Mozzarella is one of the most popular cheeses used in cooking. Whether you're making pizza, pasta, salads or casseroles, melted mozzarella can take a dish from basic to delicious. Mozzarella cheese comes grated or shredded - but is there a difference, and does it matter which you use?
When following recipes, you'll often see mozzarella specified as either grated or shredded. This has led many home cooks to wonder whether they can use one instead of the other, or if they need to stick to what the recipe calls for.
What is Grated Mozzarella Cheese?
Grated mozzarella consists of very fine, powdery shreds of cheese. It has a fluffy, wispy texture and incorporates seamlessly into liquids and sauces.
To make grated mozzarella:
- Use a box grater or microplane grater to finely grate chunks of mozzarella by rubbing it across the smallest holes.
- Use the grating attachment on your food processor.
- Buy pre-grated mozzarella cheese in the dairy section of the grocery store. This is often a mix of mozzarella with other Italian cheeses like parmesan or romano.
Grated mozzarella melts very fast because of the high surface area of the fine shreds. It's ideal for:
- Pizza - sprinkled over the sauce and other toppings, it will be nicely melted when the pizza comes out of the oven.
- Pasta dishes like baked ziti or mac and cheese where you want the cheese to incorporate smoothly into the sauce.
- Soups and risottos that finish with melted mozzarella stirred in.
Key Takeaway: Grated mozzarella consists of fine, powdery shreds that melt quickly. It's perfect for blending into sauces and liquids.
What is Shredded Mozzarella Cheese?
Shredded mozzarella consists of thin, stringy strips of cheese about 1 to 2 inches long. The shreds are much larger than grated mozzarella.
To shred mozzarella:
- Use the large holes on a box grater.
- Use the shredding disc on your food processor.
- Buy pre-shredded mozzarella, which is coated in cornstarch to prevent clumping.
Because the shreds are bigger, shredded mozzarella melts a little slower than grated. The cheese retains more structure as it melts. Key advantages:
- On pizza, the fat shreds melt into delicious gooey strands.
- Shredded mozzarella is perfect for quesadillas, paninis, sandwiches and burgers where you want melted cheese that pulls apart into strings.
- For salads and pasta salads, shredded mozz retains some texture once mixed in.
Grated mozzarella incorporates seamlessly when melted, while shredded mozzarella forms those incredible stretchy melted strands.
Grated vs. Shredded Mozzarella: Key Differences
|Very fine, powdery shreds
|Thin strips about 1-2 inches long
|Melts a bit slower than grated
|Blends smoothly into liquids and sauces
|Retains more structure when melted
|Best for: pizza, pasta bakes, soups
|Best for: pizza, quesadillas, paninis, salads
So those are the main ways that grated and shredded mozzarella differ. Now let's get into more detail on how to use each type.
Is Grated or Shredded Mozzarella Better for Pizza?
For most pizza styles, both grated and shredded mozzarella work extremely well. The most important thing is that the cheese melts nicely in the hot oven.
Here are tips on using grated vs. shredded mozzarella for different types of pizza:
New York Style & Neapolitan Pizza
- Grated works well - it melts fast so the thin crust doesn't overbake before the cheese melts.
- Shredded also works perfectly - the fat shreds melt beautifully into strings and pools of cheese.
Chicago & Detroit Deep Dish Pizza
- Use shredded mozzarella between layers of toppings and sauce.
- Top with shredded or grated mozzarella before baking.
Stuffed Crust Pizza
- Shredded mozzarella is easier to stuff into the outer edge of the dough. Grated would leak out of the crust.
Both grated and shredded mozzarella work for pizza. Use shredded for deep dish or stuffed crust, and choose based on your preference for other styles.
Is Grated or Shredded Better for Pasta & Casseroles?
For Italian pasta bakes and casseroles like lasagna, manicotti or ziti, grated mozzarella works best. Here's why:
- The fine shreds melt seamlessly into the sauce, creating a smooth, creamy texture.
- Shredded mozz has a tendency to clump together in dense masses rather than blending.
However, a mix of grated and shredded gives you the best of both worlds:
- Use grated mozzarella between noodles/layers to blend into sauce.
- Top with shredded mozzarella before baking for nice melted strands on top.
The same method works perfectly for enchiladas, eggplant parm, stuffed peppers or any casserole with cheese melted on top.
