Buying feta might once have been straightforward but now we’re likely to be overwhelmed by choice.
Not only do supermarket shelves stock Greek feta, and feta made in Australia, Denmark or Bulgaria, but options also include marinated, flavoured or crumbled and feta made from sheep, goat’s or cow’s milk. Not to mention reduced fat.
So when choosing feta where do you start?
We tested for:
- Flavour and aroma
- Texture and appearance
Please note: this information was current as of June 2008 but is still a useful guide today.
The traditional ‘Greek-style’ feta rated highest in our expert taste test. Feta purists argue that ‘Danish-style’ feta—made using the ultrafiltration method—isn’t authentic, but many people prefer its creamier, smoother texture.
Pre-packaged plain feta
- Clover Creek Greek Style Australian Fetta
- Dodoni Feta Cheese
- Elco Gourmet Australian Goats Milk Feta
- Elco Gourmet Australian Greek Style Feta
- Emporium Selection Feta Cheese Danish Style
- Emporium Selection Feta Cheese Greek Style
- Fage Authentic Greek Feta
- Hillwood Tasmanian Cheeses Greek Style Feta
- Hillwood Tasmanian Cheeses Ultimate Feta
- Kebia Bulgarian Sheeps Milk Feta Cheese Original
- Lemnos Fetta Cheese
- Lemnos Fetta Cheese Goat's Milk
- Lemnos Fetta Cheese Organic
- Lemnos Fetta Cheese Sheeps Milk
- Lemnos Fetta Cheese Smooth
- Margaret River Dairy Company Australian Feta Original
- Mayers Fetta
- Nisi Danish Style Fetta
- South Cape Fetta in Brine
- South Cape Tasmanian Fetta
- South Cape Tasmanian Goats Fetta
- Tamar Valley Cow’s Feta
- Tamar Valley Goat's Feta
- You’ll Love Coles Australian-style Fetta
- You’ll Love Coles Danish-style Fetta
- Arla Apetina Danish Feta With Spices
- Binnorie Dairy Marinated Fetta
- Dodoni Aegean Bites Marinated Feta
- Emporium Selection Cow's Feta Marinated
- Emporium Selection Goat's Feta Marinated
- Margaret River Dairy Company Black Label Marinated Feta
- South Cape Marinated Fetta
- South Cape Persian Fetta
- Timboon Organic Gourmet Fetta
Feta has a tangy, salty flavour and can range from soft to semi-hard. Feta made with goat’s milk has a characteristic white colour, whereas cow’s milk feta can have a yellow tinge. Most feta you find in supermarkets is sold as blocks or chunks in brine, in packs or tubs.
CHOICE bought 25 nationally available pre-packaged products and our expert tasters judged each cheese on its flavour, aroma, texture and appearance. With cheeses from smaller brands, there can be batch-to-batch variations. The same type of cheese from the same brand won’t necessarily taste exactly the same next time you buy it.
For testing, we bought the cheeses from supermarkets, just like any consumer, and so only tasted that particular batch of cheese. To keep numbers manageable, we left out feta labelled as ‘reduced fat’ which had, on average, 15% fat. The stated fat content of the products we tested ranged from 28.2% down to 16.7%.
The top scoring cheeses are listed in Profiles - the best.They all have characteristics of traditional (‘Greek-style’) feta –– firm texture, that crumbles easily. But many people prefer the smooth, more homogenous texture of feta made using the ultrafiltration method –– often labelled as ‘Danish-style’ feta. All but five of the cheeses declared they were made using non-animal rennet (see the results table for details).
- Plain feta is extremely versatile in that it can be used in many cooked dishes (anything from spinach or vegetable pies to pizza), to top off a Greek salad, or simply as a table cheese.
- Some of the on-pack serving suggestions include ‘drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs, chilli or cracked pepper and serve as antipasto with fresh bread’, ‘toss through hot pasta’, ‘add to omelette or scrambled eggs’, ‘serve with watermelon or as part of a fruit platter’.
