Feta Cheese vs. Salad Cheese

Feta and salad cheese look similar, with their white color and crumbly texture, but they have some important differences.

Feta Cheese vs. Salad Cheese

While authentic feta is a protected regional product that can only legally be made in Greece, salad cheese is a more generic brined cheese made around the world.

Feta's Protected Status

Feta cheese has a protected designation of origin (PDO) status in the European Union. This means several things:

  • Feta can only officially be called "feta" if it's made in specific areas of Greece using traditional methods.
  • It must be made from at least 70% sheep's milk, with goat's milk making up a maximum of 30% of the remainder.
  • The sheep and goats must graze on particular vegetation found only in Greece.

This protection ensures the uniqueness and traditional production of real feta cheese.

Salad Cheese Defined

Meanwhile, salad cheese refers to generic white brined cheeses made to resemble feta. Makers outside Greece cannot use the name "feta" itself due to its protected status.

Salad cheeses are usually made from cow's milk and lack specifications about grazing livestock, region of production, or exact processing methods. This means salad cheese can vary more in taste and quality.

Key Takeaway: Authentic feta cheese has a protected regional status limiting how and where it can be produced, while salad cheese refers to similar brined white cheeses made outside Greece without those rules.

Appearance Differences

At first glance, feta and salad cheese cubes look very alike - white, crumbly, moist and salty. However, some visible differences exist:

  • Feta is often crumblier and not as firm as salad cheese. It easily breaks apart into small pieces rather than clean-cut cubes.
  • Salad cheeses sometimes have a slightly yellow or off-white color versus feta's bright whiteness. Some are even dyed white to appear more like sheep/goat milk.
  • Salad cheese blocks are often precisely cut into cubes, while feta crumbles unevenly.
  • Real Greek feta usually has some small holes and openings. The curds are not tightly pressed together during production. Salad cheese may have fewer gaps or cracks.

So upon close inspection, feta tends to look more loosely packed and randomly shaped compared to the uniform blocks of salad cheese.

Taste and Texture Differences

While salad cheese aims to imitate feta's taste at a cheaper price point, differences exist in tanginess, saltiness, and texture:

  • Feta has a unique sharp, tangy and salty flavor thanks to the sheep and goat's milk and grazing conditions required by the PDO standards. Feta is considered one of the world's most flavorful cheeses, while salad cheese is often milder in taste.
  • The textures also differ, with salad cheese having a more rubbery, dense and firm consistency due to being pressed into blocks during production. Feta has a flakier, crumblier and more moist texture that easily falls apart.
  • When cooked, real feta maintains more of its signature tangy flavor versus salad cheese becoming even milder. Feta also better resists turning rubbery when baked or fried compared to imitation cheeses.

So for maximum salty, tangy punch that holds up to cooking methods, authentic Greek feta has the advantage over salad cheeses.

Key Takeaway: Authentic feta has a signature sharp, salty tang lacking in milder salad cheeses, along with a flakier and less rubbery texture that better resists cooking.

Ingredients Differences

As mentioned before, the type of milk used differs significantly:

  • Feta must be made from 70% sheep's milk, with 30% or less goat's milk mixed in. This milk comes from animals grazing on native vegetation in Greece.
  • Salad cheeses are usually 100% cow's milk, which has less fat and different proteins than sheep and goat milk. This affects the final flavor and texture.

Additionally, some salad cheese makers add thickeners, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, or white colorants - ingredients not found in traditional feta production. So always check the ingredients list closely.

Pricing Differences

With its artisanal preparation and global popularity, feta usually costs two to three times more per ounce than salad cheese.

When comparing feta vs salad cheese prices, consider that you're paying for:

  • The labor-intensive traditional process of making protected Greek feta by hand
  • Maintaining specific breeds of grazing animals in rugged terrain
  • Meeting higher standards for quality and safety
  • Importing an authentic regional specialty product

The lower salad cheese price tag balances its more mass-produced nature and looser production methods.

Feta vs Salad Cheese: Which is Healthier?

With its higher fat and salt content, is feta or salad cheese the healthier option?

Benefits of Feta

Some research shows feta may have probiotic properties from the brine aging process that contributes to gut health. The combination of fat and protein also helps you feel full and satisfied.

As a fermented food, feta offers more gut-healthy bacteria and enzymes than salad cheese. Its strong flavor means you often use less of it compared to the milder salad variety to get the same taste impact.

Benefits of Salad Cheese

The lower fat content allows you to get the salty, tangy flavor while saving some calories if you need to restrict total dietary fat. Salad cheeses are often easier to find year-round versus imported feta.

