top view of marble table with a blue bowl of mozzarella di bufala and tomatoes on the table
Home » Italian Food Basics » What is Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella)? – Solving the Great Italian Mystery

What is Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella)? – Solving the Great Italian Mystery

Last updated on November 6th, 2023

Are you wondering why the package of mozzarella di bufala costs almost twice as much as the ‘regular’ mozzarella next to it?

Have you noticed your pizzeria is offering four different mozzarella options?

There are actually about eight different kinds and more than five specific shapes of mozzarella!

Let’s get started with the king of Italian cheese, mozzarella di bufala.

Mozzarella di Bufala – What Is It?

hands over a large basin of whey pulling out mozzarella to be formed by hand

Mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) is a kind of porcelain white cheese made from the milk of the Italian water buffalo from the region of Campania, particularly in the provinces of Caserta and Salerno. 

The word mozzarella comes from the Italian word mozzare meaning “to cut by hand”, which refers to the final process in mozzarella making known as pasta sfilata. 

Mozzarella di bufala is considered the best variety of mozzarella on the market as it is much more complex in flavor and texture than regular fior di latte mozzarella (made from cow’s milk). It has almost double the fat content which lends itself to a silkier, creamier mozzarella with a nice ‘spring’ to it. It is much more saporito, referring to the depth of flavor, including saltiness, and almost sweeter in taste. 

The top-quality difference of this cheese is reflected in the price per kilo, about 12-14€, almost double compared to cow’s milk mozzarella. You will also notice that when you order a simple pizza margherita in Italy it won’t cost more than 8€ but if you opt for mozzarella di bufala the price of your pizza will go up – but trust me, it’s worth it!

Fact: Here in Italy, the mozzarella di bufala is known as “the queen of Mediterranean cuisine” or “the pearl of the table” because of its prized and full-bodied flavor. 

Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOC/DOP

fresh ball of mozzarella di buffalo on a piece of cloth on white plate

While not all buffalo mozzarella is from Campania, the very best and most authentic variety known as mozzarella di bufala campana has earned itself the DOC (controlled designation of origin) status since 1993. DOC is like a stamp of approval defined by a certain level of quality and a specific production area – in this case, the region of Campania. 

In 1996, it was also awarded the DOP (protected designation of origin) certification, requiring that the mozzarella be produced using a specific recipe in the traditional method of production in selected areas of Campania, Lazio, Apulia and Molise. If that wasn’t enough to convince you that this is good stuff, in 2008 it received another certification, the PDO (protected geographical status) by the EU. 

Good To Know: This doesn’t mean mozzarella di bufala cannot be produced outside these areas but if it is, it can’t be labeled with the DOP, DOC or PDO stamp of approval. 

How to Pronounce Mozzarella di Bufala

Mozzarella di Bufala is pronounced mohtz-zah-REHL-lah dee BOO-fah-lah.

Listen to it here:

What Does Buffalo Mozzarella Taste Like?

two people making homemade nodini of mozzarella
Hand shaping mozzarella nodini in Campania

Because buffalo mozzarella has a higher protein and fat level than cow’s milk mozzarella, the consistency and flavor profile differ as well. 

Buffalo mozzarella has a distinctive taste that is sweet and whole-bodied when compared to cow’s milk mozzarella. It almost has a sour taste to it (because of the natural fermentation process) yet at the same time it’s rich and delicate. 

The texture is soft, plump, and moist, and almost granular inside but with a ‘bite’ of chewiness. This part of the cheese is enclosed in a smooth, pearl white and almost glossy “pouch” or casing which is kept in a brine. 

To truly appreciate its taste and learn exactly what the difference is between it and cow’s milk mozzarella I suggest you get your hands on some certified varieties (DOC/DOP/PDO) and sample it with just a sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Fact: Mozzarella di bufala is meant to be eaten the day after it is made but it can be kept in a cool corner of the house at room temperature in its brine for 5-7 days. 

Where to Eat Mozzarella di Bufala in Italy

The absolute best place to sample this cheese is in Southern Italy in the region of Campania, specifically in the provinces of Caserta and Salerno (but also in Naples) where you will find the DOC/DOP/PDO certified mozzarella. You can even visit the production houses themselves. Regions such as Puglia (specifically the province of Foggia), Molise (province of Isernia), and Lazio (provinces of Latina, Frosinone, Rome) are also going to be very good. 

Map of mozzarella di bufala DOP cheese production areas in Italy.
Source: Mozzarella DOP

Here are our top picks by location:

Sogni di LatteCaseificio La Reale Caseificio Barlotti
Muu MuuzzarellaCaseificio Ponte a MareMasseria Lupata
SoaveCaseificio La FeniceCaseificio Vannulo
Caseificio StefanoLe Terre di Don Peppe DianaCaseificio Rivabianca
Caseificio delle RoseCaseificio AgnenaMasseria Fuscillo
Sorbillo (for best pizza)MinI Caseificio CostanzoCaseificio il Casolare

For the Tuscan Traveler: As mentioned, buffalo mozzarella is made in other parts of Italy as well even though it is not traditional. Here in Tuscany, we are lucky to have an absolutely amazing caseificio o(production house) in Bettolle, Siena run by a very large family from Naples. At this point, it’s almost a weekly trip for me, especially in the summer months when we eat a lot of non-cook meals. It’s about an hour from Florence but close to many admired towns such as Montepulciano, Pienza, Arrezzo, Siena, and Cortona. 

