What is mozzarella? Mozzarella is a popular type of Italian cheese best known for its use on pizza. It is a semi-soft cheese variety that is available both in fresh and reduced-moisture form. Brined and smoked mozzarella varieties also exist, but are less popular. Traditional mozzarella is considered an artisan cheese, produced only in four Italian regions and is made only using Italian water buffalo milk, according to a traditional recipe.
This particular variety, called ‘buffalo mozzarella’ has a protected status according to EU law and is labelled PDO, a logo meaning Protected Designation of Origin. This logo is an indication of a premium cheese product and attests its unique qualities. Mozzarella is a mild-tasting, usually moist, white cheese made from pressed curds of milk. It is produced using the ‘pasta filata’ method (a unique process of cheese kneading), which makes it a stretched-curd or pulled-curd cheese.
Despite its many variants, the real, original mozzarella cheese is ‘buffalo mozzarella’ made only from whole milk from Italian water buffalo raised exclusively on Italian territory in the regions Campania, Lazio, Apulia and Molise. Original mozzarella is made by hand using the pasta filata method and is available fresh, in brine or smoked. Only ‘buffalo mozzarella’ can have the PDO logo. The only other acceptable variants of this cheese variety are mozzarella made from whole or skim cow milk and, to a lesser extent, sheep and goat milk, but only using the traditional ‘pasta filata’ method. This includes the reduced moisture varieties. Anything other than this is merely a mozzarella-like cheese.
Types of mozzarella cheese
1) According to fat content of milk: Whole milk mozzarella or reduced-fat milk (skim milk).
2) According to shelf life: Fresh mozzarella (moist, usually packed in sweet whey or water, spoils quickly), fresh mozzarella in brine (typically lasts 1 week), reduced moisture (longer shelf life, 1 month) or vacuum-sealed mozzarella (with a shelf life of 10 day to 2 weeks). All require refrigeration.
3) According to shape and size: Bocconcini (small mozzarella balls weighing 50-70 g each), baby bocconcini (or mozzarella pearls, the size of table grapes), mozzarella balls (weighing 80-100 g), large mozzarella ball (1 kg), mozzarella nodini (knotted mozzarella, various sizes), sticks or rolls (for both fresh and reduced-moisture mozzarella, various sizes).
4) According to moisture content: Fresh and moist (includes mozzarella in brine or vacuum-sealed packages), reduced or low-moisture, usually for pizza making.
5) According to type of milk: Buffalo milk, cow milk, sheep milk or goat milk mozzarella cheese.
What does mozzarella look like?
Mozzarella is a fresh, semi-soft, milky white, moist cheese. It looks like a fresh cheese with a supple, soft and silky smooth appearance. It has a very delicate appearance. When you pull the cheese apart, you may the notice fine, string-like structure, typical of pasta filata types of cheese.
What does mozzarella taste like?
Fresh mozzarella tastes like fresh milk and sweet whey. The reason it also tastes like whey is because it is often packaged in whey which adds to its already high moisture content, contributing to taste with unique flavor notes. As a pasta filata cheese or stretched-curd cheese, mozzarella has a delicately smooth stringy texture. Overall, it’s not an intense cheese, but rather a very mild-tasting one, without much of a distinctive flavor except for the a fresh, milky taste.
Is mozzarella healthy?
Yes, it is. This particular cheese variety boasts a good nutritional profile and several wonderful health benefits as a result. If eaten right (in limited amounts and unprocessed), it really has no side effects. Ideally, mozzarella should be eaten as fresh as possible and used in simple combinations, such as: fresh mozzarella balls with fresh tomatoes and basil, maybe a little extravirgin olive oil.
Mozzarella and prosciutto with plain arugula and fresh olive oil, mozzarella skewers or bruschetta with cherry tomatoes and a basil leaf is how Italians do it. The fresh cheese pairs great with more bitter green leafy vegetables (arugula, spinach, endives) as the fresh, milky sweetness creates a pleasant contrast with the bitterness of the salad vegetables. Mozzarella on pizza or in lasagna is also common, but has the potential for side effects in these combinations.
Whole milk mozzarella nutritional information per 100 g
Energetic value: 299 kcal
Fat: 22.14 g (saturated fat 13.9 g), (monounsaturated 6.57 g, polyunsaturated 0.76 g)
Cholesterol: 79 mg
Protein: 22.17 g
Carbohydrates: 2.4 g (of which sugar 0 g)
Fiber: 0 g
Mozzarella vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins in mozzarella cheese:
Vitamin A: 170 mcg (micrograms), around 20% of the recommended daily intake (RDI 900 mcg)
Vitamin B1: 0.03 mg
Vitamin B2: 0.283 mg
Vitamin B3: 0.104 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.037 mg
Vitamin B9: 7 mcg
Vitamin B12: 2.28 mcg, around 95% of the recommended daily intake (RDI 2.4 mcg)
Vitamin C: 0 mg
Vitamin D: 0.4 mcg
Vitamin E: 0.18 mg
Vitamin K: 2.3 mcg
Minerals in mozzarella cheese:
Calcium: 505 mg, around 39% of the recommended daily intake (RDI 1300 mg)
Iron: 0.44 mg
Magnesium: 20 mg (5% of RDI)
Phosphorus: 354 mg, around 50% of the recommended daily intake (RDI 700 mg)
Potassium: 76 mg
Sodium: 486 mg, almost 30% of the recommended daily intake (RDI 1.5 g)
Zinc: 2.92 mg, a little less than 25% of the recommended daily intake (RDI 11 mg)
Mozzarella benefits and side effects: This particular cheese variety makes a healthy addition to many diets and actively and significantly contributes to daily nutritional status. Side effects may occur if intake is excessive or if there are any pre-existing medical conditions, food sensitivities or intolerance situations that may disagree with consumption.
