Queso Fresco vs Feta: What’s the Difference?
Simply Healthy Family may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
Feta cheese is an ancient cheese from Greece and is renowned for its crumbly texture. Feta is often either loved or hated, but it’s hard to pass up on pizza.
Queso fresco cheese is a Spanish crumbly and creamy cheese that tastes salty as well as sour. It’s well-loved paired with spicy, Mexican foods.
While feta cheese is traditionally made from cooked sheep’s or goat’s milk, queso fresco is usually made from raw cow’s milk or a combination of cow’s and goat’s milk. Both feta and queso fresco are salty in taste, but queso fresco is milder, a little sour, and much softer in texture than feta.
Comparison Chart: Is Queso Fresco the Same as Feta?
While queso fresco may look like feta, it isn’t the same. The nutritional contents reveal several differences.
Queso Fresco Explained
Queso fresco is a Spanish staple cheese made from raw, uncooked, unpasteurized cow’s milk, or a mixture of cow’s and goat’s milk. Queso fresco is somewhat unknown in the United States because the U.S. FDA regulations tightly control unpasteurized milk products like queso fresco.
In the United States, queso fresco is made with cooked and pasteurized milk to prevent potential bacterial contamination like salmonella. The overall manufacturing process is the same as in Spanish countries, but with processed milk instead. Using processed milk to make queso fresco changes the taste somewhat.
What to Serve With Queso Fresco
Queso fresco compliments Mexican foods and is a great spice neutralizer if you can’t stand the heat. A fresh queso fresco’s mild saltiness and sour taste balance well with the fiery bite of Mexican enchiladas and tacos.
The texture of queso fresco is comparable to halloumi cheese – crumbly and doesn’t melt like cheddar cheese. Unlike feta cheese, queso fresco browns to a golden hue, which makes dishes attractive.
Buying Queso Fresco
Retailing at just under $3 per 10 ounces, queso fresco is not an exceptionally expensive cheese – depending on the brand you buy, of course. You can buy queso fresco from a quality deli, a specialty cheese shop, or Walmart. Or, many online stores like Amazon also sell queso fresco as part of their cheese selection.
Serving Queso Fresco
To serve queso fresco, crumble the fresh cheese over your chosen dish. Queso is often crumbled. The best stage in which to use queso fresco sliced in when it has been recently home-made.
Queso fresco adds a gooey factor when baked into bread, stirred into steaming pasta, or sprinkled on pizza while the pizza is baking.
Flavors that pair well with queso fresco include herbs like rosemary, oregano, and chili. Or try combining with dried, diced tomatoes – that one is always a winner. Serve queso fresco with Mexican or Spanish tapas for an authentic flavor explosion.
What’s in Queso Fresco?
Queso fresco is richer in certain nutritional values than feta cheese. It is a denser protein source than feta, registering 18.09 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. Queso fresco also has more calories and fat than feta, but less carbohydrates and sodium. Queso fresco is a great choice for the health-conscious or those on a Banting diet.
A Short History of Queso Fresco
The name queso fresco is a literal translation of “fresh cheese,” which alludes to the method and history of the cheese. Queso fresco originated in the 1800s. Since there was no refrigeration then, and early cheesemakers didn’t know about maturing cheese or adding special preservatives, queso fresco was made then served fresh the same day.
At most, queso fresco was made to keep for one week or so in a cold room.
Making Queso Fresco
You can make your own queso fresco with this traditional recipe:
- ½ gallon whole fresh milk (can be skimmed, but not ultra-pasteurized)
- 5 ounces white vinegar or grain vinegar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt or Himalayan salt
- Line a colander with a cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel. Place the colander over a large bowl
- Heat the milk in a large pot to 170℉. Stir continuously to prevent boiling, and to prevent inconsistent temperature zones that can lead to burning
- Once milk has reached the correct temperature, remove from heat and add both vinegars
- Stir a few times, then leave to sit on the stovetop for 30-40 minutes
- Curds or thicker pieces will start rising to the top. Use a knife to cut these smaller if preferred
- Scoop the curds into the colander with a pasta spoon or a slotted spoon
- Leave curds for half an hour in the colander so excess liquid can drain
- Add salt and stir lightly
- Remove curds from colander and put in cheesecloth, tied into a bundle with a string. Hang the wrapped curds over a bowl for another half an hour to further drain
- After half an hour, remove the curds from the cheesecloth. This is the cheese. Using your hands, gently knead the cheese into a large, flat patty shape. Place in the colander to further drain for 30 minutes
- Wrap the cheese in cling film and refrigerate for an additional 30 minutes or until ready to use
- The cheese will store well for up to one week
Feta cheese is a crumbly white cheese that is a traditional addition to pizzas, pastas, and salads. It is easy to digest since it’s made from either sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep and goat’s milk.
How to Serve Feta Cheese
While you can slice feta cheese with a sharp knife or cheese plane, its natural crumbly texture makes it more suited to the rustic appearance it has when broken.
Cooking feta cheese produces a creamy texture as opposed to the stringiness of other melted cheeses like mozzarella. As a topping on pizza, feta cheese tends to hold a milky, somewhat crumbly consistency.
