Need a substitute for feta because you ran out or just don’t eat it? We’ve got you covered with 19 simple swap options for feta cheese. Sarah Bond – sensory scientist, degreed nutritionist, and feta cheese fanatic – ranks each option from best to worst
Feta is an ancient cheese whose chokehold on civilizations has only grown in modern times. Homer references it in the Odyssey and now TikTok brought us baked feta pasta (get our take on it here in this Campfire Baked Feta Meal). It’s salty, creamy, and great in everything from an Easy Summer Strawberry Salad to Feta Frozen Yogurt!
And although it is quite delicious, there are situations where you might not have it on hand or maybe can’t eat dairy. But no matter your reason, we want to make sure you’ve always got substitution options (just in case, ya know?) for any way you would use feta. So here are 19 practical substitutions for feta ranked best to worst!
Feta is an ancient Greek word whose root means “slice”, can you guess what the actual word “feta” means in Greek? (Scroll to the bottom of this post for the answer!)
What is Feta Cheese?
I don’t want to give anything away, but if you read this you will get the trivia question right, so you probably want to just go ahead and keep reading. Feta cheese is a type of brined cheese, meaning that it’s soaked in salt water to give it an acidic tangy flavor.
Feta originates from Greece and is a white, crumbly cheese made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Feta is known for its tangy and salty flavor, which can vary in intensity depending on the specific production methods and aging process.
The cheese is traditionally formed into blocks or chunks and preserved in a brine solution, which helps to enhance its flavor and preserve its freshness. Feta cheese is commonly used in a variety of culinary dishes, including salads, pastries, and as a topping for various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.
What Does Feta Cheese Taste Like?
As mentioned, feta is preserved in a light brine which is very common in ancient things. Because of this brine, it has a distinct taste, which can be described as tangy, salty, and slightly creamy. It has a crumbly texture and a sharp, sour flavor.
The saltiness from the brine solution is a prominent characteristic of feta. The tangy and sour taste is due to the lactic acid fermentation (at least 3 months!) process used in its production.
The exact flavor of feta can vary between manufacturers depending on factors such as the type of milk used, the length of aging, specific production techniques, and a host of other variables. Some feta cheeses may have a milder taste, while others are more pungent.
How is Feta Cheese Made?
Feta cheese is traditionally made from sheep’s milk, but goat and cow’s milk are also common today. Well perhaps common outside of Greece! The milk is pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria and pathogens. However, pasteurization is often done at a lower temperature than for some other cheeses to preserve the milk’s natural enzymes and flavors.
Cultures of lactic acid bacteria are added to the milk. These bacteria convert lactose into lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the milk, making it more acidic. Rennet or microbial coagulants are then added to the milk to help it coagulate. This process results in the formation of curds and whey. The curds are cut into small pieces to release whey and promote curd formation.
The curds are then gently stirred and allowed to rest, during which they release more whey. The curds are then drained and placed in molds to give feta its characteristic shape. Salt is sprinkled on the curds, which helps preserve the cheese and contributes to its flavor.
Feta cheese is typically brined in a saltwater solution for several days to several months, depending on the desired flavor and texture. The brining process contributes heavily to feta’s salty taste and characteristic crumbly texture. Once the cheese has aged to the desired level, it’s removed from the brine, cut into blocks, packaged, and sold to you.
8 Substitutes for Feta Cheese
We think the best substitutes for feta cheese are other cheeses. Which cheese, however, largely depends on the recipe you are substituting into and personal preference.
We list here 8 substitutes that we rank independent of the recipe involved. This is largely our preference and yours may differ. If you want to look at other options peruse our guide to 53 types of cheese.
Halloumi (Grade A+)
Halloumi can be a good substitute for feta in some instances, primarily due to its similar texture, but it has notable differences in taste. Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese known for its semi-firm texture and salty, savory taste.
Halloumi is firmer than feta, and maintains its shape when cooked, creating a crisp outer layer and a soft, chewy interior. In contrast, feta is crumbly and tangy. Try it as a substitute in Mediterranean salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for roasted vegetables. (My personal favorite? Halloumi Burgers!)
Ricotta Salata (Grade A)
Ricotta Salata can serve as a good Feta substitute when you want a cheese with a similar crumbly texture and a slightly salty flavor. Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese made from pressed and aged ricotta.
It has a mild, slightly salty taste and a crumbly texture similar to feta. It lacks the tang of feta you may want in Greek or Mediterranean-inspired dishes, but is an excellent choice when you desire a milder yet crumbly cheese.
