Cotija cheese is a kind of Mexican cheese which is commonly used in several Mexican dishes. It is a hard, crumbly, and salty cheese that gets its name from the town of Cotija, Michoacán, where it originated.
However, it may not be easily accessible to some home cooks in certain parts of the world.
No worries, though, as we have come up with 15 of the best substitutes for cotija cheese. Whether you are looking for a vegan alternative or a substitute with a milder flavor, we have got you covered.
Keep reading to discover how you can make these substitutions using ratios and learn how to use them in your favorite Mexican dishes.
In short, " What can I use instead of cotija cheese?" Feta Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, Queso Blanco, Manchego Cheese, Ricotta Salata, Dry Jack Cheese, Queso Fresco, Grana Padano Cheese, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Goat Cheese, Romano Cheese, Blue Cheese and many more.
What is cotija cheese, and what does cotija cheese taste like?
Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese named after the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán. It is a hard, crumbly cheese traditionally made from cow’s milk.
Cotija cheese has a distinct and robust flavor.
It is salty and tangy, with a slightly acidic and savory taste. The cheese has a dry and crumbly surface, similar to feta cheese.
It is known for its strong and bold flavor, which adds a rich and savory element to dishes.
Cotija cheese is commonly used in Mexican cuisine as a topping or filling for various dishes.
It is often sprinkled on top of tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, salads, and grilled corn (elote) to add a salty and cheesy kick.
Its special taste and texture make it a popular choice for adding depth of flavor to many dishes.
Uses of Cotija cheese
Cotija cheese is a versatile cheese used in various Mexican dishes. Here are some common uses of Cotija cheese:
1. Topping for Tacos: Cotija cheese is commonly crumbled and sprinkled on top of tacos, adding a salty and tangy flavor to complement the other ingredients.
2. Salad Enhancer: Cotija cheese can be crumbled or grated over salads, providing a salty and savory element that enhances the overall taste and texture.
3. Garnish for Mexican Street Corn (Elote): Cotija cheese is a classic topping for grilled corn on the cob. The crumbled cheese adds a rich and savory flavor that complements the sweetness of the corn.
4. Filling for Tamales: Cotija cheese can be used as a filling in savory tamales, adding a delicious cheesy element to the steamed corn masa dough.
5. Enchilada Filling: Cotija cheese can be combined with other ingredients like shredded chicken or beef to make a flavorful filling for enchiladas.
6. Pasta or Rice Dish Ingredient: Cotija cheese can be grated and added to pasta dishes or rice dishes, melting slightly and infusing the dish with its distinct flavor.
7. Pizza Topping: Crumbled Cotija cheese can be used as a unique and flavorful topping for pizzas, adding a salty and tangy kick.
8. Quesadilla Filling: Cotija cheese can be used as a filling for quesadillas, providing a creamy and savory component alongside other ingredients like vegetables, meats, or beans.
Where to buy cotija cheese?
If you are looking for where to buy cotija cheese, there are a few different places you can go. Many specialty food stores carry it, as do some international grocery stores.
You can also order online from many retailers that provide a variety of diverse flavors and types of cotija cheese.
Best substitutes for cotija cheese
1. Feta Cheese – A good substitute for cotija cheese
Feta cheese is a popular substitute for cotija cheese.
Ratio or measurement: It can be used in a one-to-one ratio.
It is tangy and salty, making it a good choice for Mexican, Mediterranean and Greek recipes.
To replicate the crumbly texture of cotija cheese, you can freeze feta cheese for 30 minutes before grating or crumbling it.
2. Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is a hard-textured cheese with a nutty flavor that makes it a great substitute for cotija cheese.
Ratio or measurement: Using Parmesan cheese in a one-to-one ratio is ideal for recipes that require cotija cheese.
Grating the Parmesan cheese finely will produce a texture that resembles cotija cheese, or you could opt for a coarser texture for a different experience.
3. Try Queso Blanco in place of cotija cheese
Queso Blanco is another popular substitute for cotija cheese, comparable in its crumbly texture and salty flavor.
Ratio or measurement: Use queso blanco and cotija cheese in a one-to-one ratio for the same desired result.
