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Making Queso Fresco (and refried beans)

42 comments /
Another favorite around here?  Queso Fresco!  We use it on almost everything from tacos to enchiladas to sopes to gorditas to flautas to tortas to pasta to chilaquiles to quesadillas.  I love it!  Queso Fresco is a fresh Mexican cheese...that is soft and somewhat moist...but perfect for crumbling.  It doesn't really melt, but I LOOOOVE the way it tastes when it's warm.  It's sort of spongey and salty and milky. Mmmmm!  In all honesty, I usually buy it.  That's because I had yet to find a recipe that gave me what I was looking for.  Well folks, those times are through.  The MAN has come through...as if I ever had any doubt.  The longest part of the process is the culturing step...but it all hands-off, so don't let that scare you away.  I used citric acid (as opposed to the lime juice) when making the cheese since I already have it on hand for cheese making.  If that scares you or you don't have any readily available, then try the lime juice method!  Another thing...you may be tempted to dump the salted curds into a mold, but it really isn't necessary.  Simply gathering them together into the shape of a disk is perfectly sufficient.  Not to mention- gorgeously rustic!

Queso Fresco
makes ~1 lb.

1 gallon whole or 2% milk (remember, the richer the milk/flavor, the better the cheese)
2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. Citric Acid (sometimes called sour salt)
OR
1 c. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. salt (pure, fine-ground sea salt works best)

 Culture the milk.  Pour milk into a very large pot over med-low heat.  Stir in buttermilk.  Bring milks to 75° F, turn off heat, cover pot and let sit for 3-4 hours.

 Set the curd.  If using citric acid, stir it into ¼ c. cold water, continuing to stir until dissolved.  With lid off pot, turn heat to medium and stir dissolved citric acid or lime juice into milk mixture.  You will immediately see small curds start to form.  Every couple of minutes, stir slowly, gently, & thoroughly over entire bottom of pot until milk reaches 195°F, ~20 minutes.  At this point the curds will be very obvious, floating in the milky-transparent whey.  Remove from heat, let stand five minutes without stirring so all the curd can rise to the top.
  Drain the curd from the whey.  Wet a large piece of cheesecloth and line a large colander with it.  Set colander in sink (or over bowl if saving the whey).  Carefully ladle all of the curd into the colander. Gather the cheesecloth around the curd and gently squeeze to expel a bit more whey.  
Unwrap curd onto a plate, break it up, and sprinkle w/ the salt...working it in with a spoon or your fingers.
Gather the cheese curds into a 1" thick disk, transfer to a plate, cover, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
After it's chilled in the refrigerator, it is ready to use! It should last about 5 days or so, covered and refrigerated.
My preferred method is just crumbling a bit off and onto my plate...or into my mouth.  And I must say...I like it while it's still warm, too...before it's even gone in the fridge and had time to set.
Simple Refried Beans

 ~1 Tbs. bacon grease, lard, or olive oil
~1-2 c. cooked pinto beans w/ some cooking liquid
garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, salt, & pepper, all to taste

Heat fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in beans w/ some cooking liquid.  Mash them up with a potato masher and continue to toss until they are a bit dried out.
Stir in spices to taste, cook for another few minutes, and then remove from heat.  Serve.
One of my favorite ways to put it all together is to make a Torta.  Slice a bolillo or telera bread in half and toast, cut side down on a hot skillet until browned.  Spread some hot refried beans on the bottom bun.  Scatter crumbled queso fresco over the beans. Layer on some sliced tomato.  Add some meat if you wish...I used Peperoncini Beef.  Scatter lettuce or cabbage over that along with some cilantro, avocado and some salsa.
*Also, check out my friend Mely's post over at Mexico in my Kitchen...she gives a great Queso Fresco tutorial using a different recipe!

I am sharing this post with:
forgingfromagebutton2 flash-back Friday Cookin' for my Captain

42 comments

  1. I just heart Queso Fresco! I have this wonderful salad dressing that calls for it. It is so yummy but I rarely make it, as the cheese is pretty expensive. You've inspired me, I will have to try it out!

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  2. I am bookmarking this recipe to use in a few months when we have fresh goat milk again!! Thanks for the recipe! :)

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  3. A very useful post Heather, thanks for sharing!

    US Masala

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  4. I need to try that cheese, love to make it in home.The re fired beans sounds delicious.

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  5. I've been wanting to make Queso Fresco lately... and I absolutely love the taste of home made refried beans! These both look wonderful - I want Mexican food now!

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  6. love the detailed cheese recipe- looks great in your toast!

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  7. Ah-ha buttermilk, eh? I always thought I was making fresh cheese when I dumped lime juice into warm milk, but buttermilk... hmmm, wonder if it would work just as well if you just used soured milk.

    You Cheese...goddess ;) Thanks for sharing the method with the Hearth and Soul hop.

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  8. I am now very intrigued! Hmm...

