Many areas in South America are famous for cattle farming, so it’s not surprising that countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Chile would produce some notable cheeses, too. With endless miles of grazing land, the cheeses of South America are often produced from the milk of cows fed from only from natural pastures. Combine that with the cheesemaking talents of the many Italian immigrants who came to the region, and you have the recipe for many South American cheeses to love.
Cheeses from Argentina
Reggianito: This grating cheese is a hard, cow’s milk variety very reminiscent of Parmigiano-Reggiano. In fact, it was first made by Italian immigrants who wished to create a cheese similar to the one so famous in their homeland. Aged five to six months, Reggianito is cured longer than any other South American cheese. It has a rich, salty flavour and grainy texture with visible white specks of crystallized amino acids. Reggianito is generally used for cooking or grating over pasta.
Sardo: Made in Argentina and Egypt, Sardo is a firm cow’s milk cheese with a white-yellow colour. Sardo borrows its name from the Italian sheep’s milk cheese Pecorino Sardo, and is often compared to the sharper Pecorino Romano. Argentinean Sardo is mellow, but rich and hearty. Its mild saltiness makes it perfect for snacking or cooking. It is often used to flavour pasta and vegetable dishes.
Cheeses from Brazil
Catupiry: The most popular cheese in Brazil was developed by Italian immigrant Mario Silvestrini. It remains one of the most traditional food products in the country, and Silvestrini’s original recipe is a highly guarded secret. Catupiry is a soft and mild cheese with low acidity. It is an essential component to many Brazilian recipes for chicken, fish, pasta, and pizza, and is also simply enjoyed spread atop crackers or toast. In Rio de Janeiro, Catupiry is often served with guava paste for dessert.
Minas: This traditional cow’s milk cheese is a traditional recipe from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Matured in open air, Minas comes in three varieties. Frescal (fresh) is a soft, white, slightly granulated type that’s served four to 10 days after production. There is also Meia-Cura (slightly matured) and Curado (mature). The aged Minas Curado takes on a more yellow hue and a more solid, granulated texture punctured with tiny eyes. With a stronger, slightly bitter taste, this Minas is excellent for cooking. It is essential to numerous Brazilian dishes, notably Pao de Queijo, the country’s famous puffed cheese buns.
Queijo Coalho: Pronounced “KAY-zhoo KWAH-lyoo,” this salty cheese has a firm, but lightweight texture that is said to “squeak” to the bite. Queijo Coalho is often sold by vendors on the beaches of Rio. It’s grilled to order on handheld charcoal ovens and served kebob-style with oregano and garlic sauce.
Requeijao: This mild, white cream cheese is traditionally associated with the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, but it is now made throughout the country and Portugal, as well. Requeijao ranges from creamy to solid in texture. The most popular variety is Requeijao Cremoso, a super velvety cheese sold in glasses or plastic cups.
Queijo de Brasilia: This simple pasteurised cow’s milk cheese is quite similar to ever-popular Cheddar and American cheeses. Slightly tangy, it has a hint of sharpness that makes it excellent for eating out of hand or melting over Latin-style recipes. Queijo de Brasilia is either natural white or slightly orange if it has been coloured with the food dye annatto.
Cheeses from Chile
Chanco: This cow’s milk cheese is the main cheese of Chile, representing about half of Chilean cheese consumption. Originally crafted on the Chanco Farm in region of Maule, it is now produced all over south-central Chile. The semi-hard ripened cheese has a slightly sour-salty flavour and a yellowish interior dotted with tiny eyes.
Panquehue: Pronounced “pan-KAY-way,” this smooth-textured cow’s milk cheese is perhaps Chile’s finest. It is named for a fertile region at the base of Andes Mountains where grapes, citrus fruits, and avocados flourish. Reminiscent of Tilsit, Panquehue is full of rich, mild flavour. In Chile, it’s traditionally enjoyed with bread and jam or baked into empanadas. Panquehue is made in a traditional plain variety and also flavoured with mild red pepper flakes or chives.