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Choosing the Best Feta Cheese

A Fine Cooking taste test of six grocery-store brands

Fine Cooking Issue 72
Photos: Scott Phillips
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The briny, tangy flavor of feta is a real attention grabber, so when adding it to a recipe, it makes sense to use the tastiest feta you can find. Imported and artisan-crafted feta made of sheep’s and goat’s milk can be delicious, but you may need to visit a specialty store to find them. Fortunately, super­markets carry plenty of feta, most of it mass produced and made of cow’s milk.

To find out which is worth using, we purchased six brands that are readily available in grocery stores nationwide and held a blind tasting. Their flavors differed widely: some were bright and fresh, others pungent and cheesy. All the brands we sampled were packaged in cryovac with a small amount of brine. (In this tasting, we didn’t include crumbled feta or feta packed in a tub of brine.)

Top pick

Valbreso
$4.50 for 7 oz.; sheep’s milk

This French feta had a fresher, lighter taste than the others and stood out as the hands-down favorite. Our tasting panel loved its moist, creamy texture and well-rounded flavor profile. Lively and rich, it delivers a “nice balance of saltiness, tanginess, and creaminess.”

Runners-up

Cheeses are numbered in order of preference; prices will vary.

2. President
$4.39 for 8 oz.;
pasteurized cow’s milk

Despite a bitter aftertaste, this Wisconsin-made feta hit a lot of the right notes: Its texture was dense and crumbly without being dry, its aroma unabashedly tangy and briny, and its flavor appealingly sour and salty.

3. Greco
$3.99 for 7 oz.;
pasteurized sheep’s and goat’s milk

This imported Greek feta had a soft, moist, chalky texture. Its aroma was mild with notes of earth, grass, and sour milk, but its flavor packed a real punch—powerfully sour, goaty, and spicy. Some tasters appreciated this feta’s strong personality while others firmly rejected it.

4. Athenos
$4.19 for 8 oz.;
pasteurized cow’s milk

Several tasters thought this Wisconsin-made cheese had “the classic feta aroma”—salty, sharp, intense. The texture was dry and crumbly, if a bit pasty. The trouble with this cheese was its high salt level, which all but masked a very decent underlying tangy, fruity, milky flavor.

5. Mt. Vikos
$4.99 for 7 oz.;
pasteurized sheep’s and goat’s milk

The intense “sheepy” flavor of this imported Greek feta curiously divided our panel. Where some tasters appreciated its balance of milky sweetness and sharp sourness, others thought it too sour, gamey, and spicy. All agreed, though, that the texture was appealingly crumbly and creamy.

6. Organic Valley
$4.99 for 8 oz.;
pasteurized organic cow’s milk

This organic Vermont cheese didn’t shout “feta.” It offered some saltiness and slight tang, but its bland flavor failed to impress, and its dry, rubbery texture lacked appeal.

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