If you love Mexican cuisines as I do, you have definitely come across Queso fresco. Queso fresco is a popular Mexican cheese. Usually, Queso Fresco is made from raw cow milk or a combination of goat and cow milk.
In the United States, companies use pasteurized cow milk to make Queso Fresco in line with government recommendations.
Queso Fresco has a distinct flavor that is a great addition to dishes. It has a mild, fresh, milky flavor that everyone loves. It also has a tangy aftertaste. Queso Fresco has a crumbly but firm texture and salty undertones.
Most varieties of Queso Fresco do not even melt when heated. However, some varieties melt the same way that other cheeses do. The kind you pick is really up to you.
As amazing as Queso Fresco is, you may for one reason or another need to substitute it with something else. Luckily, there are several Queso Fresco substitutes that are readily available.
Ricotta, feta cheese, farmer cheese, paneer, pot cheese, tofu, and Monterey Jack are all good substitutes for Queso fresco. Before we discuss these substitutes in detail, let’s educate ourselves a little bit about Queso Fresco.
Mexican cheese is quite versatile. It blends in well with almost every other ingredient. You can use Queso Fresco in salads, soups, and desserts alike.
It is commonly used in Mexican cuisine mostly because of its amazing creamy texture.
If you want to make enchiladas, empanadas, or quesadillas, you should definitely have Queso Fresco as one of your ingredients. They will taste nothing short of amazing.
Queso Fresco works best when used while it is still fresh. When refrigerated. It can stay fresh for up to two weeks. To keep it fresh, all you need to do is wrap it tightly inside a plastic bag and you are good to go.
Why use Queso Fresco? First things first, there is nothing as good as cheese that has a fresh, milky flavor.
As discussed above, the versatility of Queso Fresco also makes it more popular. It complements almost every kind of dish.
If you haven’t tried this Mexican cheese you are missing out. When I discovered Queso Fresco, it became a personal favorite. These days when I make a salad and don’t use Queso Fresco, it just does not feel right.
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Queso Fresco Alternatives
The trick in choosing a good substitute is knowing the flavor that you want your dish to have.
If a recipe calls for Queso Fresco, the end result will most likely have a fresh, milky, and slightly salty flavor with a tangy aftertaste.
Here are some of the best substitutes for Queso Fresco.
Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from goat and cow milk. It is salty and has a crumbly texture similar to that of Queso Fresco. Traditionally, Ricotta is made from leftover mozzarella cheese.
There are several varieties of Ricotta cheese in the market. There is the full-fat variety, the fat-free variety, and the semi-skim variety. If you are skeptical about the calories in the full-fat variety, simply go for the fat-free variety.
Ricotta makes for a great substitute when used in pizzas, lasagna, and cannoli. Substitute Queso Fresco with an equal amount of ricotta.
- Feta cheese
Feta cheese is arguably the best substitute for Queso Fresco. Its origin can be traced back to Greece. Feta is made from sheep’s or goat’s milk and it has a soft crumbly texture similar to that of Queso Fresco.
Feta cheese is creamy and it has a distinct flavor. Just like Queso Fresco, it has a salty and sharp flavor. It is a little bit tangier compared to Queso Fresco.
I suggest that you soak it in water for about two hours before using it. Alternatively, just use mild feta cheese because it is less salty and less tangy.
Feta cheese is a common ingredient in Greek cuisines. The only downside is that it is not readily available. If you are lucky enough to get it, it will most likely be more expensive compared to the other substitutes.
You can use feta cheese as a substitute for Queso Fresco in any recipe that calls for Queso Fresco including salads and soups.
It also works perfectly in sandwiches and grilled foods. Additionally, it is a great addition to spicy Mexican dishes.
- Farmer’s cheese
Farmer’s cheese is another good substitute for Queso Fresco. It is made from goat, cow, or sheep’s milk. Just like Queso Fresco, it has a tangy undertone. It also has a crumbly texture and blends in well with other ingredients.
Farmer’s cheese is a great option for those who are lactose intolerant because it contains no lactose. All the lactose is fermented in the manufacturing process.
Farmer’s cheese is not as salty as Queso Fresco. Therefore, you may have to use more of it in your recipe to get the flavor that you want. I recommend using farmer’s cheese as a substitute in lasagna.
This type of cheese is one of my favorites because it is readily available and it has a very long shelf life. It is also quite affordable.
Paneer is a common ingredient, especially in the United States. It is usually sold fresh and it is unsalted. Usually, it is made from either buffalo milk or cow milk.
Its origin can be traced back to India which explains why it is a common ingredient in Indian and South Asian Cuisine.
Paneer has a mild flavor compared to Queso Fresco, so you can use spices to liven it up. It also has a crumbly texture and a milky flavor similar to Queso Fresco. It is also packed with protein which makes it a great option.
I suggest using paneer as a substitute when making vegetable or meat wraps. You can also use it as a substitute for Mexican dishes.
- Pot cheese
A lot of people mistake pot cheese for cottage cheese because of its many similarities.
Compared to other types of cheese, pot cheese is moister with a softer texture. This is because the curd used to make it is neither drained nor pressed.
Pot cheese has a crumbly texture similar to Queso Fresco. I suggest using pot cheese as a spread because it spreads easily.
Keep in mind that pot cheese has a short shelf life because it is unaged. Pot cheese is also not readily available so you might have a little bit of trouble purchasing it. All in all, it is still a good substitute for Queso Fresco.
Tofu has always been the go-to option for vegans. It is made from the curds of soy milk. Tofu is a popular ingredient in South Asian cuisines. It has a mild flavor and it blends in well with almost anything.
Tofu is readily available. You can find it in any local grocery store near you. It is also quite affordable. Tofu is packed with protein and it is a healthy option compared to the other substitutes.
There are different varieties of tofu in the market. The varieties include soft tofu, firm tofu, and extra-firm tofu. You can choose whichever you want depending on the texture that you want your dish to have.
Substitute tofu with Queso Fresco in equal amounts. Tofu is a versatile ingredient so you can use it in any dish that calls for Queso Fresco.
- Monterey Jack
If you are looking for a semi-soft cheese to use as a substitute for Queso Fresco, Monterey Jack is a great option. Monterey Jack is an American cheese made from skimmed cow milk.
This type of cheese is usually aged and it has a pale yellow color. The flavor of Monterey Jack varies depending on how long it was aged.
The kind that was aged for long normally has a sharp, distinct caramel-like flavor whereas the one aged for a short time has a mild flavor.
You can use either of the two as a substitute depending on the flavor you want your dish to have.
I suggest using Monterey Jack as a substitute for Queso Fresco in Spanish and Mexican cuisines. Tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas always taste amazing when you use Monterey Jack cheese as an ingredient.
Monterey jack is readily available and you can find it in any supermarket near you. Use Monterey Jack in moderation because it is rich in calories.
Queso Fresco is an amazing fresh cheese that is quite versatile so you may not always have it in hand.
The good news is that there are several other types of cheese that you can use as a substitute for Queso Fresco.
Most of these substitutes will give you a flavor similar to that of Queso Fresco. Whether you are making Indian, Mexican, or Spanish cheese, these substitutes will give you the results that you want.
If you decide to use feta cheese as a substitute, always remember to use the mild feta cheese or sock the feta cheese in water for a few hours before using it.
Try using these Queso Fresco substitutes and let me know how your dishes turn out.