Learn what this Mexican cheese is and why you want to have some in your refrigerator. Also a simple recipe for Panela Fried Cheese Tacos, great for a meatless taco.
We are a cheese loving family, always on the lookout for a new cheese to try.
We have tipped our toes into the world of Mexican cheese a little, but I thought it was as good of time as any to get fully submerged into the cheeses from Mexico.
I have seen Panela cheese at the store several times. It's usually hanging out with the Queso Fresco and the Cotija cheese. Probably some tortillas and crema nearby.
Let's take a deep dive into what Panela cheese is and how to best use it in your kitchen.
? What is Panela?
Panela is a mild, white fresh cheese. It is not aged before being sold.
It crumbles like Queso Fresco but not as much. It's texture might best be described as a firm Ricotta.
Tradtioanlly Panela cheese was molded in baskets, which is why you will hear it called basket cheese in some places. Panela you find in the store today comes in a round shape.
It doesn't have a different name in English, so there isn't an American equivalent. The most similar cheese to Panela is probably Paneer cheese from India.
? Does it Melt?
The first question I have about a cheese is, "how does it taste?" The second question is, "does it melt?", or better yet, "is it a good melting cheese?" In the case of Panela, the answer is nope.
? What is it Used For?
Since it doesn't melt and hold its shape well, it can actually be pan fried. That's right, you can toss it right into a pan, get it brown and it will still be in it's same shape. How sweet is that!?
This cheese offers many advantages such as
- It absorbs flavors well
- Eaten as an appetizer (pan fried, add seasonings)
- Can be used in a sandwich like a Mexican Torta
- Crumble to go on top of a salad or in a taco
- Use it as a meat substitute in tacos
- Can be baked in the oven and served with chips (another appetizer option!)
- It's not expensive (a 10oz round cost me $3.89)
A simple way to use is frying it up and serving it with some veggies (like peppers and onions) into of a soft taco tortilla (See recipe below)
Just can't find Panela or have a recipe that calls for it and you want to use something else?Paneer cheese will work but I think that is harder to find in most places.
If you are just crumbling it up you can use Queso fresco or even feta.
? Where to Buy
This cheese should be easy to find in any Mexican grocery store and in many supermarket chains too. I found mine at Kroger.
Check out these stores:
- Sam's Club
- some Costco stores
? More on Cheese
Panela Fried Cheese Tacos
Prep the Ingredients
- Slice the peppers into strips
- Dice the onions or cut into bite sized strips
- Slice the Panela into strips
- Place a pan or skillet over medium heat with a 2 tsp of oil.
- Place the Panela in the, cook until it has browned on one side, then flip. It should only take a couple minutes.
- Remove the cheese. Add the onions to the pan, cook until soften.
- Add in the peppers, cook until soften.
- Evenly distribute the ingredients onto soft taco sized flour tortillas.
- Season with salt and pepper flakes to taste
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