Provolone vs. Mozzarella – Good Substitution? Taste Same?

Provolone and mozzarella are not the same. So, what’s the differences? And, can you substitute one for another?

Mozzarella here refers to fresh mozzarella not regular mozzarella*

Here’s the key differences. Provolone is an aged cheese, mozzarella is a fresh cheese. Provolone tastes a lot sharper and tangier while mozzarella tastes mild and creamy. As for texture, mozzarella is doughy and stretchy whereas provolone is firm and semi-hard. They’re both widely used in many recipes, but provolone is quite often used for sandwiches, casserole and pizza.

Provolone takes at least 2-3 months, up to a few years to aged. Mozzarella best to serve fresh eat fresh, yes it sounds exactly like Subway. What stands out the most is that provolone often tied and hanged in a cute little pear-shaped with knob atop, traditionally. But nowadays also in sausage or cylindrical shape.

Mozzarella is in round ball shape and never changed for maybe a million year.

ProvoloneMozzarella
OriginSouthern ItalySouthern Italy
TextureFirm, semi-hardSemi-soft, stretchy
TasteSharp, creamy, rich, butteryMild, milky, creamy
ColorStrawWhite
MilkCowBuffalo, cow
PasteurizationDependsYes
LactoseLow (0.6g/slice)Low (0.3g/slice)
Histamine (mg/100g)2.0-23.51.6-5.0
Age2-12 months, or aboveNone to lightly, may up to a few weeks.
Calories75 calories per oz70 calories per oz
Price (per pound)$26.99 (Check latest via Amazon)$23.36 (Check latest via Amazon)

Above is provolone, and below is mozzarella.

Aren’t they the same?

Provolone and mozzarella are both originated from the southern Italy. They have made using cow milk, but mozzarella may also use buffalo’s. The making process are quite the same where Pasta Filata or “stretched curd” method is used, but then, provolone will be left to age while mozzarella do not need to age.

They both have a good creamy-buttery flavor, but provolone in additional is having a sharper taste the longer it’s aged.

Related read: Gouda vs Mozzarella

Provolone vs. Mozzarella – The Comparison

There are quite some significant differences between the two. And as a home cook, you can always substitute each other for different dishes to show case your culinary skills & knowledge. But it boils down to how much you know about them.

Flavor Profile

No, provolone and mozzarella don’t taste the same, but both taste good in their own way. Fresh mozzarella is young and unripened cheese. Just like a solid form of milk, and therefore it’ll have a strong milky and creamy taste. Some mozzarella varieties maybe processed or lightly aged for a few weeks.

The low-moisture or aged mozzarella will have a slightly sour tang with hints of sharp taste, but the fresh one is mild or nearly bland.

In comparison, provolone is certainly on the upper hand when it comes to flavor profile. It’s aged for a long time, a few months/years to be said, there we have a much bold flavor and complexity. It tastes dense, sweet, buttery with a little tanginess.

  • Provolone Dolce (2-4 months) – Younger provolone is slightly milder and sweeter.
  • Provolone Piccante (4 months up) – Older provolone has a much sharper taste.

And yes, substituting mozzarella for provolone is definitely okay, but then even the young provolone dolce will still give you an overpowering taste. So you better look into your recipes or dishes to make adjustment.

Freshly made mozzarella ball! It taste just as good as its look!

Shelf Life

The fresh mozzarella cheese balls you bought at the grocery store often sold in airtight packaging, or packaged in brine solution. We know it’s easier for shipping and handling. But for traditional fresh mozzarella, it’s almost always sold in brine solution to keep it fresh for longer.

Not only that, the brine solution helps to retain moisture for one good reason – you guessed it – tastier! The down side you asked? It doesn’t last long. In fact, mozzarella go bad much faster than provolone. Therefore, it’s best to finish them asap.

Normally, mozzarella will not last more than a few hours unrefrigerated and after maybe half a day, you might notice the taste and smell become unnaturally sour or “off”. Sometimes, you may also find the packaging bloated which indicating bacteria activities, and better to throw it away as it won’t taste the same.

Also, the texture will become slimy or even have molds.

Brined or not, the opened and refrigerated mozzarella will only last for a few days max in the fridge.

UnrefrigeratedRefrigeratedFreeze
Opened Mozzarella (Brined & not brined)4-8 hours3-5 daysYou don’t freeze fresh mozzarella!
Unopened Mozzarella (Brined & not brined) 4-8 hours 7-14 daysYou don’t freeze fresh mozzarella!
Opened Provolone8-24 hours2-3 weeksUp to 6 months
Unopened Provolone3-5 days1-2 monthsUp to 6 months

Aging makes provolone much drier than mozzarella, and therefore can be stored for quite a while in which similar to asiago or other hard cheeses. If you eat asiago too, read this article of how long to store/freeze asiago cheese.

