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Mexico on My Plate: Queso Fresco the Easy Way, Version 1

Mexico on My Plate: Queso Fresco the Easy Way, Version 1

Homemade Queso Fresco

Nancy Lopez-McHugh serves up a first batch of authentic and simple Mexican queso fresco. More to follow.
By Nancy Lopez-McHugh

Homemade Queso Fresco
Homemade Queso Fresco

Contrary to what Tex-Mex restaurants (or Mexican inspired restaurants) will lead people to believe, Mexican food is never drowning in cheese. Sure Mexican cuisine uses cheese but not to the extent that those aforementioned restaurants use. Cheese in Mexican cuisine is most often used as a light topping, light being the key word. When it is used as a filling then of course the amount required is more. Sure we have a few dishes that are all about the queso, like quesadillas, chiles rellenos, seared cheese and queso fundido. But other than that in a real authentic Mexican restaurant ,or home, you will never be served dishes with so much cheese you can barely tell what’s underneath the cheese. Oh, and yellow cheese does not exist/belong on real authentic Mexican food. Ay! But that and other non-existing/belonging foods is a story for another day. Perhaps one can use the amount of cheese on a plate as a measuring point to the authenticity of the food in a restaurant.?

The Spanish conquistadors are who originally brought cheese making, and milk based products for that matter, to Latin America. Later as Swiss and German settlers arrived in different parts of Mexico they introduced their own dairy processes and cheeses. Modern day Mexican cheeses range from soft fresh cheeses to firm aged cheeses. The variety is small compared to lets say French cheeses, but they do their job perfectly in Mexican cuisine.

Making Queso Fresco

If you live in the US then chances are Mexican cheese is easy to come by. Living in Europe they are not, so I find myself often substituting with local cheese. Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining and have had good results with the substitutes. But cheese making is something that I’ve always been curious about. To me it is interesting how milk is transformed into so many varieties of cheese. After filling my head with cheese knowledge I was ready to give it a try. Since European cheeses  are abundant I thought I start off with an exotic and easy to make cheese. Queso fresco came to mind because everything I read said how easy it was to prepare.

See Also

Queso fresco or literally fresh cheese is the crumbly cheese most commonly used in Mexican cooking. The taste is mild with slight acidic undertones, it is used as a topping or filling, though it is a soft cheese it does not melt completely. This recipe I am sharing with you today is the first in several variations and experimentations I am planning for this queso, hence the Verison 1 in the title. The most important thing about this basic and standard recipe is that anyone can make it and you don’t need any special ingredients to do so. Get the milk out and start that queso for tonight’s Mexican dinner!

Queso Fresco Step by Step
Queso Fresco Step by Step
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Mexico On My Plate: Queso Fresco The Easy Way, Version 1

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4.7 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Nancy Lopez-McHugh
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Get the milk out and make some Queso Fresco for tonight’s dinner!


  • 1 liter or 34 oz. of whole fat milk (I used 3.5% UHT)
  • 240 ml or 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp fresh squeeze lemon juice, extra if needed
  • salt
  • clean cloth or muslin cloth


  1. In a large pot heat the milk under medium heat. Allow the first bubbles to form prior to boiling – but do not bring to a boil. The temperature should be warm but not so hot that sticking a finger in it will burn the finger. Turn the heat to a low setting.
  2. Gently pour and stir in the buttermilk. Next stir in the fresh lemon juice. Keep stirring until curds begin to form. If no curds form after a couple of minutes you will need to add more lemon juice. Turn heat off, cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Place a colander with the clean cloth over a large container to catch the whey. Pour all of the pot contents into the lined colander. BE CAREFUL the liquid is hot. Gather all sides and tie over a wooden spoon or just twist. Remove the colander and place the gathered cloth over a deep container. You don’t want the curds to touch the liquid, it needs to drain off. Leave draining for 30 minutes and tightening the cloth from time to time.
  4. Once drained untie the cloth and place the cheese into a large container. Salt as desired, and use your hands to work the salt into the cheese. Taste and adjust if desired. Gather the cheese and place in a container to mould and cover. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until chilled before using.


*The cheese must be stored in the refrigerator and used within a couple of days.
** This recipes yields a small 240 gram cheese or 1/2 lb .

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins

I feel the results were pretty good and considering this was the first cheese I’ve ever made, not bad at all. The taste was creamy, soft with very little acidic undertones. We ate half of the cheese the first day I made it. The next day the leftover cheese had come together ever more and  lost a bit of the looseness in the curds. I think next time the draining time will be longer. But the taste was still very creamy and I was able to spread it on some bread. Can’t wait to try a second version, spiced perhaps. How about you, ever made your own cheese at home?

View Comments (14)
  • queso fresco, ah que rico!! Here in South Texas queso fresco is sold by the pound in every store, but a homemade version is always nice to have on hand. I would love to try your homemade version, maybe this weekend. A spiced version, can’t wait!

    • Hola Bonnie, I can imagine there is an abundance of authentic Mexican ingredients there. Let me know what you think if you make it. I’m still learning and tweaking so feedback would be great.

  • Queso fresco is hard to find where I am at or at least not on a regular basis. A trip to the Mexican market is usually in order. I am eager to try your recipe.

    I have always considered the “cheesier” versions of Mexican food more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican. I definitely lean towards the authentic which is usually lighter and fresher tasting.

  • I can only imagine tasting your fresh homemade cheese. I think this is a fun project and I’m interested to follow your adventure;-)

  • I am so loving this! Adam will just love this, he is crazy about authentic foods especially Mexican and this is a favorite cheese of his :) I myself love the world of cheese so I am right there…

  • I lovebhownsimple this is. I am trying it as we speak and hope its as delicious as it sounds! One question, can you do anything with the leftover whey?

    Thank you very much!!

  • Queso fresco is served on a daily basis in my home. My husband lived this receipt. I make queso every day, sometimes i spice it up, ,comino, red chile flakes, ect. Thank you so much for this easy queso fresco receipt.

  • I live in Europe so can’t find queso fresco here at all. I tried this recipe today and even doubled it but it only made about a tablespoon of cheese.

  • In Step 1 you instruct to bring the milk, using medium heat, to a warm temperature not hot enough to burn a finger and then reduce the heat to low. In Step 2 the heat is turned off before waiting for the milk to curdle. Then in Step 3 there is a warning that the milk will be hot. Did I miss something because somehow warm milk subjected to decreasing heat got hot? Okay, now the big question. What differs Queso Fresco from other acid & milk cheeses? It seems like I’ve seen recipes for ricotta, paneer, quark, and cottage cheese all using UHT milk and acid, whether it be lemon juice, buttermilk, vinegar, citric acid, etc. I know store bought ricotta, paneer, and cottage cheese taste different but it seems all the aforementioned cheese would taste the same if homemade.

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