What are cheese curds? A deliciously salty, cheesy, and fun snack that you can dip in any sauce you want. Cheese curds are a lesser-known dairy food that don’t get enough recognition in the South. Popular in the Midwest and North, these fried cheese balls are an ingredient every foodie and cheese lover needs to try (and then eat some more). But, what exactly are they?
What are Cheese Curds and How are They Made?
Cheese curds, sometimes called squeaky cheese, are the pieces of milk that are made and curdled during the cheesemaking process. They have a firm yet springy texture and are white, yellow, or orange in color with a mild, somewhat salty taste and often include additional seasonings. Rennet and cultures are added to form and separate the solid curds and liquid whey. The curds are lightly pressed to remove moisture and cut into shape, into either a ball or a rectangle. Salt and other seasonings are added, and then the curds are ready.
Fresh cheesy curds famously squeak when bitten into. Tightly bound proteins in fresh curds bump against surfaces like our teeth, causing an audible squeak. However, cheese curds can quickly lose their characteristic squeak due to moisture or temperature causing the bound proteins to loosen and the cheese to soften. Keeping the curds at room temperature can preserve the squeakiness if they are served the same day. Squeaky or silent, cheesy curds are a delightful addition to any meal.
Can Cheese Curds Be a Meal or a Snack?
Both! Cheese curds can be added to your favorite dishes for a bite of extra flavor. They are often eaten as a snack, alone or with meat. These Pan-Fried Curds served with horseradish sauce are an easy way to enjoy them for the first time. They can even be served on a salad or over pasta! Cheese curds are the main ingredient in poutine, which originated in 1950s Quebec, Canada. It consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy, but this Southern adaptation of poutine is another must-try cheese curd recipe. Meanwhile, these deep-fried cheese balls are common at fairs, restaurants, and bars, served with sauce or a dip, making it accessible even to those who cause disasters when cooking.
Be on the lookout for this delicious salty food in the dairy aisle of your local grocery store or a local dairy farm store. Discover why you need more squeaky cheese in your life.