What does feta cheese taste like? Get to know your feta cheese with our FAQ: what you need to know about feta cheese!
Cheese has always been a staple on every dining table and picnic basket.
It is commonly partnered with bread and other breakfast food items in the morning, and is also made as a snack during mealtime.
It has also been used to add enough saltiness and spice to your favorite dish during special occasions.
However, not every kind of cheese is known to the common folk, which is a bummer considering the wide variety of cheese out there.
In fact, there’s just a lot of cheese in the market, outside of the stereotypical yellow-colored cheese that we have known and loved for many years.
For instance, there’s feta, a white-colored brined cheese produced from mostly sheep’s milk that has been very popular in European countries and even in other countries across the globe.
Feta has a somewhat unique texture and flavor, owing to the preparation and preservation of this kind of cheese.
However, one should properly handle feta with care, or it will quickly turn to waste in a couple of days.
What do we need to know about feta?
What does feta cheese taste like?
What kinds of dishes can be made with feta?
And how should we properly store this kind of cheese?
Feta refers to a specific kind of brined white cheese entirely made from pasteurized and unpasteurized sheep’s milk or a combination of primarily sheep and goat’s milk.
This kind of cheese is made through traditional cheese production specific to Greece.
To clarify, the name “feta” should only refer to the kind of brined white cheese from Greece – not just historically, but legally.
As mandated through its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification by the European Union, the name “feta” is exclusively reserved for brined white cheese from Greece that is distributed throughout the EU.
Despite this, non-Greek feta also exists and is commonly known simply as “white cheese,” apart from other localized names.
Depending on the production and location where it is produced, feta can either be hard and crumbly or soft and creamy.
Flavors also vary, but since it is subjected to brine solution, feta cheese is commonly peppery and salty, with the amount of salt at around 7%.
Nonetheless, feta is well-beloved by cheese enthusiasts and is a source of great pride among Greeks who have been preserving the traditional production of the said cheese up to this day.
How is feta cheese made?
Making feta requires meticulous production that can take months, subjecting it to numerous stages that aid in targeting a specific aroma and taste particular to the said cheese.
As protected by the EU PDO, feta cheese should only be entirely made from fresh or raw sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk, with the latter amounting to at most 30%; and should contain fat of at least 6%.
Contrasting to this, similar brined white cheese outside of Greece and are called with names other than feta are often made from cow’s milk.
The traditional method of creating feta cheese is the most known historically and legally, following the EU’s PDO.
Depending on the quality, producers may subject the collected milk to pasteurization and curdling, which involves heating and sterilization at 72°C or 161.6°F for 15 seconds.
Cultured bacteria or lactic acid bacteria will be added along with calcium chloride before being renneted at 32°C or 89.6°F.
This will result in the coagulation of milk at around 40 to 45 minutes.
Curdled milk will then be strained inside small-holed molds at a temperature of 16°C or 60.8°F to 18°C or 64.4°F for up to a day.
This cheese mass will then be removed from the molds to be salted on wooden barrels.
After putting salt on the cheese, this will then be subjected to a two-phase ripening process with brine, with the first phase setting at a maximum of 18°C or 64.4°F for two weeks and a day, with a relative humidity of about >85%.
The second phase puts the mass of cheese at a constant refrigerated temperature of 2°C (35.6°F) to 4°C (39.2°F).
While this process takes a long time, subjecting the feta to these phases will result in a distinct taste, texture, and quality that is distinctively remarkable to this cheese.
What does feta cheese taste like?
Feta cheese is commonly known for its rich, salty, peppery, and moderately acidic taste, mainly due to its production and preservation using a brine solution.
However, not every known kind of feta cheese out there is as rich, salty, and peppery as others.
Texture also varies from one feta variant to another.
Some kinds of feta cheese are crumbly, while others are smooth and creamy, depending on how it was produced.
Listed below are some known varieties of feta cheese and their taste and textures that make them distinct from each other.
Varieties of feta cheese and how they taste
1. Greek feta
The most authentic feta on this list, Greek feta has a generally crumbly texture and rich flavor.
However, depending on various circumstances within each Greek region, feta can have a wide range of textures and flavors.
For instance, feta from Thessaly and Central Greece have a much stronger taste.
Those produced in Thrace and Macedonia, on the other hand, have a much lighter, creamier texture with a less salty flavor.
Meanwhile, feta produced in Peloponnese, south of Greece, is much drier with a rich taste.
2. French feta
Some french feta in the market are made from goat’s milk.
However, for the specific kind of french feta made from sheep’s milk, it is somewhat different from the Greek feta in terms of flavor due to its mild taste, but it is indeed soft and creamy.
4. Israeli feta
Like the french feta, Israeli feta is known to be less salty and much softer than the classic Greek feta.
Ways to use feta cheese
Feta cheese complements well with nearly every dish you can think of – pizzas, pies, salads, pasta, and more.
