Feta cheese reviews

There’s more to this cheese of ancient origins than meets the eye.
 
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01 .Introduction

Marinated feta with olives

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.


Verdict

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. 

Brands tested

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
Marinated feta
  • 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

Plain feta

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.

Our test

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).

Using Feta
  • 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

Marinated feta

Feta marinated in oil flavoured with ingredients like herbs, spices or lemon zest can taste delicious.

Our test

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:

Traditional method

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).

Labelling

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.

 
 

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Brand / product (in rank order) Total Score Milk type Country of origin Price/kg ($)
PLAIN
Lemnos Fetta Cheese Goat's Milk 16.75 Goat Australia 40.50
Elco Gourmet Australian Greek-Style Feta 16.5 Cow Australia 17.45
Emporium Selection Feta Cheese Greek Style 15.75 Cow Australia 13.45
Lemnos Fetta Cheese 15.25 Cow Australia 25.50
Lemnos Fetta Cheese Sheeps Milk 14.75 Sheep Australia 36.11
You’ll Love Coles Australian-style Fetta 14.5 Cow Australia 14.45
Fage Authentic Greek Feta (A) (B) 14.25 Ewe and goat Greece 27.45
Lemnos Fetta Cheese Organic 14 Cow Australia 33.06
You’ll Love Coles Danish-style Fetta 13.75 Cow Australia 14.45
Hillwood Tasmanian Cheeses Greek Style Feta 13.75 Cow Australia 13.75
Tamar Valley Cow’s Feta 13.5 Cow Australia 16.45
South Cape Fetta in Brine 13.25 Cow Australia 25.96
South Cape Tasmanian Goats Fetta 13.25 Goat Australia 38.25
Elco Gourmet Australian Goats Milk Feta 13.25 Goat Australia 29.95
Dodoni Feta Cheese (A) (B) 13.25 Sheep and goat Greece 27.95
Kebia Bulgarian Sheeps Milk Feta Cheese Original (B) 13.25 Sheep Bulgaria 16.62
South Cape Tasmanian Fetta 13 Cow Australia 23.45
Tamar Valley Goat's Feta 13 Goat Australia 34.95
Hillwood Tasmanian Cheeses Ultimate Feta 12.75 Cow Australia 14.25
Margaret River Dairy Company Australian Feta Original 12 Cow Australia 26.94
Clover Creek Greek Style Australian Fetta (C) 12 Cow Australia 22.45
Lemnos Fetta Cheese Smooth 12 Cow Australia 16.45
Emporium Selection Feta Cheese Danish Style 12 Cow Australia 13.45
Nisi Danish Style Fetta (B) 11.5 Cow Denmark 19.95
Mayers Fetta 10.75 Cow Denmark 12.68
MARINATED
Dodoni Aegean Bites Marinated Feta (B) 15.25 Sheep and goat Greek feta, packed in Australia 36.47
Arla Apetina Danish Feta With Spices 14.5 Cow Denmark 24.20
Margaret River Dairy Company Black Label Marinated Feta 13.5 Cow Australia 41.95
South Cape Persian Fetta 13 Cow Australia 37.72
Emporium Selection Goat's Feta Marinated 12.75 Goat Australia 15.14
South Cape Marinated Fetta 12.75 Cow Australia 28.54
Timboon Organic Gourmet Fetta 12.5 Cow Australia 31.96
Emporium Selection Cow's Feta Marinated 12.5 Cow Australia 15.11
Binnorie Dairy Marinated Fetta 11.75 Cow Australia 34.30

Table notes

Scores
The experts tasted the cheeses (without knowing the brands) and agreed on a score following a 20-point system, similar to that used in judging cheese shows — a maximum of 10 for flavour and aroma, six for texture and four for presentation.
Price
This is based on what we paid in Sydney in April 2008.
ns Not stated
(A) This feta has PDO status.
(B) Dodoni Feta Cheese is made using animal rennet. Other products with this footnote don’t specify the type of rennet used. All products without this footnote are made using non-animal rennet.
(C) Brand changing to South Cape.

03.Profiles - the best

 

Plain feta

Lemnos Fetta Cheese Goat's MilkLemnos fetta goat's milk

Price: $32.45/kg

Tasters' comment

Tangy nose, slightly low salt, good flavour and presentation, slightly crumbly.

Elco Gourmet Australian Greek-style FettaElco Gourment Aust. Greek style fetta

Price: $17.45/kg

Tasters' comment

Good acid and flavour balance, with a firm but slightly grainy finish. 

Emporium Selection Feta Cheese Greek-styleEmporium selection feta greek style

Price: $14.95/kg

Tasters' comment

Sharp acid and good flavour but slightly low salt and a dry, firm texture. Yellow tinge.

Lemnos Fetta Cheese Cow’s MilkLemnos fetta cow's milk

Price: $22.17/kg

Tasters' comment

Flavour stood out, good body, but slightly fatty and pasty texture. Yellow tinge. 

Marinated feta

Dodoni Aegean Bites Marinated FetaDodoni agegean bites marinated feta

Price: $36.60/kg

Tasters' comment

Good feta flavour and acid. Slightly weak texture.

Marinated feta

This recipe is straightforward, tasty and you can even spice it up by adding whole peppercorns or dried chilli flakes to taste.Marinated feta with olives and bread

You'll need:

  • 200g Greek-style feta, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 pieces of lemon rind
  • 150mL extra virgin olive oil, approx

Method:

  • Place feta and all dry ingredients in a jar
  • Pour over olive oil, making sure it covers all ingredients
  • Seal jar and allow to marinate overnight before using
  • Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Video: Marinated feta recipe

Here's a simple way to make delicious marinated feta.

05.The expert tasters

 

Neil Willman

Neil WillmanNeil Willman is a master cheesemaker, cheese educator and trainer. He has been a specialist cheese competition judge for many years at international level and in Australia at both state and national dairy product competitions. 




Bill Tzimas

Bill TzimasBill has judged numerous national dairy product competitions and is a longstanding retailer and wholesaler at Queen Victoria Market. He has been eating feta for 40 years, thanks to his Greek heritage.




Roberta Muir

Roberta MuirRoberta completed University of Melbourne’s Cheese Judge Advanced Level course and has judged at the RAS Dairy Produce & Fine Food Show.





Russell Smith

Russell SmithRussell Smith is a specialty cheese consultant and educator, a national cheese judge and is the contributing editor of Regional Food Australia magazine. He’s also a passionate cheese lover.