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8 Most Similar Cheese Curds Substitutes and How To Use Them

Cottage cheese,  bocconcini, paneer, and halloumi are some of the best cheese curd substitutes. However, you should match your choice with your needs. For example, baby mozzarella melts much better than many substitutes.  Alternatively, tofu is a great non-dairy alternative. 

Fresh cheese curds aren’t always easy to find and can sometimes be pricey. This article will list eight cheese curd alternatives you can pick up for your recipes instead.

1. Baby Mozzarella

Baby mozzarella balls, also known as bocconcini, are small, white balls of cheese with a mild flavor and stretchy texture. Melted bocconcini balls retain their stretchy texture and have a similar mouthfeel to melty cheese curds.

Try tearing the balls apart and sprinkling them onto your poutine to mimic the look and feel of uneven cheese curds.

Traditionally, white cheddar cheese made from skimmed milk is the typical accompaniment to poutine. White cheddar curds are sharper than mozzarella, but bocconcini pieces are close enough to still be delightful.

Simply sprinkle your room-temperature cheese onto a hot plate of fries. Pour some warm gravy on top and let the heat from the fries and gravy melt your cheese. Poutine is the ultimate finger food and the perfect game-day treat.

The smaller you tear your pieces, the more they’ll melt. So, how small you want them is really a matter of preference. 

Baby mozzarella balls are also a great addition to salads, pizzas, and flatbreads. So if you buy a lot of them, you can use them for many other things beyond a cheese curd alternative. Mozzarella will absorb marinades, so you can get creative with your flavors.

2. Paneer

Paneer has long been a staple in many Indian households. It’s a non-melting cheese with a mild, refreshing flavor. Since this cheese won’t melt, it’s great for pan-frying and breading for crispy fried cheese curd dishes. 

Fried cheese curds, or cheeseballs, are a popular Wisconsin snack. Paneer cheese won’t have the exact same flavor and texture, but it can be a mild-tasting alternative.

Note: Paneer doesn’t have that melty, stretchy texture found in traditional cheese curds.

So, if you want cheese that fries without melting, paneer might be for you. Fry up some pieces of paneer in vegetable oil covered in a flour, egg, and milk batter and enjoy them as finger food or skewer them for a Bloody Mary garnish.

Paneer cheese is also great for pitas, salads, curries, and soups. I like to pan-fry it without any breading for some crispy, golden-brown cheese bites to add to dishes. These are particularly good with any rice dish.

3. Halloumi

Halloumi is a briny, non-melting cheese that originates from Cyprus, Greece. It has a sharp, salty flavor and chewy texture. Halloumi won’t soften significantly with heat, nor will it become stretchy.

Like paneer, halloumi is a good cheese curd alternative if you’re looking for cheese that doesn’t melt. You could choose halloumi over paneer if you want a cheese curd substitute with a saltier, more pungent flavor. 

Try fried halloumi pieces with honey or dijon mustard dipping sauce. The sweetness from the honey and sharpness from the mustard match halloumi’s briny flavor. When fried, halloumi will melt a little bit on the inside, making it a tasty combination of crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.

I also enjoy crispy, pan-fried halloumi in a burger bun with tomato, lettuce, and mayo. This use can make a great meatless alternative to a hamburger that’s delicious in its own way. You can also grill halloumi cheese on the barbeque as a side dish.

4. Finnish Bread Cheese

Leipäjuusto is known as Finnish bread cheese or Finnish squeaky cheese in the US. It has a mild, salty flavor with a hint of sweetness. This cheese doesn’t melt when heated, but it will change to a gooier texture. Warm Finnish bread cheese is stretchy like mozzarella yet durable like paneer or halloumi. 

Finnish bread cheese gives you the best of both worlds as a cheese curd alternative. It’s tough enough to retain its shape when fried but melty enough for that gooey, stretchy texture that makes melted cheese delicious. 

Its slight sweetness gives it a bit of a different flavor profile compared to other cheeses on this list. So, it may not be the best choice if you’re looking for something with a sharp, pungent flavor. If you want a unique, mild flavor, this cheese is the way to go. You can do almost anything with it that you would with cheese curds.

