HOME > Chowhound > Cheese >


Guatemalan cheese and butter

The cheeses, for the most part, seem similar to Mexican cheese.

In Guatemala, it has more to do with region. For example, this wiki article says of Jalapa

"Jalapa also produces dairy products and is famous for its cheese, especially queso seco ("dry cheese", a drier version of queso fresco) and mantequilla de costal ("sack butter"), which is produced mainly in Monjas, San Manuel Chaparrón, San Carlos Alzatate and Jalapa."

These are the cheeses and butters I've tried as of this post Details for each in the replies

- mantequilla de costal
- Requeson
- queso de Capas
- queso de Jalapa
- queso de Pita
- queso de Zacapata
- queso oreado
- queso fresco - plain, with chiplin, with lorroco
- queso seco con chile

This article discusses the Clover dairy group which has plans to export Guatemalan cheese eventually to other areas in Central America and the US. They have 2000 head of cattle in the area of Esquintla. I live there and many of the cows graze in sugar cane fields. I'm still not sure if that impacts the flavor of the milk.

I am very new to Guatemalan cheese so if I'm incorrect or missing something, I hope someone more knowledgable will post. As I learn more, I'll update info in replies.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)

    This rich, dense, creamy butter is from the regions on the east coast of Guatemala. It gets its name because after being prepared, it is placed in a cloth bag so that any water in it can be drained. Here's the reference in Spanish with a recipe to make your own ... just like the stuff Gautemalan grandmothers make

    Basically put cream in a container and leave in the fridge until it turns yellow and the surface is cracked. Add water to wash it, wisk and repeat the wash.wisk process a number of times. Add salt, if desired the last time it is blended. Put in the cloth and hang for one day, squeezing now and again until water is drained.

    The butter I bought from the market was sold unrefrigerated in a large tub ... and I mean large.

    Nice photo in this next link of it wrapped in tusa or dried corn husks. As the blogger writes, it is beautiful. It is sweet but has a little tang to it. The dense, silky texture is quite wonderful.


      This is a firmer and stronger tasting cheese than queso fresco.

      Uses: Used like queso fresco and served with the typical Guatemalan breakfast of eggs and beans. It is also used in pupusas, soups, chilaquilas, fiambre (a Day of the Dead mega salad) or dobladas

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        I thought Capas was a place, but it turns out "capas" means "layered". This blog writes

        "queso de capas - 'layered' cheese - produced by gradually supplementing the harder base with additional layers as the cheese matures in order to cultivate a more rubbery texture. (The commoner milk-cheese here is saltier, creamier and crumblier.)"


        This is a sharp, dry, very crumbly cheese sold in huge wheels.

        This article writes

        "The milk products of this region are famous. The hard cheese and butter have a delicate flavor. Livestock has been part of the life of Jalapa since the colonial period and they have become famous for their tanneries and their products of tanned leather and sheepskin. "
        Uses: Crumbled over beans, tostadas smeared with avocado, in salsa.

        1. QUESO DE PITA
          This is a string cheese similar to mozarella or Mexican queso Oaxaca.

          Uses: Melted on tortillas like a Mexican quesadilla. Used in pupusas. Also there was something about squeezing it in pan Frances, a white roll. Someone said they would show me how to do this.

          1. REQUESON

            This cheese is similar to ricotta but more elegant. Like in this photo, it is wrapped in plantain leaves like a tamale.

            The requeso I bought had smoky notes to it. Not like usual smoked cheese.

            In Guatemala a lot of cooking is still done on poyos, stacked cinderblock cooking areas fueled by charcoal or wood. Cooking like that imparts a campfire quality to foods. Unfortunately, my clothes now all have a subtle smoky aroma due to the poyo next door. I am not sure if the cheese just picked up the flavor from some nearby cooking ... but it was so delicious.

            Uses: Like ricotta, it can be used in desserts. I can also be spred on pan Frances, a soft roll, or on a tortilla that is then folded.

            1. QUESO DE ZACAPATA

              This was a sharp dry cheese, but not as crumbly as the Jalapa. It did not automatically crumble. There still remained a creaminess to it. Like the Jalapa, it was cut from a huge wheel.

              The cheese vendor also sold a Guatemalan bread called quesadilla which is like a corn bread, but uses rice flour. I've never had a Guatemalan quessadilla like this ... think excellent corn bread, slightly on the dry side. It is sweet but has the sharp, tangy saltiness of this cheese. Fabulous.

              Uses: Crumbled on beans, on top of tostadas covered with guacamole, crumbled in salsas, used for quesadillas.

              1. QUESO OREADO

                I think this is the same as the Mexican cheese. Oreado means air-dried. It is basically queso fresco that is aged a bit. The texture is a bit more solid, It reminded me a bit of muenster, but not quite as solid.

                The oreado I tried was sold in a square and was more like queso fresco than a longer aged crumbly cheese. I've found references of it being aged from two weeks to four months. I am guessing mine was aged for a few weeks rather than months.

                From this site about the Mexican cheese

                “queso oreado” is fresh cheese wich you will leave uncover in the cooler. In a few days it will form a “crust” and will crack a little and if you leave it long, will become very hard."

                "Up until electrification which in many places didn’t occur until the 1930’s and 40’s there was no way to refrigerate milk and cheese. The only cheeses that could be stored and sold in small shopes were the dried or aged type. Queso oreado was popular back then for that reason. It came in a big brick and it would sit out on the counter for a fairly long period until all of it was sold."

                More good stuff in that article.

                It looks a bit like the photo on this book called "Genuine Mexican Cheeses" ... which sounds like a fabulous book with details about 32 Mexican cheeses

                Uses: I guess it would depend on how aged it is. It is sitting in the fridge now and I'll see what they do with it.

                1. QUESO SECO CON CHILE

                  I'm not sure what the base cheese was, but this was a beautifully flavored dry cheese where the heat built. It wasn't crumbly. Unfortunately spicy hot is not appreciated at home, so I didn't buy any. I'm still thinking about it, so next time I'm buying some for me. This would make a great snacking cheese ... maybe with a nice beer.

                  1. QUESO FRESCO

                    A soft creamy cheese. Some times it is also made with chopped chiptlin (Gautemala's herb) or lorroco (a flower)

                    Uses: Usually served on the table and slices are cut off and accompany beans and especially served with a typical Guatemalan breakfast.

                      1. re: monpetitescargot

                        You are certainly not the only person who thinks this.

                        I have really enjoyed RWO's posts, and would certainly love to see her move to yet another country and send another series of very informative posts.