Best Substitutes for Cotija Cheese

Cotija is the flavor powerhouse of Mexican cooking as it injects delicious bold flavors into every dish it graces. 

Originating from the vibrant town of Cotija in Michoacán, Mexico, this crumbly cheese is famous for its robust and salty punch making it a well-loved Mexican cheese

Whether jazzing up street corn (elote), tacos, or salads, its distinct taste brings an irresistible umami burst to the food while the cheese’s crumbly texture adds an additional element to your meals. 

While Cotija stands in a league of its own, it’s not very common to find outside of Mexico in regular shops. Its unique and bold flavor is also not for everyone as some people just find it be a little to much. Luckily there are a few reliable and readily available substitutes that you can use in its place. 

What is Cotija Cheese?

Cotija is an incredible handmade cheese coming from the Michoacan region of Mexico. 

There can be many different textures of Cotija depending on how long it has been aged but the most common form is crumbly like parmesan but salty like feta with a white/ivory color. 

The cheese is made by adding salt before fermentation which is what creates its signature bold taste while the aging process also enhances the texture over time. 

Its unique flavor and texture combination make it a key ingredient in many Mexican foods such as quesadillas, salads, chilaquiles verdes, torta con chorizo, and more. 

Substitutes for Cotija Cheese

5 Best Substitutes for Cotija Cheese

1. Queso Fresco

Queso Fresco is a close cousin to cotija making it a great cotija cheese alternative with a mild, fresh, and slightly tangy profile. 

Its crumbly texture mirrors Cotija, making it an ideal replacement for salads, tacos, and grilled corn however lacks the intense saltiness of Cotija

This of course could be a benefit if you prefer a flavour that won’t overpower the other tastes of your meal. 

2. Feta

With its crumbly consistency and bold salty taste, Feta can also make a superb cotija cheese alternative for salads, pasta, and tacos. 

Although feta will certainly bring enough saltiness to compare with cotija, it may also introduce a more tangy flavor to your dish. The texture is also quite different as Feta is quite a lot more soft and briny than cotija but this won’t be much of an issue if you plan to melt it. 

3. Goat Cheese

Known for its earthy and slightly tart taste, goat cheese offers a sophisticated twist as a Cotija substitute. 

When buying goat cheese as a cotija cheese substitute you should look for the crumbly kind which will best match the texture of cotija. 

While Goat Cheese lacks Cotija’s intense saltiness, it brings a delightful creaminess and additional tang which will alter the dish slightly.

4. Ricotta Salada

Ricotta Salada is the perfect substitute for anyone looking for a similar salty and crumbly cheese without the intensity of cotija

Its mild saltiness still adds depth to salads, pasta, and other Mexican dishes however the slightly sweeter taste takes away from the bold umami flavors you will usually encounter. 

5. Parmesan

Many people consider parmesan to be the Italian cousin of cotija thanks to its similar rough texture and salty taste. 

While the texture can be very similar, Parmesan is not quite as crumbly as Cotija. In addition to this, it has a more nutty undertone to its flavor which adds a unique twist to recipes that traditionally use Cotija. 

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