As a Greek American, I’m pretttttty into feta cheese. I know it’s a bit of a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ food, but I find myself squarely in the ‘love it’ camp, and part of my goal today is to convert you to the wonders of the beautiful wide world of this uniquely fragrant dairy product. That being said, I totally get why some folks don’t like it. The smell can be intense, and the presentation disarming. Sometimes it comes in a big block, sometimes it’s crumbled into dry little rubbery pieces, sometimes it’s floating in a bath of suspiciously cloudy liquid. What gives??? Well, while you’re probably familiar with the crumbly kind, and you *may* even be familiar with the big-block-in-brine kind, allow me to introduce you to the whipped kind. Yep, if you put feta in a food processor with yogurt and olive oil, it whips up into a fluffy, delicious, cheesy spread. And you can add a wide assortment of other flavors into that spread, which is how I ended up with this bright and herby mint and pistachio whipped feta, inspired by the flavors and colors of spring.
There’s something about the light and refreshing flavor of mint that pairs SO crazy well with the bold creamy flavor of feta, and when you add in the sweet nuttiness of pistachio, you basically get magic concentrated into food-form. As for the feta cheese, I’m sure there’s a technical grading for feta in some cheese training program somewhere, but the system I learned from my family’s Greek deli is based on the country of origin. French feta is mild, creamy, and not very funky, whereas Bulgarian feta is very (!!!) sharp, pungent, and tangy, and Greek feta is the happy medium between the two. For eating sliced, or in a whipped feta spread like this, I prefer French feta, but when it comes to cooking I like the Greek feta best, because you can really get that signature feta flavor even after baking or tossing into a salad with a bunch of other ingredients. And Bulgarian feta is great if you want the feta flavor to be the star of the show in whatever you’re preparing, and don’t mind some funk.
As for how to use whipped feta, there are quite a few ways to put this stuff to use. I like using it on toast with avocado and a fried egg for breakfast. It’s also great on sandwiches and wraps, and makes for a nice addition to hot pasta as it melts and coats all the noodles. And then there’s more of the traditional use of it, just enjoying it as an appetizer along with some pita, crackers, or naan bread. If you’re making it ahead of time, though, just note that the spread will firm up quite a bit in the fridge after it’s prepared, so if you want it to be easily “dippable” for guests or a cheese board, make sure to take it out 30 minutes before serving so the dip can soften a bit. Nothing is sadder than a cracker snapped in half and surreptitiously abandoned in the dip bowl. And if you really want to jazz up your cheeseboard, you might want to peek at your marinated cheese options. Enjoy, my friends!
A Greek’s Tips for Perfect Whipped Feta
- Use feta cheese that comes in a block – I beg of you, please, *please* do not use pre-crumbled feta. It is cheese blasphemy and spits in the eyes of Greeks everywhere. Feta is supposed to be a moist cheese, which is why it should be stored in one solid piece submerged in brine (aka salty cloudy water). It is so wonderfully creamy this way. When it’s pre-crumbled, however, it’s very dried out, and it won’t whip up properly. Make sure to get feta cheese that comes in one block and is in liquid brine, in either a solid plastic case or a vacuum sealed package. Something like this or this works great.
- Use full-fat Greek yogurt – Using full-fat yogurt will definitely help incorporate more air bubbles into the fat particles and give it more of a lighter, whipped texture. If you want to use low or non-fat yogurt, it’s totally up to you, just know the texture might be a bit heavier and less whipped.
- Add the olive oil while the food processor is running – When you add the olive oil in a thin steady stream while the food processor is mixing away, it allows the olive oil to emulsify and creates even more of that light and airy creamy texture within the whipped feta spread.
- Blend hard ingredients first – If you have any hard or crunchy ingredients you want to incorporate (like nuts), I recommend blending those first until they are very smooth, and then adding in the rest of the ingredients. That way you’re less likely to have any tiny hard nut or veggie bits in the whipped feta spread, and everything will be nice and smooth!
Mint and Pistachio Whipped Feta
- 2/3 cup shelled pistachios
- 12 ounces feta cheese
- 3/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup plain full-fat greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the shelled pistachios until a smooth nut butter forms (this may take a minute).
Add the feta, mint, yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest and blend to combine. While the food processor is running, add the olive oil in a thin and steady stream through the hole in the processor's lid. Continue blending until light and silky smooth in texture.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consume within 2 weeks.