Key Takeaway: For smooth, creamy pasta bakes and casseroles, use grated mozzarella melted into the sauce. Add shredded mozzarella on top for texture and stretchy cheese pull.
Grating & Shredding Mozzarella
Now that you know how to use grated vs. shredded mozzarella in recipes, let's get into the nitty gritty of preparing fresh mozzarella.
While pre-shredded mozzarella is convenient, shredding or grating your own mozz allows you to buy quality blocks and freshly grate as needed. For the best results:
1. Start with fresh, high-quality mozzarella
- For pizza, low-moisture whole milk or part skim mozzarella offers that perfect melt and pull. Fresh mozzarella also works delicious but has more moisture.
- For pasta bakes and Greek dishes, a mozzarella packed in brine (like Perlini) has excellent melting properties once drained.
2. Make sure cheese is cold when grating
- For easiest grating/shredding, refrigerate the mozzarella block until ice cold. The firm texture prevents the cheese from gumming up the grater.
3. Use a box grater or food processor
- A box grater gives you lots of flexibility to grate mozzarella as fine or as coarse as you want. Use the smallest holes for a fine powdery texture.
- For efficiency, a food processor with grater discs can blast through pounds of cheese in minutes.
4. Work fast while shredding
- Warm hands on the cheese can start melting it while you shred. Work over a sheet tray in the fridge or freezer to keep things cold.
5. To prevent clumping:
- Spread freshly shredded mozzarella out on a sheet tray so air can circulate and refrigerate immediately. The cold prevents the moist strands from sticking together.
- If storing longer term, you can toss the shredded cheese with a pinch of cornstarch or rice flour.
Storing Grated & Shredded Mozzarella
Both grated and shredded mozzarella last 5-7 days in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer. Here are some storage tips:
- Store in resealable plastic bags with as much air pressed out as possible.
- For shredded mozzarella, layer paper towels in the bag to absorb excess moisture and prevent clumping.
- Grated mozzarella tends to clump less than shredded, but you can mix in a pinch of rice flour or cornstarch to prevent sticking.
- Allow frozen grated/shredded cheese to fully thaw in the refrigerator before using, at least 24 hours. If melted while still frozen, it can curdle or separate.
With proper storage techniques, pre-grated and shredded mozz can last 5-7 days in the fridge or 2-3 months in the freezer without sacrificing quality!
Can you use shredded mozzarella instead of grated?
Yes! For most recipes like pizza, pasta, and salads, shredded mozzarella can sub for grated and vice versa. The main difference is that shredded mozz might not melt quite as smoothly into sauces as finely grated cheese.
Is store-bought or pre-shredded mozzarella good?
Pre-shredded bagged mozzarella saves time and works great in most recipes. Just be aware that the anti-caking agents can occasionally affect browning or texture once melted. Feel free to shred your own for absolute freshness!
Is shredded or fresh mozzarella better for pizza?
For traditional pizza styles, low-moisture shredded mozz offers the most ideal melt, stretch, and shelf life. Fresh mozzarella imparts delicious flavor but releases more moisture as it melts. Many artisan pizzerias use a blend of both for the perfect balance!
How long does shredded mozzarella last in the fridge?
Tightly wrapped, shredded mozzarella lasts 5-7 days refrigerated. Be sure to spread it out on a parchment-lined pan when first shredding so air can circulate and prevent moisture from creating clumps.
Can you freeze grated or shredded mozzarella?
Yes, grated or shredded mozzarella freezes beautifully for 2-3 months when thoroughly wrapped in plastic wrap and bags. Allow to fully thaw overnight in the fridge before using to prevent curdling when melted.
While shredded and grated mozzarella can both be used deliciously on pizzas, pastas, salads and more, understanding the differences allows you to choose the best option for each recipe.
Grated mozzarella consists of fine, powdery shreds that melt instantly and blend seamlessly into sauces and liquids. It's the choice for creamy pastas and casseroles.
Shredded mozzarella melts into delicious strands and pools with great stretch - perfect for pizza, quesadillas, paninis and to mix into fresh salads.
Both store-bought as well as freshly shredded or grated mozzarella have a place in home kitchens. Buying pre-shredded cheese saves time, but for absolute freshness and control over textures, try grating your own.