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Cheese is one of the most popular and versatile foods in the world. There are so many different types, from cheddar to brie to mozzarella and provolone cheese. There is literally a cheese for anyone and any situation!
I love to snack on cheese, sprinkle it on my fried eggs, and of course eat it with pizza. I swear, I could live off cheese if I could! I just started eating Gouda too! Yum! But, two of my favorite cheeses are provolone and mozzarella! You can use these cheeses interchangeably in certain dishes, but there are some key differences which will be highlighted below. From the choice of milk, to how the cheese maker makes it, to taste and texture, I’ve outlined below the difference between provolone and mozzarella.
Difference between provolone and mozzarella
Mozzarella and provolone cheese both undergo a similar process in cheese making, yet have their own subtle differences. The reason this is important is because depending on how they prepare the cheese, and with what ingredients, this changes the taste and texture, thus changing what food you can use it in.
So let’s discuss the cheese making process first!
How is provolone cheese made?
As mentioned above, to understand the difference between provolone and mozzarella cheese, it’s important to know the cheese making process.
Provolone cheese is made with fresh cow milk.
While each company or cheese maker will use their own specific technique, here is a basic overview.
- The artisan cheesemaker or company sources some raw fresh milk from a farm.
- Milk is heated until it reaches 97 degrees Fahrenheit. The milk will start to curdle. The curds should be separated.
- The enzyme rennet is added to the separated curds next, along with a thermophillic starter (culture specifically used for hard cheese, usually a type of bacteria called streptococcus thermophilus). The curd particles are cooked to a temperature between 118 to 125 degrees F for about 6 to 8 hours.
- Step 4. The curds are cut into blocks and a process called pasta filata takes place. This occurs when the curds are stretched to increase elasticity. The stretched curd helps give the provolone it’s springy and tight texture.
- Step 5. The provolone is molded into a shape and placed in a salt brine to prevent unwanted bacteria from growing.
- Step 6. It is then hung and stored dry to age and cure for at least two months.
The aging process gives provolone its signature sharp flavor and very long shelf life but also contributes to making this type of cheese more expensive than other cheeses like cheddar or colby jack.
The quality of the provolone depends on the quality of sourced milk!
You can use provolone cheese as part of a pizza or baked inside lasagna. Some people slice it thin with crackers or olive oil for an appetizer at parties!
How is mozzarella cheese made?
In Italy, people often make mozzarella with water buffalo’s milk. It can also be made with cow’s milk , goat’s milk or sheep milk.
- The first step is sourcing the milk. Like provolone, the quality of milk determines the quality of cheese!
- The milk is heated to around 97 degrees F.
- Add a whey starter when using buffalo milk in order to ripen it. A starter culture like mold or bacteria is then added into the hot milk mixture before renneting takes place, causing the curds to form from the liquid components.
- After it has cooled down, rennet (another type of enzyme) is sprinkled on top before mixing together with a spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture turns into something that looks like yogurt as you mix the enzymes in this process. Rennet causes milk proteins to coagulate, which creates a sharper gel texture than when left without any addition from an external source.
- The curds form, and they are cut into pieces and kneaded with salt to break down into tiny curd particles.
- They heat the curd particles until it reaches 104°F (40°C) while stirring constantly with metal blades before removing from heat once again to let cool down for about an hour or two. This heating step allows for further evaporation of excess water from within the cheese curds and to make more solid. Finally, the curds are strained off of the whey, and when placed in molds for a few minutes it has been transformed into mozzarella cheese.
- Making mozzarella cheese, like provolone, involves squeezing or stretching the cheese curds, which causes the moisture to seep out and allows different shapes to be made. In this case, the fresh mozzarella can be made into smaller balls.
Depending on the cheese maker and company, the maker may add calcium chloride to rid out any excess moisture from the cheese curds. Note, that there is some confusion on when and if calcium chloride should be used for mozzarella cheese.
YES, It’s used when store bought milk is used in the process.
NO, It’s not used when raw milk is used in the process.
You will also see a calcium chloride brine solution in containers of the fresh cheese.
What does provolone cheese taste like?