Feta cheese is a great addition to most meals, and can be served hot or cold. There are many recipes that call for feta cheese, from feta-and-chicken to feta crumbs on a fresh slice of bread. Feta’s mild flavor is an ideal offset to spicy foods such as chili con carne and enchiladas.
The options for serving feta are only limited to your own creativity.
Buying Feta Cheese
Online retailers sell fresh feta cheese at around $10 per 2-pound block. Feta cheese is slightly more expensive than queso fresco. Fresh feta cheese is sold plain, or flavored with an assortment of herbs and spices like fresh oregano, chives, and chili flakes.
What’s in Feta Cheese?
Feta cheese is rich in calcium, and it offers a healthy dose of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Feta is lower in fat than many other cheeses, so is often preferred for fat-restricted diets. Feta has lower protein –14.21 grams – as opposed to queso fresco’s 18.09 grams. Feta cheese also has a lower calorie count compared to queso fresco. A 100-gram serving of feta cheese contains more B vitamins than queso fresco, with vitamin B1 ringing in at 0.154 milligrams for feta cheese, as opposed to 0.042 milligrams in queso fresco.
A Short History of Feta Cheese
Feta or “sliced” cheese was first created by the Greeks in the 17th century. Cyclope Polyfimos, the mythical Greek figure, is said to have been the first to make feta cheese by separating the whey and curds to make this pale, white cheese.
While feta cheese is manufactured globally, the right to use the name “feta” has been limited by the European Trading Commission. Only cheese made in the traditional salt brine way from Grecian sheep’s milk or goat’s milk may be labeled as feta cheese.
Greek feta cheese has a unique, complex flavor and specific fat content that is due to the unique flora found in Grecian grazing pastures.
Making Your Own Feta Cheese
It’s possible to make your own feta cheese at home, though you will need more specialized ingredients than are required to make queso fresco.
- 1 gallon milk (cow’s or goat’s milk, though sheep’s milk is more authentic)
- ½ teaspoon rennet liquid, or ½ rennet tablet (dissolved in 5 tablespoons of cool water)
- 1 tablespoon full-cream plain yogurt
- Place the milk in a stainless steel pot. Warm the milk to 86℉
- Add yogurt and stir thoroughly
- Allow the milk mixture to cool at room temperature for one hour
- Mix the dissolved rennet tablet with the water (or splash the rennet liquid into the milk). Incorporate the rennet using a plunging motion with a spoon or long-bladed knife. Don’t stir
- Cover the mixture with the pot’s lid and allow it to stand overnight to cure
- By the following morning, there should be definite curds floating on top of the whey
- Use a knife to cut the curds into smaller, ½-inch sections. Stir occasionally over the next 30 minutes. The curds will become somewhat smaller
- Line a colander with a section of cheesecloth or a tea towel. Place the colander over a large bowl. Gently pour the curds and whey through the colander
- Let the curds drain for another 30 minutes, then tie the cloth into a drip bag. Allow to drip for at least another four hours
Feta can be eaten fresh, but the best taste is aged or cured feta. Aging feta requires that the feta be placed in brine liquid. Brine liquid will improve that particular, salty feta taste.
For making your own brine liquid, you will need:
- ⅓ cup of sea salt (non-iodized)
- ½ gallon of water (filtered is best)
- Combine the water and salt, stirring thoroughly
- Allow to sit for a few minutes, then add the cubes of feta cheese
- Let the cheese and brine mixture cure in the fridge for about a week before serving
- Feta cheese will keep for several weeks in the fridge when stored in brine water
Choosing Cream of Feta vs Queso Fresco
Choosing between cream of feta and queso fresco is often difficult as both cheeses can be used in the same meals. The mild, salty taste and milky texture of both cheeses will appeal to most cheese lovers. If you find queso fresco too salty or tangy, then feta will be more suitable to your palate.
Feta is a healthier option than other cheeses since it has less protein and fat. Feta also has more vitamins and minerals than queso fresco does.
When making your own cheese, queso fresco is easier to make and requires less specialized ingredients. With only milk, salt, and vinegar, you can make a creamy bowl of cheese in no time at all.
But neither feta nor queso fresco suit everyone’s tastes. You may consider substituting both of these cheeses with halloumi, ricotta, or even tofu. Some substitutes for ricotta can also work well if they are salty enough.
At the end of the day, it depends on your taste preference. For milder, milkier, and slightly tangy options to pair with spicy foods, choose queso fresco. Leave salty feta to salads and satisfying snacks.[eh_optimize_youtube_embed video=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcnXH42y-Us” banner=”https://www.simplyhealthyfamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Screen-Shot-2022-01-24-at-12.09.31-PM.png”]
Wife, Mom of 4 and so much more living in the Sonoran desert. I am passionate about making meals and snacks healthier without sacrificing flavor! I promise you that if you buy healthy foods and make healthy foods, YOUR KIDS WILL EAT HEALTHY FOODS! My motto: Live as naturally as you want to feel.