Easy to make Queso Fresco

Queso fresco is the quintessential embodiment of Mexican cheese. Spanish for “fresh cheese,” queso fresco is the most commonly used cheese in Mexican cooking.

Queso Fresco

Yes. It takes only three ingredients to make queso fresco and you likely have all of them in your house, right now. All you need is some milk, an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. That’s it!

Queso fresco is normally crumbled on top of food—enchiladas or tostadas, for instance. It’s also used in Mexican tapas, called botanas.

Queso Fresco

What's in Queso Fresco?

Milk - Whole Milk (not ultra-pasteurized). Milk that has been ultra-pasteurized does not work well in cheesemaking because the proteins have been destabilized. As a result, the calcium in the milk does not bond properly to make a good curd.

Acid source - Lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar are all great for making queso fresco. All will cause your cheese curds to separate from the whey.

Salt - Non-iodized salt, sea salt, or kosher salt

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How to Make Queso Fresco

Tools needed
  • Slotted spoon
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Heavy bottom pot 
  • Cheesecloth
  • Colander
  • Metal Strainer

  • Prepare a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, or a flour sack towel. 

  • Heat the milk to between 165° - 180° F in a heavy bottom pot, and remove from the heat when you reach temperature.

  • Slowly stir in lemon juice. The milk should immediately separate into curds and whey. If not, add more lemon juice one tablespoon at a time until the separation occurs. Let cheese set up for 20 minutes

  • Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer.

  • Transfer curds to a prepared colander add salt and mix thoroughly.

  • When most of the whey has drained off and the cheese is cool enough to handle, lift the edges of the cheesecloth up and twist, wrapping the cheese securely inside the cheesecloth. Carefully squeeze off excess whey.

    Place the cheesecloth-wrapped cheese back in the colander and place a heavy can or pan on top. Let sit until cheese has reached the desired texture, about an hour and a half.
    Stores for 1 week in the refrigerator

    Uses for Queso Fresco
  • Toss it into a salad. 
  • Use it as a garnish for soup. It works beautifully atop a cold summer soup, like gazpacho, or warmer varieties, like tortilla soup and black bean soup.
  • Top tacos and tostadas with queso fresco.

  • Variations of Queso Fresco
    Smoky taste - Add 1 tablespoon of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, finely diced when adding salt. 
    Spiciness - Add finely diced jalapeños and cilantro

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