Bryndza Greek salad Kefalotyri

Feta Cheese.jpg
Country of originGreece
Source of milkSheep (≥70%) and goat per PDO; similar cheeses may contain cow or buffalo milk
PasteurizedDepends on variety
TextureDepends on variety
Aging timemin. 3 months
CertificationPDO, 2002
Related media on Wikimedia Commons
Polish diced vegetable salad with feta (white blocks near top layer of salad)

Feta (Greek: φέτα, féta) is a brined curd white cheese made in Greece from sheep milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat milk. It is a crumbly aged cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture in comparison to other cheeses. Feta is used as a table cheese, in salads such as Greek salad, and in pastries, notably the phyllo-based Greek dishes spanakopita ("spinach pie") and tyropita ("cheese pie"). It is often served with olive oil or olives, and sprinkled with aromatic herbs such as oregano. It can also be served cooked (often grilled), as part of a sandwich, in omelettes, or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Since 2002, feta has been a protected designation of origin product in the European Union. According to the relevant EU legislation, only those cheeses produced in a traditional way in particular areas of Greece, which are made from sheep's milk, or from a mixture of sheep's and up to 30% of goat's milk from the same area, can be called feta.[1] However, similar white, brined cheeses (often called "white cheese" in various languages) are made traditionally in the Eastern Mediterranean and around the Black Sea and more recently elsewhere, often partly or wholly of cow's milk, and they are sometimes also called feta.[2]


Feta is a soft brined white cheese with small or no holes, a compact touch, few cuts, and no skin. It is usually formed into large blocks, which are submerged in brine. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp. Its maximum moisture is 56%, its minimum fat content in dry matter is 43%, and its pH usually ranges from 4.4 to 4.6.[3] Feta is traditionally categorized into firm and soft varieties. The firm variety is tangier and considered higher in quality. The soft variety is almost soft enough to be spreadable, mostly used in pies and sold at a cheaper price. Slicing feta produces some amount of trímma, "crumble", which is also used for pies (not being saleable, trímma is usually given away for free upon request).

High-quality feta should have a creamy texture when sampled, and aromas of ewe's milk, butter, and yoghurt. In the mouth it is tangy, slightly salty, and mildly sour, with a spicy finish that recalls pepper and ginger, as well as a hint of sweetness.


Traditionally (and legally within the EU), feta is produced using only whole sheep's milk, or a blend of sheep's and goat's milk (with a maximum of 30% goat's milk).[4] The milk may be pasteurized or not, but most producers now use pasteurized milk. If pasteurized milk is used, a starter culture of micro-organisms is added to replace those naturally present in raw milk which are killed in pasteurization.These organisms are required for acidity and flavour development. When the pasteurized milk has cooled to approximately 35 °C (95 °F),[5][6] rennet is added and the casein is left to coagulate. The compacted curds are then chopped up and placed in a special mould or a cloth bag that allows the whey to drain.[7][8] After several hours, the curd is firm enough to cut up and salt;[5] salinity will eventually reach approximately 3%,[6] when the salted curds are placed (depending on the producer and the area of Greece) in metal vessels or wooden barrels and allowed to infuse for several days.[5][6][8] After the dry-salting of the cheese is complete, aging or maturation in brine (a 7% salt in water solution) takes several weeks at room temperature and a further minimum of 2 months in a refrigerated high-humidity environment—as before, either in wooden barrels or metal vessels,[6][8] depending on the producer (the more traditional barrel aging is said to impart a unique flavour). The containers are then shipped to supermarkets where the cheese is cut and sold directly from the container; alternatively blocks of standardized weight are packaged in sealed plastic cups with some brine. Feta dries relatively quickly even when refrigerated; if stored for longer than a week, it should be kept in brine or lightly salted milk.


"They make a great many cheeses; it is a pity they are so salty. I saw great warehouses full of them, some in which the brine, or salmoria as we would say was two feet deep, and the large cheeses were floating in it. Those in charge told me that the cheeses could not be preserved in any other way, being so rich. They do not know how to make butter. They sell a great quantity to the ships that call there: it was astonishing to see the number of cheeses taken on board our own galley."

Pietro Casola, 15th-century Italian traveler to Crete[9]

Though cheese made from sheep's or goat's milk is documented in Greece from the 8th century BC, and was widely consumed in ancient Greece and in later Greek gastronomy,[10] feta cheese in particular is first recorded in the Byzantine period under the name prósphatos (Greek: πρόσφατος 'recent' or 'fresh'), and was produced by Cretans.[9] In the late 15th century, an Italian visitor to Candia, Pietro Casola, describes the marketing of feta, as well as its storage in brine.[9]

The Greek word feta (φέτα) comes from the Italian word fetta 'slice', which in turn is derived from the Latin word offa ("a morsel", "piece").[11][12] It was introduced into the Greek language in the 17th century, became a widespread term in the 19th century, and probably refers to the practice of slicing cheese in order to place the slices into barrels.[citation needed]


After a long legal battle with Denmark, which produced a cheese under the same name using chemically blanched cow's milk, the term "feta" became a protected designation of origin (PDO) in October 2002—which limits "feta" within the European Union to mean brined cheese made exclusively of sheep's or sheep's and goat's milk in the following regions of Greece: Peloponnese, Central Greece, Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, Thrace, and the islands of Lesvos and Cephalonia.[13][14]

