Most of Mexico’s traditional recipes involve cheese of some kind, be it sliced, grated, crumbled or melted. But what makes Mexican cheese, well, Mexican? And how is Mexican cheese different? Read on to find out!
History of Cheese in Mexico
Pronounced KEH-soh, the Spanish word for cheese (and what you’ll see on a menu) is queso. Most of Mexico’s most recognizable dishes involve cheese, however, queso was unknown in Mexico before the arrival of the European in the early 1500’s. The Spanish brought with them cattle and goats, forever changing the Mexican diet that was comprised of predominantly fruit, vegetables and fish.
The production of cheese in Mexican came out of the milk from these animals. As time went on, the production methods were modified, and the Mexican locals began to enrich the recipes with their regional ingredients, such as chili peppers and herbs. This gave rise to several varieties of unique artisan cheeses, many of which we now get to enjoy in North America.
Types of Mexican Cheese
Here are 7 of our favorite Mexican cheese we think you should know about:
This Mexican cheese is semi-hard and comparable to mozzarella or string cheese. It is ideal for melting on top of Quesadillas, or eaten cold as a snack.
Often served crumbled rather than melted or sliced, this Mexican cheese variety is aged, and has a much saltier flavor and granular texture. It is great on top of Tostadas or Enchiladas.
- The most widely recognizably Mexican cheese, queso fresco means fresh cheese. It is spongy in texture and is usually served crumbled, but can also be enjoyed sliced or melted. It is typically sprinkled on top of your favorite dishes, such as grilled corn or tacos.
Queso Anejo is the aged version of queso fresco. It is slightly more firm, and more salty, making it an ideal topping to crumble over almost anything!
This delicious Mexican Cheese is made from a combination of both cow and goat milk. It is distinguishably more yellow in color than other Mexican cheeses and has a slight nutty flavor. Manchego melts very well and is quite versatile, making it a great table-top cheese.
Panela is a fresh, firm cheese. When heated, it softens rather than melts, making it great for frying on its own, or used as a topping for salads or quesadillas.
This cheese is Mexico’s version of ricotta. It is mild, soft and creamy – perfect for stuffing into chiles!
How is Mexican Cheese Different?
While typical North American cheese is usually aged weeks, or even months, Mexican cheese is different in that it is usually aged only days, or not aged at all. This means it is served fresh, not molded or washed. Most Mexican cheese is also produced from raw milk.
Cheesemaking currently takes up about 25% of Mexico’s total milk production, making it a very important industry. There are more than 40 varieties of artisenal Mexican cheeses, nearly 80% being of the fresh variety.
Is your mouth is watering Yet? At Benito’s, we serve only the finest authentic dishes and offer outstanding service. Call us at (817) 332-8633 today to experience some of these authentic Mexican dishes for yourself!