Goat Cheese (Grade A-)
Goat cheese is one of the better substitutes for feta due to similarities in texture and a tangy flavor. Both cheeses have a creamy, crumbly texture, and goat cheese offers a slightly more tangy taste and creamy consistency than other substitute options.
It can work well in Mediterranean and other dishes where feta is called for. It will definitely work in salads, stuffed pastries, or as a topping for pizza or pasta. Its tangy creaminess complements these dishes nicely. The specific flavor differences, however, may still be noticeable in some recipes, but many people enjoy the swap.
Labneh (Grade B+)
Labneh can be a decent substitute for feta in some recipes, particularly if you’re looking for a creamy, tangy element. Labneh is a strained yogurt cheese with a thick, creamy texture and a mild, tangy flavor. It’s a versatile option that can be used in both Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean dishes.
Labneh is much creamier and milder than feta. It lacks the saltiness and crumbliness of feta but brings a pleasant tang. Use it in dips, dressings, or as a spread in sandwiches or wraps. It can also be used in Mediterranean salads.
Gorgonzola (Grade B)
Gorgonzola can be a decent substitute for feta in certain dishes, but it’s not a perfect match due to significant taste and texture differences. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese with a creamy, crumbly texture and a strong, tangy, and slightly sharp blue cheese flavor.
It works well in recipes when you desire a more robust and bold cheese presence, Gorgonzola can be used as a substitute for feta in salads, creamy pasta sauces, or stuffed pastries where a stronger and bolder cheese flavor is desired. It’s especially suitable in recipes that benefit from a creamy texture and a distinctive blue cheese tang.
We picked gorgonzola here, but based on your taste preference you could use any of the other blue cheese varieties. If you like the strong sharp taste of blue cheese, perhaps try roquefort instead of gorgonzola. For a milder blue cheese flavor pick a cheese like Danish blue.
Panela (Grade B+)
Panela can be a reasonable substitute for feta cheese, especially if you’re looking for a milder option. Panela is a fresh Mexican cheese with a mild, slightly tangy taste. It lacks the characteristic saltiness of feta but shares a similar crumbly texture.
It won’t provide the same tang as feta but can work well in dishes where a milder, crumbly cheese is desired. Use crumbled panela in salads, on top of grilled vegetables, or in stuffed peppers. It also melts well, making it suitable for omelets or casseroles.
Parmesan (Grade B-)
Parmesan is not a direct substitute for feta, as it has a vastly different flavor. Parmesan is a hard, aged Italian cheese with a nutty, salty, and savory taste. It is not crumbly like feta and doesn’t have the same tang.
Instead, Parmesan is an excellent choice for adding umami flavor and a salty kick to dishes. Use Parmesan sparingly in salads, pasta, or Mediterranean-style dishes. Grated Parmesan can be a good option if you’re aiming to complement flavors rather than mimic the feta’s taste and texture.
Cottage Cheese (Grade B)
Cottage cheese is not an ideal substitute for feta cheese because of significant differences in texture and taste. Feta is brined and crumbly, whereas cottage cheese is fresh, curdy, and moist. Cottage cheese has a mild, creamy flavor, unlike feta’s tangy and salty profile.
It’s not the best choice for Mediterranean dishes but can be used in some recipes where the creaminess does not detract from the intended result. Cottage cheese is, however, a healthier option than feta which helped it earn a B Grade.
11 Non-Dairy Feta Cheese Substitutes
There are a lot of possible non-dairy substitutes for feta cheese, and like the cheeses we list above some are better than others. If you’re on a vegan or lactose-free diet, there is definitely something here for you.
Vegan cheeses are, for me, at best hit or miss. They generally have a tangy flavor that is supposed to “mimic the tang of cheese”, but the thing is most cheese just isn’t very tangy. Feta is a little different, and making your own homemade dairy-free feta is surprisingly simple. Further, homemade vegan feta cheese is probably the best way to get the tangy flavor just the way you want it. So not surprisingly, my top choice among non-dairy substitutes is vegan feta cheese.
Vegan Feta Cheese (Grade A)
Vegan feta cheese is a great alternative if you’re looking for a dairy-free option. It often mimics the crumbly texture and tangy flavor of traditional feta. While it might not be an exact match, it’s a very suitable replacement, especially for those with dietary restrictions.
Vegan feta typically has a similar crumbly texture but can be slightly creamier. The taste is tangy and salty, similar to traditional feta, but with a mild nutty undertone. The flavor might not be as robust, but it complements many dishes well.
It’s excellent for vegan Greek salads or as a topping for vegan pizza. Keep in mind that it may not melt as nicely as traditional feta, so it’s not ideal for baked dishes.
