Herbed Queso Fresco

Mexican cheese expert Carlos Yescas loves this easy, customizable queso fresco as a garnish or for breakfast. Fresh herbs or chiles make this a show-stopping appetizer or impressive taco filling. Using the highest-quality milk you can find, preferably a grass-fed milk from a local dairy, will ensure a clean flavor. Pick up a basket mold, which allows the cheese to drain evenly, and liquid rennet, a natural coagulant which creates tender, sliceable cheese.

Herbed Queso Fresco
Photo: Victor Protasio
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
8 to 12


  • 1 gallon best-quality pasteurized, unhomogenized, grass-fed whole milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon single-strength liquid animal or vegetable rennet

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh epazote leaves or 1 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (optional)


  1. Pour milk into a large, heavy- bottomed pot; stir until cream dissolves in milk. Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until milk reaches 109°F, about 18 minutes. (Do not overheat the milk.) Remove from heat, and whisk in rennet. Whisk until completely combined, about 10 seconds. Cover pot, and let stand 1 hour.

  2. Check consistency of curd by using a small knife to pierce surface. It should be soft, like firm custard. Using a large metal whisk, cut curd into approximately 1/4-inch pieces. Let stand until curds sink to bottom of pot, about 5 minutes.

  3. Line a colander with damp cheesecloth, and set inside a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer curds to colander. Gather corners of cheesecloth, and lift with one hand while gently squeezing curds in cheesecloth with other hand to drain thoroughly. Return to colander, and let drain 10 minutes.

  4. With clean hands, open cheesecloth, and transfer cheese to a medium bowl. Break open cheese ball, and sprinkle with salt. Gently knead, breaking up cheese until salt is well incorporated. Fold in epazote or chipotles, if using.

  5. Line 1 (1-pound) or 2 (1/2-pound) cheese molds with damp cheesecloth, allowing excess to drape over sides. Add curds to mold(s), pressing to fill evenly. Fold cheesecloth over top, and press to expel remaining whey. Let stand 10 minutes. Unmold cheese, flip, and return to cheesecloth-lined mold(s) (the bottom will now be the top). Press cheese gently to set shape. Transfer mold(s) to a rimmed baking sheet, and chill at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours before unmolding.

  6. Unmold cheese, and serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week. Cut into wedges before serving.

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