy to find Mexican cheeses for purchase, and it's easy to say why they're loved by so many.
Many people love cheese—some are even “obsessed”—either eating it as it is or adding it to their dishes. To all our fellow cheeseheads out there - if you're looking for something new, you should definitely give Mexican cheese a try. You may just discover a new favorite!
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Queso Fresco Substitutes
Queso Fresco is easy to make at home. But if you're just not feeling up to the task or you can't find it in your local supermarket, not to worry! We've compiled a list of all the best Queso Fresco substitutes to save your dish and make your life a whole lot easier.
Feta cheese is a type of cheese that originated from Greece many centuries ago. It is creamy, rich, and soft in texture, and it is originally made from whole sheep milk. Today, many variations of this cheese are being produced, some made from goat's milk and others a combination of sheep and goat's milk. Feta is also a staple in Greek cuisine, and you'd struggle to find a Greek dish that doesn't incorporate this choice cheese.
Feta cheese is characterized as a soft cheese that is made from about 45 to 60 percent fat whole of goat or sheep’s milk. Some people say that it is better to age feta—but not ripen—for about 4 to 6 weeks, and then cure it in a salty whey and brine. This is because its flavor becomes saltier and sharper over time; they call this "pickled cheese."
As mentioned earlier, Feta cheese is very popular in Greece. Its popularity has reached the point where Greece exports only a tiny amount of Feta cheese it produces. In fact, most imported Feta cheese actually comes from Italy. This is why some countries such as Australia, Denmark, the United States, and Germany started producing their own Feta cheese. Thus, even more Feta variations were born. Nowadays, you can find Feta made from goat's milk, cow’s milk, a combination of both, partially-skimmed milk, or skimmed milk.
Sadly, since there is such a low amount of classic Feta cheese being exported, you might have a very tough time finding the original version of this cheese outside of Greece. If you are going to hunt it down, expect that you'll have to pay top dollar for the privilege (desperate time calls for desperate measure). This is also the reason why some people are settling for a cheaper-but-serviceable Feta cheese imitation.
Ricotta, which also translates to "re-cooked," is a cheese which originated from Italy and was originally produced from the leftover whey from Provolone and Mozzarella cheese, which could be from either a cow, sheep, Italian water buffalo, or goat. Traditional Italian cheese-makers still produce it this way, but with the modern age came many new ingredients and recipes that manufacturers are utilizing today.
Many people love Italian dishes such as lasagna, pizzas, and cannoli, and Ricotta is a staple in dishes such as these. Ricotta also has some great health benefits to keep in mind when adding it to your dish. Let's take a look at some of the best below:
- Ricotta is a great source of carbohydrates and protein which could give you just enough energy for the day. Going for a low-fat or fat-free ricotta will give you even more carbs.
- It is a great source of calcium for your bones. One cup serving of this cheese already gives you the 52 percent of your daily recommended value of Calcium
- It contains fatty acids which can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Ricotta contains Omega-3 fatty acid at around 0.28 grams, and Omega-6 fatty acids at around 0.68 grams.
- One cup of Ricotta provides 12 percent daily value of Vitamin A, 14 percent daily value of Riboflavin, and a 7 percent daily value of Vitamin B12.
- It is rich in minerals. Measuring the amount of mineral that ricotta gives, one cup provides 52 percent daily value of Selenium, 20 percent daily value of Zinc, and 40 percent daily value of Phosphorus.
There are plenty of dishes to choose from when giving Ricotta cheese a go. If you’re concerned with the fat and calorie content, you can simply substitute the full-fat variety for a semi-skim or fat-free alternative. Whatever variety you choose, you'll be glad you gave it a go!
Un-aged, un-salted, and fresh; Paneer is a deliciously pure and simplistic cheese. It is made from either cow or buffalo milk, and it originated from India. For those of you who enjoy Indian cuisine, chances are you're already familiar with it. It is also famous in countries around Southern Asia like Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The taste of this cheese is very subtle and mild, but the flavors and spices from the dish rise to the surface when being used for sauces or curries.
You can fry or pan-fry paneer with the use of oil, marinade it, then grill cubes of it in a skewer. It is also best used as a soft filling for samosa or other wraps, with or without veggies. Just keep in mind that paneer is even better when you liven it up with a touch of spice.
When it comes to health benefits, paneer has a lot to offer. Below are just a few of the many nutritional nuggets paneer has in store.
- Rich in Folate. Folate is classified as a B-complex vitamin that is very important for women who are pregnant in terms of fetal development. Other than that, it is also essential in the production of Red Blood Cells.
- Paneer is a good source of Potassium, which plays a part in the homeostasis of our body. It controls your body fluids, making it balance, to manage the blood pressure of the body for a healthy heart.
- Paneer has a great amount of Calcium, providing 8 percent of the daily value. Having an adequate level of calcium is crucial in making our bones, teeth, heart muscles, and nerves healthy and functioning.
- Paneer is rich in Protein and Magnesium. These nutrients help in keeping the heart healthy, immune system boosted, and blood sugar level normal.
- It helps in aiding digestion. With its Phosphorus content, Paneer improves the digestion and excretion of the body. It also helps in avoiding constipation because it contains magnesium, which has a laxative effect.
Farmer cheese isn't so widely known in the United States, but it has been around for quite some time now, and it can be mostly found in Eastern European cuisine. Fortunately, farmer cheese has made somewhat of a comeback in recent years thanks to manufacturers like Lifeway.