And if you want some new ways to use your own homemade faux feta (or store-bought), try any of our well-tested favorites!
- Israeli Couscous Salad with Beet and Feta is a wonderfully refreshing and colorful salad that is delicious with dairy or vegan feta!
- Sesame Crusted Baked Feta makes a great appetizer and is one of my favorite ways to eat feta. It is sweet and salty and if you like feta, it is guaranteed to please.
- Roasted Eggplant with Mint Sauce and Feta is a cozy Mediterranean-inspired dish. It meshes creamy eggplant with salty feta and fresh mint!
Soy-Based Feta (Grade A)
Soy-based feta is specifically designed to mimic the flavor and texture of traditional feta cheese. It usually has a tangy, creamy consistency and a taste profile similar to feta. Soy-based feta can be used in place of traditional feta in virtually any recipe, including Greek salads, pastries, sandwiches, and pasta dishes. It provides a nearly identical texture and taste to feta, making it an ideal direct substitute.
Almond Feta (Grade A-)
Almond feta is engineered to closely mimic feta cheese in terms of both taste and texture, although there may be subtle differences depending on the brand. Use almond feta in the same way you would use traditional feta. It’s a straightforward swap for salads, wraps, or as a topping for Mediterranean dishes.
Hemp Tofu (Grade B+)
Hemp tofu has a nutty and earthy flavor with a creamy texture similar to traditional tofu. While it’s not identical to feta, it provides a satisfying creaminess that can mimic the texture of feta.
Hemp feta can be crumbled and added to salads, wraps, or Mediterranean-style dishes. It can also be marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and salt to enhance its resemblance to marinated feta in recipes like Greek salads or bruschetta.
Olives (Grade B)
Olives are not a direct substitute for feta, but they can provide a similar briny and salty flavor. Olives have a distinct texture and taste, which can add a Mediterranean twist to your cooking. The texture is much firmer than feta, which can be a drawback in some recipes.
Nutritional Yeast (Grade B)
Nutritional yeast is not a direct substitute for feta, but it can be a decent option for some purposes. Nutritional yeast is primarily known for its umami, cheese-like flavor, making it suitable to replicate the salty and tangy notes of feta to some extent.
However, it lacks the creamy texture of feta, as it is a dry, flaky product. It is best suited for vegan or dairy-free recipes where a sprinkle of feta-like taste is needed but doesn’t work as a direct texture substitute in recipes like Greek salad or spanakopita.
Hummus (Grade B)
Hummus isn’t a direct replacement for feta, but it can add a creamy and savory component to dishes making it a suitable option in vegan or Mediterranean recipes. Hummus is creamy and has a rich, earthy flavor often with hints of tahini.
While it lacks the crumbly texture of feta, hummus works well as a dip, spread, or creamy element in Mediterranean-style wraps and bowls. It’s not a crumbly cheese alternative but provides a unique flavor and texture.
Capers (Grade B-)
Capers can be used to enhance the briny and salty aspects of a dish, but they are not a direct substitute for feta. Capers are small, pickled flower buds with a strong, salty, and tangy taste. They offer a contrasting burst of flavor but don’t provide the creaminess of feta. They are an excellent addition but not a good replacement for feta.
Avocado (Grade B-)
Avocado can be a reasonable substitute for feta cheese in salads and wraps. It’s a good choice for those seeking a healthier, dairy-free alternative. Avocado is notably different in texture and flavor. It has a creamy, buttery texture and a mild, nutty taste, which contrasts with the tangy and crumbly nature of feta cheese. You might add a tsp of lemon or lime juice to the avocado to give it a tangier taste.
Tofu (Grade B-)
Tofu can work as a feta cheese alternative for people looking for a vegan option if you are more concerned about replicating the texture than the taste. Let’s face it, tofu has rather a bland flavor.
This is great for most uses as it allows other ingredients to shine while providing a strong dose of nutrition. But if you are looking for the tanginess of feta, you need to spice it up first. Marinate cubed or crumbled tofu in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs to give it some flavor. Use it in salads and pasta dishes, or even as a topping for pizza.
Salted Almonds (Grade B-)
Almonds can be used to create a dairy-free feta alternative in some recipes. Almonds, when soaked and blended, can produce a creamy texture. However, the taste is nuttier and milder than feta. Seasoning with salt is crucial to achieve a similar flavor profile.
This wraps up our look at feta cheese substitutes. We hope you found one or more you can use as a feta alternative, and as always happy cooking from your friends at Live Eat Learn!