Are you looking for a cheese with a unique flavor to add to your next dish?
Cotija cheese is an excellent choice.
This Mexican-style cheese has a salty, crumbly texture and a strong, nutty flavor that makes it perfect for topping tacos or salads.
However, cotija cheese can be hard to find in some parts of the world.
If you’re having trouble locating it, don’t worry – there are plenty of substitutes that can provide the same delicious taste and texture.
In this article, I will share 11 of the best substitutes for cotija cheese so you can easily enjoy all your favorite dishes without sacrificing any flavor.
What is Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and is known for its salty, crumbly texture.
It is made from cow’s milk and has a unique flavor that some describe as being similar to Parmesan cheese.
This type of cheese originated in the small town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán, Mexico.
Traditionally, it was sold unaged or fresco style; however, now you can find aged cotija which has a firmer texture and more intense flavor.
The most common way to use cotija cheese is to sprinkle it on tacos or other Mexican dishes like enchiladas or nachos for a burst of salty flavor.
You can also bake with it like in quesadillas or chorizo-based recipes; just be sure to top your dish off at the end for maximum crunchy deliciousness!
When shopping for cotija cheese make sure you look for one labeled “cotija” rather than simply “queso seco” which means dry cheese – this label could refer to any number of cheeses used in Mexican cooking such as quesillo or cotija.
You can also find cotija cheese in pre-grated form for convenience – just remember that this type of cheese doesn’t melt as easily as other varieties so it’s not ideal for dishes where melted cheese is desired.
The 11 Best Substitutes for Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese is a Mexican-style cheese with a strong, salty flavor.
If you can’t find it in your grocery store, there are plenty of substitutes that will give you the same flavors and texture.
Here are 11 great alternatives to Cotija cheese:
1 – Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is a crumbly, salty, and tangy white cheese made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk.
It originated in Greece but is now produced all over the world.
Feta can be an ideal replacement for Cotija cheese due to its similar texture and taste.
The two cheeses also have many similarities in terms of their production process.
This means that Feta can provide a very similar flavor profile as Cotija while still maintaining its own unique identity.
Feta pairs incredibly well with salads, sandwiches, pizzas or pasta dishes like Greek salad, spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), Mediterranean-style sandwiches or pizzas topped with olives or sundried tomatoes.
It can also be used as a topping on tacos, burritos and enchiladas for an added layer of flavor complexity.
2 – Queso Fresco
Queso Fresco is a type of Mexican cheese that literally translates to “fresh cheese”.
It’s known for its crumbly texture and mild salty flavor, making it an ideal replacement for Cotija.
Queso Fresco is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and has a slightly sour taste, so it goes well in dishes like tacos, enchiladas, salads, or burritos. Its crumbly consistency also makes it great for topping off dishes such as chili con carne or chile rellenos.
Cotija cheese is often used as a garnish or topping because of its strong and salty flavor profile, but Queso Fresco can be used interchangeably due to its similar texture and subtle saltiness.
This makes it the perfect choice when you are looking to add extra depth without overpowering a dish with too much saltiness.
3 – Goat Cheese Crumbles
Goat cheese crumbles are small pieces of goat cheese that have been broken or cut into bits.
They are a great addition to salads, pastas, pizzas, and other dishes for added flavor and texture.
Goat cheese crumbles are ideal for replacing Cotija cheese because they have a similar flavor profile – creamy with salty notes – but without the pungency of cotija.
Goat cheese also has a milder taste than cotija, which makes it more palatable for those who don’t care for sharp flavors.
Since goat cheese is such a versatile ingredient, there are many recipes you can make with it!
Some ideas include goat cheese-stuffed mushrooms, tacos topped with goat cheese crumbles, and roasted vegetables covered in melted goat cheese.
It’s also great as part of a charcuterie board along with olives, fruits, and nuts!
4 – Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is a type of hard, aged cheese originating from Italy.
It’s usually made from cow’s milk and has an intense flavor due to its long aging process.
Parmesan cheese is crumbly, with a slight sharpness that can give dishes an extra boost of flavor.
Parmesan cheese is ideal for replacing Cotija cheese because it has similar characteristics in terms of texture and intensity of flavor.
