Homemade Queso Fresco Cheese

Homemade Queso Fresco Cheese recipe, cheese on a brown plate

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Drain and Press Time: 5 hrs
Total: 5 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yields: 8 ounces
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
213 Calories
14g Fat
14g Carbs
9g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 213
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 17%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 42mg 14%
Sodium 960mg 42%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 9g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 321mg 25%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 388mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Queso fresco cheese is a creamy fresh (un-aged) cheese, typically made from cow or goat's milk. Its taste is fresh and bright with a slightly salty, sour tang. While it's milky, queso fresco is not rich, and rather similar to fresh mozzarella. In the United States, pasteurized queso fresco is common, but it's so easy to make at home that there's no reason to buy it.

This type of cheese is made from warm milk that is curdled with an acid. It doesn't require rennet or other ingredients—vinegar or lemon juice will do the trick. Once the curds form, the whey is strained away and the curds can be pressed into a firmer cheese, or used in a creamy, spreadable form. (Technically, in some places, queso fresco is prepared with rennet, and queso blanco is the term for this cheese that is made with acid).

One advantage of making this cheese yourself is that you can control its texture. Queso fresco curds can be "pressed" into a firmer cheese that can be sliced, crumbled, and even fried (this cheese does not "melt" but will get softer when heated). Or you can simply strain it with cheesecloth and enjoy a creamier, more spreadable texture. Queso fresco is enjoyed on everything from arepas to potatoes to plantains ​and is even used in sauces and baked goods.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 4 to 5 tablespoons vinegar, such as apple cider or distilled white​

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Homemade Queso Fresco Cheese ingredients, whole milk, whipping cream, buttermilk, salt, vinegar

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. In a large pot, combine the milk, whipping cream, buttermilk, and salt. Stir over medium heat until the temperature reaches 190 F (or nearly a boil). Remove from heat.

    milk, whipping cream, buttermilk, and salt in a large pot

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Stir in the vinegar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Small curds will begin to form. Stir gently for 5 minutes or so, then let the mixture cool for 10 more minutes.

    vinegar added to the milk, whipping cream, buttermilk, and salt mixture, in a large pot

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Line a large colander with 2 to 3 layers of cheesecloth. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the colander, letting the whey (the clear liquid) drain away into a bowl.

    Queso Fresco mixture inside of a cheesecloth

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  5. When most of the whey has drained off and the cheese is cool enough to handle, lift the edges of the cheesecloth up and twist, wrapping the cheese securely inside the cheesecloth. Squeeze off excess whey.

    drain Queso Fresco mixture in cheesecloth

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  6. Hang the cheesecloth "bag" over the sink (use a clip to hang it from the faucet, for example) and let the whey drain for about an hour.

    Queso Fresco on top of cheesecloth

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  7. Once the cheese is well-drained, store the cheese in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can press the curds by following the instructions below.

    cheese curds in a brown bowl

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

How to Press Curds for Firmer, Molded Cheese

  1. Once the cheese curds are well drained, place a ring mold (or clean, empty metal can with both lids removed) on a baking sheet or flat dish. Spoon curds inside of the ring.

    cheese curds in a ring mold

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. Cover the curds with a piece of wax paper, then use another can or something heavy to press down on them. Place the cheese in the refrigerator and press for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

    cheese curds in a ring mold pressed down with a can

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Remove from the mold and wrap cheese with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.

    Homemade Queso Fresco Cheese on a plate

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Tip

  • You can save the whey and use it in baked goods, in place of buttermilk or yogurt.
  • When molding the cheese, use a heavy object that will just fit inside the ring or can. One solution is to cut a circle of heavy cardboard that is just smaller than the ring's circumference. Place the cardboard circle on top of the wax paper to evenly distribute the weight, then use an object like a smaller can to provide the weight on top.
  • Store cheese for up to one week in the refrigerator.

What Can Queso Fresco Be Used For?

Queso fresco has many uses, and its crumbly texture is often enjoyed as a topping. Use it as you would feta or goat cheese (it works as a substitute for both in many cases). Crumble it on enchiladas, tacos, summer salads, and egg dishes, such as huevos rancheros. It's a great contrast to spicy dishes, but also works with fresh fruits and herbs, including a refreshing watermelon-mint salad. In recipes, such as chile rellenos, queso fresco becomes part of the filling.