Fried cheese curds are, if you ask us, an iconic beer garden menu food item in America. Chewy, melted, salty cheesy goodness encased in delicious crispy golden beer batter… What is not to love about these bites? A small bowlful of them and a cold beer on a warm summer day sounds better than perfect.
We are launching the Craft Beering Beer Garden Menu series with them. Our dedicated page for the menu is ‘under construction’ and coming soon. Just as I promised we will be making and adding the recipes for all of our beer garden food favorites from all over the world.
Cheese Curds are a classic…but what are they?
Eaten fresh, as a classic topping in poutine or deep fried, cheese curds have raving fans among the ranks of craft beer fans. And beyond of course:) But they are, in our very, very partial opinion, best paired with beer. Chris and I have a soft spot for them.
Cheese curds are made by adding rennet and mesophilic culture cheese starter blends to warm milk. The type of bacteria in the starter culture determines the type of cheese curd (cheddar is the most common). After the milk separates the whey is drained from the curds, the curds are shaped into a single mass and cut into slabs and then through a series of cheddaring steps any residual whey is removed and the fresh cheese curds are cut.
Here is a great video demonstration of making cheese curds if you are interested to see the process.
Cheese curds have a landmark springy, rubbery texture and are best eaten fresh. If you ever had cheese curds made the same day you know how much better the texture is versus those that have been sitting refrigerated for a few days.
They are often sold already flavored besides the salt added at the end of the making process. Popular flavors are Cajun, BBQ, Onion & Garlic, Dill, Ranch etc.
We used white cheddar cheese curds from a local creamery which we bought from the local cheese section of our grocery store. Relatively fresh and perfectly fine for making fried cheese curds. They were in fact squeaky when we tasted them plain prior to frying.
Why do Cheese Curds Squeak?
Squeaking is a signature attribute of fresh cheese curds. Here is why.
There are long protein strands in them which are very elastic and upon contact with your teeth the rubbing of those strands against the enamel produces a squeaky sound. The fresher the curd the more pronounced the squeak.
After a day the curds begin to lose their squeak as the bacteria used to make them continue to work and increase their acidity content and break down the long proteins into smaller and less elastic fragments. This video provides a good explanation for the loss of squeakiness.
Different Ways to prepare Fried Cheese Curds
You can prepare fried cheese curds in any number of ways so feel free to make alterations to our basic recipe below. For this post we simply whipped up a basic batter with a beaten egg and beer and selected a pale ale with a good balance of malts and herbal hops.
It is definitely fun to experiment with differently flavored curds and methods of making them. You can truly identify your favorite kind of fried cheese curds. Whenever we can get our hands onto dill flavored ones we add garlic powder to the batter – the result is impressive.
Here are a few other suggestions to prepare fried cheese curds:
- breaded fried cheese curds – simply toss in flour, dip in egg wash and then roll in bread crumbs
- soda water battered fried cheese curds – replace the beer in our recipe with soda water and add a bit of sugar to compensate for the loss of malty sweetness
- buttermilk battered fried cheese curds – use buttermilk in lieu of the beer in the recipe below
- spice battered fried cheese curds – follow the recipe below but add your favorite spice to the batter – we particularly like adding smoked paprika
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- 2 quarts cooking oil for frying
- 1 to 2 lbs of fresh cheese curds (you will have leftover batter if you use 1 lb and just enough for 2 lbs)
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¾ cup flour + more to toss cheese curds prior to dipping them in the batter
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1¼ cup beer
- Place the cheese curds in the freezer for about an hour just prior to frying them (optional step, but recommended).
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350 F (375 F if you chilled curds in the freezer).
- Fill a small bowl with flour (depending on how many curds you have ½ to 1 cup).
- In another bowl add the beaten egg, the flour, baking soda, salt and beer and beat with a fork until a thin-nish, smooth batter forms.
- Working 6 to 8 curds at a time, toss them in flour, then dip them in the batter and fry until they turn golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry over paper towels.
- Enjoy immediately.