- Given the textural differences, you may prefer to use Danish-style feta for recipes aiming for a smoother end-product. On the flip side you might find Greek-style feta more suitable for recipes requiring crumbled feta. See our recipes.
Feta marinated in oil flavoured with ingredients like herbs, spices or lemon zest can taste delicious.
Pre-marinated feta is increasingly available in supermarkets and our experts tasted the 9 products we found –– the table shows how they fared. When rating these products our experts considered both the feta and the balance of flavours in the marinade. If you like the South Cape Marinated Fetta you might want to try the Emporium Selection Marinated Feta’s from Aldi. The packaging and ingredients are near-identical and they received similar scores and comments from our experts –– but the Aldi products are far cheaper.
Using marinated feta
- Marinated feta makes a great addition to any antipasto dish, can liven up a salad or toasted sandwich and is just as good eaten straight from the tub.
- You’ll generally pay more for the marinated product, so try making your own using our recipe.
Other forms of feta
Our taste test focused on pre-packaged plain blocks and marinated feta, but supermarkets sell feta in other forms too
- Flavoured feta has ingredients like pesto, garlic or olive mixed through it. The pack labels suggest you toss it with your favourite salad, or add to a tart or pasta. Our experts likened flavoured feta to ‘club’ cheese that’s passed off as cheddar –– essentially it’s not feta in the true sense of the word. But ultimately the choice is yours.
- Crumbled feta caters to a market in much the same way as bags of grated mozzarella or shaved parmesan. While it may be handy for tossing through salads or pasta or topping a pizza, you pay for the convenience (to the tune of around $25/kg ) –– in most cases it’s cheaper to buy a block and crumble it yourself, which is pretty easy.
Two main methods are used to produce feta:
Starter bacteria and rennet are added to pasteurised milk, which then sets like a junket. This junket (now curd) is cut into cubes and whey (a watery liquid) comes out of the curd, leaving the curd more concentrated. The curds are placed into forms (moulds) and further whey is released from the curd making it even more firm and concentrated. The cheese is then salted by immersion in brine (salty water) and matured for a minimum of two months. It’s often stored and sold still in the brine.
The texture of traditionally produced feta is firm and open (gaps in the curd) and it easily crumbles apart.
Ultrafiltration (UF) method
This technology for cheese manufacture was introduced in the early 1970s. Pasteurised milk is passed through a special filter resulting in a concentrated, viscous liquid, which is poured into forms. Starter bacteria and rennet are then added to the concentrated milk and it turns to a solid. As with the traditional method, the cheese is then salted to finish the process. UF is a faster process than the traditional method and has the potential to increase yield because the whey proteins are incorporated into the final product.
The texture of UF feta is smooth, creamy and closed (no openings).
Manufacturers aren’t required to label the production method used. But as a general rule of thumb, if it’s labelled Danish-style it’s likely to be UF as the bulk of feta made in Denmark (one of the largest feta producers after Greece ) is produced using this method. Greek-style feta, on the other hand, is more likely to have been produced using the traditional method.
What’s in a name?
Feta has been produced in Greece since ancient times. The name ‘feta’ has been used since the 17th century when Greece was under Venetian influence –– it comes from the Italian word for ‘slice’, most likely referring to slicing of the cheese curd into cubes when it's being made. Traditionally, feta was made with sheep’s and/or goat’s milk using a slow filtration process, but feta produced outside of Greece is now often produced from cow’s milk using the ultrafiltration process.
After a long legal battle with Denmark, Germany and France, Greek feta was granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Commission in 2002. This means that feta sold in the EU can only be labelled as such if it comes from Greece (and complies with strict production guidelines, including that it’s produced from the milk of sheep and goats using traditional methods). PDO legislation is enforced within the EU, but doesn’t apply elsewhere (unless there’s a bilateral agreement). That’s why in Australia we can buy ‘feta’ from Denmark and Bulgaria, for example –– within the EU it has to be remarketed under a different name.