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How to Make Queso Panela
Like most Mexican cheeses, queso panela is a cow’s milk cheese.
- Queso panela is a curd-style cheese. It is made by heating skim milk (not whole milk), then adding rennet to encourage the milk to form curds.
- The curds are then cut and placed in a cheesecloth, where they are seasoned with sea salt and left to drain mostly dry, with just a little whey leftover (about 3 hours).
- Once drained, you are left with a smooth, fresh cheese. The whey can be used to make queso requesón (Mexican ricotta).
4 Ways to Use Queso Panela
Panela cheese is incredibly versatile:
- Crumbled. It can be crumbled up and used as a topping for huevos rancheros, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, nopal salads, and more.
- Sliced. Add sliced queso panela on top of Mexican sandwiches, like a cemita or a torta. For an easy, no-cook snack, tuck panela slices into corn tortillas.
- Fried. Queso panela is also great when fried. Since panela cheese holds its shape, try frying thick slices in olive oil. Serve fried panela with lime juice and cilantro for a simple appetizer.
- Baked. Try baked panela cheese—the panela will soften, rather than melt, to be spreadable on tortilla chips or crackers.
What Are Alternatives to Queso Panela?
If using panela cheese as a topping, you can substitute other Mexican cheeses such as cotija, queso Oaxaca, or queso fresco. Grated low-moisture mozzarella is another good substitution for grated queso panela.
If frying or grilling panela cheese, look for something with a similar texture, such as Indian paneer or halloumi.
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