Not All Feta Is Created Equal—Here's What You Need to Know
When a recipe calls for feta cheese, you may need to shop more carefully than you think to get the perfect cheese for your dish.
When a recipe calls for feta cheese, we have your guide to buying the perfect kind to finish off your meal.
Everyone knows feta cheese is the star of a Greek salad or the perfect topper to a Mediterranean inspired dish. But why does the cheese counter make buying the perfect feta so complicated? It turns out that feta comes in tons of varieties based on the type of milk, length of aging, and even country of origin.
Traditionally, feta has been produced in some capacity since the twelfth century, and was eventually named after the Italian word fetta meaning “slice”. The white, salty cheese comes packed in a milky brine, which is essential to keeping it fresh and delicious. The European Union only recognizes Greek feta as the real deal, but many other countries have tried their hand at making the crumbly goodness.
Feta Fast Facts:
- 1 ounce of feta has about 76 calories and is higher in fat than cow’s milk cheese at about 6.5 grams and saturated fat makes up roughly 4 grams.
- There are 5 grams of protein in 1 ounce of this beloved cheese and 258 milligrams of sodium.
You can soak feta in water a few minutes prior to serving to decrease salt content.
Feta is a staple to the Greek diet, so it’s no surprise that Greeks eat more cheese per capita than any other European country. In the northern part of Greece, feta is simply called “cheese”, because most of the country’s feta is produced in that region. This cheese has a strong personality and bite, with a richer taste that develops over time. The flavor is salty, tangy, and lemony. Most Greek feta varieties have at least 70 percent sheep’s milk, and the remainder tends to be goat milk. The more goat milk in the cheese, the more crumbly the feta becomes.
A Greek feta that has been aged for two to three months can be milky and creamy, six months makes it a little more complex and aromatic, which is great for salads, and up to twelve months produces a more intense and peppery flavor essential for baking.
This particular variety is also made from sheep’s milk; specifically the milk left over from the production of Roquefort. This breed can sometimes lack the bite of a Greek feta, providing a milky and creamier texture.
If you find yourself shopping for this type of feta, it tends to be listed as a Bulgarian white cheese. The flavor profile tends to be tangier than a French feta because of the use of yogurt cultures, with a sometimes fermented or tart finish. Also made from sheep’s milk, this variety has varying saltiness, but is generally creamy. It’s typically stuffed into peppers, used on breakfast cereals, or simply snacked on with some red pepper and olive oil.
Although a newer producer of feta cheese, Israeli feta can be made from either sheep or goat’s milk, producing a firmer texture. There has been a positive reaction from feta lovers on this new type, with a fuller flavor that’s less salty and still creamy.
Cow’s Milk Feta
This less popular form of feta is arguably not feta at all. Produced in predominantly Denmark and Wisconsin, this feta cheese can be fairly dry, making it easier to crumble. It can also become slightly sour, but tends to have a milder flavor than other feta varieties.
Use feta in our Mediterranean Chicken and Bulgur Skillet recipe.
The one-pan chicken recipe truly is a one-dish meal, though you can include a side salad if you like.
Or enjoy it in our Feta-Herb Edamame Succotash.
This colorful salad brings our the best flavor in ripe summer produce. Prepare it a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld.