Mozzarella vs. Provolone: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie

There are so many types of cheese that a cheese lover can enjoy. Mozzarella and provolone are two of them. These two originated from Italy and are made from cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk. Both mozzarella and provolone are made in the same way. It’s through a process called Pasta Filata, where the curd is stretched.

Some, in fact, use these two kinds of cheese interchangeably and make direct substitutions in a recipe. But can you really achieve the same outcome using both of these cheeses? Probably not, because they are not exactly alike.

So what’s the difference between mozzarella and Provolone? The main difference between mozzarella and provolone is the taste. Mozzarella is mild, creamy, and buttery. But provolone is strong and a bit salty. It’s also nutty, tangy, and complex.

Italian provolone piccante that is aged from 6 months up to 2 years (sometimes more) will have an even sharper, tangier, and spicy taste. But you can taste sweet varieties too, particularly provolone dolce. It’s aged about 3 or 4 months.

Other types of provolone are provolone valpadana and provolone del Monaco. These come from Naples and bear a PDO seal. This means no other country can produce them. One type of mozzarella also bears a PDO seal. It’s Buffalo mozzarella or Mozzarella di bufala campana. This is made from the milk of an Italian Mediterranean buffalo. And it is manufactured in Campania.

What are Other Differences Between Mozzarella and Provolone?

There are other differences between mozzarella and provolone. First, they differ in type. Mozzarella is a semi-soft cheese. It is creamy, so it melts easily. But provolone is a semi-hard or firm cheese. So it doesn’t melt as easily as mozzarella does.

These have different colors, too. Because it is fresh, mozzarella is white to slightly yellow color. But Provolone is yellow with a shiny, hard yellow rind. Mild Provolone (Dolce) may be waxed. And those aged over 6 months may have a darker color with holes. These are a bit spicy.

Mozzarella and provolone also have different shelf lives. Mozzarella is sold fresh and immediately after production, so it has a short life. Provolone, like parmesan, is aged for at least two months, so you can keep it for a longer time.

Moreover, provolone has more calories in a cup. It registers 463 kcal, while mozzarella is only at 336 kcal per cup. Provolone also has more sodium per cup. It has 1,156 mg of sodium, while mozzarella only has 702 mg.

One last difference between these two kinds of cheese is the packaging. Provolone is made into logs and aged before selling. Mozzarella is usually made into fresh balls or squares and packed in brine solutions to preserve the moisture, then distributed for sales.

Can You Use Mozzarella and Provolone Together?

Yes, you can. It is actually much better if you use them both in a recipe together. Provolone intensifies the flavor, and mozzarella steps in to balance it out without diminishing the cheesiness of your dish. Use them together for a well-blended and best-tasting pizza, pasta, and cheesy dish to serve.

Does Mozzarella Taste Like Provolone?

Yes, in a way they taste alike. Both are processed in the same way. They both can have that buttery, milky taste. Young provolone is nearer to mozzarella in taste but very mature provolone like provolone picante will differ a lot in taste.

Can You Substitute Mozzarella for Provolone in Recipes?

Yes, you can substitute mozzarella for provolone and the other way around. However, mozzarella is like a young provolone.  There are closer substitutes for provolone such as fontina cheese. It carries the nutty flavor and firm texture. Cheddar is also another substitute. If you’re after the aged taste, use parmesan.

As for mozzarella, a better substitute would be bocconcini. This is also great on pizzas. You may also use the similar looking Burrata. But it’s a bit tangy and salty.

When Should You Use Mozzarella?

Mozzarella is used more often in different types of cooking. And particularly so in pizza. It is a top choice of cheese for pizza. And with pizza being a worldwide favorite, mozzarella tops the list of the most consumed cheeses worldwide.

Use mozzarella for your Caprese salads and other salads. Sprinkle a generous amount over warm dishes, roasts, stews, and soups. Munch on some slices over red wine. Mozzarella completes a great lasagna and baked macaroni. Mix it in combination with other cheeses for a most flavorful cheesy bake.

If you want to try smoked mozzarella, use it in your baked ziti, eggplant parmigiana, and other baked pasta and vegetables to infuse earthy flavors in your dish.

You can also try some mozzarella as a starter or appetizer. Here’s one with tomato and basil:

  1. Slice some firm, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese at ¼-inch thickness.
  2. Alternately layer a rectangular dish with the sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves.
  3. Give it a good dash of olive oil and balsamic glaze, and whatever else you’d like to put in.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and any seasoning you prefer.
  5. Serve with some starter wine.

When Should You Use Provolone?

You can use provolone the same way you use mozzarella. You should definitely use provolone for chicken and turkey sandwiches. How about serving provolone picante on a cheese plate or over pasta?

Since these are aged for years and have a very pronounced, spicy flavor, they’d lift your pasta dish for sure. You can also try some provoleta for starters, where you grill some provolone and season it with your choice of herbs. Serve with red wine or Chianti.

Final Thoughts

  • Mozzarella is mild, creamy, and butter. But provolone is strong, salty, nutty, and tangy.
  • Mozzarella is semi-soft cheese, so it melts easily. But provolone is semi-hard cheese, so it doesn’t melt easily.
  • Mozzarella is usually white to light yellow, but provolone is yellow to golden yellow.
  • Mozzarella is sold fresh and immediately, but provolone is aged before it is sold.
  • Mozzarella has a shorter shelf life than provolone.
  • Provolone has more calories and sodium in a cup.

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