U.S. Dairy Products > Cheese > Cheese Categories

Soft-Fresh Cheeses

Varieties include:soft fresh

  • Cottage Cheese (various fat contents)
  • Cream Cheese (plain & flavored)
  • Feta
  • Mascarpone
  • Neufchâtel (plain & flavored)
  • Queso Blanco
  • Ricotta (whole milk, low-fat, fat-free)  

Manufacturing Process

Soft-fresh cheeses are referred to as acid-set or direct-set, since the milk is usually coagulated with lactic acid, lemon juice, vinegar or similar acid directly added to the milk, instead of rennet and enzymes. Whey is drained from soft cheeses using gravity rather than mechanical pressure to help retain the velvety texture and higher moisture content. Many soft cheeses are packaged, often in tubs, without being cut, pressed into a form or aged.  


Soft-fresh cheeses contain the highest moisture content of any cheeses. This makes them excellent ingredients for spreads and fillings. In most cases, these cheeses have a mild, delicate, creamy flavor much like the top U.S. quality milk from which they are made.  

Key Applications

Most soft cheeses, except feta and queso blanco, are spoonable/spreadable cheeses. In foodservice, prepared foods, and end-user applications, they are widely used as a base for bread and snack spreads and dips. They are also popular in fillings for pasta and casseroles, appetizers, and baked goods. Feta and queso blanco are the low-moisture exceptions to the rule in this family of cheeses. Their crumbly texture and resistance to melting further separate them from the rest of this group. Traditionally used only in ethnic dishes, these cheeses are now used in salads, soups and a variety of hot entrées, even pizza.

Marketing Advantages

Superb consumer appeal; add value to baked goods, snacks, and prepared foods. High consumer acceptance due to their mild taste and smooth, creamy texture.  

Key Benefits in Foodservice and Prepared Foods

Excellent cold spreadability for dips, spreads and frostings. Creamy texture for use in pasta fillings, casseroles, and a range of other fillings. Perfect flavor carrier. Versatile: works well in sweet or savory dishes. Can be used to bind other ingredients together and as texture agents. Low-fat, no-fat and reduced-calorie versions provide high quality options for restricted diets.