What kind of cheese is provolone?
Provolone is a semi-soft to semi-hard Italian cheese made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. It is best known for its smooth texture and nutty, yet slightly tangy flavor. The intensity depends on which animal the cheese is made from and how long the cheese is aged. Cow’s milk and fresh, non-aged cheeses yield a much milder flavor.
It is a very versatile cheese that is often enjoyed sliced, cubed, or melted in/on a wide variety of dishes from pasta to sandwiches.
If properly stored, it can last up to 3 weeks when refrigerated and up to 2 months when frozen. You can tell if the cheese has gone bad if it has any appearance of mold, looks darker than usual, has become very hard, or smells “off.”
Types of Provolone Cheese
Provolone can be either made commercially or artisanally and typically falls into one of three main categories:
- mild provolone a.k.a. provolone dolce (sweet cheese – young, creamy and smooth)
- sharp provolone a.k.a. provolone piccante (piquant cheese – aged, sharp and salty)
- smoked provolone (smokey flavor from hickory smoking)
It is also cut and sold in different ways:
- sliced provolone (often used in sandwiches)
- shredded provolone (often comes in a 2-5 cheese blend and used for salads/pastas)
- cubed provolone (often used for charcuterie boards and cheese tastings)
Best Substitutes & Alternatives
- Mozzarella (mild, creamy flavor, melts well)
- Fontina (sharp flavor, melts well)
- Muenster/Munster & Mozzarella (similar flavor)
- Gouda (similar flavor, but denser texture)
- Swiss a.k.a. Emmental (similar texture, melts & grills well)
- Edam (similar texture, melts well)
- Gruyere (similar texture, melts & grills well)
- Scamorza (similar texture)
Difference from Mozzarella
Mozzarella is often used as a substitute for provolone since mozzarella is highly accessible, but they are two distinct kinds of cheese.
Mozzarella is a white cheese that is best known for its stringy, stretchy properties. It is one of the most popular cheeses in the world since it is the only cheese that can be used for string cheese and is the go-to cheese for one of the most popular foods in the world…pizza.
Mozzarella has a smooth, creamy flavor and is the milder of the two cheeses due to its freshness.
While both are generally categorized as semi-soft cheeses, mozzarella is softer. Both melt well, but mozzarella’s “cheese pull” can’t be beat.
What does provolone go well on?
Provolone is great for pretty much any food that typically requires cheese. It can be shredded and used as a raw topping, sliced thinly for sandwiches, melted or grilled to add to dishes, or used as a dip.
- charcuterie – add cubed or sliced to any charcuterie board
- nachos – shred and mix with other shredded cheeses (e.g. Monterey jack, mozzarella, etc.) to top nacho chips
- pastas – shred and use as a topping on any pasta or use as an ingredient mixed into pasta sauce
- pizzas – shred and mix with mozzarella as a pizza topping
- sandwiches – add slices to any savory sandwich (e.g. grilled cheese sandwiches, deli sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, etc.)
- salads – shred and top any type of green salad
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Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.