home > dairy > cheese > fresh cheeses


Fresh Cheeses


fresh cheese = unripened cheese = curd cheeses = curd-style cheeses

Most fresh cheese is made by curdling milk with an enzyme, and then draining off the whey.  The curds that remain are molded into cheese.  Fresh cheeses tend to be bland, so they're often used as vehicles for other flavorings.  Some, like cream cheese, are used to make dips or cheesecakes.  Others, like ricotta cheese, are used as fillings for dumplings, pasta, crepes, or pastries.  Still others, like cottage cheese, can be a meal all by themselves once they're perked up with herbs, fruit, or other flavorings.  

Fresh cheeses have a higher moisture content and are usually lower in fat and sodium than other cheeses.  Most are highly perishable, so check the expiration date when you buy them and keep them tightly wrapped or covered in the refrigerator.  Moist fresh cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta should be eaten within a week of purchase; firmer cheeses like cream cheese and farmer's cheese can usually be stored for about two weeks.  Don't eat fresh cheese if mold appears on it. 


  • Fresh cheese work best in cold dishes.

  • Fresh cheeses tend to break when added to hot sauces, so add them at the last minute.

  • Lactose-intolerant people may prefer aged cheese over fresh, since aged cheese contains less lactose.



Alouette   Pronunciation:   ah-loo-WET  Notes:  This is one of several spreadable cheeses that combine cream cheese with various flavorings, like herbs, garlic, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes.   You can set them out with crackers for guests, but your gourmet friends probably won't indulge.   Substitutes:  Boursin (considered better) OR Rondelé


Boursin  [boor-SAN]   This creamy cheese from France is usually flavored with herbs, garlic or coarse ground pepper.  It's mild and delicate, and goes well with fresh bread and dry white wine.  Boursin is considered better than some other flavored spreadable cheeses, like Alouette or Rondelé, but none of these cheeses are well regarded by gourmets.  Store Boursin in the refrigerator but bring it to room temperature before serving.  Eat it within a few days of purchase.  
Substitutes:  Rondelé (a cheaper domestic imitation) OR Alouette (also a cheaper domestic imitation) OR  Mix together in a food processor using a steel blade: 8 ounces of cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon minced parsley, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Chill for several hours before serving. OR chèvre frais


buttermilk cheese   Notes:   You won't find this tangy, creamy cheese in supermarkets, but it's easy to make at home.  To make your own:  Line a colander with several folds of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel.  Pour buttermilk into the cloth, then put the colander into a larger container and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator until it's reduced to a cheeselike consistency.   Substitutes:  ricotta cheese (especially as a pasta filling) OR cream cheese (especially in cheesecakes)

Caprini   Pronunciation:  cuh-PREE-nee  Notes:  This is an excellent Italian fresh cheese that's hard to find in the U.S.  Substitutes:   

chaka  See yogurt cheese

chevre frais See goat cheese (fresh).


cottage cheese = smierkase   Notes:   This simple, mild cheese was traditionally produced in Europe's "cottages" from the milk left over from butter making.  It's versatile, easy to digest, and a good source of protein.  It's sold with either large or small curds, and with fruit or chives sometimes added.  Use it within a few days after purchasing and discard if mold appears.  It's best served chilled. To make your own:   To make 2 cups (one pound), heat a gallon of skim milk to 80ºF (27ºC) using a double boiler (don't use aluminum or cast iron). Dissolve 1/4 tablet of rennet in a few tablespoons of cold water, then stir it into the milk using a whisk for a few minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the mixture sit for about five hours at room temperature.  Use a knife to cut the curds into half-inch cubes, then let them sit for about 15 minutes more. 
Put the double boiler on the stove and gradually bring the temperature of the cheese to 100ºF (38ºC) (it should take about 30 minutes to reach that temperature), and then up to 115ºF (46ºC) (this should take another 15 minutes).  Hold it at this temperature for another 30 minutes.  Be sure to raise the temperature gradually, or the curds will be hard and rubbery.  Stir the mixture while it cooks, more if want small curds, less if you want big curds.  Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander and drain off the whey for a few minutes.  Fill a sink with ice cold water.  Pulling together the edges of the cheesecloth, dunk the curds in the water for a few minutes, then put the cheesecloth-wrapped curds back in the colander to drain.  (Don't rinse the curds as long if you want your cottage cheese to have a sharper flavor.)   If you like, stir in a teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup of cream, milk, or sour cream.  Substitutes:  ricotta (higher in fat) OR pot cheese (drier) OR fromage blanc (lower in fat) OR buttermilk cheese OR yogurt cheese OR tofu (firm silken)


cream cheese = (in Europe) white cheese = queso crema   Equivalents:  2 cups cream cheese = 1 pound  Notes:  An American favorite, cream cheese is a terrific spread for bagels and nut breads and a key ingredient in cheesecake and other desserts.  It comes in low-fat and nonfat versions; these work well as spreads but compromise the flavor and texture of cheesecakes.  Cream cheese made without stabilizers is also disappointing in cheesecakes, though it makes for a more acidic and flavorful spread.  Store in the refrigerator.  Unopened foil-wrapped commercial cream cheese is good for about a month after the "Best when used by" date on the carton.  Once opened, you should use it within 10 days.  Throw it out if mold appears.   Substitutes:  Neufchâtel (lower in fat and moister than regular cream cheese) OR equal parts ricotta and yogurt OR soy cream cheese OR tofu (use 3/4 cup tofu + 1/4 cup margarine + 1 tablespoon lemon juice to replace one cup cream cheese).  OR yogurt cheese (usually lower in fat than cream cheese) OR buttermilk cheese (usually lower in fat than cream cheese)  OR tofu cream cheese  To make your own:   Combine 2 cups milk and 2 cups whipping cream and heat the mixture in a double boiler (not aluminum or cast iron) until it's about 90ºF (32ºC).  Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk, cover, and let rest in a warm place for one or two days until it has the consistency of yogurt.  Pour the mixture through a colander lined with butter muslin (or several layers of cheesecloth) and drain for several minutes.  Replace the muslin or cheesecloth and nest the colander in a deep bowl, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and put the bowl into the refrigerator and let it continue to drain for a day or so until the cream cheese has the desired consistency.  Add salt to taste.

farm cheese  See farmer cheese


farmer cheese = farmer's cheese = farm cheese = pressed cheese = hoop cheese = baker's cheese    Notes:  This mildly acidic fresh cheese is made by pressing much of the moisture out of cottage cheese.  Some varieties resemble a very dry, crumbly cottage cheese, while others have can be sliced. It's primarily used for cooking.  To make your own:   Wrap cottage cheese in cheesecloth and place in a colander or strainer nested inside a bowl.  Place in the refrigerator until much of the liquid has drained into the bowl.  Substitutes:  queso fresco OR queso blanco OR jack OR Muenster

fresh chevre  See goat cheese (fresh).

fresh goat cheese  See goat cheese (fresh).

fresh Hispanic cheese = fresh Hispanic-style cheese = fresh Mexican cheese 

Hispanic cooks like their cheese bland and salty, the better to complement their spicy sauces.  They also want cheese to hold its shape when heated.  Monterey jack, the standard substitute for Hispanic cheeses, tends to ooze out of chiles rellenos and enchiladas when baked.  Authentic recipes call for panela or queso blanco, which soften but don't melt when heated.

Hispanic fresh cheeses often keep better than other fresh cheeses--some can be stored for months in the refrigerator.


Best for topping casseroles or bean dishes:  queso fresco

Best for fried cheese recipes:  queso para freir, queso blanco, queso panela

Best for filling casserole dishes like enchiladas:  queso panela, queso blanco

Best for salads:  queso panela

Best for tacos and burritos:  queso panela

Best for refried beans:  queso panela


fromage blanc  Pronunciation:  froh-MAHZH BLAHN  Notes:  This usually has the consistency of thick yogurt.  It's expensive and hard to find, but very tasty and relatively low in fat.  It makes a great topping for desserts.   Substitutes: quark (very similar) OR yogurt cheese OR buttermilk cheese OR blend equal parts cottage cheese and yogurt until smooth OR cream cheese whipped with cream

fromage de chèvre frais  See goat cheese (fresh).

fromage frais  Pronunciation:  froh-MAHZH FRAY   Notes:  This is the French term for "fresh cheese."  This category includes fromage blanc, Petit-Suisse, and chevre frais.

gervais  Pronunciation:  zher-VAY  Notes:  Use within a few days after purchasing. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.  Substitutes: cream cheese


goat cheese (fresh) =chevre frais = chèvre frais = fromage de chèvre frais   Pronunciation:   SHEHV-ruh FRAY  Notes:   Don't confuse this mild fresh cheese with aged goat cheese, which is less common and more flavorful.  Fresh goat cheese is like fromage blanc, only made with goat's milk.  There are several varieties, including Montrachet and cabecou, which is soaked in brandy.  Goat cheese is usually vacuum-packed, though many connoisseurs seek out the more perishable but tastier paper-wrapped cheeses at specialty shops.  Substitutes: fromage blanc OR bucheron  Complements:  white wine

hoop cheese  Substitutes:  pot cheese

Indian curd cheese  See paneer cheese.

