Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds, Pan-fried

Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried! Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried!

True confession time. This Wisconsin girl had never fried cheese curds before now. Eaten them? Yes. Enjoyed them? For sure. 

So when my Sunday blogging group decided to do “Regional Favorites” I knew what I had to do. 

What are Cheese Curds?

For the uninitiated, cheese curds are the product of an intermediate stage in the cheese-making process.  When milk begins to separate into solids and whey, additional whey is pressed out and the solids are cut into curds.  If you want to see how this happens, here is a video link from Discover Wisconsin.  

Now if you were making cheese, the the solids would be packed, pressed and aged for more flavor and firmness.  But the tasty cheese curds are available earlier for consumption–as long as they are made from pasteurized milk.  Cheese made with unpasteurized milk needs to be aged at least 60 days so those curds are not sold.

Cheese Curds

The best curds are those you get the same day they are made.  These squeaky cheese curds are delicious fresh and best at room temperature.  Ours rarely last to a second day!  But they are also tasty fried–either deep fried or pan-fried.  

My Early Experience

It was ages ago now, when I had my first fried cheese curds.  Once or twice a year we’d head to the small Iowa town of Wilton, Iowa to visit my grandparents. There was a cheese factory in the two street “downtown” and if I was lucky, my father would suggest a walk to buy a couple bags. 

Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried!

We’d enter the building, pause to watch the cheese-making, pick up some curds, then head over to my great grandfather’s house. My great aunts would be there, ready to fry up our bounty. Unlike modern fried cheese curds, they used a frying pan, not a deep fryer, and absolutely zero breading. Melted inside, crisp and golden brown on the outside, they were always a hit!

One day, back home with Wisconsin Cheese Curds, my father decided to give this a try. Unfortunately, our curds melted before they developed a crust—and promptly stuck and burned over the bottom of the pan. He tried again and the next batch worked. Then the following didn’t. What?!

We eventually decided this must depend on the type of cheese being made.  So we stopped trying to fry them and just ate them plain. Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried!

Frying Innovation

Enter the battered cheese curd craze. I don’t know who first did it, but once you dunk cheese curds in a batter, they all fry great.

End of problem, except all the recipes call for a deep fryer. I don’t own a deep fryer.

You see, that much oil scares me. Even when I do keto.

So I went back to my Iowa aunties and their frying pan technique. I used about ¾ inch of oil in my smallest frying pan for best oil conservation. Hooray, a winner again!

Dipping Sauces

While I grew up eating my fried cheese curds au natural, they are wonderful with dipping sauces.  You can go the easy route with a commercial marinara sauce (or your favorite homemade) or a ranch dressing.  Garlic Aioli for dipping

For something with a little more pizazz, consider a bit of spice with a remoulade sauce (mine is super easy).  Or for a classy note, your can add some garlic to my 2-minute homemade mayonnaise for a garlic aiioli!

Final Notes

Now I should note that this is a very basic beer batter fried cheese curd recipe. It’s really designed to let the melty flavor of the cheese shine through. But feel free to jazz it up if you’d like with some extra spices or flavors–there’s more than one way to batter a cheese curd.

Next, in the true nature of all things fried, I think these taste best if given a good sprinkle of salt right out of the frying pan.

Finally, I hear you can substitute club soda for the beer if you are out of beer or a non-drinker. This is something I haven’t tried and can’t confirm.

Yes, I am never out of beer. Wisconsin girl here!

Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried!

Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds, Pan-fried

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried!

Ingredients

  • Oil for frying (see note)
  • 1 pound cheese curds, broken apart

Batter:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, scooped (see note)
  • 1/2 cup beer (see note)
  • Salt
  • 1 egg

Instructions

In your smallest frying pan, pour a good frying oil about ¾ inch deep. Heat until a test piece immediately sizzles but doesn’t burn quickly (about 350 F)


Whisk together batter ingredients to form a smooth batter. It should be like thin pancake batter so the batter sticks but isn’t a thick coating. Add more flour or beer as needed.


Coat the curds in batter a few at a time. Fry the curds until golden, then turn and fry the other side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Place on towels to drain, salt, then cool briefly to avoid burning. Serve while still hot and melty.

