If you’ve ever eaten at a mexican restaurant or made a Mexican dish besides tacos or burritos at home, you’ve probably actually had queso fresco. You also don’t likely know you’ve had it because it’s thought of as a topping.
You may know that “Queso” is cheese in Spanish, and queso fresco literally means “Fresh cheese” in Spanish, and is amongst a few varieties of cheese traditionally served with Mexican and Spanish food.
So what does queso fresco taste like? Queso fresco, in most cases, tastes like cheese with a slightly salty and tangy flavoring. The flavoring comes from the use of enzymes to create curdling,
To compare it to other cheese, queso frasco is bolder and stronger than it’s cousin mozzarella but smoother and saltier than goat cheese.
What’s in queso fresco?
One of the best things about cheese, especially cheese served in traditional Mexican restaurants and families, is that it’s simple. While queso fresco might seem like a bit of a mouthful to say, the ingredients needed to make it certainly aren’t complex – instead of just saying “cheese.”
Queso fresco is cheese with rennet, which is an enzyme used to coagulate, or thicken, regular milk to form curds. This is not to say that rennet makes milk turn into cheese curds, so much as it allows the milk to thicken to create the texture and thickness enjoyed by many as queso fresco.
Rennet can be added to milk in a few forms, including liquid, powder, and tablets. All three are fairly easy to measure, and the concentrated tablets tend to last the longest after purchase than other results.
And that’s pretty much it. Many people enjoy queso fresco because it has very simple ingredients.
Are there other varieties of queso?
There sure are! Adding lemon or vinegar to the same curdled milk makes for a good serving of what is called queso blanco, which is a term you’re more likely to read off a menu at a restaurant. Blanco’s addition of lemon or vinegar adds a bit of a bite and potential interesting combination to add to a dish that otherwise doesn’t have much citrus.
Note: some recipes and varieties will claim the opposite depending on the region: That Queso fresco is made with lemon or vinegar and that queso blanco is made with rennet. If you are making your own, just make it the way you want it!
What is the texture like?
Queso fresco is crumbly. Queso fresco is ultimately a soft cheese that can be pinched and sprinkled with the fingers.
While it’s crumbly, that’s most presentation. Queso fresco tastes smooth
Queso fresco can be sliced or crumbled, as it generally comes in a solid, soft block that is relatively easy to cut or pull apart.
How do you use queso fresco in?
Queso fresco is one of those cheeses that can go with just about anything. Thanks to it’s mild flavor and crumbly texture, it’s universally liked. Saying that this cheese is universally liked is in contrast to much stronger cheese which are acquired tastes after aging – queso fresco doesn’t present a particularly strong taste and just provides additional flavor.
- Tacos. Add queso fresco to tacos by either adding the shreds or crumbles within the taco itself, or by putting the shreds or crumbles on top. Many people like to contain cheese within the taco shell for the purpose of keeping the taco together, and queso fresco does well with that.
- Enchiladas. Queso fresco goes well on top of enchiladas as a mild start to the dish. It also looks nice on top!
- Huevos Rancheros: In many places, you’ll always find some at least semi melted queso fresco on top of your favorite breakfast dish, huevos racheros.
- Beans. Add queso fresco to add something at least a little more exciting to bean dishes. Throw i some queso fresco and heat to make it a bit more melty.
- Toppings. Queso fresco can top just about anything that could use a mild cheese flavoring. This includes chili and soups for a nice garnish – and adding some protein for vegetarian chili.
Does queso fresco melt?
As a soft cheese, queso fresco isn’t actually especially easy to melt and it’s not really a dipping cheese.
As we mentioned with beans, it can become stringier when heated up.
Note that queso fresco can get quite soft when “melted” under low heat and is considered a viable chip dip, though it will be rather quick.
Some Mexican restaurants offer a queso addition to nachos, chips, and other foods – it’s not always necessary queso fresco. So what’s in it? Either look at the menu or ask how they do it.
Is queso fresco good for you?
Unlike aged and other heavier cheese, queso fresco isn’t bad for you. The cheese is simple enzymes and milk.
Improperly made queso fresco can be harmful to you. In this context, improperly made refers to unpasteurized milk, queso made in people’s dirty homes or garages. Some parts of the world offer unpasteurized milk – which has been boiled to kill any germs living in it. Generally be aware of where you are and realize that a stomach that normally digests pasteurized milk may have a hard time with unpasteurized.
Otherwise, for people without lactose intolerance, queso fresco is better for you than most other cheeses. This is mostly because queso fresco contains lots of protein while having less fat than average.
Queso fresco is a good addition to just about any dish where you might be thinking about adding cheese. As a very simple cheese, it’s fresh and mild compared to some alternatives.
Queso fresco is also easy to make considering the process involves heated milk, some salt, and either rennet or lemon juice.