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  9. This cheese looks very much like the portuguese requeijão - http://www.loriga.de/Requeijao.jpg a cheese I really love and can only eat once a year, when I vist my family in Portugal.
    Since we really no longer have buttermilk in Sweden, what do you suggest I use instead?

    thank you thank you
    hugs

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  10. Oh, your torta looks to die for! If it wasn't so late I would go out and buy one at the little stand down the road or make one. Have you ever tried making queso fresco with raw milk? I've been wanting to try.

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  11. You are very naughty to be posting such an amazing looking torta at the end! I am drooling over it and it's only 5:40am.

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  12. I love your cheese posts - I could spoon feed myself queso fresco. Grand photos and good step-by-step. You make it all so easy.

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  13. ana...the buttermilk is used simply to "culture" the milk before turning it into cheese, so really you could probably skip this step. Or you could try making sour milk by putting two Tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup and filling the remaining space for 2 cups with milk and then allowing it to sit and sour for about an hour. Not sure if this would work or not?? Worth a try!

    Katie...I've never tried it with raw milk since in the second step you have to heat it to 195. I figure that would be negating the benefits, anyway. But I know it would taste fantastic!!

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  14. I haven't found anywhere where I can purchase this cheese so I am happy for the recipe heather!!!!

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  15. so once you make the cheese, how long does it last in the fridge? i just ask because it looks like it makes a very large batch and i wonder if i could use all of it before it goes bad.

    but I must make it. i can't buy it where i live currently :(

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  16. Rebekah...thank you for asking, I should have put that in the post, but I forgot. I've added it in. It should last about 5 days, if covered and refrigerated. I'm betting that you could make a half batch just fine. All of the ingredients are easily halved...so you could always try that! :)

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  17. OMG! I love queso fresco! Never thought about making it myself though. But now you have me very inspired to do so. Thanks for posting this!

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  18. Hi girlichef,

    That torta-sandwich look mouthwatering. Your cheese looks very fresh. I have an step by step process of it on my blog in case you would like to link to it.

    I wish, I could live close to you to cook together. We cook much a like. :)

    Mely

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  19. I am so incredibly impressed. Queso is a recent addiction of mine and I had no idea that making it was so...doable! Look fantastic!

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  20. You are a girl after my own heart, Heather. I made cheese over the weekend, too. I used my grandmother's recipe, which is just milk, vinegar and salt. We press it after it's wrapped in cheesecloth, so it's sliceable. Love homemade cheese! I'm drooling over your sandwich, too!

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  21. wow I want to make my own cheese too!

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  22. This is impressive! I am not sure I would go to such trouble for queso fresco even though I love it.

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  24. Wow Heather, YOu know how interesting it is that cheeses can "look" the same but have a completely different creation process, mouth feel and taste! This "looks" like ricotta but I am sure it tastes much different and if you love it, then it is da bomb! Thanks for hosting and posting on the hearth and soul hop! Wonder if I could use sour milk instead of buttermilk cause I dont have any-I might just try it that way~ hugs! Alex

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  25. Alex...it does amaze me how all of the different, yet similar fresh cheeses have their own textures, flavors, scents, etc! Queso Fresco is not soft like Ricotta...it's actually quite firm when compared. Great for crumbling!

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  26. oh my goodness, that last picture is to die for! i love the homemade cheese and refried beans. i'm surprised at how little fat goes into them. it all looks just delicious!

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  27. Che meraviglia, splendida ricetta!!!! Bacio cara!

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  28. Hi Miss Dar!!

    Queso Fresco is definitely on my "to make" list....Looks so very good.

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  29. I have never tasted Queso Fresco, and I've never seen it in stores anywhere here either, but I've been meaning to try making this for ages. Thanks for the reminder - it looks wonderful and I bet it tastes awesome. Love the look of your sandwich with the refried beans - yum.
    Sue :-)

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  30. Oh wow, brilliant. Queso fresco. I have to make this. Mil gracias!

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  31. Now I'm feeling really left out. I've never had queso fresco. That sandwich looks amazing!

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  32. OOOh where to begin? That sandwich looks to die for! And the queso yummmmm! I also was about to post some refried beans recipe I made earlier! Great minds think alike.

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  33. My oldest son loves making queso fresco...and it is delicious!
    And he would adore your refried beans...He is a serious bacon guy :)

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  34. That sandwich looks killer. So impressed you made the rolls and the cheese. You're good!

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  35. Hand over that sammich and nobody gets hurt!
    Great job on the cheese. I have always wanted to try making refried beans... but that sammich is a work of art! I want it for breakfast.

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  36. I've never had queso fresco before. And my previous attempts at making cheese were major failures. But I like how you turned this into a sandwich. Beans on bread with cheese? Brilliant!

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  37. Heather.....living with you must be a food lovers dream... Super awesome post and thanks for all you do at the hearth and soul hop.

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  38. Very impressive. Love the cheese and homemade refried beans are the best. You are making me hungry.
    ;-)

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  39. This cheese would be so rich tossed across a fajita or any other fantastic dish. The authentic beans rock too.

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  40. I was looking for a good refried beans recipe and am so delighted you posted how to make Queso Fresco! You can't get it up here in Canada so I can't wait to try this out - won't my hubby be impressed with this one :o)
    Cheers!

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