Notes

The first time I tried this I fluffed, spooned and leveled my flour. The batter was way too runny and I had to add more flour. The second time I scooped my flour and it came out just about perfect. If your batter is not sticking, try a little more flour.

No beer? I have heard that club soda works too. If you try this, I’d love to hear if it works .

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 288Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 453mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 15g

Nutrition data accuracy may vary with product selection, calculator accuracy, etc. Consult a professional for the best information.

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Melty on the inside and crisp on the outside, Wisconsin Fried Cheese curds are a classic appetizer or snack. And they can even be pan-fried!

 

 

30 thoughts on “Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds, Pan-fried

  1. Wendy Klik

    We are never out of beer either…must be a midwest thing. Do those cheese curds still squeak when they are melted LOL…..this sounds like a delicious snack.

    1. Inger Post author

      I feel so bad for all the college seniors and their parents. At least your Covid numbers are getting better. Ours are getting worse again 🙁

  2. Raymund

    I never had tried anything like this and curds are not available in the supermarkets here, when I made my poutine before I have to make my own curds. Looks like I have to make it again to try this delicious looking dish.

  3. Ashley Marie Lecker

    Hello fellow Wisconsinite! I have to say that I have never had cheese curds pan fried before as they are typically deep fried when I make them or order them, but they look nice and melty! I also love a fresh curd- nothing like that squeek!

  4. Inger Post author

    We’re so spoiled to get them never-refrigerated and squeaky! I don’t own a deep fryer and am amazed at how many things still pan-fry well.

  5. Audrey

    I wouldn’t even know where to get cheese curds in Southern California. Online shopping for the win! Beer battered cheese sounds amazing.

  6. Tandy | Lavender and Lime

    I have never heard of fried cheese curds before today. We don’t have beer at home, not because we don’t drink, but because alcohol sales have been suspended where we live and I didn’t buy any before lockdown 🙁

    1. Inger Post author

      Oh dear–I’d be in trouble without my beer. I even buy some alcohol free beer so that I can cut down my drinking and still have beer 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      Maybe I’ll remember this when this awful pandemic ends and can bring some. We had an Arizona/Utah trip planned for April spring break which (obviously) got canceled.

  7. April

    I’ve heard of fried cheese curds, but never had the opportunity of enjoying them yet. I wouldn’t even know where to find them, as I’ve never seen them in any stores where I live. (Southern Indiana) Now that I’ve read your post and seen the pictures though, I can’t wait to try some!

    1. Inger Post author

      I wish cheese curds were more widely available but you may have a shot in Indiana. My daughter, who went to ASU, complained you couldn’t even get good frozen custard there. Good luck!

  8. Christie

    I will miss cheese curds this year from the MN State Fair! Good thing I can make them at home. They look perfectly delicious.

  9. grace

    not only have i never visited wisconsin, i’ve sadly never tasted fried cheese curds either. what’s not to love!?!

  10. KarriB

    These are perfect – used fresh white cheese curds from the Marieka Gouda place in Thorp (bought on the way home to Green Bay :)). The curds were extremely squeaky and fresh. The batter is light and absolutely perfect.

    1. Inger Post author

      So happy you enjoyed these Karri! I love Marieke–though Renards is most convenient for me!

  11. Jackie

    These look super good! I have a couple questions:
    1. In your recipe you say “Oil for frying (see note)” but there’s nothing in the notes about the oil. What type of oils would you recommend?
    2. If I were to try a gluten-free flour, what kind do you think would be a good replacement? (Arrowroot/tapioca flour, cassava, rice flours, almond flours, etc.) I was thinking a mix of Arrowroot and rice to get the right texture. Not even sure if you’re familiar with making GF foods, but thought I’d ask 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      For frying, you can use whatever oil you usually fry with. I often use high oleic sunflower oil which has a lot of the health value of olive oil but is local here and less expensive. I don’t cook gluten free enough to be able to advise on flours–I usually use a recipe when I do. If you have success with the switch and get the chance to comment back, I’d love to hear what worked.

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