Halloumi cheese, popular in Greece
and usually made of a combination of
sheep’s and goat’s milk, has a firm quality
and is ideal for grilling, as in this grilled
This herb-marinated yogurt cheese is reminiscent of Lebanon’s labneh cheese. The
ingredients here are simply plain yogurt, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, red chili flakes, bay leaf
and extra virgin olive oil.
Hise believes that queso blanco is one
of the types offering the most culinary
opportunity, especially for its sauté
applications. “Really, there are only two
forms of browning that exist: the reaction
when meat or protein is browned, and
caramelization of sugar. Cheese is animal-
based and has lactose to get the best of
both browns. It’s savory and sweet at the
Queso oaxaca, an exception to the
crumbly, non-melting tradition, is a mild-
flavored Mexican mozzarella that is
hand-stretched into long ribbons of string
cheese and rolled up like a ball. In Mexico,
the cheese has a sourness from the
unrefrigerated, unpasteurized milk. “We
can’t do that here because of regulations,”
says Mitchell Whitley, general manager
for Mozzarella Company, Dallas. To mimic
that flavor, the artisanal cheese factory
adds fresh lime juice and salt to get the
sour twang. As a melting cheese, it is
pulled apart and used with enchiladas,
quesadillas or chiles rellenos.
Her other favorite Mexican cheese is
queso panela. “This was adapted from
the Greeks, so it’s similar to Greek
cheeses. This kind has a real salty finish
to it and doesn’t melt at all.” It’s her
favorite cheese for making grilled cheese
sandwiches. Though it doesn’t melt, it has
a quality that melts in your mouth, “and
you can’t say that for a lot of cheese,”
Throughout South America, cheeses such
as queso blanco are often served with
pineapple, mango or guava paste. “It’s their
version of peanut butter and jelly without
the bread,” Hise says.
For non-Mexican restaurants, she
suggests cubing queso panela and
adding it to salads for the saltiness.
A grilled sandwich with queso panela
combined with ham, avocado and aïoli
would also work well.
The grainy cheese types, such as queso
blanco, are widely used in dry salsas such
as corn salsa or roasted chipotle salsa and
with any form of corn, whether polenta,
enchiladas, corn tortillas or tortilla soup.
When buying the cheese, Patrick
suggests purchasing from Latino
suppliers to ensure that the cheese is
authentic. They also have a larger variety.
When sliced thin and sautéed on both
sides, queso blanco works as a carrier or
wrapper, and in fusion terms, could be filled
with shrimp or sautéed peppers. It could be
used as a wafer, like pita, and topped with
gyro meat or lamb. It could also be used as
the bottom of a layered dish to be eaten
with a knife and fork, Hise says.
At Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, Orange, Calif.,
chef/owner Gabbi Patrick uses the queso
oaxaca cheese from Mozzarella Company
in several ways. One simple application is
Quesillo en Salsa Verde, which is oaxaca
mozzarella coated in panko, fried, and
served with a tomatillo spicy sauce with
The stringiness of the cheese is not lost
at Gabbi’s. Patrick strings it and serves it
as an appetizer. “When it’s served stringy
in Mexico, they serve it with pico de gallo.
It’s like chips and salsa. They go hand in
hand,” she says.
Jody Shee, an Olathe, Kan.-based
freelance writer and editor, previously was
editor of a foodservice magazine. She has
20 years of food-writing experience and
writes the blog www.sheefood.com.