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Fresh Cheese Made Safely

by: Washington State University
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
-Ryan Bell -Val Hillers
-Lloyd Luedecke -Mike Costello
-Mike Schmitt
Yakima County Cooperative Extension
-Theo Thomas -Anna Zaragoza
-Frances Herrera
* Special thanks to Julia Herrera for allowing the use and modification of her queso fresco recipe.


Queso fresco has been made for generations. Traditionally, queso fresco is made using fresh dairy milk that has not been heat-treated or pasteurized. Using unpasteurized milk to make queso fresco can lead to serious illness.

Topics of this flyer include:

  • Heat treatment of fresh, unpasteurized dairy milk.

  • Sanitation of cheese making equipment.

  • Hands-on preparation of queso fresco from a recipe using heat-treated or pasteurized milk
    Remember, even the freshest milk from the cleanest dairy may contain harmful bacteria if it is not pasteurized or heat-treated. To protect others and ourselves from harmful bacteria, we must use pasteurized milk or milk we heat-treat ourselves.


To kill bacteria in milk . . .
Heat milk to 145°F for 30 minutes
  • Place a cooking thermometer into the milk to measure its temperature.

  • Do not heat milk over 145°F. It may change the texture and flavor of the cheese.  Under 145°F will not kill all harmful bacteria.


To help prevent infection . . .
  1. Boil all cheese making equipment between uses.
    Soak all cheese making equipment in a bleach-water solution.

  2. For best quality cheese, use new cheesecloth each time you make cheese. (Reuse cheesecloth only if it has been washed, then boiled or soaked 2 minutes in bleach-water.)

  • Make a bleach-water solution by adding one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.

  • Make a new bleach water solution each time you make cheese.

  • This recipe for bleach water can be doubled if necessary.


  • Place one tablet Junket Rennett into one-half cup cold tap water until dissolved.

  • Mix one quart cultured buttermilk with two quarts heat-treated or pasteurized milk.
    1. Add 7 teaspoons white vinegar to the milk mixture.

    2. Mix well.

    3. Heat milk to 90° F. Remove pan from the heat.

    4. Add dissolved rennet and mix for about 2 minutes.

  • Let stand for 30-40 minutes until curd is firm.

  • Cut curd into 1-inch cubes and let stand for about 5 minutes.

  • Heat curds and whey to 115° F (without stirring), remove pan from the heat, then let stand for 5 minutes.

  • Pour mix through a colander lined with cheesecloth and allow to drain for 5 minutes.

  • Form curd into a ball and twist the cheesecloth gently to squeeze out the whey.

  • Break up curds into a bowl and add l and 3/4 teaspoons of salt.

  • Mix in salt and let stand for 5 minutes, then squeeze again as before.

  • Form the cheese. Remove from form. Refrigerate. **

  *      This recipe can be doubled or tripled to make more cheese.
  **      Cheese made from this recipe can be safely stored in a refrigerator for no more than 1 week.


If you are interested in becoming licensed to sell queso fresco, please contact your local health department or state department of agriculture.



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646376 Department of FSHN,Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6376 USA