Cheese curd is a by-product of cheese making, and it is made by pressing the curd into the mold to create a block of cheese. Basically, parts of the cheese block that stick out of the mold become this delicious cheesy snack.
Since cheese curd needs to be fresh, unlike the majority of other cheese types, it can be hard to find. Is there anything that can replace its fresh taste and unique flavor? Of course, there is. Let’s find the best cheese curd substitute!
The best substitutes for cheese curds
In order to make cheese, milk is first pasteurized and then cooked in order to separate whey from the curd. During the cooking process, a starter culture is added for the milk to get acidified, and then it is coagulated – resulting in curds. Finally, the liquid (whey) is separated from the solids (curds).
What gives cheese curds their unique, cheddar-like flavor is the process of cheddaring, which basically entails stacking, cutting up, and pressing the curds together repeatedly. By doing so, the excess moisture from the cheese curds is removed. The final step in making cheese curds is running them through a mill to get 2-3 inch pieces and salting them.
Cheese curds have a rather specific texture that can be described as rubbery, hence the term squeaky cheese. Since curds are a by-product of cheddar, the color of the cheese curds is usually white, yellow, or orange.
There are numerous ways you can eat your cheese curds, but it is important to make sure that it’s fresh. You can snack on them straight from the packaging, spice them up with some garlic, jalapeño, onion powder, and your favorite spice blends, or deep fry them. If you’re a fan of french fries, you should definitely try Poutine, a popular Canadian dish – cheese-curd and gravy-loaded fries.
Cheese curds can be stored in the fridge or frozen. However, keep in mind that this kind of storing may alter their texture and flavor, which is why it is best to eat them fresh.
When you think about fresh cheese and rubbery texture, mozzarella naturally comes to mind. It is a perfect cheese curd substitute since they have very similar textures and give your dishes that deep, yet refreshing flavor. If you’re looking for that mild taste, baby mozzarella might be an even better choice.
Fresh mozzarella is actually a kind of curd cheese, originating from Italy. While there aren’t many types of cheese curds (they’re usually cheddar byproducts), mozzarella comes in various shapes and forms. The highest quality mozzarella is made from water buffalo milk (mozzarella di bufala), but you can also find cow’s milk mozzarella, and goat’s milk mozzarella (less frequent).
Mozzarella is a great addition to pizza and other baked dishes. You’ll also love fresh mozzarella in your salads, such as the famous Caprese salad. And if you prefer deep-fried snacks, mozzarella sticks are hard to beat in this category!
Since cheese curds are technical parts of cheddar cheese blocks/wheels, you can’t go wrong with cheddar. Cheddar cheese is a hard cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk, and its texture is usually compact and crumbly. The more it matures, the sharper taste it gets, so make sure to avoid old cheddar if you’re looking for a replacement for cheese curds.
Cheese lovers will simply enjoy a plate of cheddar cheese with some crackers, fruit, and a glass of fine wine. However, cheddar is an extremely versatile cheese that can be layered on top of pizza, fried, used to stuff a burger, or in pasta sauces. One of the most popular cheddar recipes is certainly the nacho cheese sauce, and you can have it on your table in just 5 minutes.
For your cheddar nacho cheese sauce, you’re going to need:
- 6 oz medium cheddar, shredded
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp chili powder.
Whisk the melted butter and the flour in a saucepan over medium heat for about 60 seconds, then add milk and let it simmer. Remove from the heat and add the shredded cheddar cheese, stirring the mixture well. Add your seasoning and your nacho sauce is all done!
3. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is an ideal cheese curd substitute for poutine, as it has the mild, fresh flavor cheese curds offer. Even though they differ in texture, you’ll find that the taste is quite similar. However, keep in mind that cottage cheese is slightly more watery and salty, and it has whey in it.
Just like cheese curds, cottage cheese should be bought and used fresh, since it’s not aged. It is also a great source of protein, and an extremely healthy option when it comes to dairy. It is a deliciously savory spread, a great addition to your frittatas and omelet, and a refreshing dip when paired with veggies and spices.
4. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta is the creamiest, fluffiest mild-flavored cheese you’ll come across. This light cheese is actually leftover whey remaining in the cheesecloth after the cheese mixture has been strained. However, some companies prefer to make it using whole milk instead of whey, which gives it a deeper flavor.
