What’s the Difference Between Mozzarella and Pizza Cheese

Every pizza lover has wondered at some point what the difference between mozzarella and pizza cheese is. Plus, when pizza night comes, you can’t help but wonder which of the two would work best.

While both are used to make delicious pizza, they have significant differences worth noting. This article will answer this question that hundreds of pizza enthusiasts keep asking. But first, let’s learn more about mozzarella and pizza cheese.

What Is Mozzarella Cheese?

Best Cheese

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Mozzarella cheese is a traditional white cheese made from domesticated Italian buffalo milk. The name comes from the word “mozzare” – an Italian verb meaning to tear. Mozzarella is considered the best fresh cheese for pizza worldwide for its milky, mild flavor, smooth, elastic texture, and great melting characteristics. Its smoother texture comes from how it is made; it is kneaded during manufacturing to give it the consistency that makes it stretchy on our pizza.

There are different types of mozzarella cheese: fresh, aged, whole-milk, part-skim, and mozzarella di bufala, the original mozzarella made from buffalo milk. However, mozzarella cheese in the United States is made of cow milk. The only difference between part-skim mozzarella and whole-milk is that part-skim browns better but doesn’t melt as easily as whole-milk mozzarella.

On the other hand, the comparison between aged and fresh mozzarella boils down to preference. However, Purist’s choice is always fresh mozzarella, either the original di bufala or the fior de latte cow’s-milk version. A chef originally used fresh mozzarella to make pizza Margherita in the 1880s. Pizza Margherita is also called pizza mozzarella and was named after Queen Margherita of Savor, Italy. The pizza colors represent the Italian flag: tomato for red, mozzarella cheese for white, and basil for green.

Types of Fresh Mozzarella

Pizza mozzarella cheese is considered the best cheese for pizza by many pizza lovers for its tangy flavor. And while the most popular mozzarella is made from fresh milk, Italy boasts different types of mozzarella that come in various flavors, sizes, textures, and shapes. Here are all the different types of mozzarella:

1. Fior Di Latte (Fresh Mozzarella)

Type of Cheese

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Fresh mozzarella is the most popular cheese made from cow’s milk. Fior di latte is a great choice for Neapolitan pizza because of its light, milky flavor. The only downside to this mozzarella cheese is its high moisture content and the fact that it has a short shelf life.

Shredding fresh mozzarella is almost impossible because of its softness. The best option is to cut it into slices with a knife. Additionally, to ensure that this cheese doesn’t cause your crust to be soggy, it’s best to cook pizza mozzarella in a hot pizza oven, like a wood-fired oven.

2. Di Bufala (Bufala Mozzarella)

Mozzarella di bufala is a traditional cheese made from water buffalo in the Campania region of Italy. Buffalo mozzarella has a Protected Designation of Origin status in Italy that regulates how and where it is made; cheese-makers can only make it from the specific water buffalo milk in Campania.

Melt Easily

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Buffalo mozzarella has a higher fat and moisture content than regular mozzarella from cow’s milk. It is the perfect cheese for authentic Italian Neapolitan pizza, giving it the distinct flavor that everyone goes crazy about. It is usually sold in bags or containers with liquids and is more expensive than other cheeses.

3. Stracciatella

Stracciatella is Italian for “rags,” which is derived from the fact that this cheese is made from shreds and scraps of mozzarella mixed with cream. It is almost liquid and is best used at the end of pizza cooking to avoid having a soggy pizza crust.

Type of Cheese

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4. Burrata

Burrata is the Italian word meaning buttery. Burrata is made from cream-soaked stracciatella inside a pouch of stretched mozzarella cheese. When you cut through a ball of fresh burrata, the creamy inside oozes through to allow a scoop of bread dipping.

Creamy Cheese

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What Is Pizza Cheese?

Pizza cheese refers to several kinds of cheese manufactured specifically for pizza. While the term can also refer to mozzarella cheese, it is best used when discussing the low-moisture variant of mozzarella and other processed cheeses. The most popular pizza cheeses besides regular mozzarella include cheddar, provolone, ricotta, parmesan, and processed pizza cheese.

Pizza cheese is manufactured to create the ideal cheese for pizza with good qualities like melting, stretching, browning, moisture, and fat. Unlike mozzarella cheese, pizza cheese is firm and aged. Its texture is smoother and stringy than mozzarella, plus it’s very economical. Here is an in-depth breakdown of the different types of pizza cheese:

1. Low-Moisture Mozzarella

Low-moisture mozzarella cheese is what you taste when you bite into a New York-style pizza. It is an American invention made from skimmed cow milk and is lower in moisture content than Italian mozzarella. Due to all the chemicals and acids used to make this cheese, it has a different flavor from Italian mozzarella. It tastes a bit salty, with a sharper flavor than its Italian counterpart.

Part Skim Mozzarella

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Low-moisture mozzarella has a longer shelf life since it is dried using chemicals to lower its moisture content. In addition, you can easily shred low-moisture mozzarella because it is made to be a semi-hard cheese that melts easily. You can buy fresh low-moisture mozzarella cheese from most grocery stores, and it’s cheaper than Italian mozzarella. Low-moisture mozzarella comes in three different varieties: shredded, string and blocks.

Shredded mozzarella comes ready to use and requires no extra preparation. It is a version of low-moisture mozzarella that is sold pre-shredded from the factory. The taste is slightly different because pre-shredded mozzarella contains added starch to keep it from cracking or sticking to each other. The starch also causes it to be drier than the low-moisture blocks, making it slow to melt and easily burn under high temperatures.

