Mexican Cheese Fiesta! Recipes for Oaxaca Cheese and Queso Fresco
Make Quesadillas, Elotes and Quesabirria
with Don Froylan Mexican Cheeses
What is Queso Oaxaca?
Queso Oaxaca (pronounced waa-haa-kuh) is similar to mozzarella cheese in texture and flavor. In fact, it was first created by Dominican friars who brought mozarella's stretched-curd cheesemaking methods with them to Oaxaca. They began using this technique to make the first Queso Oaxaca. Since it's made with the same technique, it pulls apart similar to a tender mozzarella.
Queso Oaxaca is different from mozzarella in a couple of ways. Oaxaca cheese is always made with cow's milk, rather than mozzarella's traditional buffalo milk; Oaxaca cheese is shaped to look almost like a ball of string or twine, and finally, Oaxaca cheese it is not kept in brine so it has a slightly more buttery taste than mozzarella and a vastly superior melting quality. For the ooey-gooiest, meltiest cheese pull, Oaxaca cheese can not be beat. All these qualities make Oaxaca cheese the preferred choice for quesadillas, cheese-stuffed dishes, and baked casseroles.
What is Queso Fresco?
Queso fresco, or “fresh cheese” in Spanish, is as fresh and pure as cheese gets. It's the Mexican verison of farmer's cheese--minimally processed, lightly salted, and never aged. Its subtle flavor and resistance to melting make it great as a topping cheese. Cumble it onto soups, salads, eggs, enchiladas, tacos, fruit, you name it. It adds a balanced touch of mild milky flavor to any dish while keeping its juicy but firm texture. It never overpowers the rest of the dish but brings a soft creaminess that enhances your favorite foods.
We love Don Froylan cheeses in everything! The possibilities are endless, but here are a few recipes to get you started.
Make an easy but filling Oaxaca cheese quesadilla using cheese and Carso's diced chicken breast inside Surito flour tortillas, topped with Penny's salsa, Smith Brothers Farms sour cream, and sliced avocados. Yum!
Makes 1 quesadilla
- 1 Tablespoon Smith Brothers Farms unsalted butter
- 2 Surito 8” Flour Tortillas
- 1/2 cup Don Froylan Oaxacan cheese, grated
- 3 ounces Carso's diced chicken breast
- 2 Tablespoons Penny's salsa
- 1/4 ripe avocado, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons Smith Brothers Farms sour cream
- This recipe comes together quickly, so be sure to have all your ingredients prepped before you begin.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of Smith Brothers Farms unsalted butter in a large sauce pan or cast iron skillet set to medium low.
- Place one tortilla in the hot pan and immediately sprinkle half of the cheese in an even layer onto the tortilla.
- Spread diced chicken breast in a layer on top of the cheese.
- Repeat with the remaining cheese, and cover with the second tortilla.
- After the cheese has started to melt, flip the quesadilla to cook the other side.
- Cook 2-3 minutes per side until both tortillas are crispy, the chicken is heated through, and the cheese is melted.
- Remove from heat and top with slice avocado, salsa, and sour cream to your taste.
- Slice into wedges (like a pizza) and enjoy!
Birria is a slow-cooked stewed meat that originates from Jalisco, Mexico. The stewed birria meat makes an excellent taco filling, with birria tacos frequently fried in the stew's braising liquid and served with a bowl consomme on the side for dipping. In the past few years, birria tacos and the quesabirria variation, which subs a cheese-stuffed corn quesadilla in place of the standard taco shell have exploded in popularity in the US. This recipe takes a shortcut with ready-to-go pulled pork to for a fast and easy homemade quesabirria perfect for a busy weeknight dinner.
Makes 6 tacos
- 3 Tablespoons cooking oil
- 12 oz. Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Pulled Pork
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1 cup Don Froylan Oaxacan cheese, grated
- 3 cups beef or vegetable stock or consomme
- one onion, chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup dried red chile powder
- 7 oz. jar chiles in adobo sauce or tomato paste
- 1.5 Tablespoons dried cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- salt to taste
- 2 limes
Make a quick birria:
- In a medium saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoons cooking oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the chopped onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Stir frequently.
- Add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, oregano, and cinammon and stir for about 1 minute, until the spices become fragrant and coat the onions. Watch that it does not begin to burn onto the bottom of the pan.
- Quickly add the beef stock and stir, scraping up any bits that are sticking to the bottom.
- Add tomato paste or chiles in adobo, pork, and bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until the pork is heated through and the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Add the juice of one lime.
Taste and adjust for salt and other spices.
- Remove bay leaf and strain the broth off from the meat, reserving the meat and broth separately for later. Squeeze the meat with the back of the spoon if necessary to separate it from the broth.
Assemble and serve tacos:
- In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat.
- Place a tortilla in the heated oil. Immediately sprinkle 1/6 of the cheese over the tortilla and top with a second tortilla to make a quesadilla. Press down and toast for approximately 1 minute.
- Flip quesadilla over and toast an additional minute on the other side. Set aside.
- Repeat with the remaining tortillas and cheese until you have 6 quesadillas.
- Dip a pre-fried quesadilla into the reserved broth and place back into the hot pan. Add more oil if necessary, or a little broth into the pan.
- Spoon 2 oz. of marinated pork onto one half of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla over onto itself to form a semi-circle shape. Toast for 1-2 minutes.
- Flip tortilla over and toast the other side for 1-2 minutes until both sides are cripsy.
- Repeat with remaining quesadillas.
- Serve with chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges, guacamole, and most important: a cup of the reserved hot broth for dipping.
Elotes are a popular street food in Mexico and Central America. The dish consists of grilled corn coated in a savory mixture of crema and queso fresco cheese, seasoned with chili powder, garlic, and salt, and topped off with a squeeze of lime. The juicy crunch of the tender corn plays off the soft, mild flavor of the crema and cheese. It's the summertime classic corn on the cob, but even better.
This recipe is very loose and can be easily adjusted to your individual preferences. You can choose a chili powder that is as spicy or as mild as you like and you can add as little or as much of the chili, garlic, or salt as you prefer. You could also simplify things by using a pre-made spice mix such as Tajin which includes dried lime right in the bottle. You can slather the corn heavily with cream and cheese, or keep it a little bit lighter and use just a sprinkling. You can substitute another green herb such as parsley if you are not a fan of cilantro, or you can skip the herb topping altogether. Each person can even choose how they want to dress their individual serving. It’s completely up to you—elotes are extremely customizeable.
Makes 4 ears of corn
- 4 ears corn on the cob, shucked
- 1/2 cup Smith Brothers Farms sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 6 oz. Don Froylan Queso Fresco cheese (1/2 package), crumbled
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro, minced
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1-2 fresh limes, cut into wedges
- Preheat grill to 350 degrees F
- Place shucked corn on hot grill and cook covered for 15-20 minutes. Flip the ears of corn at least once or up to 3 times to get even mild charring all the way around.
- While the corn is grilling, prep the other ingredients.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix sour cream and mayonnaise together until smooth
- Mix the chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper together and set aside.
- Once corn is tender and kernels can easily be pierced with a fork, remove from the grill.
- Using a sauce or pastry brush, apply a layer of the sour cream and mayonnaise mixture all over each ear of corn.
- Immediately sprinkle each ear of corn with ¼ of crumbled Don Froylan Queso Fresco cheese. (You may need to use your fingers to press the cheese onto the corn to make it stick better.)
- Sprinkle each ear of corn with the chopped cilantro and spice mix.
- Squeeze a wedge of lime onto each ear and serve immediately. (Elotes are best enjoyed hot!