Ricotta has a number of uses, especially in Italian cuisine. It is a great addition to the lasagna filling, as well as stuffed shells and manicotti. Ricotta with the addition of your favorite herbs can be a beautiful low-calorie dip or toast spread, but you can also add it to desserts such as cheesecake.
5. Feta cheese
Feta is a famous salty Greek cheese, and it has a creamy, soft, yet crumbly texture. As opposed to cheese curds, it is a full-flavored soft cheese, and it has a rather strong, nutty aroma. Nevertheless, feta could work well as a substitute for cheese curds as long as you don’t add any additional salt. It’s also a good substitute for other types of cheese like farmer’s cheese and halloumi cheese.
Feta offers great versatility in cooking and the list of potential snacks and meals is rather extensive. You’ll love its strong, savory flavor in your salads and omelets. Even though it is not as soft as ricotta and cottage cheese, it can still be used as a flatbread spread or a topping on your favorite pizza.
6. Paneer cheese
Paneer cheese comes from India, and it is made from curdled milk, with the addition of vegetable or fruit acid, such as lemon juice. Similar to cheese curds, this is a fresh, unaged, soft cheese, and it doesn’t melt. What’s more, paneer is completely vegetarian, as it doesn’t contain an enzyme called animal rennet.
If you tend to gravitate towards mild, milky flavor, paneer cheese is a perfect choice for you. Thanks to its neutrality, it goes well with pretty much any dish, as you don’t have to worry about flavors and aromas clashing.
In traditional Indian cuisine, paneer often comes wrapped in dough or served as a side dish with vegetables such as peas and spinach. Since it doesn’t have a dominant flavor, it can also be added to desserts.
7. Fromage blanc
This French cheese has a fresh, creamy consistency similar to ricotta. If left undrained, the texture of Fromage blanc resembles thick yogurt or sour cream. While it is originally fat-free, you’ll find that some brands add cream to make the texture thicker, and the taste fuller.
Fromage blanc is a low-calorie replacement for cream cheese, and it can also be used in desserts, pastry fillings, soups, and sauces. Since it is a soft cheese, you can also use it as a spread, dip, or refreshing topping on a fruit salad thanks to its subtly acidic flavor.
If you want to add a twist to your breakfast toast, spread the desired amount of Fromage blanc on a piece of sourdough toast, season, and top with avocado slices, or fruit.
8. Colby cheese
Colby cheese is a popular American hard cheese that resembles cheddar both in appearance and texture. However, the process of making Colby is slightly different, as curds are washed with water. By doing so, most of the acidity in cheese is removed, and the taste becomes significantly milder.
What’s more, there’s no cheddar in Colby production, and the aging process is relatively short. Cheaper versions of Colby do indeed resemble cheese curd when it comes to flavor. However, original Colby cheese has a sweeter, less tangy flavor due to the acid being removed.
9. Vegan cashew cheese
Now here’s an alternative ideal for plant-based diets. Cashew cheese has a smooth, creamy texture similar to ricotta, and it can be made with natural ingredients without any additives, which makes it an extremely healthy option whether you’re vegan or not. It is also suitable for diets that exclude lactose.
All you need for homemade cashew cheese are:
- 2 cups raw unsalted cashews
- ½ cups nutritional yeast
- ¾ cups water
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder.
Soak the unsalted cashews overnight, and then the next day drains them and rinse with water. Add all the listed ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Taste the mixture and add more salt/spices of your choice if needed!
How to choose a cheese curd substitute
If you like texture in your cheese, mozzarella and paneer could match the soft, yet squeaky consistency of cheese curds. These options also don’t lack versatility, as they can be deep-fried, mixed into salads, or served as a simple snack on a cheese plate.
Fresh cottage cheese, ricotta, Fromage blanc, and vegan cashew cheese are a little bit softer in texture. This type of soft cheese is an ideal option for a quick dip or spread. Also, their neutral, mild taste allows you to express your culinary creativity and play with flavors by adding different herbs and spices.
And if you’re leaning towards a fuller, deeper cheese flavor, you’ll love cheddar, feta cheese, and Colby cheese. They offer different textures, aromas, and flavors, but what these cheese curd alternatives have in common is the ability to transform a plain dish into a real treat.
Each of the options we mentioned has something unique to bring to the table. Depending on your personal preferences and the planned dish, one alternative may seem more appropriate than the other. Either way, you can’t go wrong with either of these cheeses, as they’re all high quality and extremely flavorful.