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Try Queso Fresco, A Bite With The Spirit Of Mexico’s Countryside

It is an essential ingredient of several Mexican dishes, and its production process is very natural. 

Queso fresco is one of the most popular dairy products in Mexico. Also called ranchero cheese in some parts of the country, queso fresco is still prepared using an artisanal process, mainly in Mexico’s rural areas.

“I always use queso fresco at home. We put it on sandwiches and add it to the family’s picadas [a traditional snack]. Queso fresco cannot be missing from my refrigerator. Just eating it in a tortilla with refried beans is delicious,” said Esther Mendiola Gálvez, a housewife from Veracruz.

Queso fresco is a crucial ingredient of Mexican cuisine. Cooks use it in various dishes, from appetizers like empanadas or gorditas to the famous chiles rellenos. They also crumble it on top of potato or chicken fried tacos.

“The kilo [2.2 pounds] costs 60 pesos [$3] in neighborhood stores and usually has the necessary amount of salt,” Mendiola Gálvez said.

Queso fresco’s peculiar country flavor comes from its preparation, which is very different from that of a factory-processed cheese. It has organic ingredients.

The salting process, before wrapping the cheese, is essential for its flavor. (Charlie Moron/Café Words)

Families who make it explain the process.

“We get up early to go to the milking. We get from 40 to 60 liters [42 to 63 quarts] of milk” per day, said Blanca Montero Caldelas, the owner of the Blanquita Cheese Factory in Jamapa, Veracruz.

Queso fresco’s milk must be fresh and pasteurized, a process that uses heat to decontaminate the milk. “We want to use good quality milk to make good cheese,” she said.

At Montero Caldelas’s factory, the first step is to add rennet to a bowl of milk. Once it forms curds, her employees drain the whey [the liquid that separated from the milk] and add salt.

Then, they place the curd on a cheesecloth that holds about 8.8 pounds [4 kilograms] and squeeze out the excess whey. They wrap the cheese and put it in molds.

“We finally refrigerate it for a whole day,” she said.

Wrapping the cheese and letting it cool are the final steps in the process. (Charlie Moron/Café Words)

Having high-quality milk is essential for this process. Montero Candelas recommends that the cows be as healthy as possible, eat in the best pasture, and have enough water, especially in the dry season.

Artisans who work in this trade can make up to 25 or 30 pieces of cheese — each about 8.8 pounds [4 kilograms] — every day. Montero Candelas’s factory sells its cheese in grocery stores in the area of Veracruz, Boca del Río and Medellín. Each piece costs less than 200 pesos [$10].

Queso fresco is among the most sought-after cheese styles, as it brings out the flavors of various dishes, but diners can also enjoy it by itself.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Kristen Butler)

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