Manouri is the Greek cheese that lives in feta's shadow. Feta is known worldwide for its goodness and many uses, but manouri—μανούρι in Greek and pronounced mah-NOOR-ree—slides under the notoriety radar. This doesn't make it any less of a treat.
Semi-Soft, Fresh, Very White Cheese
Sometimes called manoypi, this is a semi-soft, fresh, very white cheese made from the sheep's or goat's milk whey that is drained from feta cheese when it's produced. It's similar to feta cheese in some ways, but it's creamier—think cheesecake. It can be slightly grainy, however, and it tends to be a bit greasy. Some Greeks swear that it will melt on your tongue all the same. It's less salty than feta, with a somewhat milky taste and hints of citrus.
This is a Controlled Denomination of Origin cheese, so if you find any that weren't made in Central or Western Macedonia or in Thessalia, it's not the real deal. The designation recognizes only cheeses made in these areas as bona fide manouri.
How Manouri Is Made
Manouri is produced by adding pasteurized sheep's milk or goat's milk to the whey produced in the making of feta cheese. The curds are drained and packaged in plastic, usually in multi-pound cylinders. Like feta, manouri does not have an outer rind or solidified casing. It is almost always sold in log-shaped rolls, or as individual pieces cut from a roll. It has a fat content ranging from 36 to 38 percent, a low sodium content of 0.8 percent, and it's also very low in cholesterol.
Cooking With Manouri
Whenever a sweet, rich cheese is called for, consider manouri. It's great in pastries like spanakopita, or on its own, just drizzled with honey. If yogurt isn't your thing for breakfast or a snack, manouri makes a nice alternative, although it's vaguely similar with its vaguely sour/citrusy undertones.
Manouri's texture makes it ideal for crumbling over salads or pasta, or you can simply top slices with tomato, oregano, onions or peppers for an appetizer. It blends well with other cheeses if you want to include it on a cheese board or spread.
Outside the Greek kitchen, manouri may be substituted for cream cheese when making cheesecake. Chef Terrence Maul at the Beyond India restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, creates his baklava cheesecake dessert using Greek manouri.
In the Press
Here's what the Washington Post has to say about this cheese: "The lovely thing about manouri’s mild nature is that it can be used in all sorts of ways, in both savory and sweet preparations ... you can serve a wedge of it as dessert, or alongside figs (or other fruit) poached in wine. You can use it as a filling for a savory or sweet cheese tart or pastry." In other words, you can do just about anything with manouri, and it will probably taste good.
Substitutes for Manouri
Goat cheese, cream cheese, farmer's cheese, or ricotta salata can be substituted for manouri in most recipes, but there's nothing like the real thing. If you can't find it in your local market, consider ordering it online.