Provolone cheese tastes like a milder version of cheddar cheese.
- It is a semi-hard cheese that has been aged for at least two to six months, giving it its sharp taste and tangy flavor.
- The taste of provolone cheese is typically sharper than mozzarella cheese, which can be off putting to many.
- Some cheese makers will use a lipase enzyme in the aging or curing process to add to the strong rancid flavor.
Between the taste of mozzarella and provolone, I am a fan of provolone. It almost has a smooth and nutty flavor to it I really enjoy! Sometimes, I think it has a subtle smoky flavor.
What does mozzarella cheese taste like?
I was actually in Germany when I had true fresh mozzarella for the first time. And it was delicious.
- Mozzarella is one of the semi soft cheeses
- a mild flavor
- typically eaten fresh because of the added milky flavor
When it comes to the taste of mozzarella cheese, the milk matters.
- Fresh Mozzarella with Buffalo milk has a rich flavor, due to the higher fat content.
- Mozzarella with Cow’s Milk- Typical for the fresh mozzarella around today. It is soft, moist, and has a short shelf life. This doesn’t have much of a flavor for me. It will not overpower anything.
- Low Moisture- Drier and made with reduced fat milk. It is processed with preservatives and additives and can be stored and kept longer.
Provolone vs Mozzarella Recap
The difference between the two is that mozzarella cheese is a semi-soft cheese, while provolone can range from semi hard and semi firm to hard. The main difference in flavor comes down to its aging process and how much it’s salted before packaging. Mozzarella has a milder taste and almost buttery flavor because of the quick fermentation time needed; meanwhile, provolone is an aged cheese and has a sharper taste. There are various types of both cheeses available for purchase with some being sold as either “whole milk” or low fat varieties.
Try some varieties out, made with different milk, and see which one you like better!
Frequently Asked Questions
In what dishes can you substitute mozzarella cheese for mozzarella cheese?
Now that we know some of the key differences between provolone and mozzarella, let’s look at the many dishes either provolone of mozzarella would be better in.
- Pizza. The cheese you should use for pizza is really dependent on your personal preference, but for the most part mozzarella cheese seems to be the most popular choice. Mozzarella will melt easily. Even though provolone doesn’t melt as easily as mozzarella, it’s still an acceptable option for pizza due to it’s strong, smooth nutty flavor. I personally enjoy provolone with my pizza!
- Sandwiches. The best cheese on warm sandwiches, like a meatball sub, is mozzarella cheese, because it has a softer consistency than provolone and melts easier. Mozzarella is also the popular choice for grilled cheese sandwiches. Provolone would be too strong in this dish! On a cold sandwich, definitely use provolone if you want something firmer and more flavorful! The best part about using either provolone or mozzarella on your favorite sandwiches is how versatile they are – feel free to mix and match different types of cheeses until you find the perfect one for you
- Lasagna and Pasta. The best cheese for lasagna and pasta is mozzarella. The mozzarella will melt beautifully, has a smooth texture and tastes great with tomato sauce! Provolone isn’t as good for lasagna because it doesn’t melt like mozzarella does. That’s why provolone is better on pizza or subs instead of pasta dishes!
When it comes to macaroni and cheese, the possibilities are endless – try switching up your cheeses every time you make this dish to find what works best for you! Fresh mozzarella might not work as well, so you could try the low moisture dry mozzarella. The mild flavor makes them perfect for kids too, but if that sounds boring to you then experiment with other types of cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan.
Is Provolone or Mozzarella healthier?
That depends on the diet you are following. Both cheeses provide calcium which is good for your bones but does not offer any additional nutrients that would make one more healthy than the other.
I am a proponent of a whole foods diet, keeping processed foods to a minimum, therefore I love choosing full fat dairy sources!
So, which cheese do you prefer? Mozzarella or Provolone? It really depends on your preference. Neither is healthier than the other because it all comes down to what diet you follow and how much of each type of cheese you consume in a day. But if we were forced to choose one over the other, we would have to say that provolone has got a little bit more flavor going for it – but then again who doesn’t love some buttery goodness every now and then!