As far back as I can remember, I’ve eaten cheese curds. Fried, fresh, or as a topper for things like poutine, cheese curds have been in my life.
Since I’m originally from Wisconsin, it should be no surprise that I’ve eaten my fair share of Wisconsin cheese curds–one of the Dairy State’s beloved exports. In layperson’s terms: I love cheese curds.
I honestly love cheese curd a little too much in all its forms. But your palate will be forever changed if you’ve never had these squeaky little delights of salty goodness. Once you bite into one of these curdled delicacies, you’ll be a curd convert.
Fried cheese curds, in particular, are a delicious staple snack throughout several communities, especially in Quebec, the Northeast, and the Midwestern United States. These fried cheese beauts are flash-frozen and sold in many stores but, like French fries, don’t compare. If you want the best fried curds I’ve ever had, I highly recommend a trip to the Old Fashioned in Madison, Wisconsin.
Read on if you’re prepared for what amounts to a love letter to cheese curds.
Show Table of Contents
- What are Cheese Curds?
- What Do Cheese Curds Taste Like?
- Types of Cheese Curds
- Can You Buy Cheese Curds?
- How to Make Fried Cheese Curds
- Deep-Fried Cheese Curds Recipe
- Dipping Sauces for Fried Cheese Curds
- Cheese Curds Around the World
- Final Thoughts: Are Cheese Curds Good?
- What are cheese curds?
- How are cheese curds made?
- What is the best way to eat cheese curds?
- Can you buy cheese curds?
What are Cheese Curds?
A cheese curd is a solid mass of lactic acid starter culture dairy solids and water shaped into a small, rough ball. They are created when the natural lactic acid in curdled milk protein into long strands for cheese.
These days, most cheese curds are produced with rennet, a microbial enzyme commonly used in cheesemaking. Rennet makes shorter, tougher curds that are easier to handle and less likely to break during manufacturing.
Cheese curds are often used in savory dishes, with a mild flavor and a springy or rubbery texture. They can be eaten on their own as a snack, appetizer cuisine, or used as an ingredient in recipes like my beloved Canadian poutine. You could also try curds and other Wisconsin specialties on a food tour in Milwaukee.
What Do Cheese Curds Taste Like?
Cheese curds taste mildly salty and can be made with white or traditional orange cheddar cheese. Curds have about the same firmness as regular cheese in smaller portions.
You’ll know whether the curds are fresh based on the sound they make when you bite them. That’s right, fresh cheese curds squeak! Honestly, even non-squeaky curds are delicious to me. But it’s fun to sound like a mouse when eating them.
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Types of Cheese Curds
There are many different types of cheese curds, and the type you choose will depend on your taste preferences. Some of the most popular types of curds include:
- Cheddar Cheese Curds: Cheddar curds are the most popular type. They have a sharp, tangy flavor that pairs well with savory dishes.
- White Cheese Curds: White cheddar cheese curds have a milder flavor than other cheese curds. They pair well with fruits and vegetables or can be used in sweet dishes.
- Naked Deep-Fried Cheese Curds: These fried cheese curds are not breaded or battered and are usually served with a dipping sauce. You aren’t super likely to find these in U.S. restaurants; the only time I’ve had naked fried cheese was halloumi slices in the U.K.
- Battered Deep-Fried Cheese Curds: These fried curds are breaded or battered cheese curds before they are deep-fried and are typically fried to a golden brown. Many restaurants, particularly in the Midwest, will serve either one kind of fried cheddar curds or a mix of regular and white.
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Can You Buy Cheese Curds?
Yes, absolutely. Hearty, real cheese curds are available in many stores, including local grocery stores, cheese shops, and online retailers.
If you’re looking for the freshest cheese possible, your best bet is to find a local source. You may be able to find a few curds being sold at your local farmers’ market, as well as some specialty food stores.
If you want freshly made deep-fried cheese curds, go to Minnesota or Wisconsin, where you will find them at nearly every dive bar or regional fast food spot. Midwesterners have that cheese curd recipe locked down, believe me.
Here are some of my favorite fried curds:
- Culver’s (if you love fried cheese curds, you know this place)
- Dairy Queen
- Great Dane in Madison
- The Nook in St. Paul
- Ellsworth Creamery in Wisconsin or via their Amazon shop
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How to Make Fried Cheese Curds
If you’ve ever made croquettes, the principle to fry cheese curds is essentially the same: you take your food, the cheese curds, dip them in a strong batter and then fry it up to a golden brown. For typical fried cheese curds, you’ll find a batter with a similar texture to the generic frozen cheese stick you’d find in the grocery store.
Those aren’t the good ones, though. You’ve got to make your own because there’s no other way to replicate the extreme gooey goodness of a proper fried cheese curd.
The other part of the equation is that you must use fresh curds, which are the best for the frying process. They are the ones that come straight from the cheese factory or maker and are only a few hours old.
You can tell if you’ve got a new batch of curds by the squeaky cheese test: if the cheese curds squeak on your teeth as you eat them, you can fry them. If they don’t, you’ve got a bunch of snacking cheese.
Deep-Fried Cheese Curds Recipe
For those who can make freshly deep-fried cheese curds at home, failure comes not from the ability to get great curds to fry but from a lousy batter mixture. Cheese curds need to have a light batter coating on them so that there’s just enough crunch when you bite into it, yet not too much batter where that’s all you taste.
