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Yo Quiero Queso! A Primer on Latin Cheeses

Love Mexican food, but wish you knew more about the culture's cheese legacy? So did I. At a California Milk Advisory Board cheese class, I finally had my opportunity to better understand the Hispanic cheese market when I got a crash course on it from cheese expert Juliana Uruburu.

Although semisoft, European-influenced cheeses like Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog and Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk get the most press, five percent of the cheese made in California is actually Hispanic-style cheese. As for getting to know them all, Juliana maintains it's not complicated: "There are about 30 different names, but only four different types of cheese. They vary in salt and texture." For the basic breakdown, keep reading.

  • Creams, such as requesón and crema Mexicana. Their consistency ranges from that of sour cream to a bit more curdlike, similar to ricotta.
  • Fresh cheeses, like queso fresco and queso enchilado. These cheeses have a soft, break-apart texture, but tend not to melt well. Queso fresco and queso blanco are very similar; both are unaged white cheeses with a slightly acidic flavor.
  • Harder cheeses, that are ideal for slicing or finishing a dish. Examples include enchilado, a salty and dry cheese reminiscent of Pecorino Romano, and artisanal panelas, which Uruburu describes as "buttery and simple."
  • Melting cheeses such as queso quesadilla or queso Chihuahua, have a string-cheese like quality similar to that of mozzarella cheese. Many of them, like Oaxaca cheese, are pulled, then decoratively braided.

Do you tend to buy Mexican and Latin cheeses? If so, what are your top picks?

Source: Flickr User ckelty

Comments
Susannah-Chen
Susannah-Chen
Katie: Cotija falls under the category of harder cheese.
Katie-Sweeney
Katie-Sweeney
So what category does cotija fall under? Harder?
Not-Princess22
Not-Princess22
Gummibears, they use Queso Cotija I loooove Oaxaca Cheese <3 I buy almost a pound a week for me and my husband and I use it in many dishes. I think it has less fat than mozzarella (my nutritionist recommend it actually), I dont like the supermarket versions, like the one in the pic. The best ones are selled at the Mercados (something like farmers market).
GummiBears
GummiBears
When I used to buy roasted elotes from the independent sellers, I like the crema and the sprinkling cheese. Mind you this was more than 10 years since I purchased one and I forgot what kind of cheese they used.
lovesitc1
lovesitc1
I lived in Honduras for a few years and fell in love with a semi-soft cheese that had whole cumin seeds flecked throughout it. 2-die-4 !!!
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