Burrata and bocconcini are two delicious Italian cheeses that are often confused with one another or used interchangeably.
However, while they share some similarities, there are important differences between these two cheeses that impact their flavor, texture, and best uses.
How Burrata Cheese Is Made
Burrata originates from the Apulia region of southeast Italy. The name “burrata” comes from the Italian word “burro” meaning butter, which gives a hint to this cheese’s rich, creamy texture.
To make burrata:
- First, fresh mozzarella curd is formed into a thin outer pouch or shell.
- Next, the shell is filled with stracciatella, a soft mixture of mozzarella shreds soaked in heavy cream.
- The finished product resembles a small round ball with an outer skin of mozzarella enveloping a lush, creamy interior.
When you slice into a ball of burrata, the creamy stracciatella filling oozes out deliciously. The contrast of the firm yet flexible mozzarella shell with the soft, creamy interior is what defines this cheese.
Burrata is served fresh, not aged, to enjoy its unique textural qualities. High-quality artisanal burrata is made from the milk of Italian Mediterranean buffalo. Machine-made commercial versions often use less expensive cow’s milk.
How Bocconcini Cheese Is Made
Bocconcini originates from Naples, Italy. The name means “small bites” in Italian, describing these bite-sized mozzarella balls.
To produce bocconcini:
- Whole milk, usually from water buffalo, is curdled and stretched to make a pliable mozzarella curd.
- The supple curd is hand-rolled into egg-sized balls known as bocconcini.
- The bocconcini are stored immersed in whey or water to preserve freshness.
So while burrata and bocconcini both start with fresh mozzarella curd, bocconcini stops there. These little mozzarella balls have a dense, elastic texture throughout with no creamy interior.
Bocconcini and burrata can both be made from water buffalo milk for a sweet, rich flavor. Cow’s milk versions offer a milder taste.
Key Characteristics of Burrata Cheese
Here are the main qualities that define burrata cheese:
- Made from mozzarella curd shell filled with stracciatella (mozzarella shreds and cream)
- Texture: Outer shell is solid but flexible,Interior is soft, lush, and spreadable
- Flavor: Sweet, creamy, and buttery from the soft filling
- Appearance: Resembles a small round ball, creamy interior oozes out when cut
- Best Uses: Served fresh and uncooked to highlight its unique texture (e.g. in salads, sandwiches, appetizers)
- Made from cow or water buffalo milk
The interplay of textures between the stretchy mozzarella shell and the decadently creamy stracciatella interior is what makes burrata so special. When serving burrata, it’s typically sliced open and enjoyed at room temperature to allow the creamy center to reach the peak of flavor and texture.
Key Characteristics of Bocconcini
Here are the defining qualities of bocconcini cheese:
- Made from mozzarella curd shaped into egg-sized balls
- Texture: Smooth, dense, and uniformly elastic throughout
- Flavor: Mild and milky taste with slight tang
- Appearance: Small round balls about 1 inch in diameter
- Best Uses: Fresh snacks, salads, sandwiches, skewers and more
- Made from cow or water buffalo milk
Unlike burrata, bocconcini offers a consistent, bouncy texture since there is no soft interior. Its small spherical shape also gives it visual appeal for serving in salads or appetizer spreads. Both the milder flavor and firmer bite make bocconcini suited to a wide range of dishes.
|Mozzarella curd, stracciatella (shredded mozzarella in cream)
|Outer shell is firm but flexible, interior is creamy and spreadable
|Uniformly dense and elastic
|Sweet, rich, creamy, and buttery
|Mild and slightly tangy
|Room temperature appetizers, salads, sandwiches
|Snacking, salads, sandwiches, skewers
How to Store Burrata and Bocconcini
Proper storage is crucial for keeping these fresh cheeses in peak condition:
- Keep refrigerated at all times until ready to serve
- Use within 2-3 days of purchase for best quality
- Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving
Because burrata is highly perishable, it has a shorter shelf life. Leaving it unrefrigerated too long allows the buttery filling to deteriorate and take on sour notes. Prompt refrigeration gives you a few days to enjoy burrata at its best.
- Store in brine or whey in the refrigerator
- Change liquid every 5 days to prevent spoilage
- Will keep this way for up to a month
Since bocconcini lacks a creamy center, it holds up better under refrigeration. The brine helps preserve texture and flavor. Bocconcini’s smaller size also gives it an advantage over large burrata balls in terms of quickly penetrating to the center of the cheese.
Key Takeaway: Burrata is more perishable than bocconcini and should be consumed within 2-3 days, while bocconcini stored in brine keeps for up to a month refrigerated.
