Queso fresco has become one of my favorite cheese types after I tasted it in numerous Mexican dishes like tacos. Ever since then, queso fresco has become a staple in my home. However, the last time I got myself a block of queso fresco, I faced a unique problem. Right after I got the block, I had to go out for a couple of months. That is when I tried to figure out if I could freeze it or not.
I’m sure if you too consume queso fresco, you would also face the question, can you freeze queso fresco? Check the answer below.
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Can you freeze queso fresco?
Yes, you can freeze queso fresco. The problem is, it will lose its distinct soft texture and mild flavor because of the same. Merely by freezing and defrosting queso fresco, it won’t get spoiled.
Before I dig deeper into this, it is important to know more about queso fresco.
What is queso fresco?
Queso fresco is a fresh cheese with a mild taste. Unlike most fresh cheeses that have a salty taste, this one is on the milder side. The crumbly texture of this fresh Mexican cheese has made it an excellent choice for garnishing.
Queso fresco being native to Mexico, is often used in Mexican dishes like tacos, huevos rancheros, etc. This white cheese is traditionally consumed fresh. However, many consumers like to stock it up, so they often try to freeze it.
Is it advisable to freeze queso fresco?
Practically freezing queso fresco is not advisable because of its changes while freezing. Essentially this soft cheese variant undergoes two changes on freezing and defrosting.
Why isn’t it advisable to freeze queso fresco?
The two changes which take place include:
1. Change in texture
Every fresh cheese variant, including queso fresco, has a significant quantity of water. This water content is because of the goat or cow milk used to make this fresh cheese. That is how it remains soft.
According to Harvard, cow milk consists of 87% water, while as per this report, goat milk’s water content stands at 88.5%. If you freeze queso fresco, this water will turn into ice crystals. When you defrost the same, the ice crystals will release water most of which isn’t retained by the cheese and released in the vicinity. The loss of water changes the texture.
2. Water release
When you defrost queso fresco, not all the water released is retained by the cheese. A large portion of the water content is released outside. It means that some parts of cheese will have appropriate water content, and some parts will be extremely dry. Consequently, the crumbly texture of queso fresco will be lost. This once again changes its taste.
In a nutshell, the distinct taste of this fresh cheese cannot be retained on freezing and defrosting.
Can you fall ill if you consume queso fresco after defrosting?
There is little to no evidence that queso fresco can make you ill after freezing and defrosting it. Of course, this is assuming that you freeze it properly and defrosting procedure is well thought of.
Thus, health concerns shouldn’t be a reason to prevent you from freezing or defrosting this cheese.
How to freeze queso fresco?
Queso fresco can be frozen in three simple steps.
Step 1- Check the quality of the cheese
No point in freezing queso fresco that has already gone bad. Before beginning the freezing process, check out for any visible signs of mold.
Step 2- Wrap it
After ascertaining the freshness of queso fresco
1. Wrap it in aluminum foil.
2. Put this assembly into an airtight zip lock bag.
3. Ensure that the seal is in place.
In case you don’t have ziplock bags, you can pack it in Little Details Airtight Food Storage Ziplock Bags.
Step 3- Freeze it rapidly
The only way to reduce the number of ice crystals formed on cue fresco is to freeze it to -9°F (-23 °C) rapidly. Even then, there will be some formation of ice crystals, but the density will be less. That way, after defrosting, taste and texture will be retained.
Many refrigerators these days have quick freeze options. Rather than buying a commercial blast chiller, it is better to check if your fridge has this feature or get this one from Haier, which offers this exact rapid freezing function. You can use this refrigerator to freeze any ingredient.
How long can you keep queso fresco frozen?
Soft cheese variants like queso fresco can be preserved in a frozen state for up to two months. If you store it for long, its creamy texture will be entirely lost on defrosting.
All this effort will go to waste if you do not thaw queso fresco appropriately.
How to defrost queso fresco?
Unfortunately, defrosting this cheese isn’t as simple as defrosting other ingredients. However, if you stick to the procedure below, you should do fine.
Step 1- Move it to the fridge
The first step is to move it to the fridge. That will gradually increase its temperature from -9°F. It should remain in the fridge for eight hours. In the refrigerator, it should be in its original packaging that is in the Ziploc bag wrapped in aluminum foil. The best time to move it to the fridge is the night before you want to use it.
Step 2- Check for water release
Some water release is inevitable. Only if the cheese block has released water after eight hours can you assume that the thawing process is complete. Once you notice condensation or water in the aluminum foil, move to the next step.
Step 3- Drain the excess water
Extract the cheese from the packaging, place it on the cutting board, and tap it lightly to remove excess water. If you plan to use it right away, you can do so. Otherwise, you can store it in the fridge for a few hours until you intend to use it.
Above I mentioned that defrosting queso fresco is not as easy as it sounds. That is because there are a few precautions you need to undertake (covered below).
Precautions you need to undertake after defrosting queso fresco
While these precautions cannot eliminate the grainy texture, they can make it less intense.
1. Use within 2 to 3 days of defrosting
After defrosting, the clock starts ticking. You need to use the defrosted cheese within 2 to 3 days. Any longer than that, and it will lose all its taste.
2. Do not refreeze
Do not attempt to refreeze queso fresco. That will further deteriorate the texture on defrosting again.
How to use queso fresco after defrosting?
There is no limitation on the recipes in which you can use defrosted queso fresco. There are a few tips to reduce the grainy texture and water content.
• Use queso fresco in bite-sized quantities. That way, even if water density is high in the defrosted queso fresco, it won’t be high enough to overwhelm other ingredients.
• It is better to use queso fresco in spicy recipes like a quesadilla or a hot bowl of chili. That will ensure that the watery taste is nullified to a certain extent.
