Last update on 2017-07-19 PST - Details
If there's one indulgent cuisine everyone loves, it must be Mexican! With the cheesy goodness and mixture of fresh greens with perfectly-barbecued meat, you'll want to keep going back for more, and with extra cheese!
But did you know that when cooking Mexican dishes, there are specific types of cheeses to create the ideal flavors? Whether you want gooey cheese or one that crumbles when you top it, these Mexican cheeses are what completes any meal! One of these cheeses would be the queso fresco.
But if you're unable to get any of that cheese, what would make a good queso fresco substitute?
It might be difficult knowing what you should use in replacement of this unique Mexican cheese. But not to worry, as I show you good alternatives that will still achieve your desired flavor!
What is Queso Fresco?
Queso fresco is one of the most popular types of cheeses used for Mexican dishes. The name itself translates to "fresh cheese," having the firm texture to use as a topping. It's a white cheese that tastes salty with a slightly tangy flavor you can compare with farmer's cheese.
The cheese is usually made from cow's milk and sold in round shapes, sometimes packaged in tubs. The cheese curds are ground and then hand pressed, which is why it has the crumbly texture.
Like mentioned, you can easily crumble this cheese and use it on dishes such as tamales or enchiladas, even topping it off on soups and salads! Many people also use this as part of a filling for quesadillas, or even as a light snack, mixing it with salsa on a corn tortilla.
But take note that the cheese doesn't melt when heated. It will soften a bit and leave a nice consistency that doesn't make it too gooey and messy to eat, but not too solid and difficult to eat. It doesn't melt quickly because it usually isn't made out of whole milk.
But either way, queso fresco is a delicious addition to your dishes, and it's also beneficial for your health. It's lower in fat and sodium as compared to other types of cheese, and it's relatively easy to use and crumble.
The Best Queso Fresco Substitute Options
Now that you know what queso fresco is and where to use it, what are good alternatives in case you can't find it in your local markets? If you want the best queso fresco substitute, then check these ingredients out:
Mild Feta Cheese
This is the best alternative you can use for queso fresco because of its texture. It crumbles very easily while having a very creamy and delicious taste. This white cheese also looks similar to queso fresco, which is why it's the first alternative to look out for!
Take note that feta cheese is a bit stronger than queso fresco, so add a slightly smaller amount of feta than what the recipe calls for. Use a mild and creamy feta cheese.
The French or Danish variety is a good choice when crumbling it over your meals. The French variety of feta cheese is less salty with a tangier taste and dry texture, better for crumbling. The Danish type is smoother and creamier, which you can easily slice without it falling apart. Plus, it comes in various flavors for you to add more taste to your dishes!
Make sure to choose WHITE feta cheese with a slightly tangy flavor.
If you're looking for a good queso fresco substitute for salads and soups, then the Ricotta Salata is a dried cheese you can try using. It has a salty taste (depending on how long it been aged), so the older it is, the less salty it can get. The ideal Ricotta Salata cheese to get is when it's about two months old and looking a bit yellow.
The Italian cheese is made out of sheep milk, with the similar firm texture queso fresco has.
Dry-Curd Cottage Cheese
If you can't put in queso fresco because you're lactose intolerant, then the next best alternative would be dry-curd cottage cheese, known as farmer's cheese. Compared to the traditional cottage cheese, there is NO lactose and has a drier consistency almost comparable to queso fresco. Plus, it has a longer shelf life!
Though the taste might be a bit blander than queso fresco, you can add more to compensate and reach the desired flavors for your meal. You can make your cottage cheese or find it in local supermarkets, though it might be difficult to obtain when looking around local supermarkets.
What's a better way to replace queso fresco with another type of Mexican cheese? Queso Blanco is another Mexican white cheese, with not many differences between the queso fresco.
They both have the mild flavors and aren't able to melt. It's firm, crumbly, and ideal for Mexican recipes. The creamy and unpaged cheese is comparable to farmer cheese as well, either made out of cow's milk or a mixture of goat and cow.
It's very popular in the US market, so you can easily find it anywhere. But remember to get the Queso Blanco with a moisture-free and white appearance, smelling fresh with a sweet and slightly sour aroma.
Monterey Jack Cheese
If you want the ideal queso fresco substitute for tacos, fajitas, or burritos, then the Monterey Jack cheese will complement the flavors of the filling! It goes well with Spanish and Mexican dishes with its mild flavors with a semi-firm and creamy texture similar to butter.
You can easily find this in any supermarket, with many varieties to choose from, may it be herby or spicy. But take note, it isn't low in fat!
Tips When Cooking With Queso Fresco or Its Substitutes
When using queso fresco or any of its substitutes, then follow these tips to prepare and store it properly:
- Just like many types of cheeses, you'll need to make sure you store it properly for it to last! While you can age cheese, letting it sit out will alter its taste and texture, and it might not be a good thing. To store cheese properly, keep it in an airtight container and put it in the fridge. Take note that cheese would usually last for two weeks once used or opened.
- Remember to use the right type of queso fresco substitute according to the dishes you'll use. That way, it won't affect the texture. I recommend you to use cheese that crumbles as a topping while using a substitute that quickly melts for quesadillas or fillings.
- Do not add too much of the queso fresco substitute at first, make sure to taste it and continue to add a bit more until you reach the desired taste. This helps prevent overpowering your dish's flavor with cheese. Follow what the recipe asks for before you begin experimenting!
- You can purchase any of these alternatives to queso fresco in local farmer's markets or well-stocked grocery stores. Search for the freshest and quality cheeses for an even better-tasting dish.
If you're planning on making a Mexican dish and want an excellent cheese to crumble on top, then queso fresco is the best choice for that! But since it might be difficult to find in local grocery stores, you can use a queso fresco substitute without worry of changing its taste or texture entirely.
I hope that this article shows you the perfect queso fresco substitute you need for your future dishes. So what are you waiting for? Now that you know what to use as an alternative to this Mexican cheese try it out today!
If you have any questions or would like to share your tips on substituting queso fresco, then comment down below! I would love to hear what you have to think.