Best Uses for Burrata Cheese
Burrata truly shines when used raw in recipes or served as-is with bread and olive oil. Cooking burrata can lead it to break down into a grainy mess. Below are some of burrata’s best and most popular uses:
- Salads - Fresh summer salads featuring heirloom tomatoes, arugula, or stone fruits are perfect vehicles to let burrata’s lush texture and creamy richness steal the show.
- Sandwiches - From traditional pairings with prosciutto or caprese-style sandwiches with tomatoes and basil to more unique combinations, burrata adds a decadent note to sandwiches.
- Bruschetta - The spreadable interior of burrata makes it ideal for topping bread. Combine it with olive tapenade, fresh tomatoes, or prosciutto.
- Pasta - Some pasta sauces can incorporate cut-up burrata as a rich, creamy finishing touch. Try it with pesto or fresh summer vegetable-based pastas.
- Pizza - If using burrata as a pizza topping, add it freshly sliced just before serving so it retains its texture without overcooking.
Because so much of burrata’s appeal centers on its lush, creamy interior, recipes that expose and highlight this filling show it to best advantage. Using burrata more as a component adds a decadent richness and contrasting texture.
Best Uses for Bocconcini
The milder flavor and especially firmer, bouncy texture of bocconcini translates well to more diverse cooking methods beyond uncooked dishes:
- Salads - With their small size lending visual appeal, bocconcini shine in fresh vegetable or tomato-based salads.
- Flatbreads - Thanks to its higher melting point, bocconcini can be baked as a pizza topping without becoming grainy like burrata.
- Skewers - Alternating bocconcini with cherry tomatoes, basil, and olives makes an easy yet impressive appetizer. The balls stay intact when pierced.
- Soups and Stews - Unlike highly perishable burrata, bocconcini can be gently cooked into soups, risottos or braises.
- Deep Frying - Battered and fried, bocconcini transforms into crispy fritters with molten, cheesy centers.
Bocconcini’s ability to retain its shape when cooked expands the possibilities well beyond burrata. From sandwiches to skewers to fried appetizers, bocconcini adapts effortlessly thanks to its consistent, elastic texture.
Top Food and Wine Pairings
Fresh, vibrant flavors best complement burrata and bocconcini. Their richness benefits from acidity and spice to cut through the full-bodied dairy flavors. Herbs, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper allow their sweet, creamy essence to sing.
Some classic pairings include:
- Fresh tomatoes + basil + olive oil (Caprese salad)
- Stone fruits like nectarines or plums
- Citrus fruits
- Arugula or bitter greens
- Aged balsamic vinegar or reduced balsamic syrup
- Prosciutto + figs
- Herb-infused oils
- Sparkling wines
- Light, crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio or Vermentino
- Rosé wines
- Light or amber beers
- Hard ciders
Burrata and bocconcini both pair wonderfully with the Italian flavors of olive oil, tomatoes, basil and balsamic. Their richness can also balance sweet summer fruits and sparkling wines.
Can I substitute bocconcini for burrata?
You can use bocconcini when burrata is unavailable, but they won’t provide the same experience in terms of luxurious creaminess and contrasting textures. Bocconcini will give you a nice fresh mozzarella flavor and bite but lacks the rich, buttery filling.
Is burrata better than bocconcini?
Whether burrata or bocconcini is “better” depends on the context. Burrata shines when served fresh at room temperature to highlight its lush texture. Bocconcini offers more versatility for cooking applications like flatbreads, skewers, or frying. Ultimately both have merits depending on your needs.
Should burrata be served hot or cold?
Burrata should always be served chilled or at room temperature, never hot or cooked. Heating burrata causes the buttery filling to deteriorate and separate from the mozzarella shell. Many of burrata’s best qualities revolve around enjoying it fresh and uncooked.
Can I freeze burrata cheese?
Freezing is not recommended for burrata as the delicate creamy center will break down. Even when thawed, frozen burrata would never regain the same pristine texture. For fresh burrata, keep refrigerated and use within a few days.
When you understand the key differences between burrata and bocconcini cheese, it’s easier to choose which one to use.
Burrata really shines served fresh at room temperature to enjoy the spectacular interplay of its creamy interior and chewy yet flexible outer shell. Allowing the fillings to mingle with salads or bruschettas shows off burrata’s luscious qualities to full effect.
Bocconcini’s fine-tuned texture and bite hold up to skewers, flatbreads, deep frying and beyond. Their milder flavor adapts effortlessly to both sweet and savory profiles. For snacking, salads, or elegant passed appetizers, bocconcini always satisfies.