Havarti cheese traces its origins to the 1860s in Denmark. It was first developed by the Hansen family at their farm called Havarthigaard, which is where havarti got its name. The Hansens were inspired by Swiss cheese techniques and set out to create a semi-soft Danish cheese that could compete with the popular Swiss cheeses. Using quality milk from their own cows, they perfected their washed-curd method to produce a buttery, mild cheese that came to be known as havarti.
Mozzarella has much older roots as a traditional Italian cheese. The earliest known origins date back to the 12th century in the Campania region of Italy, where it was made from the milk of water buffaloes. The term mozzarella derives from the Italian “mozza” meaning to cut or tear, referring to the process of cutting and stretching the curd by hand. Buffalo milk mozzarella, called “mozzarella di bufala” in Italy, is still considered the most prized type today. However, most mozzarella worldwide is now made from cow’s milk.
Ingredients and Manufacturing Process
The ingredients and processes used to make havarti and mozzarella play a key role in the distinct textures and flavors of the cheeses.
Havarti is made from pasteurized cow’s milk, with added bacterial cultures and rennet to start the curdling process. Once the curd forms, it is cut up, cooked, and washed to remove excess whey and lactose. This washed curd technique helps give havarti a milder flavor and supple texture. The curds are pressed into molds, salted, and aged for 1-3 months before being sold.
Mozzarella also begins with pasteurized milk, often from water buffaloes or cows. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk into curds which are then cut and immersed in hot whey. The critical step is next, where the curds are stretched and kneaded by hand or machine until smooth and elastic. This stretching aligns the proteins into long chains, giving mozzarella its signature stringy, chewy texture. The shaped cheese is salted and allowed to rest before being packaged.
The different approaches of washing versus stretching the curds are key factors in havarti and mozzarella’s distinct finished textures.
Taste and Texture
When tasted side by side, the differences in flavor and mouthfeel between havarti and mozzarella become apparent.
Havarti has a rich, buttery aroma and a creamy, full-bodied taste. The interior is ivory to pale yellow in color. Well-aged havarti will melt smoothly on the tongue, with a savory flavor complemented by tangy notes. The texture is pliable and supple, almost velvety when fresh. As it ages, havarti becomes progressively firmer but still retains a creamy, pleasing mouthfeel.
In contrast, mozzarella is immediately recognizable by its fresh milky, salty flavor and gleaming white appearance. When cooked, it melts readily into soft, gooey deliciousness. The trademark of great mozzarella is its springy, elastic texture when fresh. It should feel moist and chewy but not rubbery. Low-moisture mozzarella will be drier and more crumbly than fresh varieties, while still retaining its stretchiness. The taste has a subtle sweetness with a pleasant dairy tang.
Appearance and Consistency
You can often tell just by looks if you have havarti or mozzarella in front of you.
Havarti has a smooth, pliable rind that is usually edible. The interior paste ranges from ivory to pale yellow. It has small irregular “mechanical openings” caused by the production process, rather than large holes found in Swiss cheese. The buttery paste feels soft and supple when sliced.
Mozzarella comes in shredded, chunked or spherical forms. It has a bright white appearance and glossy sheen when fresh. The cheese is formed with a process called “pasta filata” meaning “spun paste”, which gives it an elastic, malleable consistency. Water packed mozzarella (“mozzarella di bufala”) will be swimming in whey to keep it moist. Low moisture mozzarella has a more crumbly texture but still maintains the stringy property.
The textural differences between havarti and mozzarella mean certain dishes benefit from using one over the other.
The smooth, creamy nature of havarti makes it a versatile choice. It melts well on sandwiches and burgers, and can be sliced or cubed for snacking. Havarti shines when used for baking. Its pliability and subtle tanginess enhances pastries like cheese danishes. It also creates a rich, flavorful addition when used in dips or spread atop crackers.
On the flip side, mozzarella really excels when its signature stretchy melted quality is highlighted. It is irreplaceable on top of a steaming pizza fresh from the oven. Caprese salad showcases mozzarella’s affinity for fresh tomatoes and basil. Grilling or breading and frying mozzarella brings out its delicious gooey melted texture. Shredding it onto salads or pastas allows its milky taste and strings to distribute nicely.
There are some notable nutritional differences between the two cheeses worth considering.