Italian Dishes That Use Mozzarella di Bufala

Knife cutting a pizza on a wooden cutting board.  Two other pizzas on the board, plus a child's hand.  The pizzas are topped with basil and mozzarella di bufala.
Pizza straight from our pizza oven – topped with mozzarella di bufala

There are not too many dishes that actually use mozzarella di bufala because of the higher content of liquid compared to cow’s milk mozzarella. The moment you cut into a mozzarella di bufala you will notice a snowy-white liquid will slowly ooze out. The same goes for cooking: the moment you start to cook the mozzarella it separates, making whatever you are cooking a bit watery. Because of this, regular cow’s milk mozzarella is used much more frequently in cooking except as a pizza topping – when mozzarella di bufala is a prized ingredient. 

Instead, Italians enjoy buffalo mozzarella by itself, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with salt. It is typically used in caprese salads, served as is, or accompanied with other vegetables, salad and bread. These simple ways are the absolute best ways to taste the rich flavor of the cheese. 

close up of sliced mozzarella and seasonal red tomatoes garnished with basil and black pepper

Fact: Some foods actually lose some of their flavors when they are cooked and mozzarella di bufala is one of them. 

Buying Mozzarella di Bufala Outside of Italy

mozzarella balls up close on hand painted pottery con red table cloth

You can buy mozzarella di bufala outside of Italy but it will not taste the same. Because the cheese is meant to be eaten within days of production it is impossible to buy it abroad, as it’s sold in Italy. Within the EU, however, it may be possible to get the authentic stuff but it has been packaged to last longer, and thus, the taste will be compromised (it will still be delicious though!).

It gets a little trickier in the US because of the physical distance from Italy. Check out specialty cheese shops that will stock mozzarella di bufala from Italy but again, it’s packaged to withstand a longer shelf life so it will be slightly different. It’s less common to find it in larger supermarkets like Safeway or Fred Meyer. 

There have been attempts to make the cheese with buffalo cows in the US, but the results have been disappointing. Unfortunately, it is not just the variety of cow that makes the mozzarella di bufala so good but also what they eat. Farmers were unable to replicate the exact diet of the Italian buffalo cows and thus, the cheese flavor was not nearly as complex.  

Some farms, such as Maplebrook Farm, have come close and although they do not use buffalo milk their mozzarella is produced locally in the traditional method that is used in Southern Italy. Most specialty cheese shops stock this brand as they have proved themselves leaders in the North American mozzarella market in recent years. 

What Other Dairy Products Use Buffalo Milk?

several ricotta plastic baskets holding freshly made ricotta as it drains

Buffalo milk is a great source for making an array of other dairy products, just as traditional cow milk is used. I have personally tried many of these (ice cream and caciocavallo are my favorites!) and can say that buffalo milk is truly a valid dairy product. The taste is richer and slightly more gamy and earthy compared to cow milk – just as buffalo mozzarella flavor differs from cow’s milk mozzarella. 

  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Ricotta
  • Feta
  • Caciocavallo
  • Burrata
  • Stracciatella
  • Caciotta
  • Halloumi
  • Scamorza
  • Ricotta Salata
  • Labneh
  • Mascarpone

Fact: Buffalo milk is used in many other parts of the world besides Italy such as Egypt, India and other parts of Asia.

Want to know about the other types of mozzarella we have in Italy? Read about Mozzarella Types and Shapes (& a Mozzarella Imposter!).

top view of tomatoes on a vine on a marble board
Tomaotes are the perfect pairing to mozzarella di bufala

Buffalo Mozzarella FAQ

Is buffalo mozzarella related to buffalo wings?

No, buffalo mozzarella has in no way, shape or form a relation to buffalo wings. The name buffalo wings, referring to the popular American chicken recipe, is actually named after a restaurant that first served these in Buffalo, NY. 

Can I bring mozzarella di bufala home as a souvenir? 

You cannot bring fresh mozzarella back to the USA. You can only bring vacuum-packed cheese back with you so if you find a block mozzarella that is vacuum sealed you may. You may bring fresh mozzarella within the EU borders.

Can you put mozzarella di bufala on a pizza?

Yes, it is one of the best and most flavorful cheeses to top your pizza with.

What’s the difference between a buffalo and a water buffalo?

The Mediterranean Buffalo used to make mozzarella di bufala is an Italian breed of water buffalo while a buffalo as known in the English language is actually misused to refer to the American bison. When used correctly, the word buffalo should be used to refer only to African or Asian buffalos, not American bison. 

Can I bring mozzarella di bufala into the US?

No, unfortunately you cannot bring fresh cheese into the US from other countries.