Cheese. It’s one of my favorite ingredients to add to recipe because it can add a superb texture and flavor to the recipe that nothing else can. But if you’re like me, an amateur cheese connoisseur, it gets confusing sometimes when it comes to picking out the right cheese. I’m not as familiar with the nuances from different types of cheese – something that I’m always eager to learn about!
First off, there’s soft cheese, a category where a lot of the creamier quesos fall in to:
This queso is a soft, white cheese that is drained in baskets (a process adapted from the Greek’s). It easily absorbs flavors and is best eaten fresh. It serves as a great topping shredded, or as part of an appetizer.
Described as a combination between cottage cheese and mozzarella, this moist, crumbly cheese becomes creamy when it is heated. The cheese is very versatile and is a good choice for stuffing, or eaten fried.
As it’s name translates, this “fresh cheese” is a crumbly mix of cow’s milk and goat’s milk. Mildly acidic in taste, Queso Fresco is probably the most common queso to crumble over tacos or botanas.
Described as the “Hispanic Ricotta”. This queso is lower in fat, and works well on salads and in desserts.
Soft And Semi-Soft Cheese: This category of cheese is one of the more popular of the three, because these cheeses really have a presence in Mexican cuisine. These quesos can be melting or crumbled, or if you’re really adventurous, eaten separately.
Anejo cheese is an aged queso that is dry and gratable. With it’s zesty flavor, it’s a perfect condiment for tacos and salads, or used as a garnish over an entrée.
Similar to Fontina or Monterrey Jack cheese, Asadero is a mild, chewy cheese that adapts well and is great for melting. Traditionally, Asadero fills chiles rellenos and is the main queso in chile con queso.
Brought to Mexico from the Mennonites, Queso Chihuahua is a pale yellow queso that’s very similar to mild cheddar but tastes like sharp when it is aged. Chihuahua cheese is great in a Mexican fondue called Queso Fundido.
Queso Oaxaca is the most popular cheese for quesadillas, and tastes similar to Mozzarella. It is a curd cheese that is stretched into long ribbons that are then rolled up to form a ball. The balls of cheese can be used shredded for toppings, and also works melted on cooked food.
Semi-Hard And Hard Cheeses: This category of cheese is best for grating, or melting into a thick, fondue-like sauce.
Cotija is a dry crumbly cheese similar to Parmesan. Both the fresh, and the aged versions are used crumbled or grated over beans and salad dishes.
Queso Enchilado is Cotija Anejo coated with chile that’s ideal in dishes for the spicy flavor as well as for color.
This queso is a sheep’s milk cheese that adds a nice salty, nutty flavor. It’s perfect shaved over side dishes.
(photo from http://estolias.tumblr.com)