Feta Cheese: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the world of feta cheese, its health benefits, history, and culinary uses, and learn how to store, substitute, and incorporate this versatile ingredient into your healthy lifestyle.

What is Feta Cheese?

Feta cheese is a brined, white cheese made from sheep's milk, or a mixture of sheep's and goat's milk. Originating in Greece, feta has a tangy, salty flavor and a crumbly texture, making it a popular addition to salads, sandwiches, and Mediterranean dishes. With its unique taste and versatility, feta cheese has become a favorite among cheese enthusiasts worldwide.

Is Feta Cheese Healthy?

Feta cheese is considered a healthy cheese option due to its lower fat content compared to other cheeses. It's also a good source of calcium, protein, and probiotics, which promote digestive health. However, feta is high in sodium, so it's essential to consume it in moderation, especially for those watching their salt intake.

7 Health Benefits of Feta Cheese

  1. Supports bone health: Feta cheese is rich in calcium, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.

  2. Promotes digestive health: The probiotics found in feta cheese can help balance gut bacteria and improve digestion.

  3. Boosts immune system: Feta contains immune-boosting nutrients like zinc, selenium, and vitamin B6.

  4. Supports weight management: The protein in feta cheese can help you feel fuller for longer, potentially aiding in weight loss efforts.

  5. Improves heart health: Moderate consumption of feta cheese has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, thanks to its healthy fats and anti-inflammatory properties.

  6. Enhances brain function: Feta is a source of vitamin B12, which supports brain health and cognitive function.

  7. Reduces the risk of anemia: Feta cheese contains iron, which is essential for the production of red blood cells and preventing anemia.

History and Background of Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a Greek cheese that has been a staple in Greek cuisine for centuries. The name "feta" comes from the Italian word "fetta," meaning "slice," which in turn comes from the Latin word "offa," meaning "morsel" or "piece." The name originated in the 17th century, likely referring to the practice of slicing up cheese to be placed into barrels. Feta is considered one of the world's oldest cheese varieties.

What is the Best Way to Store Feta Cheese?

To maintain freshness and prevent spoilage, store feta cheese in an airtight container submerged in its brine. Keep it refrigerated, and it should last up to three weeks. If your feta cheese didn't come with brine, you can make your own by dissolving two tablespoons of salt in four cups of water. If your feta is crumbled, you do not need to store in a brine.

What are the Different Types of Feta Cheese?

Feta cheese can vary in texture, flavor, and fat content depending on the milk used and the production process. Some common types of feta cheese include:

  • Traditional Greek feta: Made from sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep's and goat's milk, with a tangy, salty flavor and crumbly texture.
  • Bulgarian feta: Creamier and less salty than Greek feta, made from sheep's or cow's milk.
  • French feta: A milder, creamier version of feta made from sheep's milk.

What is the Best Substitute for Feta Cheese if I Don't Have It?

If you don't have feta cheese on hand, suitable substitutes include ricotta salata, goat cheese, or queso fresco. These cheeses have similar textures and flavors, making them an excellent alternative in recipes calling for feta.

What Cuisines Use Feta Cheese?

Feta cheese is a popular ingredient in various cuisines, including Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Balkan, Turkish, and many others. Although feta is originally from Greece, feta cheese is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine as well.

How is Feta Cheese Made?

Feta cheese is made by curdling sheep's milk, or a mixture of sheep's and goat's milk, with rennet. The curds are then drained, salted, and pressed into molds before being submerged in a saltwater brine to age and develop flavor.

What is Feta Cheese Used for?

Feta cheese is a versatile ingredient used in various dishes, such as:

  • Greek salad
  • Spanakopita (spinach and feta pie)
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Mediterranean pasta dishes
  • Topping for pizza and flatbreads

Can Feta Cheese be Frozen?

Yes, feta cheese can be frozen for up to three months. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw the cheese in the refrigerator before using it, and note that the texture may become crumblier after freezing.

Is Feta Lactose Free?

Feta cheese is not lactose-free, but is typically considered low in lactose, making it easier to digest for some individuals who are lactose intolerant. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and dairy products, and during the cheese-making process, much of the lactose is removed. Feta cheese is traditionally made from sheep's milk or a combination of sheep's milk and goat's milk, which generally have lower lactose content compared to cow's milk.

Best Feta Cheese Recipes