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What is Oaxaca Cheese? Origin and Characteristics

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Hi friends, as you may know, Oaxaca cheese is named after the state of the same name. However, in Oaxaca, it is called quesillo (its real name).

Oaxaca cheese, quesillo, or string cheese is a variety of Mexican soft cheese.

It is made from fresh sour cow’s milk and has a thick consistency that can be divided into strands.

Oaxaca cheese, or quesillo, is a semi-hard white cheese similar to Monterey Jack without age but with a mozzarella-like cheese texture.

Outside of Mexico, the quesillo is often confused with “asadero,” a type of cheese produced in the northern state of Chihuahua.

They are similar in texture and flavor but are produced using different methods, making quesillo slightly drier.

Oaxaca cheese: Origin

what is oaxaca cheese
Source: Anamaris Cousins Price / flickr.com

It is said that Oaxaca cheese originated in the town of Reyes Etla, in the central valley of Oaxaca, in 1885, and its discovery is attributed to Leobarda Castellanos.

According to history, this traditional cheese was an accident.

When 14-year-old Leobarda Castellanos García forgot to take out the curdled milk for cheese production, the temperature was too high.

To hide her mistake and avoid her parents’ scolding, she added hot water to the mixture, which caused it to melt and separate into chewy strands, which she called quesillo.

Because of this, the Oaxacan municipality of Reyes Etla is known as the “cradle of quesillo.” 

What is the difference between mozzarella and Oaxaca cheese?

Basically, the only thing these two types of cheese have in common, perhaps, is the texture. However, authentic mozzarella is made with water buffalo milk.

The cheese chain process (pasta filata), originally from Italy, used to produce mozzarella, was brought to Mexico by Dominican monks who settled in Oaxaca.

However, water buffalo milk was unavailable, so they used cow’s milk instead.

Thanks to its melting quality, Oaxaca cheese is one of the most used ingredients in Mexican cuisine.

Around the world, there are more than two thousand varieties of cheese, of which quesillo is one of the most delicious.

What is special about Oaxaca cheese?

This buttery cheese is one of Mexico’s most produced dairy products, with over 24 thousand tons annually.

This amount can be used to make 300 million quesadillas.

In 2019 it was awarded bronze at the World Cheese Awards, which rewards the richest and best quality cheeses.

A ball of Oaxaca cheese can measure between two to four meters, depending on the thickness of the strand.

Oaxaca or quesillo?

Again, the official name of this Oaxacan cheese is quesillo, but they are the same.

After its creation, it arrived to the state of Puebla, where it was renamed “Oaxaca” because of its origin. Thus, in most of Mexico, it is known by this name.

Typical dishes with Oaxaca cheese

what is oaxaca cheese
A steak Tlayuda with black beans and Oaxaca cheese – Source: Alesi.Garcia / flickr.com

Oaxaca cheese benefits

Like other types of rindless cheese, Hispanic-style Oaxaca’s quesillo is also rich in calcium and protein.

Children especially love this cheese as it has a tasty, pleasant, buttery flavor.

The calcium obtained from this cheese helps strengthen teeth and bones.

Protein is essential for cell regeneration and muscle strengthening.

Other minerals, such as magnesium and vitamins A and B12, play an essential role in various metabolic reactions.

What does Oaxaca cheese taste like?

The original Oaxaca cheese has a distinct milk flavor and a bit of salt, but you also find a slight ferment.

However, there are some fake ones out there, so always ensure you get the real deal.

Fake cheese tastes very different, mainly because they are made differently.

Another characteristic of good cheese is the shredding quality. It should be smooth and easy to tear.

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