Cotija cheese has become a staple in Mexican cuisine. But did you know that it’s also great in a wide array of dishes?
It is mainly used as a grating on top of delicious dishes, including burritos, tacos, and salads. You can also make a cheesy sauce with cotija.
If you have been unable to get your hands on some cotija cheese, you may be feeling a bit confused. Luckily, there are lots of alternatives that you can try if you are ever in this situation.
What Is Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is a semi-soft, crumbly white cheese from Mexico. The cheese was named after the Mexican town Cotija in the state of Michoacán.
Why Find A Substitute?
If a recipe calls for this cheese, your best bet is to try to use it. However, there may be a few reasons why you are unable to. These include:
- You are unable to find this cheese. Your local supermarket may not stock it. After all, it is rather a niche cheese. It is less widely known than cheddar, Edam, and Parmesan outside of Mexico.
- You do not like the flavor of cotija. Though most people find this cheese to be extremely enjoyable, it does not suit everyone’s taste-buds.
- You require a cheese that suits your dietary needs. For instance, you may be vegan or lactose intolerant. If so, you will need to look elsewhere for a substitute.
The Best Substitutes
To help you find the best cotija cheese substitute, we have found some of the best cheeses that you can use in its place. This includes:
1. Mozzarella Cheese
Mozzarella cheese is similar to cotija cheese in taste and texture. It is usually used in pizza toppings, pasta dishes, and salad dressings. It is often sold in blocks and shredded varieties.
Mozzarella has a subtle taste that is not as strong as other cheeses. Consequently, it is an ideal option for people who do not enjoy overpowering flavors.
However, mozzarella is prone to melting. This is why it makes a perfect pizza topping, gloriously melting onto the dish. Meanwhile, cotija rarely melts.
Another difference between these two kinds of cheeses are their places of origin. While cotija comes from
Mexico, mozzarella originates from Italy. On the other hand, this will not alter the fact that mozzarella is a suitable replacement.
Ultimately, though it is a great replacement in terms of taste, mozzarella is not an exact match for cotija.
2. Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese tastes akin to cotija. It is often used in Italian dishes, such as lasagna, carbonara spaghetti, and ravioli.
Like mozzarella, it is typically sold in blocks and shreds. There are many types of Parmesan cheese. Some are aged longer than others.
This is a particularly good replacement for cotija when you are sprinkling grated cheese on top of something. This is because Parmesan is normally used as a shredded topping, primarily atop pasta.
3. Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar cheese is another option to replace cotija cheese. It is commonly used in Mexican dishes, such as burritos, fajitas, and enchiladas.
Cheddar is one of the most accessible cheeses. Thus, you should not experience any difficulty getting your hands on it.
Part of the reason cheddar is so obtainable is that it is very versatile. You can find cheddar in a variety of different strength levels.
This allows you to find one that is sharp or mild enough for your taste. It has a salty flavor that many people adore. As a result, you will be able to use it outside of being a cotija replacement.
4. Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is another popular alternative to cotija cheese. In fact, we believe that it is the best alternative because they are stunningly similar.
Loads of people have noted the similarities between Greek feta and cotija.
Its salty tanginess makes it perfect for topping Greek dishes, such as gyros, souvlaki, and spanakopita. It is also used in salads.
If you want to use a different type of cheese instead of cotija, we thoroughly recommend feta. Aside from Parmesan, it is the most similar cheese.
5. Goat Cheese
Goat cheese has a milder flavor than cotija cheese. This makes it ideal for use in dips, spreads, and desserts. There are many types of goat cheese, with some that are harder or softer than others.
Goat cheese can be somewhat controversial. While some love this cheese, others hate it. For that reason, you may want to find out if you like goat cheese before using it as a cotija substitute.
6. Swiss Cheese
Swiss cheese is a good replacement for cotija cheese. The combination of flavors and textures is close to cotija.
This cheese often features distinctive holes, which are referred to as eyes. You can try adding it to a burrito or other Mexican dish instead of cotija if you like nutty hints.
