Cotija cheese is a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine. If you cannot find this Mexican cheese in your local grocery store, there are some best cotija cheese substitutes you can use that are just as tasty.
If you’re a fan of Mexican food, you’ve probably enjoyed cotija cheese. Salty in flavor with a crumbly texture, it’s often served on tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and soups.
What is Cotija Cheese?
Popular in Mexican cuisine, cotija is a salty cheese made from cow’s milk, and is named after the Mexican town of Cotija in the state of Michoacan. Cotija cheese can be enjoyed fresh or aged.
The fresh version is soft and similar to feta, while the aged version is harder, similar in texture to parmesan. Cotija cheese doesn’t melt when heated, so it is often used as a topping.
Best Cotija Cheese Substitute
1. Feta Cheese (Our Top Pick)
Easily found in grocery stores and delis, feta is an excellent substitute for fresh cotija cheese because of its soft texture and salty flavor.
Substitution Tip: You can use feta exactly as you would with cotija cheese, as it’s the best like-for-like substitute for cotija.
2. Queso Fresco
Another good substitution for soft cotija cheese is queso fresco. It is similar in texture but is more acidic in flavor.
Substitution Tip: As queso fresco is very close to cotija in flavor but slightly milder, you can use as a 1 to 1 substitute.
3. Goat Cheese Crumbles
Another soft cheese that’s easily found in grocery stores is goat cheese crumbles. It has a texture similar to feta cheese and a strong flavor like parmesan. This cheese would work well as a substitute for fresh cotija.
Substitution Tip: Make sure to use the dryer and crumbled goat cheese instead of the soft variety when substituting cotija cheese.
4. Parmesan Cheese
If you’re looking for a hard cheese to replace aged cotija, parmesan is a great option. It’s flavorful, salty, and easy to grate.
Substitution Tip: Parmesan cheese has a stronger flavor which is similar to the taste of aged cotija. It’s a great subsitute for cotija when you make Mexican street corn salad. Use it as a 1 to 1 substitute.
5. Ricotta Salata
You may not be familiar with this cheese, but it’s an excellent substitute for aged cotija. It’s not as salty, so you may need to increase the amount of salt in your dish. This cheese may not be readily available at grocery stores, but specialty cheese stores may carry it.
Substitution Tip: Don’t confuse ricotta salata with grocery store ricotta cheese. As ricotta salata cheese is less salty than cotija cheese, you’ll need add extra salt to your dish.
FAQ About Cotija Cheese
Where to Buy Cotija Cheese?
If you live in a large city, your local grocery store might carry cotija cheese. Look for it in the cheese section, or in the dairy and egg aisle. If you can’t find cotija at the grocery store, try the specialty cheese section at a deli, or at a specialty food shop that carries Mexican products.
Is Cotija Cheese Pasteurized?
Cotija cheese is produced from unpasteurized cow’s milk. During pasteurization, cheese is heated. This process would remove the distinctive flavor of cotija.
How Long Does Cotija Cheese Last?
Fresh cotija should be stored in the fridge, wrapped in parchment or waxed paper, and sealed in an airtight container. Stored correctly, it will last for about one month. Aged cotija should be stored in the same way, and can last for up to 3 months.
Popular Recipes Using Cotija Cheese
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Cotija Cheese Substitute Instructions
- 1 cup Feta Cheese
- 1 cup Queso Fresco Cheese Crumbles, Parmesan Cheese, or Ricotta Salata
- Choose your preferred substitute.
- Use 1:1 ratio in the recipe.
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