2. Provolone Cheese

Provolone Cheese

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Provolone cheese is much drier than mozzarella and aged longer too. Unlike mozzarella, a semi-soft cheese, provolone tends to be semi-hard. It has a sharp, tangy flavor that is more pronounced than mozzarella because of its age. The provolone aging process takes around four months and produces more oil when cooked.

When cooked, the top is usually less browned but with a smoother texture than mozzarella. So while you can use provolone solo on pizza, the trick is to use it together with mozzarella for a richer and tastier pizza cheese layer.

3. Cheddar Cheese

Other Cheese

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Cheddar cheese is a famous classic with a sharp and intense flavor. Unlike fresh mozzarella, it is aged up to three to four months. Additionally, cheddar stands out with its distinct yellowy color, unlike the milky white mozzarella. 

It doesn’t handle heat as well as mozzarella and has a strong bitter odor. Using a mozzarella base on your pizza is better before adding cheddar. The boost of flavor that cheddar cheese gives pizza is one to die for.

4. Parmesan

Less Browning

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Parmesan cheese is one of the driest pizza cheeses that are better grated on your pizza after baking. It has very low moisture, which increases its potential to get burnt when exposed to heat. One way to add it to your pizza before baking is to infuse it into the crust.

Parmesan enhances flavor when sprinkled over mozzarella pizza. However, it has a strong taste that makes many find it difficult to use it as the main pizza cheese. It is commonly sold in a block, but you can buy it pre-shredded or grated. The longer you age your parmesan cheese, the stronger the taste becomes.

5. Ricotta

Type of Cheese

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Ricotta is a light, creamy pizza cheese that is great as a pizza topping. It is fluffy, soft, and lower in fat than mozzarella cheese. Ricotta is popular on white pizza on top of mozzarella or other cheeses. Ricotta is quickly gaining popularity as a pizza topping, especially when blended in equal parts with another pizza cheese. It is fantastic when you want to add extra contrast to your pizza texture.

6. Processed Cheese (Analogue Cheese)

Analogue cheese is processed and pasteurized cheese-like products that are mass-produced in North America to be used on pizza. In the UK, these products are referred to as “cheese analogue” to highlight that they are not real cheese. They are manufactured to have great melting abilities and remain chewy on pizza. When frozen pizza is made, the majority will have these cheese substitutes.

Smooth Texture

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Production of analogue pizza cheese is cheaper than other cheeses like mozzarella. They have a stringy texture and have longer shelf life than fresh mozzarella. Some of these pizza cheeses are made using milk by-products and vegetable oil instead of milk fat like other cheeses. You will find mozzarella imitations on some frozen pizzas; these processed pizza cheeses are casein-based. A good example of processed pizza cheese is Provel cheese.

What Are the Differences Between Mozzarella and Pizza Cheese?

After looking at mozzarella and pizza cheese in detail, it is easier to see that the main difference is not only in the production but also in the moisture content. Traditional mozzarella is made primarily of cow or buffalo milk without extra additives and is eaten quickly. On the other hand, pizza cheese tends to be aged and has extra chemicals to make it more suitable for pizza. Pizza cheese is also harder and doesn’t have the mild flavor of mozzarella cheese.

Tangy Flavor

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Factors to Consider When Buying Cheese for Pizza

Whether you want to use your cheese on pizza or other dishes, it is important to pick your cheese wisely. The world of cheese has so much to offer, and you can’t miss your taste and preference. However, there are factors to consider before buying any cheese. The following are some of the tips that can help you pick out the most suitable cheese for your need:

1. Topping Combinations

The toppings combinations must be considered when buying cheese, especially pizza cheese. Considering toppings is essential because pizza cheese needs attention, unlike mozzarella cheese, which has a mild flavor and can blend well with almost any topping.

Go for pizza cheese that will only overpower your toppings if that is the intended purpose. Additionally, be careful with pizza cheeses with strong tangy flavors because they easily produce a bitter taste with some toppings.


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Mozzarella is fine and considered the best pizza cheese because it offers room for creativity while still providing the best flavor. It works great with almost any available toppings, and you can add as much of this creamy cheese as you please!

2. Browning Factor

The browning factor of cheese is the second most important factor to consider when buying cheese. Some pizza cheeses burn faster than they melt, which can easily ruin the taste of all the other toppings. On the other hand, mozzarella melts easily and can be cooked under high heat, like in one of the best wood pizza ovens.

3. Stretchy Factor 

A significant rule of thumb is to buy cheese that remains stretchy while browning perfectly on top. Of course, mozzarella cheese still takes the trophy, but cheddar and parmesan are also great options for stretchy cheese that doesn’t burn.

Pizza Mozzarella Cheese

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4. Fat Content

Every milk-based cheese has saturated fat inside that contributes to the density. While the fat content in cheese is essential for making it stretchy, it should be no more than 40% of the cheese. In addition, the moisture of the cheese and the fat should be well balanced.

5. Moisture Content 

The moisture content of cheese greatly affects whether it easily burns when cooked. One of the reasons traditional mozzarella cheese is famous is that even cooked under very high temperatures, the cheese does not burn. The perfect moisture content for your pizza cheese should be 50%.

High Moisture

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The kind of cheese you opt for will depend greatly on your preference. However, mozzarella remains a favorite, especially when making authentic Neapolitan pizza. The distinct taste remains unmatched globally. Nonetheless, when you want to enhance your pizza and give it a boost of flavor, you can add any of your preferred pizza cheese for pizza.

Pizza lovers around the globe will talk about the amazing tastes of different pizza cheeses, but mozzarella remains loved by the majority. So when you have the best pizza flour and a good oven, pick out the type of cheese for your pizza and get baking!

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What’s the Difference Between Mozzarella and Pizza Cheese