7. Blue Cheese
Named after its blue veins, blue cheese has a unique aesthetic that sets it apart from other cheeses. Blue cheese is another delicious alternative to cotija.
Its pungent flavor pairs well with spicy foods, such as chili con carne, tacos, and enchilada. You should bear in mind that blue cheese is very strong. Therefore, you may want to avoid it if you prefer milder cheeses.
8. Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is another excellent substitute for cotija. It has a creamy consistency and subtly sweet flavor. People typically use this cheese for spaghetti and pasta dishes.
However, it can also be used for plenty of other meals. This cheese has salty notes and a slightly tangy flavor.
9. Cream Cheese
Cream cheese can also be used as a substitute. This cheese works well in sandwiches, appetizers, and dessert toppings.
Cream cheese has a soft and creamy texture that differs from cotija. As a result, it is not the best alternative if you desire a cheese that has a texture akin to cotija.
10. Brie Cheese
Brie cheese is another delicious alternative for cotija cheese that goes well with fruit-based dishes, such as tarts, pies, and cobblers.
Another popular serving suggestion is to put brie on crackers. Brie has a light buttery flavor that many adore. Plus, its texture is soft.
Many people enjoy having brie at Christmas. Therefore, if you are cooking a cotija recipe over the festive period, you may want to switch this cheese for brie.
11. Manchego Cheese
Manchego cheese is an aged sheep’s milk cheese that is made in Spain. It has a rich, nutty flavor that compliments seafood dishes, such as paella, chowder, and shrimp cocktail.
If you adore aged cheeses, this will be an amazing alternative for you. On the other hand, you should consider that this cheese is rarer than some other varieties.
If you have found it hard to find cotija, you may also be unable to get manchego.
12. Gouda Cheese
If you are looking for a cheese with a sweeter taste and a bright color scheme, Gouda will be a good option.
It is often used as a filling in meatloaf, burgers, and chicken pot pie. This cheese is readily available. If you cannot find cotija, you are almost certain to locate some Gouda cheese.
13. Asiago Cheese
Asiago cheese is another delicious alternative. This Italian cheese is regularly used to top pizzas, pastas, and salads. Some people also enjoy putting the cheese in grilled cheese sandwiches or panini.
Its hard texture means that Asiago feels more like cotija than some other types of cheese. Its nutty taste is also quite comparable to Parmesan.
14. Chihuahua Cheese
If you are not a cheese connoisseur, you may not have heard of chihuahua cheese. It is typically paired with Mexican food, such as tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.
It is another Mexican cheese, meaning that it originates from the same country as cotija. However, its flavor is weaker than cotija, as it is more comparable to cheddar.
15. Monterey Jack Cheese
Monterey jack cheese is another delicious alternative choice. This cheese originates from the United States.
Lots of people use Monterey Jack cheese in burgers and burritos. As a result, you can use this cheese as a replacement for cotija if you are making burritos.
16. Vegan Cheese
If you have a vegan diet, you may feel as though you are missing out on cheese. Luckily, there are lots of vegan varieties out there for you.
You can buy these online or in supermarkets. You can get most types of cheese in vegan varieties, though you may have difficulty finding vegan cotija. Thankfully, you can try vegan cheddar, feta, or Parmesan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Grate Cotija Cheese?
Yes, you can grate cotija cheese. The only issue is that you need to make sure that your grater is sharp enough. Otherwise, you could end up shredding the cheese instead of slicing it into thin slices.
How Do I Store Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is best stored in the refrigerator. It does not keep well when left out at room temperature.
Is Cheese Lactose-Free?
No, cheese contains lactose. That means that it is not suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. This is because it is made from milk.
Thankfully, there are some lactose-free brands out there that you can try if you suffer from this condition.
Overall, these alternatives are great because they have similar characteristics to cotija cheese. They are all high-quality cheeses that are easy to find.
If your local grocery store does not stock them, then you can buy them online. The wide array of substitutes for cotija means that you can experiment to find the cheese that works best.
Each cheese will have slightly different flavors and textures, which will work better for some dishes than they will for others.
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