The main difference lies in the fact that Parmesan is aged longer than Cotija, giving it a stronger taste.
Parmesan can be used with recipes ranging from classic Italian pastas to Mexican-inspired tacos or burritos.
It adds an umami depth to pizzas and salads, while adding creaminess when grated over soups or sauces like pesto or Alfredo sauce.
5 – Romano Cheese
Romano cheese is a hard, salty, and strong-flavored Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk or cow’s milk.
It has a sharp flavor that is slightly nutty and tangy.
It is ideal for replacing Cotija cheese because its texture and flavor are very similar to Cotija while being more widely available in most grocery stores.
Romano cheese can be used in any recipe that calls for Cotija, such as quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, casseroles, salads, soups, and sauces.
It also makes a great topping for pasta dishes like macaroni and cheese or lasagna.
Additionally, it works well as part of an antipasto platter or shaved over pizza or focaccia bread.
6 – Añejo Cheese
Añejo cheese is a crumbly Mexican-style cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s semi-aged, with a nutty flavor and an intense aroma.
The texture of the cheese is similar to that of Parmesan, but it has more moisture and less saltiness than Parmesan.
It’s ideal for replacing Cotija cheese because they have similar textures and flavors, but Añejo cheese is creamier and more flavorful with its nutty notes compared to Cotija’s salty taste.
This type of cheese can be used in many recipes such as tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, salads and even soups.
It adds great flavor to dishes without being overwhelming or overpowering other ingredients.
You can also sprinkle some on top of your favorite grilled vegetables for a delicious crunchy topping!
7 – Grana Padano
Grana Padano is a type of hard cheese that originates from Italy.
It has been aged for at least nine months, giving it a sharp and savory flavor with a distinct granular texture – hence its name “Grana”, which means grain in Italian.
It is ideal for replacing Cotija cheese because both are salty and have a similar texture.
Grana Padano will give your dishes the same salty kick as Cotija does without being overly strong or overpowering other flavors.
This cheese can be used for many different recipes including salads, pizzas, pastas, and risottos.
It also pairs exceptionally well with vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, or tomatoes.
Grated over roasted vegetables or melted over nachos makes an excellent snack too!
8 – Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese made with sheep’s milk.
It has a sharp and robust flavor that provides an intense taste to any dish it is added to.
The texture of the cheese is firm yet crumbly which makes it ideal for grating over dishes.
Pecorino Romano is often used as a substitute for Cotija cheese in recipes due to its similar texture and strong flavor profile.
The earthy, nutty notes of Pecorino Romano make it the perfect topping or garnish on tacos, salads, pastas, pizzas, and more!
Additionally, this type of cheese can be used as part of a marinade or rub when preparing grilled meats like chicken or steak since its saltiness helps tenderize the meat while adding layers of flavor.
9 – Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a fresh, soft cheese made from cow’s milk curds.
It can be found in both low-fat and full-fat varieties and has a mild flavor with a slightly tangy taste.
It is popularly used as an ingredient in salads, dips, pastas dishes, and other recipes that require creaminess.
Cottage cheese makes for an ideal substitute for Cotija cheese due to its creamy texture and similar flavor profile.
Both cheeses have a mild taste but are also quite salty which helps bring out the flavors of whatever dish you’re making.
The difference between them lies in their texture; Cotija is crumbly while cottage cheese is smooth and creamy.
You can use this versatile substitution when making Mexican dishes such as enchiladas or chilaquiles since it will provide the same level of saltiness without overwhelming any other ingredients in the recipe.
Cottage cheese could also work well with casseroles or quiches where its creamy consistency would help thicken up the filling even more so than Cotija alone would do!
10 – Cotija Molido (a variety of Cotija cheese)
Cotija Molido is a type of Cotija cheese that has been finely ground, making it easier to sprinkle over dishes.
It is made from cow’s milk and aged for up to three months, giving it a salty flavor with notes of nuttiness.
It is ideal for replacing Cotija cheese because its texture makes it easy to spread on foods without crumbling or clumping.
This makes it especially useful for dishes that require melted cheese, like quesadillas and tacos.
Cotija Molido can also be used as an ingredient in recipes such as enchiladas, nachos, chilaquiles, Mexican salads, and soups.