Yes, you can freeze provolone. Plus if you freeze it correct it can last for 6 months, might still be edible after, but not recommended.

We are forgetful sometimes. If you left out provolone for hours, depends on where you lived, it can turn dry, slimy, smell off, darken patches, or has mold grew on it.

Uses

For sure, you can substitute each other in many recipes, but provolone and mozzarella have their own best way to serve. Provolone is known to be good on sandwiches, casseroles, and pizzas. Whereas mozzarella is popular and somewhat general in many of the cooked dishes such as lasagna, pizza, macaroni and cheese, and more.

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.

The provolone adds some complex flavor, while the mozzarella’s mild taste prevent itself from being overwhelming. 

Which one is better on pizza?

When it comes to pizza, mozzarella is the undisputed meltability winner. In fact, almost no other cheeses can beat mozzarella when it comes to pizza topping. The oozes, stretchiness and meltability made it a popular pizza cheese for even the big name pizza chains like Domino’s and Little Caesars.

Trust me not, even the science is backing this up. This paper published in 2014 said mozzarella is the best cheese for pizza, not just to provolone but also among other cheeses including Cheddar, Colby, Edam, Emmental, and Gruyere. I mean, seriously. Mozzarella gave the better browning, color uniformity, and blistering.

But be careful to use too much fresh mozzarella for baking pizza, the higher water content will make the pizza soggy and less appetizing. You can use low-moisture mozzarella instead, read below.

Can you use it as a substitute

If you are not sure about substituting mozzarella for provolone, the answer is yes. But Instead of fresh mozzarella, you can use the low-moisture mozzarella, or “regular mozzarella”, or “aged mozzarella”, which all refers to the same thing. It is an aged version of fresh mozzarella, which gone through a short aging period for about 2-4 weeks. They also allowed it to sour and dry by bringing the acidity down for longer, thus it has less moisture and denser.

Because of that, the texture is firmer and has a better shelf life. Low-moisture mozzarella is still a good melter but with a little sour tang and has a more developed flavor overall.

Other good substitutes for provolone

  • Parmesan
  • Cheddar
  • Fontina
  • Swiss cheese
  • Manchego
  • Gouda
  • Gruyere
  • Monterey Jack

Nutritional Differences between provolone and mozzarella

For those of you who concerns about the nutritional differences between provolone and mozzarella, and which one is healthier you asked? here is the table for you. The data is gathered solely from the USDA and other reputable sources.

*1 slice (1 oz or 28 grams) serving of mozzarella and provolone cheese


Mozzarella Provolone
Calories (Kcal)7075
Carbohydrates<1 g0 g
Total Fat 5 g5 g
Saturated Fat3 g4.8 g
Sodium 85 mg98 mg
Protein 5 g6 g
Cholesterol 20 mg15 mg
Calcium150 mg190 mg
Vitamin A (IU, International Unit)200 IU250 IU
USDA Source link: mozzarella, provolone

Which one is healthier?

To be honest, both are healthy cheeses and hard to tell which one is on top of another. In fact, there is not much significant nutritional differences between mozzarella and provolone.

From the table above, you can tell some nutrients are slightly higher such as the calcium and Vitamin A in provolone, but that could be due to the source of the milk from particular farms or batches. For me, there is no apparent differences.

I also double checked with a few other brands and compared their nutrition information provided. Results are similar.

If you like to count calories or fat content before eating, both of them are quite low in calories and fat. And they also have a considerable amount of calcium too. The daily recommended calcium intake is about 1300 mg, so you can gain over 60% easily from just from having a few slices of mozzarella.

But wait, mozzarella stick is another story, read my previous article of whether mozzarella stick good and nutritional.

So, let’s wrap things up

Which one is better? One is fresh, one is aged cheese so It ultimately depends on how you use them.

Both cheeses are made from cow’s milk and prepared using the same curd-stretching process. Taste wise, provolone definitely has a tangy punch and more complex flavor; whereas mozzarella has a mild and creamy flavor. Provolone melts but not as easy as mozzarella does. Mozzarella doesn’t have a long shelf life, while provolone does.

If you’re looking for the traditional authentic Italy imported buffalo mozzarella, this is the link where you can now grab it on Amazon. It comes in a pack of 12.