Health benefits of mozzarella cheese
1) High protein content. 100 g of fresh mozzarella provides around 44% of the recommended daily intake of protein for an average adult. Protein is essential for good muscle form, supports nervous system activity and cognitive functions and contributes to healthy weight loss.
2) Rich in vitamin B12. With 95% of the RDI of the vitamin per 100 g, fresh mozzarella is a great food to eat if you have anemia, associated fatigue, are pregnant or looking to have a baby. Vitamin B12 is responsible for producing red blood cells in the bone marrow and combats fatigue, supports fertility in women and plays a role in preventing degenerative disease of the nervous system via its role in synthesis of myelin for nerve cells.
3) Excellent source of calcium and phosphorus. 100 g of fresh mozzarella cheese has close to 40% of the recommended daily intake of calcium for an adult person and about 50% of the recommended daily intake of phosphorus. Its high calcium and phosphorus content makes mozzarella good for bone health, helping strengthen bones and teeth and prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.
4) Food for the brain. Mozzarella cheese is a minor source of healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids (0.76 g/100 g), contains moderate amounts of cholesterol (79 mg/100 g) and excellent amounts of vitamin B12 (2.28 mcg/100 g) and protein (22.17 g/100 g). All of these nutrients are essential for brain and nervous system health and represent food for the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are physically part of the brain, cholesterol and vitamin B12 help make up the protective myelin coating surrounding the tail of our nerve cells (with big, long-term benefits), while the amino acids that make up protein contribute to synthesizing neurotransmitters that regulate brain and nervous system activity, with a direct impact on mood, sleep, appetite, learning, memory, attention etc.
5) Good food to eat in summer. Fresh mozzarella is a light cheese, fresh and with a high moisture content, a good choice of food for hot summer day. It provides vitamin B12 for high energy levels, fat and protein for long-lasting satiation and a good water content. It is best paired with light foods such as tomatoes or salad vegetables and keeps you full without having to fill up on it.
6) Can help with weight loss. An important source of quality protein and vitamin B12, mozzarella is satiating, curbs hunger, helps build and repair muscle and provides good energy levels to support physical exercise in view of achieving weight loss. Just don’t eat it fried, on pizza or in lasagna.
7) Good for vision, immunity and skin. Pro-vitamin A antioxidants in mozzarella cheese are converted into vitamin A in the body and provide benefits for skin and eyesight as well as boost immunity by contributing to the health of mucous membranes. Also a good source of dietary zinc, the cheese further helps strengthen the immune system response.
If you want to learn more about how to make mozzarella cheese, see the video below explaining all the important steps in the production of the healthy cheese variety:
Potential side effects
Side effects of mozzarella cheese are associated with excessive consumption or pre-existing medical conditions and include:
1) High energetic value and fat content, promotes weight gain. If you eat too much mozzarella too often, chances are you will start to gain weight because it’s rich in calories (299 kcal/100 g) and fat (22.14 g of fat/100 g).
2) Spoils quickly, risk of food-related illness. Mozzarella is a fresh cheese and this means that it must be refrigerated at all times, otherwise it will spoil and cause bacterial gastroenteritis or other food related illnesses. Unless it’s brined (packaged in salt water), mozzarella should smell and taste like sweet, fresh milk. If your mozzarella smells acrid or tastes acidic, sour or sharp, it’s likely no longer good to eat.
3) Causes stomach acidity, may upset gastritis. Cheese in general is a heavy food and anyone with existing GERD or gastritis might experience stomach upset if they eat too much mozzarella or too often. Acid reflux, stomach pain, heartburn and other symptoms are possible. Learn what Foods to Eat and to Avoid for Acid Reflux and what Foods to Eat and to Avoid for Gastritis.
4) Bad for lactose intolerance. This particular cheese variety is made from fresh milk and served and packaged in whey, so it is a significant source of lactose. As such, it may cause stomach upset, bloating, burping, flatulence, loose stools and diarrhea for those lactose intolerant.
5) Potential source of allergic reactions. If you have a known allergy to cow milk (milk allergy, or milk protein allergy), avoid mozzarella because it can trigger potentially severe allergic reactions that may culminate with anaphylactic shock.
6) Source of sodium, high blood pressure. 100 g of mozzarella provides 486 mg of sodium, almost 30% of the recommended daily intake for an average person. If you eat too much mozzarella too often, the sodium in it adds to the sodium from other dietary source and you may end up developing high blood pressure as a result. If you wish to enjoy the health benefits of mozzarella without the side effects, simply avoid eating too much too often. The same is true for burrata cheese made from mozzarella and cream. See Properties and Benefits of Burrata.
Frequently asked questions
1) Is mozzarella cheese vegetarian? Yes and no. Traditional mozzarella is made using rennet made from the stomachs of cattle (usually). This means that it contains an animal product (or by-product) and is thus not vegetarian 100%. If the rennet used is obtained from bacteria or fungi (molds, yeasts), then this makes it vegetarian rennet and the resulting mozzarella vegetarian as well.
If a person is ovo-vegetarian, then mozzarella is not allowed in their diet, irrespective of the type of rennet used. Ovo-vegetarian means that only plant foods, eggs and honey are allowed (see Honey Varieties).
2) Is mozzarella cheese vegan? No, it’s not. Veganism is a subtype of vegetarianism that is against all types of animal food products, including milk, dairy, eggs and honey.
3) Is mozzarella gluten free? Yes, it is. Gluten is a simple protein in cereal grains that gives the dough made from these grains elasticity. Gluten proteins are specific to cereal grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats and are not found in dairy products. This makes mozzarella gluten free.