Queso Panela vs Queso Fresco – Choosing The Better One

Queso Panela vs Queso Fresco
  • Save
Queso Panela vs Queso Fresco

Cheese is everyone’s favorite addition to most recipes. It doesn’t matter if you like aged and stinky cheese or mild and subtle cheese. There is most definitely something for everyone.

Cheese always adds flavor to recipes it’s added to, making it the apt topping of choice for most.

Mexican cheese has gained immense popularity for its unique palatability, and we are going to take you through an overview of queso panela vs. queso fresco – two of the tastiest and most popular varieties out there.

Queso Panela Vs. Queso Fresco Comparison

  Queso Panela Queso Fresco
Definition Fresh White Mexican Cheese Made From Pasteurized Cow’s Milk Also Known As Adobera Cheese – Mexican Fresh Soft Cheese Made From Goat & Cow Milk (Most Often Pasteurized)
Origin Balkan Peninsula Or Mezzogiorno Jalisco, Mexico Or Spain
Flavor Subdued Mild Dairy-Like Flavor That’s Milkier Than Feta With Light Sourness & Light Saltiness | Stronger/Bolder Than Queso Fresco Extremely Mild Subdued Milky Flavor – Much Milder Than Queso Panela
Texture Watery But Firm Texture Similar To Mozzarella Grainy, Soft, Crumbly Texture That Goes Very Soft When Heated
Serving Suggestion Appetizer Cheese, Side-Dish With Pasta/Pasta Sauce, Mexican Cuisine Shredding, Crumbling, Melting, Grating
Benefits Absorbs Flavors Well From Accompanying Food Excellent Cheese For Crumbling And Melting, Very Versatile Due To Light Cheesiness
Considerations Excellent Cheese For Frying And Cooking – Holds Form Well So Keep In Mind How It Will Keep Its Shape Doesn’t Hold Form Well When Cooked | Always Buy Reputable Brand As Listeriosis Is Caused By Poor Manufacturing Conditions / Rancid Or Contaminated Queso Fresca
Affordability $3-$3.50/10-Ounce Pack $3.20-$4/10-Ounce Packet
Substitutes Queso Fresco, Cotija, Oaxaca, Paneer, Mozzarella, Halloumi Queso Panela, Feta, Ricotta, Paneer, Monterey Jack, Farmer’s Cheese, Pot Cheese, Cotija

Queso Panela Vs. Queso Fresco

They may look and sound similar, but queso panela and queso fresco are two very different types of cheese, and each has distinctly different best uses.

Here is a breakdown of the defining similarities and differences between these two quintessential Mexican cheeses.

Queso Panela

queso panela vs queso fresco
  • Save

Light-tasting queso panel is a mild Mexican cheese that just about anyone can fall in love with.

With striking similarity to mozzarella and multipurpose versatility that’ll have it fit into almost any household’s cooking and eating habits, there are several stand-out reasons that make queso panela so popular.

Let’s take a closer look at this excellent, fairly firm cheese.

What Is Queso Panela?

Commonly known as panela cheese, queso panela is a fresh, white Mexican cheese that is popular for its smooth texture and exquisitely mild flavor. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and is also termed both queso de la canasta and queso canasta.


The origin of queso panela is highly debated. Scholars are divided between somewhere in the Balkan peninsula or the Mezzogiorno, otherwise known as Southern Italy.


One can expect a fresh, subdued dairy-like flavor from queso panela that’s lighter than feta but milkier with slight sourness and a hint of salt. Between queso fresco and queso panela, queso panela is the far bolder cheese.


Queso panela, in its fresh form, has a watery texture just like mozzarella cheese and has similar applications as well. Many people fry this cheese due to its ability to hold its shape well. It does not melt easily and is served soft yet solid once cooked.

Serving Suggestion

For the most part, queso panela is served as an appetizer with quesadillas and nopal salads. Queso panela can also be covered with chili pepper and garlic pasta, or any other bold sauce, effectively turning it into a delicious side dish.

Besides the general uses, queso panela is an important part of various Mexican recipes, including tacos and enchiladas.


If you have ever used Paneer, an Indian cheese, you will witness extreme similarity to queso panela. It has the capacity to absorb flavors from the other components of a recipe extremely well.


If you’re planning to fry your queso panela, then you’re making the right choice. Just don’t expect it to cook away. Queso panela holds its form extremely well.

