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. 🙂
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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…
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt non-iodized
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
Do you make your own cheese? What is your favorite kind to make? Leave a comment!
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Read more about raising dairy goats for milk!