The Finnish dip pieces of this cheese into their coffee at breakfast. This may sound unusual to an American reader, but the sweet notes to this cheese pair well with coffee. You can also enjoy leipäjuusto for dessert with honey, fruit, and nuts.

5. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is well-known to most American households. It’s a creamy curdled milk product that comes from the same source as cheese curds. It’s also a by-product of the cheese-making process, but it’s left loose and mixed in with whey. 

Cottage cheese is higher in protein and typically lower in fat than traditional cheese curds. This makes it a health-conscious alternative. Because it’s loose and wet, I wouldn’t suggest frying cottage cheese. 

Some poutine recipes use cottage cheese as well as cheese curds. However, due to cottage cheese’s mild flavor, I don’t suggest using it alone in poutine. Try mixing it with mozzarella or cheddar cheese to enhance the flavor for poutines.

Cottage cheese is also a great addition to breakfasts. Try mixing it with fruit and sweetening it with honey for a tasty breakfast side dish or healthy dessert. 

6. Colby Cheese

Colby cheese is named after the town in Wisconsin where it was invented. It looks like cheddar cheese but tastes like Monterey Jack and squeaks like cheese curds. However, Colby cheese will melt, so it may not be the best choice for frying.

Still, it’s an amazing cheese curd substitute for mac and cheese recipes that call for curds. It’s also great for sandwiches, potato skins, nachos, or right out of the fridge as a snack. You won’t get the same warm, stretchy texture you would get with cheese curds or mozzarella, but Colby cheese can still be a wonderful substitute.

You can use Colby cheese just like you would any other cheese. Its medium sharp, buttery flavor pairs well with beer, making it the cheese of choice for a creamy beer cheese sauce. 

7. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast product that looks like yellow flakes or powder. It’s not explicitly a cheese curd alternative, but it’s one of the best ways to get that cheesy taste if you need a non-dairy option.

It’s one of my favorite non-dairy cheese alternatives because it tastes almost exactly like parmesan cheese. You can make your own milkless cheese curds with nutritional yeast, cashews, salt, flour, vinegar, and water.

Simply blend these ingredients into a blender and cook it on a stovetop until the blended mixture gets lumpy. Those lumps are your non-dairy cheese curds! While you’re heating it up, be sure to stir frequently because the mixture is prone to burning. 

If you’re dealing with a nut allergy, switch out the cashews for silken tofu or coconut oil. You can also add garlic powder, herbs, or spices to enhance the flavor.

As mentioned, nutritional yeast tastes a lot like parmesan. So, it’s a fantastic addition to a mac and cheese recipe for lactose-intolerant folks. 

8. Tofu 

You can use tofu as a non-dairy substitute for cheese curds. Tofu doesn’t taste like cheese on its own. However, it absorbs whatever flavor you give it, so it certainly can taste like cheese with the right seasoning. 

Tofu comes in five levels of firmness, so be sure to choose the right one for your recipe. 

The tofu firmness levels are (from softest to hardest):

  • Silken
  • Regular
  • Firm
  • Extra-firm
  • Super Firm

Silken tofu is a great way to add creaminess to non-dairy “cheese” sauces, but I wouldn’t recommend it for frying or cubing. Firm or extra-firm tofu makes for the best cheese curd mimics. 

Firm tofu has a similar consistency to feta cheese, and extra firm tofu feels like hard cheese. Super firm is a bit too firm for a cheese substitute as its consistency is closer to meat. I suggest firm tofu for crumbly cheese curds and extra firm for imitation fried cheeseballs.

Tofu is like a sponge; it absorbs whatever you soak it in. However, its sponge-like nature also means you should press your tofu with paper towels before marinating it. The paper towels will absorb water from the tofu, so it has more room to soak up your flavors. 

Nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, oil, and paprika make a great cheese flavor blend for tofu. Press your tofu for one or two hours and let it soak in your flavor blend for at least thirty minutes. Thirty minutes is the minimum time you need to soak your tofu. 

If you want a stronger flavor, soak it longer. Once your tofu is nice and cheesy, use it in your recipe as desired.

For more, don’t miss 8 Most Suitable Substitutes for White American Cheese.