Its ability to retain shape through cooking is one of its biggest highlights for chefs, so keep this in mind when deciding on cheese for your next meal.

packages of El Mexicano queso panela cheese on display
  • Save


One typically finds queso panela advertised as a white and conical-shaped cheese with an inverted form that’s available in different packets, usually ranging from 500g to 2kg.

The primary reason for small quantities is that they cannot reliably be made in bulk form for later use due to their soft consistency that will become overly malleable if stored in great volumes over an extended period.

A ten-ounce pack of queso panela typically retails for between $3 to $3.50 when selecting a reputable brand.

Queso Panela Substitutes

While queso fresco can be used in the place of queso panela, ideally, you’re looking for something firmer like cotija, queso Oaxaca or perhaps even Paneer, otherwise known as Indian cottage cheese.

Mozzarella or halloumi can even be used in a pinch, especially when you’re planning to fry your cheese.

Queso Fresco

queso fresco served natural leaf firm
  • Save

Queso fresco is another Mexican cheese, and it’s safe to label it as the most famous cheese in Mexico. Soft, crumbly, and mild, it’s the ideal cheese for using as a topping.

Here is a breakdown of everything that you need to know about queso fresco and how it compares to queso panela.

What Is Queso Fresco?

The Mexican cheese Queso fresco also goes by the name of Adobera cheese, deriving its name from its striking similarity to adobe bricks.

The name queso fresco literally means fresh cheese and is made from the combination of goat milk and cow milk, although certain people use raw cow milk exclusively in some cases. For the most part, queso fresco found in the United States is pasteurized.


Queso fresco is believed to originate in Jalisco, Mexico. This being said, there are certain scholars that debate this point of origin and claim that queso fresco is actually a cheese of Spanish descent instead.


Despite being a distinctive Mexican cheese, queso fresco is very mild, making it perfect for those who don’t enjoy strong-flavored cheeses.


Ivory-colored queso fresco is usually grainy and soft, with a distinct crumble to its texture. It becomes very soft very quickly when heated.

Serving Suggestion

The grainy and soft texture of queso fresco cheese is perfect for shredding, crumbling, melting, and grating, which is a key reason behind the popularity of this cheese.

In its shredded form, it can be added to tortillas and tacos, not to mention sandwiches, rolls, burgers, and anything else that could do with a mild cheese topping.

In addition, the crumbled form of queso fresco is a great addition to soups and salads, while melted cheese is a delicious addition to burritos and enchiladas.

How To Melt Queso Fresco?
  • Save


The main highlight of queso fresco is that it crumbles and melts well, which makes it an excellent option for use as a topping. Its light flavor also makes it endlessly versatile as opposed to its stronger-tasting counterpart.


Don’t expect this cheese to hold its form like queso panela, but it is far easier to eat as a topping raw without any cooking or only light grilling, which will almost always cause it to melt.

If you’re buying your queso fresco instead of making it at home, an unlikelihood for most, make sure that you buy a reputable brand.

Queso fresco that hasn’t been made in completely sanitary conditions following a safe process can result in causing the disease listeriosis.

Listeriosis is most serious for pregnant women and can result in a miscarriage, but the disease can also trigger fever, muscle aches, severe headaches, neck stiffness, general confusion, balance issues, and fits.


A ten-ounce pack of queso fresco typically retails for between $3.20 to $4 per 10-ounce packet when selecting a reputable brand.

hands holding fresh queso fresco
  • Save

Queso Fresco Substitutes

While queso panela can be used in the place of queso fresco, ideally, you’re looking for something slightly softer and more crumbly like feta, ricotta, Paneer, Monterey Jack, Farmer’s Cheese, Pot Cheese, or even cotija despite being a little firmer.

What Is The Difference Between Queso Panela And Queso Fresco?

The main difference between queso panela and queso fresco is that queso panela is a fresh, smooth, firm Mexican cheese, whereas queso fresco is a fresh, soft, and crumbly Mexican cheese that is at times acidified with rennet instead of lemon juice or vinegar.

Which Is Best, Queso Panela Vs. Queso Fresco?

Picking a winner between queso panela vs. queso fresco largely comes down to which intensity of cheesy flavor you prefer and the type of meal you’re making.

Queso panela is firmer and bolder in flavor, whereas queso is softer, milder, and milkier. Both are interchangeable, but we wouldn’t recommend that you try frying queso fresco by itself like you can with queso panela.

It simply won’t hold up to the heat but sure melts great enough for countless other purposes.

  • Save
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap