Queso blanco is an easy to make mild cheese that is good simply crumbled over salads, tacos and other recipes. But it really shines when you take advantage of the fact that queso blanco (unlike queso fresco) doesn't melt when baked or pan fried.
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Draining time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 21 minutes
Yield: 1 pound/450 grams
- 1/2 gallon liters whole milk
- 2 tablespoons distilled white or white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
- Pour the milk into a large pot made of stainless steel or other non-reactive material (no aluminum, copper, or non-enameled cast iron). Heat the milk over medium-low heat. Use a cheese, candy or meat thermometer to get a read on the temperature.
- When the temperature reaches 180F/82C (the milk will be steaming and forming a "skin" on top, but not boiling), turn off the heat. Stir in the vinegar one tablespoon at a time. You will see the curds (dairy solids) start to separate from the whey (a semi-clear, yellowish liquid). Stop adding vinegar when that happens. If you've added the full 2 tablespoons vinegar and the curds and whey still haven't separated, add more vinegar one teaspoon at a time until the separation occurs.
- Leave the curds and whey to sit in the pot for 10 minutes. They will continue to separate further during that time.
- Line a colander with butter muslin or several layers of cheesecloth. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds drain for 15 minutes. Tie the ends of the butter muslin or cheesecloth around the curds forming a tight bundle. Leave the cheese to drain for another 2 to 4 hours.
- Unwrap the queso blanco and transfer it to a food storage container. It will keep, refrigerated for up to one week, and may be frozen for longer storage.
You can use queso blanco as a mild cheese crumbled over salads, tacos, beans and greens, etc., but its real value lies in the fact that it does not melt when pan fried or baked. This means you can cut it into cubes, fry those in very little oil until they are golden on all sides, and then add the cubes of cheesy goodness to dishes such as the ones I just mentioned.
The reason queso blanco, like its Indian cousin paneer, doesn't melt when fried is because it is curdled with an acidic liquid (vinegar). Often confused with queso fresco, those two cheeses are almost identical when used uncooked. But queso fresco is made using rennet to separate the curds and whey, with the result that it does melt when heated.