Its saltiness adds depth of flavor to these dishes while the fine texture ensures even coverage throughout the dish.
11 – Ricotta Salata
Ricotta salata is a firm, slightly salty cheese made from sheep’s milk ricotta.
It has a milder flavor than Cotija cheese and is ideal for replacing it in recipes as it can be grated or crumbled over dishes like salads, pastas, and pizzas.
This cheese also works great when used as part of a topping on tacos or enchiladas.
Ricotta salata adds an interesting flavor to any recipe that calls for Cotija cheese and helps to add texture and creaminess to savory dishes.
Its salty taste makes it the perfect replacement for Cotija in Mexican-inspired recipes such as chilaquiles, quesadillas, and nachos.
How long does cotija cheese last after opening?
Storing cotija cheese correctly is the key to maximizing its shelf life.
After opening, wrap the cheese in parchment paper and store it in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator.
This will keep it fresh for up to one month for pure cotija and up to three months for aged cotija.
Make sure to add fresh parchment paper and reseal the container after each use.
If you notice any unusual odors or signs of spoilage, discard the cheese immediately to ensure food safety.
Does cotija cheese melt easily?
Cotija cheese is an excellent, flavorful ingredient for Mexican dishes, but it is not a cheese that melts easily.
It is a hard, crumbly cheese that softens when it is heated, but does not melt, making it an ideal topping for many dishes.
It is most commonly used as a garnish on dishes such as tortillas, Doritos, quesadillas, and chilaquiles, adding a salty and tangy flavor to each.
Cotija can also be crushed and sprinkled over dishes to enhance their flavors and texture.
Does cotija cheese shred easily?
Cotija cheese is easy to work with because it is sold in a brick form.
It can be broken into chunks, shredded, or grated without the need to apply heat or melt it.
This makes it an ideal cheese for topping salads, tacos, and other dishes that require a crumbly texture.
It also pairs well with a variety of flavors, making it a versatile ingredient for any kitchen.
Can you use cream cheese instead of mascarpone?
Yes, it is possible to use cream cheese as a substitute for mascarpone.
To do this, simply mix together 1 cup of cream cheese and 1/4 cup of whipping cream for every 8 oz of mascarpone you need to replace.
This mixture will provide a similar texture to mascarpone while still providing the creaminess of cream cheese.
If desired, you can also add a pinch of salt to the mixture to enhance the flavor.
This substitution can be used in any recipe that calls for mascarpone, such as tiramisu, cheesecakes, and other desserts.
Can you use Philadelphia instead of mascarpone?
Yes, Philadelphia cream cheese can be used as a substitute for mascarpone in certain recipes.
Philadelphia is a rich brand and cream cheese is a healthier option than mascarpone due to its lower fat content, making it a viable choice for those looking to watch their fat intake.
However, Philadelphia cream cheese does have a more tangy flavor than its Italian counterpart, so it may not be the best choice for recipes that call for a more subtle taste.
Additionally, Philadelphia cream cheese has a thicker texture than mascarpone, which may affect the consistency of certain dishes.
Is mascarpone the same as Philadelphia cream cheese?
Mascarpone and Philadelphia cream cheese are both soft, white cheeses with a mild flavor, but there are some distinct differences between them.
Mascarpone has a creamy, almost sweet, nutty taste with a buttery character.
Comparatively, ricotta and Philadelphia cream cheese is tangy and have a sharp flavor.
Mascarpone is often used as a substitute for cream cheese in recipes, particularly for desserts, but it is not as thick and has a different flavor profile. It is also often used as a topping for Italian dishes such as lasagna or ravioli.
Philadelphia cream cheese, on the other hand, is a great addition to bagels and other breakfast foods.
It is also a popular ingredient in cheesecakes, dips, and spreads.
The 11 Best Substitutes for Cotija Cheese
- Feta Cheese
- Queso Fresco
- Goat Cheese Crumbles
- Parmesan Cheese
- Romano Cheese
- Añejo Cheese
- Grana Padano
- Pecorino Romano
- Cottage Cheese
- Cotija Molido (a variety of Cotija cheese)
- Ricotta Salata
- Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
- Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.