You can crumble or grate this cheese on your preferred recipe.
4. Manchego Cheese
Manchego cheese is a Spanish cheese that closely resembles cotija cheese but has a more robust flavor and undertones of sweetness.
Ratio or measurement: You can use Manchego cheese in a one-to-one ratio to substitute for cotija cheese in your Mexican-inspired recipes.
This cheese is usually grated, shaved, or crumbled to achieve a texture similar to cotija cheese.
5. Ricotta Salata – a tasty alternative to cotija cheese
Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese that is further aged than regular Ricotta. It has a little salty and nutty flavor, making it a good substitute for cotija cheese.
Ratio or measurement: Use Ricotta Salata in a one-to-one ratio.
You can crumble it into your tacos or salads, giving you an almost exact cotija replacement.
6. Dry Jack Cheese
Dry Jack Cheese is a kind of cheddar-like cheese with a tangy, nutty flavor that is aged for 6-9 months.
Ratio or measurement: Using this cheese in a one-to-one ratio with cotija cheese will reduce the intensity of the nutty flavor, making it a good option for those that prefer the mild flavor.
It’s best grated.
7. Use Queso Fresco instead of cotija cheese
Queso Fresco is another popular Mexican cheese that is often crumbled over tacos and added to salads. Its mild, milky flavor makes it a good substitute for cotija cheese.
Ratio or measurement: Use Queso Fresco in a two-to-one ratio for cotija cheese.
While it won’t have quite the same tangy flavor, it will be very close in texture.
8. Grana Padano Cheese
Grana Padano is a hard Italian cheese often compared to Parmesan. Its texture is similar to cotija, while it has a more delicate nutty flavor.
Ratio or measurement: Use this cheese in a one-to-one ratio to substitute for cotija cheese. It is best used grated or shaved.
9. Pecorino Romano Cheese – an ideal replacement for cotija cheese
Pecorino Romano cheese is an aged Italian cheese with a salty, tangy taste.
Ratio or measurement: In a one-to-one ratio, Pecorino Romano is a great substitute for cotija cheese.
Grating or shaving this cheese will create a texture close to cotija.
10. Goat Cheese
The last cheese on our list of cotija cheese substitutes is goat cheese. Goat cheese has a tangy, slightly salty flavor and a creamy texture similar to cotija cheese.
Ratio or measurement: Use goat cheese in a two-to-one ratio for cotija cheese.
You can crumble or grate this cheese like cotija cheese.
11. Romano Cheese – similar taste to cotija cheese
Romano cheese has a sharper flavor than parmesan cheese but can be used as an alternative.
Ratio or measurement: Use it in a 1:1 ratio when making a substitution.
Romano cheese works well in soups, salads, and Mexican casseroles.
12. Blue Cheese
Blue Cheese is a strong-tasting cheese that works well as a substitution in dishes like taco salad and salsa.
Ratio or measurement: Use it in a 1:2 ratio, one part blue cheese to two parts fine-grated parmesan cheese.
13. Monterey Jack Cheese – a decent substitute for cotija cheese
This is a mild cheese with a nutty flavor that can be used as a substitute for cotija cheese in Mexican lasagna, quesadillas, and enchiladas.
Ratio or measurement: Use it in a 1:1 ratio when making a substitution.
14. Cheddar Cheese
Use cheddar cheese when preparing Mexican casseroles and nachos.
Ratio or measurement: Use it in a 1:1 ratio when making a substitution. It also works well in chili con carne.
15. Vegan Ricotta – an ideal replacement for cotija cheese
If you are a vegan or lactose allergic, use vegan ricotta as a substitute for cotija cheese. It has a similar texture and can be used in Mexican salads, tacos, and burritos.
Ratio or measurement: Use it in a 1:1 ratio.
Tips on How to Choose the Most Suitable Substitution Option for cotija cheese
When selecting a substitution option for Cotija cheese, consider the following tips:
1. Flavor profile: Cotija cheese has a distinctive salty and tangy flavor. Look for a substitution option that can provide a similar flavor profile to complement your dish.
Consider cheeses like feta, Parmesan, or queso fresco, which offer comparable saltiness and tanginess.
