Peruvian Quesillo is a basic fresh cheese made in the Andean highlands. It has a mild, milky flavor and is often used in hearty Andean stews and soups, adding more flavor, texture, and a highly nutritious element to the dishes.
How is Peruvian Quesillo made
As already hundreds of years ago, the majority of Peru’s milk today is still produced by micro and small herds on small-scale farms. To make the fresh milk durable for a longer time, it is often processed directly on the farm or in home-based dairies into delicious butter, mouthwatering manjar blanco and, of course, simple cheeses, such as Quesillo.
Making Quesillo is a quite easy and quick process. Vinegar or lime juice is added to fresh whole cow’s (goat’s or sheep's) milk. As soon as curds form, the mixture is strained through a cheesecloth, left to drain, lightly pressed, and then either placed into round containers or formed mostly into a round shape. The Quesillo is not matured, just left in the fridge for a few hours to set and then consumed immediately or within a week.
In the northern Peruvian region of Cajamarca, however, Quesillo is processed further and used to make the famous Queso Mantecoso, a delicious buttery cheese.
How does Peruvian Quesillo taste
The result of this simple cheesemaking process is a delicious, extremely versatile fresh cheese with a mild, and milky flavor, which has a subtle acidity. The texture of Peruvian Quesillo is soft and moist, but nevertheless firm. Depending on the region and the milk used, there are slight differences in flavor and texture. However, Quesillo always has an unobtrusive flavor complementing a wide range of dishes.
Peruvian dishes with Quesillo
Peruvian Quesillo is rarely eaten on its own, but mostly used in a number of hearty Andean stews and soups, such as Aji de Quinoa (a hearty potato and quinoa stew in a spicy Quesillo sauce) or Papa Cashqui (a filling and nutritious Andean potato soup), giving the dishes not only more flavor and texture but also additional nutrients.
But as Quesillo has such a mild flavor, it’s not only used in savory dishes, but as well in desserts. Highly popular is, for example, Quesillo con miel, so, Quesillo cut in slices and covered with a syrup made of Chancaca (an unrefined whole cane sugar), originating in the northern region of Cajamarca.
LimaEasy’s recipe for Peruvian Quesillo
While in Peru, especially in the Andean highlands, Quesillo is sold in markets, small shops or by women on the streets, if you are abroad it’s difficult to find. The good news, however, making Quesillo at home is really easy and quick. So here our basic Peruvian Quesillo recipe.
- 2l (8.5 cups) fresh whole milk
- 0.5 to 1 tsp salt
- 4.5 Tbsp white vinegar
- Put the milk in a heavy saucepan and, stirring occasionally, heat over medium-high heat until steaming and first small bubbles forming (to about 85°C, 190°F).
- Turn the heat to low, gently stir, and slowly add the vinegar by the spoonful. Remove from heat and continue to stir slowly and gently for about 5 minutes while the whey separates and the curds form.
- Pour the curdled liquid into a cheesecloth-lined strainer and let drain and cool for about 30 minutes.
- Gather the edges of the cheesecloth and with the curds at the bottom twist until excess liquid is dripping out. Additionally, squeeze the curds in the cheesecloth gently to remove more liquid.
- When all the excess liquid is removed, place the cheese into a bowl, add salt to taste and combine well.
- Form the cheese into a round shape or firmly press into in a small container. Let the Quesillo rest in the fridge for at least an hour before using it.
- Enjoy your home-made Peruvian Quesillo!