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Queso fresco is one of my most frequently purchased cheeses; among other things I like it crumbled over salads. I do like a lot of common salad cheeses - crumbly goat cheeses, blue cheeses, and feta - but I often want something more mild.

Unfortunately, queso fresco is not quite so common in stores away from Texas. Are there any common similar cheeses that are more widely available? The best my searches have come up with is "mild feta", but I'm hoping for something a bit better, since in my experience it can be a bit hard to identify mild enough feta in the store, and it's also more commonly sold already crumbled and more expensive.

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It might be worth looking for ethnic markets, but even check what the larger chains near you have; both of the Shoppers Food Warehouse near me have a huge hispanic section. (and their produce doesn't tend to look like it's been sitting around for a while) – Joe Jan 17 '11 at 14:57
@Joe: This is actually a pretty hypothetical question - the store I shop at has plenty of Mexican cheeses. I may move someday, though, and I have friends as far away as Quebec who liked it in my salads and have pretty low odds of anything Mexican in their stores. – Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 15:23
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Dry ricotta or even dry cottage cheese are similar. If you have access to an Indian grocery, paneer is a somewhat comparable choice.

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I use paneer and queso fresco interchangeably. They are produced using pretty much the same technique.

It is also really easy to make it yourself. How do you make paneer?

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I really need to get around to giving cheesemaking a shot! That could be my go-to answer, if it turns out I can pull it off reliably. – Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 15:19
Doug suggested paneer first, so I'm giving him the check, but I do appreciate the "make it yourself" encouragement. And I hadn't picked up from your other answers that you're from Texas, cool! – Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 15:27 has a nice list of types of cheese, including possible substitues.

For queso fresco it suggests:

Substitutes: Mix equal parts cottage cheese and feta cheese OR farmer cheese OR cotija cheese OR feta cheese (similar texture but saltier) OR queso anejo OR mild goat cheese OR paneer OR ricotta cheese OR jack cheese

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I should probably have looked a little closer at that list I found it - paneer is indeed a good suggestion, but I missed it among the others. Thanks! (If I can't find fresco, I doubt I'll find cotija or anejo; jack is the wrong texture, cottage is iffy, yadda yadda.) – Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 15:25

It depends on what you mean by 'mild' ... Ricotta salata, a firmer version of ricotta, isn't too sharp, but it's quite salty.

Unfortunately, in my area, it's sold even fewer places than queso fresco, but if you're in an area with a large Italian population, it might not be.

You might also strain and press your standard ricotta to make it a little firmer.

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Good suggestion; salty is different but not really a problem. (Sometimes I go for saltier friends of the queso fresco anyway.) Too bad it's hard to find too. – Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 15:17

I'd like to suggest Bocconcini Cheese, a fresh mild cheese that doesn't detract from the flavour of a recipe.

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That is indeed a great kind of cheese, but I'm not sure it makes a great substitute for queso fresco - it's soft and moist, not crumbly, and I think a bit less salty. – Jefromi Sep 7 '14 at 16:54

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