Dairy and Non-Dairy Recipes

How to Make the Best Queso Fresco

Queso Fresco

Queso Fresco – Super Easy Cheese!

Queso fresco is Spanish for ‘fresh cheese.’ I’ve had it from the local Hispanic grocer, and I love it! I have a thing for cheese and making it from scratch is a bonus.

If you have your own cows or goats, you can make lots of cheese! I grew up on a farm and loved milking the cows by hand for fresh milk. I’ve also kept dairy goats and really enjoyed their milk! However, these days I don’t have any dairy animals.

Sometimes I find milk marked down for quick sale because it’s close to expiration. I buy it to make my own queso fresco, cottage cheese, and other dairy products. If heavy cream is marked down I buy it for making butter or sour cream.

As long as the store kept their dairy products well chilled, it should last for several days past the expiration date. And cheese can be made with sour milk! So let’s get started on our yummy cheese recipe. πŸ™‚

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I definitely miss the fresh goat milk!

How to Make Queso Fresco – Easy Cheese

You can use fresh milk or sour milk for this recipe. Since you will heat the milk to 180 F it will kill bacteria.

For best results, use whole milk. If you have reduced fat milk, you can try it in this recipe but the resulting cheese won’t be as creamy in texture.

All you really need is milk, vinegar, salt, a good size stainless steel pot, cheesecloth, and a colander. Here’s how to make your own super easy queso fresco…

Queso Fresco

Queso Fresco

Lisa Lynn
This delicious cheese requires no special ingredients. Making your own cheese couldn't be any easier!
5 from 2 votes

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt non-iodized

Instructions
 

  • Pour the milk into stainless steel, 1-gallon pan. Place on a medium burner.
  • Bring the temperature of the milk up to 180 F and remove from heat. If you are using sour milk, I suggest holding the temperature at 180 F for 10 minutes to kill bacteria.
  • Add vinegar to milk and gently stir until curds form.
  • Line a colander with cheesecloth and set in a large bowl. Pour the curdled milk into the colander, bundle the cheesecloth up and squeeze most of the whey out.
  • Enjoy the fresh cheese or take a bit more time to make queso seco.
  • To make queso seco, add a bit more salt (about 1/2 teaspoon total) and mix into curds. Gather cheesecloth and tie. Leave in the colander and place a weight on top to press more whey from the curds. Leave for about 10 to 12 hours. Remove from cheesecloth and refrigerate.

Notes

For cheese that lasts longer in the refrigerator… add 1/2 tsp of salt and place a weight on the bundled curds for 10 – 12 hours to make Queso Seco (Dry Cheese).
Keyword dairy, easy cheese


queso fresco
Salted curds before pressing.

The Difference Between Queso Fresco & Queso Seco

I’ve made both queso fresco and queso seco and I enjoy both of them. I like the queso fresco the most because it isn’t as salty and can be enjoyed right away.

Making the fresh cheese and eating it right away means you can add no salt at all or just enough for your tastes. You can press more whey out for a crumbly cheese. But if you don’t use as much salt, the cheese will not last as long in the refrigerator. Use it up in a day or two for the best flavor.

Or Make Queso Seco

With just a bit more time and patience, you can make queso seco… ‘dry cheese.’ This version of the recipe has a bit more salt and the curds are pressed to remove more moisture. The resulting cheese will keep longer in your refrigerator.

To make queso seco, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt (instead of 1/4 teaspoon) to the curds. Place the curds (bundled in the cheesecloth) into a colander, then place weight on top to press more of the whey from the curds. Leave for 10 – 12 hours, then remove the cheese from the cheesecloth. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Queso seco is saltier and may be used more sparingly than queso fresco. It will slice more easily instead of crumbling.

easy to make cheese
Press your cheese for firmer texture… try drizzling with olive oil and adding herbs!

How to Use Queso Fresco

This super easy cheese is delicious as a topping for pizza, quiche, or crumbled into dips or salad dressing. It’s also great for topping crackers or slicing (if you pressed more whey out) for sandwiches. Try it drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs.

You will find that queso fresco and queso seco are not a melting cheese. So you won’t have the same results on your pizza as you expect from mozzarella, but it is still delicious1

These easy to make cheeses may be used as a substitute for feta cheese in most recipes. The flavor is a bit milder but the queso seco especially, has that salty flavor.

queso fresco and easy to make cheeses

Notes on Making Easy Cheeses

There were a couple of things I thought worth mentioning. I started with a half-gallon of milk and ended up with about 2.5 cups of cheese and almost a half-gallon of whey.

The whey is great for making baked goods, like muffins, pancakes, and bread. You may also use the whey for smoothies, a base for soup, or feed it to the pigs or chickens if you can’t use it all.

There won’t be any waste from your half-gallon of milk!

Β Do you make your own cheese? What is your favorite kind to make? Leave a comment!

Read more about raising dairy goats for milk!

54 Comments on “How to Make the Best Queso Fresco

  1. 5 stars
    I came home from a trip to find a gallon and a half of whole milk three days past the expiration. I had never made cheese before but your recipe looked so simple that I borrowed a candy thermometer from a neighbor and made a milk gallon’s worth of your queso fresco. It was delicious and truly easy! We used it on salads and plain cooked beets. I had less luck with ricotta from the whey but I only tried it on a commenter’s recommendation and vague instructions. (I use regular grocery store milk.) Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I had no idea cheese making could he so straightforward and delicious. Blessings.

    1. Hi Camilla,
      I’m so glad you found this helpful! Making ricotta from leftover whey works when the original cheese was made with rennet. I haven’t had luck with making it from whey left over from vinegar or lemon juice activated cheese. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. 5 stars
    Hi there…I’m curious about increasing my yield with heavy whipping cream…what are your thoughts on adding a quart of whipping cream to the whole milk?

    1. Hi Ednamarie,
      I have added some cream and it produces a higher fat cheese that is very tasty. Your yield will be a little bit higher, because of the increased solids. However, I haven’t measured to determine how much more you will get. Let me know if you try this!

  3. This is great! My husband grew up in Mexico so he loves this stuff! I never thought it would be so easy! Question: do you leave all the whey in the bowl while draining in the fridge or do you empty it? Also does it stick to the cheesecloth? Thanks!

  4. Thank you! I just got home from vacation. Before we left I asked my husband to put our half gallon of milk in the freezer we have in our garage so we would have milk when we got home. He put it in the fridge instead. We are back ten days later and the milk had soured. I wondered if there was anything I could do besides toss it out so searched on the Web and found your article on making cottage cheese from sour milk. It was so easy! Now I may never buy cottae cheese again!

    1. Hi Joy,
      It happens to the best of us! Glad you were able to use the sour milk. I sure hate to waste food and I was so glad to find a way to use old milk too. Best wishes!

  5. The liquid that drains from the curds can be heated up once more and you will get a second batch of cheese: cottage cheese or “requeson”.

      1. I went to a cheesemaking demo at Wholefoods. We made the queso blanco first and it was great. We tried it still warm. Yum! Then we reheated the liquid left over and made ricotta cheese from the whey since the first whey still has a lot of milk solids left in it. The second heating is a bit higher temperature (203F for the ricotta while the queso blanco was heated to 195F). So you actually get two batches of cheese out of the 1 gallon of milk.

    1. Hi Sara!
      I know, it’s a lot! I used some to make oatmeal this morning and my son and I liked it, Tom…not so much, but he’s not much of an oatmeal eater anywhey πŸ™‚

  6. Lisa Lynn this looks amazing! I really need to try my hand at making cheese at home too……I know it is such an art and takes some practice and I so appreciate you sharing your experience and expertise in self sufficiency at “The Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post” I am so glad to be back! I have so missed my Saturday connections with my fellow homesteading blogging friends!

  7. Thank you so much for this recipe, Lisa! It sounds (and looks!) delicious and I can’t wait to try it. I’m hoping you can use regular whole milk from the store since I don’t have access to raw milk. (And I’m with you…. 14 tsp of salt sounds like WAY too much!!) Thanks again!

    1. I’m so happy I could share the recipe! It was very yummy. πŸ™‚ I am gettting ready to try ricotta cheese this afternoon, made in a similar recipe to this.

