It can be pretty confusing to determine the differences between provolone and mozzarella cheeses.
This is further compounded by the fact that many recipes say that you can use the two cheeses interchangeably, and that one can be substituted for the other without compromising the overall flavor of the dish in question.
But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there has to be some difference between the two of them.
After all, they would have the same name if they were the same thing, right? Here are some of the similarities and differences between provolone and mozzarella:
Both cheeses originate from Italy, albeit from different areas. They’re both semi-soft cheeses made from cow’s milk, and they’re both made in largely the same way. They’re both classified as “Pasta Filata”, which means “stretched curd” and refers to how the cheeses are made. They both have a mild flavor, and are typically described as having a buttery flavor. But, that’s as far as the similarities go!
One of the best-known differences between the two cheeses is what they’re commonly used for. Provolone is known to be good on sandwiches, whereas mozzarella is known to be good to cook with. In fact, mozzarella is used on pizzas all around the world, and because pizza is so popular, this makes it one of the most consumed cheeses. Mozzarella is used to cook with because it’s soft, creamy and melts pretty easily.
Provolone is harder and doesn’t melt quite as easily. Read Mozzarella vs Gouda here.
Another key difference between the two cheeses comes in their preservation processes and packaging. Provolone is aged, typically for at least 2-3 months. Mozzarella is typically eaten fresh, not aged. Parmesan is aged cheese.
Fresh mozzarella is sold in ball form and packaged with a brine solution.
The brine helps to preserve it and keep its moisture. Because it’s a fresh cheese that isn’t aged, mozzarella doesn’t have a very long shelf life, and must be eaten quickly to avoid spoilage (see how gorgonzola gone bad here).
Provolone, on the other hand, can be stored for quite a while. Provolone is usually formed into a cylindrical shape like a log, while mozzarella is formed into balls or bricks and either eaten fresh or packaged in a brine.
Another difference is in their ingredients and flavor profiles.
For that reason, provolone has more of a tangy bite to it than mozzarella, and it has a more complex flavor.
Mozzarella, in comparison, has a more mild, buttery, milky flavor. Because of this, when using cheese on pizza, many people choose to use a blend of both mozzarella and provolone.
The provolone adds some complex flavor, while the mozzarella keeps the provolone’s flavors from being overwhelming.
One of the most glaring differences between the two types of cheeses can be found by reading the nutritional information on their labels. The following nutritional information is for 1 cup of shredded whole milk mozzarella and shredded provolone cheese:
There are a few instances in which a person would want to choose between the two cheeses based on this information.
For instance, if you were counting calories, you might want to choose the mozzarella over the provolone. If you were on a high protein diet, the provolone would likely be the better choice.
If you were on a low- sodium or low-cholesterol diet, you may want to steer clear of the provolone. If you have no dietary restrictions, a bit of both cheeses in moderation wouldn’t hurt you and you would have to choose based on other factors, such as flavor.
With that said, are mozzarella stick good for you?
Though both cheeses are made from cow’s milk and prepared using the same curd-stretching process, there are lots of differences between them.
Provolone has a stronger, more complex flavor, whereas mozzarella has a mild, buttery flavor. Provolone doesn’t melt easily, while mozzarella does. Mozzarella doesn’t have a long shelf life, while provolone does.
So, even though it’s common knowledge that you can substitute mozzarella for provolone, or vise versa in recipes, these two cheeses are definitely not the same.
Hey, before you go, you might as well spend 1-minute to read this super helpful post about “is mozzarella gluten-free?”.