This cheese is easy to slice because of its mild and moist texture. It is also delicious by itself or with a side of sugar or fruit. It is also good as a replacement for your cheese when making cheesecake or lasagna recipes. Farmer cheese can be pretty high in fat, so it's important to keep in mind the following nutrition facts before adding it to your shopping list:
- An ounce serving of Farmer's cheese contains 80 calories. The calorie content of Farmer's cheese also varies depending on the brand.
- Farmer cheese provides 6 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 15 milligrams of cholesterol — all in an ounce serving.
- It is also a good source of Protein; providing approximately 6 grams of Protein per 1-ounce serving.
- If you're looking for carbs you should probably go elsewhere. There is just under one gram of carbohydrates in an ounce serving of Farmer’s cheese.
- It is high in sodium. A 1-ounce serving of this can provide 110 milligrams of Sodium. To reduce sodium intake, purchase a low-sodium cheese. That will help to avoid risks of high blood pressure.
- Zucchini and Farmer’s Cheese Fritters
- Artisan Grilled Cheese with Spec and Arugula
- Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade
- Fried and Stuffed Squash Blossoms
Tofu is great for people who are vegetarian and are looking for an alternative. The other name for tofu is bean curd or soybean curd. It is also a great substitute because it comes with an affordable price, it is easy to find, fit for plenty of dishes, and is a good source protein. It is very popular in the dishes of Southeast Asia.
Tofu's texture ranges from soft to firm to extra firm. It fits well in many dishes, whether they be savory or sweet. It is also great at absorbing flavors, which is why it goes well with so many dishes. It can be bought fresh, dried, or fried. When buying fresh, there are three types; soft or silken tofu, firm tofu, and extra firm tofu. Their differences are mostly dependent on the amount of moisture within the tofu.
Tofu is made from soy milk that is made into solid blocks in a process that is similar to the process of cheese making in China. Ready for some more health benefits? Let's take a look:
- It is rich in nutrients. It is a great source of amino acids, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.
- It reduces the risk of heart disease. Studies show that the intake of legumes causes lower chances of heart disease.
- It contains no cholesterol and sodium.
- Low amount of saturated fat.
- Helps normalize blood sugar levels
Pot Cheese is often mistaken for cottage cheese because of their uncanny resemblance, but Pot cheese is softer and moister compared to other cheeses because the curd that is used to make it isn't pressed or drained. It is slightly crumbly, dry, soft and un-aged in texture. The taste of this cheese is very similar to Ricotta, and it is usually used as a spread.
Since Pot cheese does not have a long shelf life because it is un-aged, Pot cheese comes predominantly from farms and dairies. As a result of this, Pot cheese can be rather hard to come by these days, as there are very few people still living on farms.
Pot Cheese may not be famous anymore, but it still has plenty of health benefits to give!
- Cottage Cheese and flax seed oil help in aiding cancer.
- Cottage Cheese helps in fighting off diabetes.
- It strengthens the bones because it is rich in calcium.
- With the calcium content of cottage cheese, it can aid digestion and treat heartburn.
- Heart Disease Risk Reduction because of Vitamin B12.
- Great source of Protein for the build-up of the body.
- Helps in weight reduction with the help of low-calorie content.
- Improves eye vision with the help of vitamin A and Zinc.
- Beneficial for pregnant women due to protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and phosphorus content.
- It is good for the skin because of vitamin E.
Some of these may be unexpected, especially because many see dairy products as being completely unhealthy, but not Pot cheese! So, if you know of a local farm that stocks it then it might be time to give this healthy little secret a try.
And last but certainly not least, we have Monterey Jack. Monterey Jack originated from America, and it has a very interesting history of how it got its name. It was named after a merciless corrupt landowner named David Jack. Time for a quick backstory!
Dating back to mid-19th Century, David Jack and an attorney named Delos R. Ashley acquired the 30,000 acres of land that was auctioned off by Monterey. After acquiring the land, David Jack pushed for him to maximize profit as much as possible.
He charged overpriced taxes for people who rent and whose properties were foreclosed, and he sometimes posted notices in English to confuse Spanish farm owners. Jack’s land had it all: cattle ranches, vineyards, and 14 working diaries.
Jack said that he owned everything that he made there, even the famous white cheese, Queso Blanco Pais, which was made on his land. It was a very popular cheese that California inherited when they were ruled by the Mexicans and Spaniards. Jack was quickly able to realize the potential marketability of that cheese, so he started selling it throughout Monterey with a label on it reading, "Jack's Cheese." Time goes by, and it became popular and well-known in California. And so, it eventually became known as "Monterey Jack's Cheese." Basically, stealing the credit from the Spanish missionaries who actually invented it first!
Recently, there has been some news that Queso Fresco may actually pose a threat to our health. After a recent outbreak of Listeria Monocytogenes, a gram-positive bacterium, it was found that Mexican cheeses like Queso Fresco were the main source. Make sure to check your cheese's expiriation date before buying and eating to safeguard yourself from any potential health risks.
With that said, our list has come to an end. These substitutes make the perfect replacement for your favorite Mexican cheese when you're out of stock or just don't feel like making it yourself. So, when cheese disaster strikes use this list of Queso Fresco alternatives to ensure you never miss out on your favorite dishes again!