2. Texture considerations: Cotija cheese is crumbly and dry, making it suitable for grating or crumbling over dishes.
If you’re looking for a substitute with a similar texture, opt for cheeses like feta or Parmesan, which can be crumbled or grated.
3. Melting properties: Cotija cheese is not known for its melting properties, so if you need a substitute for a melty cheese texture, consider options like Queso Blanco or Monterey Jack.
4. Salty factor: Cotija cheese is often used to add a salty kick to dishes. Take into account the saltiness of the substitute you choose and adjust the salt content in your recipe accordingly.
5. Regional alternatives: Depending on your location and culinary preferences, there may be regional alternatives that closely resemble Cotija cheese.
For example, in Mexican cuisine, you can consider alternatives like queso añejo or queso de bola.
6. Availability: Check the availability of the substitution option in your local stores or online. Depending on your location, some alternatives may be easier to find than others.
7. Experimentation: Keep in mind that each substitute may have its own unique flavor and texture.
It may be necessary to experiment with different alternatives to find the one that best suits your taste preferences and recipe requirements.
cotija cheese substitute for street corn
When substituting cotija cheese for street corn, you can consider using the following alternatives:
1. Feta cheese: Use an equal amount of crumbled feta cheese as a substitute for cotija cheese.
2. Parmesan cheese: Use grated or shredded Parmesan cheese as a substitute, using the same amount as the recipe calls for cotija cheese.
3. Queso fresco: Use an equal amount of crumbled queso fresco as a substitute for cotija cheese.
The ratios for the substitution would generally be 1:1, meaning you can utilize the same amount of the substitute cheese as the amount of cotija cheese mentioned in the recipe.
Vegan Cotija Cheese Substitutes
While cotija cheese is a unique cheese with its distinct flavor and texture, there are several vegan substitutes that can mimic its qualities.
Here are five vegan cotija cheese alternatives, along with suggested ratios and tips on how to use them:
1. Vegan Parmesan
Use vegan Parmesan cheese in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for cotija cheese. Sprinkle it over dishes like street corn, salads, or pasta for a similar savory and slightly salty flavor.
2. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast can provide a cheesy and slightly nutty flavor. Use 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast as a replacement for every 1/4 cup of crumbled cotija cheese.
3. Cashew Cheese
Make a homemade cashew cheese by blending soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt. Use it as a crumbled cotija cheese substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
4. Vegan Feta
Use vegan feta cheese, available in stores or homemade, as a substitute for cotija cheese. Use it in a 1:1 ratio for a similar crumbly texture and tangy flavor.
5. Tofu Feta
Marinate firm tofu in a mixture of lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, herbs, and salt to create a tofu feta.
Use it in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for cotija cheese in salads, wraps, or roasted vegetables.
Conclusion on substitute for cotija cheese
Substituting cotija cheese in a recipe can be a challenge even for confident home cooks and chefs.
With these 15 best cotija cheese substitutes, however, the transition is effortless.
Not only do these alternatives provide the same texture and flavor as cotija cheese, but they also offer a unique twist to your dish with easy-to-understand and clear ratios.
Do not let a lack of cotija cheese deter you from trying out new recipes; instead, explore the wide variety of alternatives and get creative.
FAQs on substitute for cotija cheese
Q1. What is similar to cotija cheese?
Feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, Queso Fresco, Ricotta Salata.
Q2. What is cotija cheese compared to?
Cotija cheese is often compared to feta cheese or Parmesan cheese in terms of its crumbly texture and salty flavor.
Q3. Can you substitute mozzarella for cotija cheese?
While mozzarella and cotija cheese have different flavor profiles and textures, you can use mozzarella as a substitute for cotija cheese in some recipes.
Mozzarella has a milder taste and a softer, stretchy texture compared to the crumbly and salty nature of cotija cheese.
If using mozzarella as a substitute, it’s important to keep in mind that the overall flavor and texture of the dish may be different.
Mozzarella is commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, so it may not provide the same authentic flavor as cotija cheese in Mexican or Latin American dishes.
It’s recommended to adjust other ingredients and seasonings to compensate for the flavor difference when substituting mozzarella for cotija cheese.