Sure, Costa Rica is better known for its immaculate beaches, prolific rainforest wildlife and rolling coffee plantations than it is for its cheese making — but that’s not to say the nation’s dairy products aren’t worth biting into.

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Cheese production in Costa Rica has a rich history. In the 1950s a group of American Quakers fleeing from the Korean War military draft immigrated to Monteverde. There, they began a small cattle ranch manned by just two employees.

As the years went on they began hiring locals to help with the art of crafting cheese and other dairy products — everything from gouda to ice cream — stimulating economic growth in the region. The local industry now employs several hundred people. Cheesemongers and artisanal dairy farms can be found speckled throughout the country.

Queso Fresco (aka Turrialba)

Affectionately referred to as “squeaky cheese” by many for its musical quality, unripened “fresh cheese” is ideal for eating cold with a slice of tomato — or for frying.

It is fairly salty, comes in blocks with eyeholes and lasts about four or five days in the refrigerator. It often accompanies a plate of gallo pinto or your typical casado.

Queso Maduro

“Mature Cheese” is a hard, aged cheese prevalent at fresh food markets and specialty shops all over the country. Its earthy flavor and agreeable texture make it perfect for sprinkling on top of salads or for eating alone.

Queso maduro is extremely salty and not typically refrigerated, as it is aged for anywhere between one and 11 months.

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Better known as goat cheese, chévre is often eaten by people with intolerance to cow products. According to local producer Carlos from Rancho Avellanas, goat cheese is milder if you separate the males from the females, and more powerful if you keep them together due to the influence of hormones.

Queso Palmito

With a texture similar to mozzarella string cheese, palmito cheese gets its name from its resemblance to the heart of palm plant (palmito in Spanish). It is made from whole raw or pasteurized milk, salt, rennet and dairy cultures, and can be refrigerated for about two weeks.

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Monte Rico

A somewhat waxy, low fat cheese that is specific to the Monteverde region. It was first introduced into the Costa Rican market in 1974, when it quickly became a national favorite for its smooth texture, creamy flavor and delectable meltability.

Photo Credits: Genna Marie Robustelli  of Tamarindo Family Photos

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Say Cheese! 5 Common Costa Rican Quesos Cheeses

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There is one comment:

  • Lori Howes at 2:18 pm

    Where can I purchase cheese that is aged two or more years in Costa Rica?
    The two year aging process makes it naturally lactose free.
    We are flying into San Jose on Saturday, staying in Uvita for 2 weeks.

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