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How to Make Fried Cheese Curds, Wisconsin's Finest Bar Snack
Golden beer batter shellacking oozy nuggets of cheese. Bloody Mary ketchup.
05-24-2021
Kevin Pang

Forty-five minutes north of my home near Chicago is a magical land of beer, cheese, and bratwurst.

Okay, that’s a gross caricature of Wisconsin, but it does feel culturally and culinarily different the moment you cross the border north on Interstate-94.

The most notable landmark in Southeastern Wisconsin is a market/restaurant/delightful tourist trap called Mars Cheese Castle. Here, you’ll find food products not widely available 45 minutes to the south: New Glarus beers, novelty foam cheeseheads, artisan sausages, local Bloody Mary mixes. But what I’m really here for are fresh cheese curds.

Cheese curds, the squeaky nubs of curdled young cheese, are certainly not exclusive to Wisconsin. Perhaps you've had them on poutine! But any Badger State bar worth its salt will likely have fried cheese curds on the menu. 

Fried cheese curds are exactly as they sound: Crispy, golden, beer batter–shellacked cheese nuggets verging on oozy. It’s an onion ring, only with cheese!

I desperately wanted to make this; unfortunately America’s Test Kitchen has yet to develop a recipe for fried cheese curds. That said, Cook’s Country's recipe for pub-style fish and chips uses the beer batter I need. Not surprisingly, it worked like a charm. The cheese curds emerged from the hot oil crisp and magical.

Just to underscore the Wisconsiness of it all, I took a tablespoon of Bloody Mary mix and mixed it with my ketchup: Bloody Mary ketchup. Dipped with a crisp freshly fried cheese curd, it was bloody delicious.

Fried Cheese Curds

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1½ teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ cups light-bodied American lager (like a Miller Lite)
  • 1 pound cheese curds
  • 6 cups peanut or vegetable oil
  1. Whisk flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add beer and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  2. In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high het to 375 degrees.
  3. Drop cheese curds into batter. Using fork, remove cheese curds from batter, allowing excess batter to drip back into bowl. Carefully add to hot oil and fry until exterior is golden brown.
  4. Remove from oil with slotted spoon. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate or sheet pan to drain, and season to taste with salt. Serve with ketchup (or ketchup cut with Bloody Mary mix!).