What Makes Buffalo Mozzarella Special?

What Makes Buffalo Mozzarella Special?

(Source: Salute Trattoria Italiana Facebook page)

Have you ever tried buffalo mozzarella? If not, then you’ve been missing out on an absolutely inimitable Italian food experience. This unique fresh cheese, which does in fact come from water buffalos, is so highly esteemed in Italy that the government actually mandates what can and cannot get the official designation as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP.

While lesser-known in the United States than it is in Italy, it’s just as much of a culinary delight on the left side of the Atlantic. Here, we’ll explore in detail what makes buffalo mozzarella so special, from its interesting history to how it’s made to its unbeatable flavor.

(Source: Salute Trattoria Italiana Facebook page)

What is buffalo mozzarella? Are you still scratching your head after reading that last paragraph and thinking, “really? Water buffalos?”. If so, let’s reiterate: yes indeed, buffalo mozzarella is in fact made from the milk of water buffalos, extremely large animals which, according to National Geographic, can weigh anywhere from 1500 to well over 2,000 pounds.

The technique used to produce buffalo mozzarella involves heating the milk with a natural starter. The milk begins to coagulate quickly, and the curd is broken up. It’s left to soak in its own whey liquid until it develops enough lactic acid to pull or “spin” the cheese. Once stretched and shaped, the cheese is stored in its own whey, and should be consumed soon after it is made. It’s best enjoyed at room temperature, so if enjoying, remove it from the refrigerator several minutes before enjoying.


Where did it come from? Water buffalo were first brought to Italy during the Medieval era. As for who brought the water buffalo over (not to mention how they did it), that part remains hazy in historical records. Some say that it was Germanic tribes who brought the creatures to Italy; others cite an Arabian connection; either the Arabs brought water buffalo to Sicily, or that returning crusaders passing through Arabian lands brought them back. Yet others posit that perhaps the water buffalo were indeed native to Italy.

Regardless of how the water buffalo got to Italy, they were originally employed as a work animal. However, by the 12th century or so, the buffalos were increasingly valued for their milk. Historical documents from the era note that monks from San Lorenzo offered a cheese called “mozza” to pilgrims passing through on yearly processions.

Apparently the cheese was well appreciated, because by the 1700s, production in Italy was commonplace and operating on a large scale, with farms dedicated to producing buffalo milk mozzarella.

Unfortunately, the production of buffalo mozzarella suffered a mighty blow during the early-mid 1900s, when production ceased during World War II following a mass slaughtering of herds of buffalo by retreating soldiers. Following the peace treaty, production resumed.

These days, buffalo mozzarella is still most closely associated with Italy, where it is produced under the official government name Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP. Believe it or not, it’s a multi-million dollar enterprise; recent estimates cite that buffalo mozzarella nets over $400 million per year. The European Union is the highest consumer of the stuff, but international sales also make up a growing part of the customer base.

Buffalo mozzarella is also produced in other countries, including the United States, as well as a good number of locations in North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

Buffalo mozzarella: A flavor sensation. OK, so buffalo mozzarella is interesting. But aside from an interesting history and the fact that it comes from the milk of almost mythical-looking beasts, what really keeps the tradition going is the truly inimitable flavor of the stuff.

If you’d like to get all scientific, buffalo milk has a different makeup than milk produced by other animals such as cows, sheep, or goats. It’s much higher in protein, fat, and calcium. These attributes give it a different flavor than anything else. It’s different in color, too: it doesn’t contain carotenoids that cow’s milk do, which results in a beautiful, pearly-white hue that is signature to buffalo mozzarella.

Flavor-wise, you don’t have to be an expert taste tester to determine that buffalo mozzarella is a different experience than cow’s milk mozzarella. It often has a softer texture, and easily tears apart by hand. Like cow’s milk mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella has a little “tang” to its flavor. However, buffalo mozzarella seems a little smoother and creamier; almost more sophisticated in its flavor, as opposed to the zinginess of cow’s milk mozzarella, which can compete with other flavors. Buffalo mozzarella plays well with other flavors, which means that it works well when used as a component in dishes, not working to overpower other ingredients. Overall, many would say that buffalo mozzarella tastes more “buttery”.

(Source: Salute Trattoria Italiana Facebook page)

How does one eat buffalo mozzarella? Like any delicacy, buffalo mozzarella shines when prepared appropriately. The Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana suggests a number of different potential uses, from a filling for tortellini to a garnish for meat dishes to yes, even an ingredient in a cheesecake for dessert.

At Salute, we like to let the flavor of our buffalo mozzarella shine by pairing it with simple, fresh ingredients. It’s the key ingredient in our buffalo mozzarella salad, which is composed of fresh buffalo mozzarella, Sicilian pesto trapanese (a type of pesto characterized by the use of tomatoes and almonds), campari tomatoes (small tomatoes noted for their juiciness, low acidity, and firm, non-mealy texture), and grilled ciabatta crostone (a crusty, toasty bread). These simple components come together to really bring out the flavor of the buffalo mozzarella; you’ll wish this dish would never end.

Conclusion: Buffalo mozzarella is no ordinary cheese. Its lineage stretches over a thousand years, and its story includes monks, enormous beasts, and plays a huge part in Italian heritage. When you enjoy this cheese, you’re not just tasting a delicious delicacy, but a true sliver of history. So please, order a nice glass of wine and savor the flavor!

Have you ever tried buffalo mozzarella?