kefir cheese  Pronunciation:  keh-FEER  To make your own:   Line a colander with several folds of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel. Pour unflavored kefir into the cloth, then put the colander into a larger container and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator until it's reduced to half its volume.  Substitutes:  Neufchâtel OR yogurt cheese OR cream cheese

labanah  See yogurt cheese.

labne  See yogurt cheese

labneh  See yogurt cheese

lebna  See yogurt cheese

mascarpone  = mascherpone = Italian cream cheese   Pronunciation:   mas-car-POH-nay  Notes:    A key ingredient in tiramisu and zabaglione, mascarpone is velvety soft, slightly acidic, and expensive.  Although Italian in origin, the name is said to come from the Spanish mas que bueno, "better than good."  It's usually sold in tubs.  Use it soon after you purchase it since it's highly perishable.  Substitutes:   Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup whipping cream. OR Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup cream OR Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/8 cup whipping cream and 1/8 cup sour cream. OR Whip ricotta cheese in a blender until smooth (lower in fat)

Mizithra cheese (soft) = myzithra  Notes:   Don't confuse this with aged Mizithra, which is a hard grating cheese. Substitutes: cottage cheese


Neufchatel = Neufchâtel    Pronunciation: new-shuh-TELL OR NEW-shuh-tell   Notes:   Neufchâtel is very similar in taste and appearance to cream cheese, but it's made from milk instead of cream so it contains less fat and more moisture.  Cheesecakes made with it cook more quickly and are more prone to cracking.  Use it within a few days after purchasing, and throw it out if mold appears.  For best results, serve chilled.  Substitutes:  cream cheese (typically higher in fat) OR Boursin  


paneer cheese = panir cheese = Indian curd cheese  Notes:   Indians like to serve this bland fresh cheese with spinach or peas.  Use within a few days.  Substitutes:  cubes of firm tofu OR feta cheese (much saltier) To make your own:   Bring one gallon of whole milk to a boil, stirring regularly.  (It's best to use a double boiler to avoid scalding the milk.  Don't use an aluminum or cast iron pan.)  Remove from heat, then gradually add lemon or lime juice until the mixture curdles (about 3-4 tablespoons).  Cover, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes.  Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander and allow the curds to drain.  Rinse the curds with water and allow to drain some more, then fold the cloth around the cheese and use a weighted plate to press more moisture out of it for a few hours or until it becomes firm.

panir cheese  See paneer cheese

petit gervais

Petit-Suisse = Petit Suisse  Pronunciationpuh-TEE SWEES Notes:   You can buy small six-packs of this rich fresh cheese all over France, but they're hard to find in the U.S.  Gervais is a popular brand.   Substitutes:  fromage blanc OR quark OR cream cheese  

Philadelphia  See cream cheese.

pressed cheese  See farmer cheese.

quark = quark-curd = topfen = quarg = curd-cheese    Notes:   This versatile fresh cheese resembles soft cream cheese.  Germans (who call is quark) and Austrians (who call it topfen) use it to make everything from cheesecake to gravy.  To make your own:   Combine one quart whole milk with 1/2 cup buttermilk in a clean container, cover, and let the mixture stand at room temperature for two days.  Gently cook the mixture for about 30 minutes.  It's done when the curd has thickened slightly and begun to separate from the whey.  Let it cool and pour it into a colander lined with several folds of cheesecloth.  Put the colander into a larger container, wrap with plastic, and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator until the quark is reduced to the consistency of yogurt.  Makes about 1 cup.  Substitutes: fromage frais (very similar) OR yogurt cheese (more acidic) OR two parts ricotta cheese and one part sour cream OR strained cottage cheese OR mascarpone



queso blanco   Notes:   This popular Hispanic fresh cheese is often added to casserole or bean dishes, since it holds its shape well when when heated.  It's a good cheese for frying or grilling, though queso para freir is a better choice if you can find it.  Substitutes:  queso para freir OR queso panela OR farmer cheese OR Monterey jack  

queso de metate  See queso fresco


queso fresco = queso de metate    NotesMexican cooks like to crumble this mild grainy cheese onto soups, salads, casseroles, and bean dishes.  It softens but doesn't melt when heated.   Where to find:  Mexican grocery stores Substitutes:  Mix equal parts cottage cheese and feta cheese OR farmer cheese OR cotija cheese OR feta cheese (similar texture but saltier) OR queso anejo OR mild goat cheese OR paneer OR ricotta cheese OR jack cheese
queso para freir  NotesThis fresh Hispanic cheese is salty and crumbly.  It's terrific for making the Caribbean specialty queso frito (fried cheese) since it holds its shape when when heated.  Substitutes:  queso blanco (Not as salty but also holds its shape well when heated) OR mozzarella (also fries well) OR queso panela (also fries well)


queso panela = panela = queso de canasta   Notes:  This popular Mexican cheese is mild and crumbly, and it doesn't lose its shape when heated.  It's often mixed into bean dishes or casserole fillings or crumbled over salads and tacos.  It can be fried, though queso para freir or queso blanco hold their shapes better.  Queso panela is sometimes served with tropical fruit as a snack or appetizer.  Substitutes:  queso blanco OR high moisture mozzarella OR queso para freir OR feta OR ricotta OR drained cottage cheese OR Requeson cheese

Requeson cheese = Requesón   Notes:   This fresh Hispanic cheese resembles ricotta cheese, and is used to make dips and desserts.  Substitutes:  ricotta cheese OR Mix equal parts ricotta and cottage cheese, then place in a cheesecloth-lined colander until some of the liquid has drained off.



ricotta cheese  Pronunciation:  rih-KAH-tuh   Notes:   This Italian fresh cheese is made from the watery whey that's drained off in the production of mozzarella, provolone, and other cheeses.  Ricotta cheese is sweeter and smoother than cottage cheese, and it's much richer in calcium.  You can eat it straight from the tub with fresh fruit, but it's more commonly used as an ingredient in pasta dishes and desserts.  Italian ricotta cheeses are made exclusively with whey, while American versions add milk as a stretcher.  Low-fat versions are available, and they work quite well in cheesecakes.  Use the cheese within a few days after purchasing, and throw it out if mold appears or if it tastes too acidic.    To make your own:   (Note:  This recipe won't work with whey from milk that has been curdled with an acid.)  Heat whey until it reaches 200ºF (93ºC), stir in a small amount of vinegar, then pour the whey into a colander lined with butter muslin or a cotton pillowcase.  After it's drained to the desired consistency, salt to taste.  Substitutes:   queso fresco OR goat cheese (fresh) OR cottage cheese (lower in fat) OR pot cheese (drier) OR Requeson cheese OR clabber cream (especially as a pasta filling) OR buttermilk cheese (especially as a pasta filling) OR fromage blanc (lower in fat) OR tofu (firm silken tofu is best; mix with Italian herbs and olive oil if using in pasta dishes)

robiola Piemonte Pronunciation:  roh-bee-OH-lah pia-MAWN-tay  Notes:  This creamy fresh cheese from the Piedmond region of Italy is often used for cooking, and it's great on pizza.  It's also served as an antipasto along with olive oil and/or fresh herbs.  Piedmont robiolas include Langhe Robiola = Robiola delle Langhe, Robiola di Roccaverano, Robiola di Murazzano, and Robiolina di Bosconero.  These cheeses are hard to find in the U.S.  Don't confuse this with robiola Lombardia, a soft cheese.   Substitutes: equal parts ricotta and mascarpone OR ricotta OR mascarpone OR chevre OR Caprini


Rondelé = Rondele   Notes:  This flavored cream cheese is an inexpensive domestic version of Boursin.  Substitutes: Boursin

whey cheeses   Most cheese is made from curdled milk that has been drained of the watery whey.  Not wanting to waste the nutrient-rich whey, our ancestors discovered that they could extract more cheese from it by cooking it until the remaining proteins coagulated.  Examples of modern-day whey cheeses include ricotta, Gjetost, Manouri, Mizithra, and Requeson.

white cheese  See cream cheese.


yogurt cheese = chaka = labneh = lebna = labne = labanah    Notes:  This is a soft, tangy, and nutritious cream cheese substitute.   To make your own:  Line a colander with several folds of cheesecloth, a kitchen towel, or commercial yogurt strainer.  Pour stabilizer-free yogurt into the cloth, then put the colander into a larger container, wrap with plastic, and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator until it's reduced to half its volume.  If you like, add herbs or other flavorings.  Substitutes:  cream cheese (thicker consistency, not as tart, higher in calories) OR buttermilk cheese

Copyright © 1996-2005  Lori Alden