Queso blanco, Spanish for "white cheese," is a soft, crumbly fresh cheese often used in Mexican and other Latin American cuisines. Its flavor is fresh, tangy, and milky, as it is typically sold only a few days after being produced. Because the milk is curdled with acid rather than with rennet, queso blanco is also easy to make at home.
Milk Source: Cow
Country of Origin: Mexico
Texture: Soft and crumbly
What Is Queso Blanco?
While queso blanco is typically associated with Latin American cuisines, dairy animals didn’t exist in this region of the world until they were brought there by the Spanish and Portuguese. In addition to animals like cows, goats, and sheep, they brought the recipe for this fresh, tangy cheese with a slight sweetness. The term "queso blanco" can also be used as a generic term to describe a number of fresh, white cheeses produced throughout Latin America.
Because queso blanco doesn't melt, it makes an excellent garnish or topping cheese. Queso blanco can be eaten fresh, or it can be fried or grilled until crispy and golden brown on the outside and tender and squeaky inside. Since this cheese doesn’t require bacterial cultures or rennet to produce, it's very easy to make at home.
How Queso Blanco Is Made?
Raw or pasteurized milk is heated to just below boiling (around 190 F) then removed from the heat. Acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, is stirred into the hot milk, which causes small curds to form. The whey is drained off and the curds are salted and shaped into small, round wheels or blocks and allowed to drain for a short time before being packaged and sold.
Queso Blanco vs. Queso Fresco
Queso fresco can be substituted for queso blanco in just about any recipe. A longer-aged cheese with a drier texture and stronger flavor, such as cotija or queso anejo, may also be used in place of queso blanco for sprinkling or crumbling. Other soft, fresh Mexican cheeses labeled "queso de frier" or "queso de parilla" (cheese for frying or grilling, respectively) can be used as a substitute if you can’t find queso blanco or queso fresco. Other frying cheeses, such as paneer and halloumi, may also be used for this purpose.
Queso blanco and queso fresco are often used interchangeably in recipes. While the cheese is similar in flavor and texture, the two cheeses are made slightly differently. While queso blanco is coagulated using acid added to heated milk, queso fresco is made by adding rennet, an enzyme used in cheesemaking to form milk into curd.
The name "queso blanco" is also often used to refer to a Tex-Mex melted cheese dip that's typically made with a blend of Monterey Jack and white cheddar cheeses and spiced with hot peppers.
This tangy, fresh cheese is often used as a condiment on top of saucy or spicy dishes such as enchiladas, tortas, and elotes. It can also be crumbled over salads, tacos, soups, grilled vegetables, and stews or any dish that could use some salty, tangy flavor. Queso blanco is sometimes served fresh in slices as a side to rice and bean dishes like gallo pinto. Because queso blanco doesn't melt when heated, it can be seared or fried to make queso de frier.
Refrigerate queso blanco in its original packaging. You can keep it for one to two weeks past its sell-by date before opening. Once opened, wrap queso blanco tightly in plastic wrap or seal it in a tight-fitting reusable plastic container in your refrigerator for one to two weeks. If the cheese smells off or you see mold growth on the surface, discard the entire cheese.
Because the texture of soft, fresh cheeses tends to suffer after freezing, queso blanco should not be frozen.
Queso Blanco Recipes
- Homemade Queso Blanco Cheese
- Mexican Street Corn (Elote)
- How to Make Latin American-style Fried Cheese
Can You Eat the Rind?
Because it is typically sold within just a few days of being produced, queso blanco is technically a rindless cheese. The entire cheese, including the exterior, should be eaten.