Hoop cheese is a traditional, cow’s milk cheese that has a slightly salty, mild flavor and a firm texture. It has a short shelf life which means you don’t see it on the shelf in many large-chain grocery stores. It’s more commonly sold in United States south, where it’s often sold fresh off the wheel.
If you can’t get your hands on a wedge of hoop cheese, then you’re going to need an alternative. We’ve pulled together some excellent hoop cheese substitutes that have similar applications in the kitchen.
What can I use as a hoop cheese substitute?
To replace hoop cheese, you can use cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese, tofu, pot cheese, ricotta, or paneer. Whatever option you choose, strain as much water out using a cheesecloth first. This will result in a drier texture that's closer to the original ingredient.
1. Cottage cheese
Hoop cheese is essentially cottage cheese that has been pressed to remove the liquid. If you’ve got cottage cheese in the fridge then use it as your first option. Try to drain as much liquid (whey) from the curds as possible. In some recipes you can simply reduce the liquid to compensate for its higher moisture content.
2. Farmer’s cheese
Another great replacement is farmer’s cheese. They both have a similar firm, creamy texture which is perfect for stirring into an Italian pasta or macaroni cheese. Keep in mind that farmer’s cheese is made using additional ingredients like salt, so it has a slightly different flavor profile.
While tofu doesn’t add the same levels of acidity and creaminess to food, it is your best dairy-free, plant-based substitute. It can be blended to make dips, used in sandwiches, or sprinkled over salad. In soups and pasta, tofu doesn’t have great melting properties. You’re best to blend your “vegan cheese” before use.
Tip: Make sure you don't buy stinky tofu.
4. Pot cheese
Pot cheese resembles cottage cheese but its curds are larger, and it has a drier consistency. It also has a little more tang than hoop cheese and is a challenge to find in larger stores. If it’s sold locally in your town, you should try it.
5. Ricotta cheese
Some sweet recipes for cheesecakes, biscuits, and cakes call for the use of hoop cheese. You can use ricotta in these and the end result will be just as good.
Paneer is another dry curd cheese that makes a decent substitute. That is, if if you’re in a pinch. It is handy for dessert and savory recipes, but keep in mind paneer doesn’t melt.
Also check out: What's the difference between palak and saag paneer?
Hard vs. soft hoop cheese
The white, crumbly cheeses we mentioned above are great for replacing soft hoop cheese. This is a type of dry-curd cottage cheese that has no salt added.
Hard hoop cheese has a firmer texture and usually comes as large wheels covered in black or red wax rind. It has a stronger, sharper flavor and is popular in Wisconsin. It has a yellowy-orange shade that is similar to some cheddar or colby cheeses.
Commonly asked questions
How do I store hoop cheese?
Fresh hoop cheese should be stored in its original packaging or cheese paper in the refrigerator for 7-14 days. Aged cheese with its rind intact can be stored at room temperature but needs to be refrigerated once the cheese is sliced.
Where can I buy hoop cheese?
Hoop cheese is hard to find in chain stores, but you’ll find some online retailers sell it in the United States. You may also be lucky enough to live near a specialty cheese maker or farmer’s market that sells it.
Fast facts about hoop cheese
- Hoop cheese is made using a simple process of pressing the curds until the whey is removed. Its name comes from the cheesecloth that was tied to a hoop during straining.
- It is low in fat but adds creaminess to food without an overpowering cheesy flavor.
- The fresh version is considered bland with a subtle tangy undertone; once aged, it has a sharp flavor and firmer texture that can be sliced.
- Other names for hoop cheese include Red Ring or Baker’s cheese.
- Hoop cheese is delicious for a Mac ‘n cheese, grilled sandwiches, or served on a cheese board with fruit and crackers.
Hoop cheese isn't very common in most parts of the world, but you'll occasionally see it pop up in recipes. If local stores don't sell it, then a fresh option like cottage or farmer's cheese will work fine. Try to strain it first to remove as much liquid as possible.