In fact, given the salty flavor of the feta, adding this adds a particular kick to your favorite meal.
Here are some popular dishes that you can make using feta as an ingredient:
Horiatiki is a traditional Greek salad that consists of vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onions, and dressing.
Feta is also a common ingredient for this kind of salad, particularly those with a crumbly texture.
Baked Feta Pasta was once a viral recipe on Tiktok in 2019, and for a good reason!
Indeed, this pasta dish is mouth-watering not just because of the pasta and its accompanying ingredients, but also for how feta cheese is combined into the sauce.
You don’t even need much feta for this one, as one slice of it is enough to add spice to your already delicious dish!
Spanakopita is a popular Greek dish that will satisfy your cravings and is also easy to prepare.
This triangular-shaped bread dish consists of spinach, herbs, garlic, onion, and crumbled feta cheese as fillings in a baked pastry dough.
This meal is best served fresh from the oven!
Feta belongs to pizza, too!
This is proven through this Tomato Basil Feta Pizza dish that substitutes the usual pizza cheese with feta!
Feta cheese vs. goat cheese
People often confuse feta and goat cheese, also known as chèvre, which is understandable as both contain goat’s milk.
Yet, are these two cheese variants the same after all?
If we look at their contents, feta cheese is primarily made with sheep’s milk, which constitutes about 70%-100%.
Some feta can also be made by a combination of sheep and goat’s milk, provided that the latter should only constitute up to 30% of the whole cheese.
On the other hand, goat cheese is primarily made from goat milk.
Feta and chèvre also differ in flavor, with the former having a saltier, acidic taste and the latter having a “fresh earth” taste due to goats’ diet, which usually consists of grass.
Lastly, feta can range from having a crumbled to creamier appearance, while chèvre mostly has a softer texture.
How to store feta cheese
Making feta requires an arduous process, but what about storing them?
After all, it would depend on a wide array of factors, including proper handling and storage.
Yet, there are ways to ensure longevity over your purchased feta.
Here are some ways to properly store your Feta cheese.
Brine solution should always be the first option in storing whole Feta cheese.
After all, it’s through this that feta has become matured for consumption.
Putting feta in brine is one of the least expensive ways of preserving your feta, as you only need to mix two cups of water and two tablespoons of salt.
The good thing about this is that it preserves the salty taste of the cheese for a more extended period.
To best serve brined feta, drain over a bowl by pressing into cheesecloth or let sit in a colander so the fluid runs off.
2. Olive Oil
A known alternative to preserving feta is by soaking it in olive oil.
In this case, you can fully use olive oil or a combination of 15% olive oil and 85% other known kinds of cooking oil.
This is best for those who prefer more prolonged consumption of feta without the salty taste.
3. Airtight Containers
In the U.S., crumbled feta is often packaged and shipped in plastic “bowls” with lids and sealed.
Left unopened and chilled, these adequately keep feta fresh for up to two months. Opened, the best-by or expiration date is appropriate to follow.
Feta that has been opened and kept cold in glass containers with lids for optimal freshness often have about two weeks before they become moldy or sour-smelling or gray.
The bottom line
Feta is a one-of-a-kind cheese that heralds from the Greeks’ traditional cheese production and has been perfected and maintained up to the present day.
It is one of the unique types of cheese due to its salty flavor and generally crumbled texture.
Try our Watermelon & Feta Salad recipe for a refreshing, tasty side dish!
Despite this, feta is an excellent addition to many dishes and sides, including pizzas, pasta, and salads.
While not the most common cheese in every household, people should also give some love to feta, a distinctively Greek cheese, and a source of pride in the great country of Greece!
For the vinaigrette dressing:
- 2 T grapeseed oil (or other light oil)
- 1 T honey
- 1 t. ground cumin
- 1 large lime
- 1 t. sea salt
- ½ t. pepper
For the salad:
- 1 small round seedless watermelon
- 3 oz feta cheese
- 3 c arugula
- 3 T fresh cilantro
Create the vinaigrette dressing:
- Juice the lime.
- Combine lime juice, honey, oil and spices in a small glass bowl.
- Whisk until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Create the salad:
- Cut the watermelon in half and scoop out the flesh into a large glass bowl. I used an ice cream scoop for this process. Once you have removed all of the watermelon flesh and have only the rind left, pour out any juices remaining. Use a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and pat dry the inside of the watermelon rind. Don’t throw these away! Set aside the watermelon halves to use as salad serving bowls.
- Wash, pat dry and chop the arugula.
- Dice the feta as needed.
- Add the arugula and feta to the glass bowl with the watermelon.
- Pour in the vinaigrette dressing into the bowl.
- Gently toss the ingredients to combine.
- Serve by spooning the salad mixture into the watermelon rinds.
- Wash, pat dry then roughly chop the cilantro.
- Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro.