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What Is Basket Cheese?

By M. Chambers
Updated May 16, 2024
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Basket cheese is a type of mild cheese that is made using cow's milk and rennet. This type of cheese is named after the basket that is used to ripen and shape it. Fresh basket cheese is made without salt and typically is eaten soft. Dry basket cheese is lightly salted and has a firmer consistency. As the name implies, this cheese is shaped like a basket.

Although there are different versions of basket cheese throughout the world, the main ingredients normally include rennet, cow's milk and sometimes salt, depending on whether the dry variation or fresh variation is being made. The cheese is formed and shaped inside a basket — usually a wicker basket or another type of woven, wooden basket. Mild in taste, the cheese is often eaten with bruschetta, crackers or pita bread.

In Italy, this cheese is frequently added to Easter dishes and pies, as well as pizza. Basket cheese is commonly added to Italian Easter pies that are made with meat and vegetables. It also can be eaten at breakfast with toast, honey or fruit. In taste, this cheese is very similar to ricotta or cream cheese, but it has a mild flavor that is unlike other cheeses.

When fried or cooked, basket cheese will not melt and will hold its shape. The unsalted, fresh version of this cheese is somewhat like Indian paneer because it does not melt and has a similar consistency. If stored inside tight packaging and refrigerated properly, the cheese normally stays fresh for as long as six months.

Variations of the cheese will vary depending on location, but it is commonly served with olive oil, tomatoes, pasta and nuts. It also can be diced up and added to salads, soups and other recipes that call for a mild, soft cheese. Fruit also pairs well with this soft cheese, and this combination typically is consumed during breakfast. When a dish that calls for basket cheese is being prepared, ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella or cream cheese can often be used as a substitution.

Basket cheese can be difficult to find sometimes, especially around Easter, when it is in high demand. Both the dry and the fresh versions might not be carried in a typical grocery store or market, so people who are in search of this cheese might need to visit a specialty shop to purchase it. If it is purchased earlier than it is needed, the cheese will stay fresh for a several months when it is unopened and refrigerated.

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Discussion Comments

By ddljohn — On Nov 19, 2013

@fBoyle-- I've had Italian basket cheese that was a combination of cow's milk and sheep's milk before. So yes, sheep's milk and goat's milk can be used. But I think that cow's milk is the most common.

We eat a lot of basket cheese at our house. I get the fresh type from a dairy farm. We mostly eat it for breakfast with jams and jellies. But I have made appetizers and dips with it as well.

I'm looking forward to trying an aged basket cheese though. The aged version is supposed to be quite hard and suitable for shredding. So I could use it in cooking and baking. I think it might be a nice addition to other lasagna cheeses.

Does anyone here cook with basket cheese? What do you usually make with it?

By fBoyle — On Nov 19, 2013

Can basket cheese be made with sheep's milk or goat's milk?

By burcinc — On Nov 19, 2013

I've been trying to find a substitute for Indian paneer and basket cheese never occurred to me. I have a few recipes calling for paneer but I can't get a hold of any right now. I can get basket cheese though, so I will use that instead.

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