There’s one foundational difference between other fried foods and curds, however: instead of using carbonated water, you will use beer to make the batter lighter and fluffier – 3/4 of a cup, to be exact. Beer-battered cheese curds are practically their own food group in the Midwest. I wouldn’t say I like beer, but I love a good beer curd.
Use a local microbrew for added flair, customization, or bragging rights. When I make these at home, I prefer Spotted Cow if I have any in the house. The Cow is from one of the best breweries in Wisconsin and can only be purchased in-state.
- 2 quarts vegetable oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup beer
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds cheese curds
- Wire strainer
- Paper towels
- Mix together the eggs, flour, beer, salt, and milk. Stir until the batter is smooth and thin.
- Heat oil in a pan to 375 degrees F
- Dip cheese curds in batter and place into hot oil for just a few minutes, until golden brown
- Remove curds with wire strainer and set on paper towels to absorb extra oil
Remember that the hot oil has to be at the right temperature because the batter will cook too fast, and you’ll have a solid core on the inside. If this does happen, just put the oven at 200 degrees F and stick the cheese curds in on a baking sheet for a few minutes.
Let them cool down for a minute, but not too long. You’ve got to eat these while they’re hot!
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Dipping Sauces for Fried Cheese Curds
Some people would consider including a dipping sauce in your cheese curds recipe a crime. I am one of those people with a few exceptions. I firmly believe you should try the curds, especially beer-battered cheese curds, without sauce first to savor their unmasked flavors.
It depends on how fresh your curds are, what type of cheese you use, what type of beer batter, and if you use garlic salt, garlic powder, or even cayenne pepper. You might want dipping sauces on the side if you serve generic fried or frozen curds as an appetizer.
The two most popular dips are ranch dressing and marinara sauce, but you can dip them in anything. I’ve seen people use ketchup, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, and chocolate sauce. My personal favorite dip to use, if I’m going to use one, is garlic aioli because it brings out the flavor of the cheese.
If you’ve got an older curd that has become a bit solid on the inside, take your standard tartar sauce, add some dill, and have a fantastic and flavorful addition. A good tzatziki sauce will also compliment your fried cheese curds quite nicely.
See Related: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
Cheese Curds Around the World
Regardless of how they look, there are a variety of cheese-curd-esque treats all over the world. From my beloved poutine, as mentioned above in Quebec, to velvety halloumi
What originated as a street food in Quebec has become a staple of pub foods everywhere. The different flavors of french fries (or tater tots in some cases), gravy, and curds are brought together in a gorgeous amalgamation of savory goodness. Now that poutine has made its way around the world, many recipes can be found for this tasty snack.
Made from a combination of goat and sheep’s milk, halloumi comes from the Eastern Mediterranean. The only place I’ve eaten it was the U.K., especially on top of salads.
Because of its high melting point, halloumi is often grilled or baked on a wire rack and used as a meat substitute. Like curds, halloumi also squeaks and is beyond delicious.
Paneer from India is made from full-fat cow or buffalo milk. Unlike the other cheeses we’ve mentioned, this one does not have salt in it. So, rather than a salty, tangy taste, paneer is milder and milkier. It is also highly versatile across recipes since it has no melting point and doesn’t add a significant flavor to the dish.
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Final Thoughts: Are Cheese Curds Good?
I’m the wrong person to ask this question to. Cheese curds aren’t just good; they’re the best. I love them. These gooey bits of baby cheese will forever be my favorite comfort food.
The one health-related issue with fried cheese curds is their saturated fat content. Any fried cheese curds recipe, including the one we shared above, will have 40g of fat or more per typical serving, and considering it’s easy enough to eat two or three servings at a time–there’s no getting around the fact that the best cheeses to fry have a high-fat content.
You can use vegetable oil and low-fat cheese to halve the fat content in your cheese curd recipe, but the flavor just isn’t the same. You could also use a light beer in the cheese curd batter, but I can hear the curd fanatics bemoaning the thought. Don’t get me wrong–it’s ok, but it’s not life-changing!
Are cheese curds good? The answer to this question is a resounding “yes!” Fried cheese curds are delicious and perfect as an appetizer or side dish. They’re also easy to make so you can enjoy them at home anytime.
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What are cheese curds?
Cheese curds are small, bite-sized pieces of fresh cheese. They are often described as similar in taste and texture to squeaky cheese. They are a popular snack food in many parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
How are cheese curds made?
Cheese curds are made by separating the solid particles (curds) from the liquid (whey) in milk. This process is accomplished through a variety of recipes. Still, the most common method involves adding an acidic substance (such as vinegar or lemon juice) to milk, which causes the curds to separate from the whey. The curds are then collected and formed into small, bite-sized pieces.
What is the best way to eat cheese curds?
There is no wrong answer to this question! Cheese curds can be eaten plain, or they can be breaded, or coated in beer batter, and fried. They can also be used as an ingredient in various recipes, such as macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches.
Can you buy cheese curds?
Yeah! If you want cheese curds, you can usually get them at a local grocery store. The food is often located in the fresh mozzarella and other unique cheese. in the deli area.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.