In 2013, an agreement was reached with Canada in which feta made in Canada would be called “Feta style/type cheese” cheese, and would not depict on the label anything evoking Greece.[15][16] Canadian companies using the "feta" name before October 2013 can continue to do so.[17]

According to the Commission, the biodiversity of the land coupled with the special breeds of sheep and goats used for milk is what gives feta cheese a specific aroma and flavor. When needed to describe an imitation feta, names such as "salad cheese" and "Greek-style cheese" are used. The European Commission gave other nations five years to find a new name for their feta cheese or stop production.[1] Because of the decision by the European Union, Danish dairy company Arla Foods changed the name of its white cheese products to Apetina, which is also the name of an Arla food brand established in 1991.[18]


Feta (typical)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy1,103 kJ (264 kcal)
4 g
21 g
14 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin A422 IU
Riboflavin (B2)
0.84 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.97 mg
Vitamin B6
0.42 mg
Vitamin B12
1.7 μg
MineralsQuantity %DV
493 mg
1116 mg
2.9 mg
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Like many dairy products, feta has significant amounts of calcium and phosphorus.

Feta is lower in fat and calories than aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Cheddar weight-for-weight because it has higher water content.[19] The cheese may contain beneficial probiotics.[20]

Feta, as a sheep dairy product, contains up to 1.9% conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), about 0.8% of its fat content.[21]

Feta cheese is very high in salt, at over 400 mg sodium per 100 calories.[22]

Similar cheeses

A Greek salad with a slice of feta

Similar cheeses can be found in other countries:

See also



  1. ^ a b Gooch, Ellen (Spring–Summer 2006). "Truth, Lies, and Feta: The Cheese that Launched a (Trade) War". Epikouria: Fine Foods and Drinks of Greece. Triaina Publishing. Archived from the original on 5 July 2009.
  2. ^ https://www.pappaspost.com/feta-cheese-at-the-heart-of-growing-us-eu-trade-tensions/
  3. ^ "Presenting the Feta Cheese P.D.O. – Feta's Description". Fetamania. CheeseNet: Promoting Greek PDO Cheese. 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  4. ^ European Union (15 October 2002). Feta: Livestock Farming. European Commission – Agriculture and Rural Development: Door. p. 18.
  5. ^ a b c Harbutt 2006.
  6. ^ a b c d "Feta Production". Fetamania. CheeseNet: Promoting Greek PDO Cheese. 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  7. ^ Barthélemy & Sperat-Czar 2004.
  8. ^ a b c "Greek Cheese". Odysea. Odysea Limited. 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Dalby 1996, p. 190.
  10. ^ Polychroniadou-Alichanidou 2004, p. 283
  11. ^ Harper, David (2001–2013). "fetta (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  12. ^ Babiniotis 1998.
  13. ^ "Evaluation of the CAP Policy on Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI): Final Report" (PDF). European Commission: Agriculture and Rural Development. London Economics. November 2008. p. 219: "Feta was finally registered for good as a PDO in October 2002". Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  14. ^ Diane Kochilas (8 March 2006). "Feta Unbound: Greek Cheese Triumphs in Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2014. In October, after a decade-long legal battle in which Greece faced up to dairy giants like Germany, Denmark and France and their versions of white, brined cheese, the organization's European Court awarded Greek feta 'protected designation of origin' status. That designation was created to assure the quality of traditional food products, including prosciutto di Parma, Roquefort cheese and Kalamata olives.
  15. ^ General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union; Greek Delegation (30 April 2015), "Protection of the Geographical Indication of Feta Cheese in the Context of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) — Request from the Greek Delegation" (PDF), Foreign Affairs/Trade Council Session of 2015-05-07 (WTO 100 Note (Annex is Presentation of Greek Request).), Brussels, p. 3, ST 8508 2015 INIT, retrieved 18 January 2019.
  16. ^ Giorgos Christides (13 December 2013). "Feta Cheese Row Sours EU-Canada Trade Deal". BBC. Retrieved 24 May 2014. But new Canadian brands of 'feta' will have to call their cheese 'feta-style' or 'imitation feta' and cannot evoke Greece on the label, such as using Greek lettering or an image of ancient Greek columns.
  17. ^ Emmott, Robin. "Greece wants changes to EU-Canada trade deal to protect "feta" name". 5 May 2015. Reuters. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  18. ^ "Arla Apetina". Arla. Arla Foods. 2013. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  19. ^ http://www.iatropedia.gr/diatrofi/feta-diatrofika-stoicheia-gia-ethniko-mas-tyri-ti-prosferei-kai-ti-kindynous-kryvei/72125/[full citation needed]
  20. ^ Cutcliffe, Tom (15 March 2018). "My big fat Greek functional food - probiotic feta could become a big cheese". Nutrain Ingredients. Retrieved 30 April 2020 – via Food Microbiology.
  21. ^ Prandini, Aldo; Sigolo, Samantha; Piva, Gianfranco (2011). "A comparative study of fatty acid composition and CLA concentration in commercial cheeses". Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 24 (1): 55–61. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2010.04.004.
  22. ^ http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/18/2[full citation needed]