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February/March 2018

Crumbled Feta

Is Crumbled Feta Worth Buying?

How We Tested

Crumbling a block of feta cheese for a salad, pasta, or pizza can be messy, making packaged crumbled feta a tempting substitute. But how does it measure up? To find out, we tasted four of the most widely available crumbled fetas, priced from $0.50 to $1.13 per ounce, and compared them with our winning block feta, made by Real Greek Feta ($0.87 per ounce). A panel of tasters assessed each product plain, folded into couscous salad, and baked in spanakopita.

Fat and Sodium Influence Flavor

Overall, tasters preferred our winning block feta. Like other Greek fetas, it’s made with funkier sheep’s milk, and we liked that extra complexity. The only crumbled fetas available are produced domestically and made with milder cow’s milk. Despite the lack of fancy imports when it comes to crumbled feta, we found a few decent options. The best had lots of fat—6 grams per ounce—and a relatively moderate sodium level of 330 milligrams per ounce. Tasters called our favorite “savory” and “briny”—“mild-mannered” overall but “pretty good.”

Crumble Size Matters

But lots of fat and moderate sodium didn’t guarantee success; what separated a decent crumbled feta from a bad one mostly came down to the degree to which they were crumbled. Bigger crumbles were better, making the feta more prominent in dishes; smaller crumbles seemed to disappear. Of the four products we tried, two had large, consistent crumbles; the third had some larger crumbles with some smaller ones mixed in; and the fourth had a few larger crumbles surrounded by lots of very small, sand-like crumbles.

All four fetas we tasted used an anticaking agent to keep their crumbles from clumping. Our second-place feta was tossed in potato starch; its crumbles were slightly wet when eaten plain but just fine once we combined them with other ingredients. The other three included cellulose, an ingredient that’s commonly used to keep shredded cheese separate, among other applications.

In our top-rated crumbled feta, which has larger crumbles, the cellulose was barely detectable; in our two lowest-ranking products, with mostly small crumbles, it was much more noticeable—egregiously so in the last‑place product, which had the smallest crumbles of all. Tasters singled out this product as exceptionally dry, even when tossed in a dressing. Manufacturers wouldn’t share their anticaking‑agent‑to-cheese ratios; however, cheese and food technologist Dean Sommer of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Dairy Research confirmed that the drier products likely use too much cellulose or, because they have smaller crumbles, there wasn’t enough cheese in each crumble to balance out the cellulose’s drying effect.

In the end, the best of the bunch was Athenos Crumbled Feta Cheese ($1.00 per ounce), which had a clean, milky, briny flavor and large crumbles that stood out nicely in our recipes. We prefer our winning block feta, but when convenience is paramount, Athenos is a good option.

Methodology

We tasted four crumbled feta cheeses, priced from $0.50 to $1.13 per ounce, three ways: plain, in couscous salad, and baked in spanakopita. We also compared them with our winning block feta cheese, made by Real Greek Feta, which costs $0.87 per ounce. We took fat and sodium amounts from packages and calculated values for 1 ounce of cheese. We preferred the block cheese by Real Greek Feta overall but found a few good crumbled options. Scores were averaged, and the cheeses appear in order of preference.

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The Results

Note: Cook's Country continuously updates our equipment reviews and taste tests. The written content below is the most up-to-date information available and may not match what appears in the video segment.

Winner
Recommended

Athenos Crumbled Feta Cheese

$4.00 for 4 oz ($1.00 per oz)

Athenos Crumbled Feta Cheese

With high fat and relatively moderate sodium levels, this feta stood out as the best crumbled option. It was “milky and salty,” with a “clean” flavor that was “simple but good.” It was “a touch dry” but had nice big, firm chunks that kept their shape and stood up to the flavors of other ingredients.

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$4.00 for 4 oz ($1.00 per oz)
Recommended

Boar’s Head Creamy Feta Cheese Crumbles

$6.79 for 6 oz ($1.13 per oz)

Boar’s Head Creamy Feta Cheese Crumbles

This cheese had the most sodium in our lineup, and while it was “too salty” plain, it worked when mixed with other ingredients: “good flavor, salty, briny,” said one taster trying it in a salad. It had nice big chunks, which tasters appreciated for the “big patches of creamy, savory cheese” it contributed to spanakopita. Its crumbles were quite moist, even “wet,” when plain, but once we mixed them with other ingredients, it wasn’t a problem.

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$6.79 for 6 oz ($1.13 per oz)

President Feta Crumbles

$4.99 for 6 oz ($0.83 per oz)

President Feta Crumbles

Plain, this feta was “faintly sweet,” with a light, yogurt-like tang. When it was mixed with other ingredients, its “pleasant milky,” “mild,” “savory” flavor came through. It was soft and creamy, which tasters liked, but still a bit too fine when compared with the bigger crumbles of our top two products: “I wish there were larger chunks” was a common complaint.

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$4.99 for 6 oz ($0.83 per oz)
Not Recommended

Treasure Cave Crumbled Feta Cheese

$2.99 for 6 oz ($0.50 per oz)

Treasure Cave Crumbled Feta Cheese

Each container of this cheese had a few larger chunks surrounded by a mass of small, powdery crumbles. Tasters compared its texture to those of sawdust and cheap canned Parmesan cheese. Despite its high fat, its flavor was “not discernible at all” in salads and spanakopita, and it was egregiously dry in every tasting, with tasters detecting a “fuzzy” coating on the surface of its crumbles: the cellulose used to keep them from clumping.

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$2.99 for 6 oz ($0.50 per oz)