      You will get normal results from whole milk from the store. I choose raw milk mainly because I don’t want to use homogenized milk. But that is for health reasons. Best wishes with your cheese making adventures!

  8. oh, yum! I can’t wait until you make the raw cheese. I made yogurt and ricotta for the first time recenly and was disappointed that I had to heat my milk up so much. But I recently found a recipe to make raw yogurt. I’ll be trying that soon.

    Great blog, thanks for inviting me over.

    1. Hi Angi! I’ve been planning to make ricotta, and just realized that I forgot the buttermilk at the store again…drat! Hmmm, I wonder if you really need the buttermilk?

      Thanks for stopping by! So glad to have you here!

  9. I’ve been dabbling in cheese making lately – this recipe looks easy enough for me at this point. I’ve been trying to find ways to use the whey as well.

  10. I recently took a cheese making class and thought it was both interesting and fun. I must confess that some of the cheeses we made I’d just as soon buy but loved the goat cheese.

    1. I’m thinking that any hard cheese we want will still come from the store. But if I can make my own cottage, ricotta, qeuso fresco, and maybe some other soft cheese…that will satisfy most of my cheese appetite. πŸ™‚

      The cheese class sounds like a lot of fun!

    1. I use Real Salt all the time, but not in my hard, pressed cheeses. I object to biting into a tiny “rock” when I’m eating it. For those things, I use plain refined sea salt. I’ve been wondering though… for popcorn I put our Real Salt through a little electric coffee grinder and it makes it Very Fine. I am going to try that for the cheese and see how it goes. Oh how we love Real Salt!!!

  11. Maybe the original recipe was supposed to say 1/4 teaspoon salt and they forgot the slash. 14 would be WAY too much. When I make mine, I drain it through a cloth and then press it in the cloth to get the extra liquid out. It saves a lot of time and works just fine.

    1. That would make sense πŸ™‚ And I like your tip of pressing it in the cloth, I sort of did that…but next time I think I’ll press it better. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Thanks for the link! I’ll check it out. πŸ™‚ I just made ricotta for the first time on Wed and it came out delicious. I am using the whey in baked goods, but I’ve read that you can use it in smoothies or feed it to your pigs and chickens if you just can’t use it all. I think it would also be good used in place of water or milk when you make oatmeal, pancakes, maybe even French toast? Let me know if you come up with more wheys to use your whey. πŸ˜‰

  12. I was really glad to see this post. I received Artisan Cheese Making at Home (or something like that) for Christmas. We live within easy access of a dairy that sells raw milk, cream, and cheese. We’ve gotten the butter making down and now I really wanted to try the cheese. I noticed a recipe in the book for queso fresco. In order to stretch our food budget we have added a beans and rice night to our menu once a week. We really love the queso fresco crumbled on top. I can’t see that much salt added either although when I lived in Central America for a few years I did notice that their cheeses were terribly salty for eating and used more as a “finishing”. The kind that I purchase however just at the conventional grocery store has a creamy texture and a sweeter flavor. I’m committed to cooking through the recipes in the book in order as each builds on the other as far as difficulty but I can’t wait to get to the queso fresco.

    1. You’ll like it Jenny. πŸ™‚ Let me know what you think of the book. I may decide to pick up a cheese making book. It’s great that you have easy access to raw milk! I’m really enjoying the raw milk we are getting.
      I thought that sounded way too salty! Glad I’m not the only one πŸ™‚
      Thanks for stopping by to visit!

  13. I used whey in my whole wheat bread one time after warming it to 110 degrees. It was so soft! My bread, that is. I was amazed! It stayed soft, too. SO, I was wondering what you actually do with this cheese. How do you eat it? It’s worth a try.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Hmmm, I just might have to bake a batch of bread the next time I make cheese. πŸ™‚ The cheese came out in a chunk and then I crumbled it up to add the salt. So now it is in a container in the fridge and we are using it on tacos and quesadillas, salads, and with tortilla chips and salsa. If you mixed the salt in and then returned it to the cheesecloth and pressed it back into a chunk, I think you could slice it to use on crackers, etc. I have noticed that it doesn’t melt very well. So I don’t think I’ll do grilled cheese sandwiches with it.

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