Havarti is a higher fat cheese, containing about 30% fat per 100g versus mozzarella at 22% fat. Much of havarti’s rich, smooth flavor comes from its full fat content. However, mozzarella provides less total fat and calories per serving.
Mozzarella has a significantly higher sodium content due to the brining process. Per 100g, mozzarella contains around 600mg sodium versus havarti at 260mg. For those monitoring salt intake, havarti may be favorable.
Interestingly, havarti is often made with the addition of probiotic bacterial cultures. These live, active cultures can provide digestive and immunity benefits. Mozzarella does not typically contain probiotics.
Lastly, mozzarella is higher in calcium and protein compared to havarti. Its protein and calcium levels are boosted by the use of casein in cow’s milk.
The taste profiles of havarti and mozzarella pair well with different foods, spices, and drinks.
The mild, buttery notes in havarti complement fruits like apples or pears. Hearty crackers, nuts, and whole-grain breads contrast nicely with havarti’s richness. Pairing havarti with bold spices like cumin, curry powder, or pepper blends is also delicious. For beverages, the tanginess of havarti works well with white wines, ciders, full-bodied beers, or ginger ale.
On the other hand, mozzarella is divine when combined with the freshness of basil, ripe red tomatoes, or tangy balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes enhance mozzarella’s flavors on pizza or bruschetta. Light, crisp white wines like Pinot Grigio highlight the delicate dairy notes of fresh mozzarella.
Availability and Cost
In many grocery stores today you’ll find an extensive cheese aisle with numerous varieties of havarti and mozzarella available.
Havarti is widely produced by large dairy companies like Lactalis, so it is easy to find blocks or presliced in most shops. The price is reasonable at around $3 to $6 per pound for mass market brands. For artisanal havarti, expect to pay premium prices, upwards of $15 per pound.
Mozzarella is extremely common and affordably priced, thanks to huge commercial production. Shredded or block mozzarella costs just $2 to $4 per pound typically. Low moisture mozzarella for pizza may cost slightly more. Gourmet “mozzarella di bufala” from Italy can retail over $25 per pound, but this high-end type makes for an incredible tasting experience.
To retain the best taste and texture, both havarti and mozzarella should be stored properly. Follow these guidelines for storing each cheese:
- Keep refrigerated at all times for food safety and quality.
- Havarti lasts 2 to 3 weeks after purchase when refrigerated. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper.
- For best flavor, use mozzarella within 1 to 2 weeks of purchase. Store in brine solution or sprinkle with salt and wrap in paper towels then sealed plastic bag.
- Avoid freezing either cheese for extended periods, as texture damage and flavor loss will occur. Thaw in refrigerator before using.
Proper refrigerated storage helps lock in freshness and prevent premature spoilage.
While havarti and mozzarella share some similarities as soft cheeses, they have unique origins, production methods, flavors, and usage in cooking.
Havarti imparts a creamy, tangy taste and velvety texture that excels in sandwiches, dips, pastries, and cheese boards. On the other hand, mozzarella boasts that signature chewy melted quality that makes it a stellar topper for pizza, salads, and grilling.
From its highly sodium rich brining to the iconic stretching process, mozzarella diverges from the washed curd havarti in numerous ways. Appreciating their differences helps any cheese aficionado select when to savor the buttery havarti versus the milky mozzarella.
Both remain popular choices appreciated for their role in delicious recipes and meals. Whether it’s a decadent cheese danish or a beautiful caprese salad, havarti and mozzarella rise to the occasion as outstanding cheeses in their own right.
Which cheese is healthier?
It depends on what factors you consider most. Mozzarella is lower in total fat and calories per serving, making it the “lighter” choice. However, havarti contains probiotics which may offer digestive and immunity benefits that mozzarella lacks.
What’s the difference in calories between havarti and mozzarella?
Havarti clocked in at about 410 calories per 100 grams versus mozzarella at 280 calories per 100 grams. So mozzarella provides fewer calories per serving.
Can havarti and mozzarella substitute for one another in recipes?
In some cases, yes, you can substitute havarti or mozzarella. However, the differences in flavor and especially texture are quite noticeable. For best results, choose the recommended cheese based on the dish you’re making rather than substituting. The mouthfeel and meltability vary between the cheeses.