• Defrosted queso fresco tastes well in recipes with limited water. If you intend to add water to any such delicacy while cooking, it is better to add a lesser quantity of water as defrosted fresco might release some.
Alternative to freezing queso fresco
I have frozen queso fresco a couple of times but wasn’t that satisfied with the taste. In my opinion, storing queso fresco in a refrigerated state is a much better option.
The process of storing it in the fridge is easier. You can use the same packaging to store it; therefore, you need not buy any packaging material.
How long does Queso Fresco last in the fridge?
The cheese can last for 2 to 3 days in the fridge if opened and for a week if not. There is, however, an exception. If the packaging is vacuum sealed, it can last for up to 8 weeks in the fridge.
Even though the shelf life is shorter in the fridge, it does not lose any of its taste, and that is why I prefer it to freezing. This applies to store-bought queso fresco.
Unfortunately, if you’re dealing with homemade queso fresco, it can last only for a single day in the fridge. That is because homemade queso fresco is devoid of preservatives and not packaged in a sealed container.
How to tell if Queso Fresco has gone bad?
Despite your best efforts, defrosted queso fresco cheese can often go bad. Ever since this happened, I have used four signs to detect bad queso fresco.
Fresh queso fresco cheese has almost no aroma. At the most, it has a subtle milky aroma. However, if it smells sour, it indicates that it might have gone bad. In that case, you should discard it rather than taste it.If it has any other taste than the one mentioned above, it is best to discard it.
2. Mold growth
Mold is characterized by white or green spots. In some rare cases, the growth might be orange or golden. If you notice any such spots, it is best to throw away the cheese. No attempt should be made to taste it to find out if it is fresh.
This cheese variant is characterized by its white appearance. It is very similar to Feta or ricotta cheese. That is because it is made from milk curdled with lemon juice. A few variants also consist of chopped herbs, but the appearance is usually entirely white unless something is added.
In case defrosted fresco is of another color, it is best to discard it.
Once after inspecting queso fresco cheese, I did not notice any of these symptoms and decided to use it. However, on consuming it, I noticed a savory flavor. This flavor did not result from any associated ingredients used. The cheese had gone rancid.
Therefore, if you notice any unusual taste, the cheese has gone bad.
Queso Fresco substitutes that can be frozen
Just because it is not advisable to freeze queso fresco doesn’t mean you can’t freeze any cheese. The alternatives below can be frozen and taste equally good.
1. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is an Indian cheese that can be easily frozen and stored for a long time without distinct changes in taste. The mild flavor, as well as the crumbly texture of this cheese, makes it an excellent alternative to queso fresco.
2. Baby mozzarella
Baby mozzarella cheese might not precisely resemble the texture of the queso cheese. However, the fact that it tastes very similar is why it is a good alternative. Another reason you can use this cheese is that it can be frozen quickly without changing taste.
Sure enough, it might be more solid than queso fresco, but its versatility as a garnish or a primary ingredient makes it a good choice.
Feta, also known as goat cheese, has a similar texture to queso fresco. While the flavor might be a bit stronger but it is indeed comparable. Add to that the fact that feta cheese can be frozen without any deviation in taste. Hence, it is a worthy alternative.
Thus, if you are stead-fast on freezing cheese, try out any of these three fresh cheese alternatives rather than going with queso fresco.
Instead of wondering if you can freeze queso fresco, it is essential to understand what happens when you do. Of course, you can freeze it, but it will undergo many changes. If you follow the guide above, you will know how to freeze this cheese and how to use it afterward. It is now time to enjoy your favorite cheese without worrying about the intricacies of freezing and defrosting.
How do you store leftover queso fresco?
Leftover queso fresco should be wrapped in aluminum foil tightly and stored in the refrigerator. Since it is in an open state, you must consume it within 1 to 2 days. After this time, it will become susceptible to mold and mildew growth. The flavors might also get milder with time.
Can you freeze Cacique Queso Fresco?
It is not advisable to freeze Cacique Queso Fresco because it will also experience a change in taste due to the formation of ice crystals. The manufacturing company Cacique also advises that it is best to keep the block refrigerated rather than frozen.
Is queso fresco the same as fresh mozzarella?
No queso fresco is not same as fresh mozzarella. The manufacturing process of queso fresco is different. Apart from that, it has a tangier flavor than fresh mozzarella. Simultaneously, it is smoother than fresh mozzarella but saltier. The unique taste and texture of the queso fresco have made it famous.
Is there a difference between queso Blanco and queso fresco?
Queso Blanco is made from cow milk. Queso fresco can be made from cow milk, goat milk, or a mixture of the two. There is little difference between the two. In fact, in day-to-day use, the names, queso blanco and queso franco are used interchangeably.
How long does queso fresco last at room temperature?
The best way to store queso fresco is to keep it in the refrigerator. If left open, store-bought queso fresco can last for a couple of hours at room temperature. Homemade queso fresco can last for 60 to 90 minutes.
Is queso good if left out overnight?
No queso won’t be edible if you leave it out overnight. Because of exposure to room temperature for so long, it might also develop a foul taste and experience mold. It is best to discard such queso fresco.
Why does my queso fresco smell like fish?
If queso fresco smells like fish, the cheese might have gone bad. At room temperature, queso has a very limited shelf life and can easily go bad. It is best to discard such a block of cheese.
What is the nutritional value of queso fresco?
Every ounce of this white cheese has approximately 0.8 grams of carbs, 6.8 gms of fat, 5.1 gms of protein, and 85 calories.
Does the nutritional value of queso fresco change after freezing?
No, the nutritional value of queso fresco doesn’t change after freezing. Even though more research is needed, there are studies that indicate nutritional values of cheese variants do not change on freezing. Their quality, however, does change.