Easy Homemade Queso Fresco

Easy Homemade Queso Fresco

The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

Prep: 4 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Rest and Chill: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 19 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 1 wheel
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
148 Calories
8g Fat
12g Carbs
8g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 148
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 183mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 275mg 21%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 321mg 7%
*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 is a crumbly and tangy fresh cheese usually made out of cow's milk. Widely used in Hispanic cuisine, queso fresco is a great addition to varied recipes from arepas to elote, salads, soups, and eggs. As it doesn't melt but crumbles in a similar manner to feta cheese, queso fresco is usually used right before serving the dish, rather than to cook with. Making queso fresco at home is easy and requires just a few ingredients, a few hours, and a thermometer.

Often confused with queso blanco, a close cousin, queso fresco's recipes vary from place to place. Sometimes made with rennet, sometimes curled with acid like vinegar or lemon juice, queso fresco's distinctive characteristic lies in its texture. Whatever name it's given, if it melts it's not fresco. Use it on Mexican dishes like flautas, taquitos, tostadas, or in Colombian and Venezuelan arepas. Eat it with fresh bread and fruit preserves, crumble it on top of breakfast casseroles, pasta salads, omelets, quiches, and of course use it anywhere else a mild crumbled cheese is needed.

For this recipe, we recommend using whole milk that hasn't been ultra-pasteurized (UP) or passed through ultra-high-temperature (UHT), as these processes produce milk that doesn't curd well because the protein molecules have been destabilized with the rapid change in temperature that is used to free the milk from any harmful bacteria. Organic pasteurized milk is a great choice.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon liquid rennet

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Easy Homemade Queso Fresco ingredients

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  2. In a large pot over low heat, slowly heat the whole milk until it reaches 100 F (38 C).

    milk in a pot, thermometer

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  3. Remove the milk from heat and stir in the liquid rennet.

    liquid rennet added to milk in a pot

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  4. Leave the mixture in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours until the milk congeals into a custardy mass. Ideally, you should maintain the 100 F/38 C temperature during this time by placing the pot in an oven with either the pilot or viewing light on but the oven off, or placing the bottom half of the pot in a sink filled with warm water.

    milk and rennet mixture in a pot, thermometer

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  5. Once the curds are formed, break the mass until the curds are the size of peas. Use a knife if preferred but it's best to use clean hands.

    curd in the pot broken into small pieces

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  6. Pour the curd into a colander lined with 2 to 4 cheesecloths and let the whey drain away for 20 to 30 minutes.

    curd in a colander lined with cheesecloth

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  7. Transfer the drained curds to a mixing bowl and use your clean fingers or a spoon to work in 1 teaspoon of salt. Do not overmix, as the cheese might change its consistency and be more creamy than the desired crumbly texture.

    salt added to the curd in the bowl

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  8. Put the salted curds into a cheesecloth, buttered muslin-lined cheese mold, or a colander set in a large bowl or placed in the sink. 

    salted curds in a bowl lined with cheesecloth

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  9. Tie the cloth tightly around the ball of cheese. Let it drain for about and hour or until it's fairly firm.

    curd wrapped in cheesecloth in a colander

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  10. Unwrap the queso fresco and refrigerate it for one hour before using.

    Easy Homemade Queso Fresco on a plate

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  11. Enjoy!

What Is Rennet?

Rennet is an organic substance used in cheesemaking that helps to break the solids in milk from the water content, thus creating a mass (curds). It is found in the stomach lining of young mammals like goats and calves that need the substance to help them digest their mother's milk. Once they start eating grass, the rennet disappears and its enzyme, rennin, is no longer found.

However, rennin is also found in some plants and fungi, and many kinds of cheese are produced with the plant-based or fungus-based alternative.

Rennet is easily found at specialized cheesemaking suppliers, but also online and in most large grocery stores.

If your rennet comes in tablet form, crush one tablet and mix it into 2 tablespoons of water. Stir the water-rennet mixture into the warm milk.

How to Store Queso Fresco

Store queso fresco in covered food storage containers in the refrigerator. It is best used within a week, so keep it in mind when making the cheese. Keep in the coldest part of the fridge, well covered.