Cow's milk cheese like salad varieties can be easier to digest than sheep or goat options for those with sensitivities. Always check the ingredients list for additives though.

Downsides of Both

On the negative side, the high sodium levels in any brined white cheese can increase blood pressure in salt-sensitive individuals. Some packaged crumbled feta and salad cheeses contain additives and preservatives as well.

So as with most foods, moderate intake is key - around 1-2 ounces a few times per week is recommended, regardless of variety. Pay attention to your body's signals to determine your personal tolerance.

The Winner? It Depends

Feta wins for flavor, authenticity and perhaps more gut-friendly properties. But salad cheese takes the crown if watching calories, fat intake or digestibility.

As always, your personal nutritional needs should guide your choice when deciding which brined white cheese fits your diet and tastes best!

Key Takeaway: Feta offers more robust flavor and potential probiotic benefits, while salad cheese fits lower fat and restricted diets better - choose based on your needs.

How To Use Feta vs. Salad Cheese

Beyond salads, both feta and salad cheese work deliciously in all kinds of Mediterranean-inspired dishes:

  • As a pizza topping or mixed into pizza dough
  • In cooked grains like rice, couscous, quinoa or bulgur wheat recipes
  • Stirred into pasta, vegetables, eggs/breakfast foods or legumes
  • As a stuffing inside chicken, meat, fish, sandwiches, breads, etc.
  • Baked into casseroles or savory tarts and galettes
  • Sprinkled on top of soups, stews, chilis or chowders
  • In sauces and dressings wanting a salty, tangy punch
  • Mixed with herbs, oils, nuts, olives for appetizer platters
  • Crumbled over roasted vegetables, beans or tubers

Salad cheeses often suit cooked applications better since they don't crumble apart as easily. But feta adds unbeatable strong tang and creaminess when used raw.

Many cuisines beyond Greek and Mediterranean also rely on crumbled brined cheeses like feta or salad varieties. So experiment to see which you prefer!

Key Takeaway: Both feta and salad cheese add a salty, tangy flavor when used raw or cooked in grains, vegetables, sauces, eggs, meat dishes and more.

Feta and Salad Cheese Pairings

Feta Cheese Combos

Authentic feta naturally complements:

  • tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, olive oil, lemons, fresh herbs (oregano, basil, mint)
  • lamb, beef, chicken, salmon, shellfish
  • grapes, melon, oranges, strawberries, figs
  • pita bread, flatbreads, breadsticks
  • chickpeas, white beans, lentils
  • rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta, polenta

Salad Cheese Pairings

Meanwhile, salad cheeses mix tastily with:

  • lettuces, spinach, bitter greens, cabbage, peppers, carrots, beets
  • eggs, avocados, nuts like pine nuts or walnuts
  • crostini, crusty bread, crackers
  • turkey, pork, bacon, sausage
  • barley, farro, wheat berries, spelt berries
  • zucchini, eggplants, mushrooms, asparagus

In general, pair salad cheese with lighter complements letting its more delicate flavor shine. Feta can handle stronger flavors like lamb, olives and bold herbs.


What's the main difference between feta and salad cheese?

The main difference is feta has a protected regional food status that dictates how and where it's produced in Greece. Salad cheese refers to similar brined white cheeses made from cow's milk outside Greece without those strict regulations.

Is salad cheese just a cheap version of feta?

Often yes - salad cheese offers a less expensive alternative to real imported feta. But some high-quality artisanal salad cheeses exist too that command prices nearing feta's range.

Why can feta only come from Greece?

Greece petitioned the EU to protect feta's name and traditional production methods. Similar to Champagne or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the protected status safeguards the legacy and uniqueness of regional Greek feta.

Is salad cheese only sold as "salad cheese" then?

No, it may also be called Greek-style cheese, brined cheese, white cheese, or branded with a proprietary name. But it cannot use the actual name "feta" without meeting requirements.

Which melts better in cooking?

Authentic feta retains more of its signature tangy flavor when melted. Salad cheese often becomes rubbery and lacks feta's complex taste during cooking. So feta wins for baked, grilled or fried applications.

Can I make my own feta or salad cheese at home?

Yes, there are recipes for homemade brined cheeses resembling both feta and salad varieties using lemon juice, vinegar, salt and milk. But home versions won't perfectly replicate the complex aging processes used commercially.


Deciding between brined feta versus salad cheese comes down to priorities - authenticity or affordability, boldness or mildness, texture preferences and cooking needs all play a role.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!