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14 Tasty Cotija Cheese Substitute Options


Below is a cotija cheese substitute list for those who can’t find cotija cheese at their local grocery store. This delicious, crumbly cheese is a common ingredient in many savory dishes as a topping or filling ingredient. If you’re familiar with Mexican dishes, you’ve likely eaten your favorite tacos with Mexican cheese cotija crumbled on top.

small glass dish filled with grated white cheese and round white container labeled "Cotija"

What Is Cotija Cheese?

Cotija cheese is a salty and crumbly Mexican cheese that you can often find in many grocery stores or Mexican markets. This famous semi-hard cheese originates from the town of Cotija and is in the same family as parmesan.

This is not a melting cheese. Instead, it is intended for grating or crumbling over dishes. Many recipes include cotija cheese using it as a topping for soups, salads, and tostadas. In the US, it is common to use it in pasta dishes.

Types of Cotija Cheese

There are two primary varieties of cotija cheese—each with a different flavor and consistency. Fresh cotija cheese has a similar texture to feta and has a fresh, salty taste.

In comparison, aged cotija cheese has a stronger flavor and is a harder, more crumbly texture. This cheese variety goes through an aging process that lasts up to one year.

Cotija Cheese Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Queso Fresco

Queso fresco aka adobera, is a Mexican cheese that works as a substitute for cotija cheese. It has a crumbly consistency, though you can also slice, melt and shred this cheese for various recipes.

The appearance will be different. However, the saltiness is comparable to that of cotija. Use this substitute in any recipe that calls for cotija.

Pros
This cheese is typically easier to find at local grocery stores.

Cons
The difference in flavor profile will be noticeable as it presents a slightly spicy taste. Some locations don’t carry queso fresco.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio.

2. Pecorino Romano Cheese

Pecorino Romano comes from Italy, this hard cheese that offers a similar taste and appearance. This cotija cheese alternative is also a more decadent cheese than cotija, so you can use it for melting. Pecorino is excellent to use for pasta dishes or garnishes on guacamole and tacos.

Pros
You can grate or slice pecorino Romano cheese. Plus, it’s easily accessible at stores.

Cons
There will be a taste difference when using pecorino Romano as it has a tangy flavor with smokey, sharp notes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:2 ratio and adjust as needed.

3. Parmesan Cheese

As cotija this cheese is in the same family, it’s made from cow’s milk and has a lot of similarities. Due to its consistency and saltiness, parmesan makes the best cotija cheese substitute.

It’s a great addition to pasta, along with a taco topping. Expect a nutty, fruity, strong flavor when using parmigiana Reggiano cheese. You can use parmesan cheese by grating it like you would aged cotija.

Pros
Parmesan cheese is one of the best cotija cheese alternatives because of its texture, flavor, and availability.

Cons
Parmesan is not a perfect match for all cotija cheese recipes with its more complex taste.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace cotija with parmesan.

4. Feta

Feta makes the best cotija cheese substitute since it resembles its consistency and saltiness. This Greek cheese is made from sheep’s milk and goat’s milk creating a unique nutty, tangy flavor.

While the taste is quite different, you can still use feta cheese as a salad topping, soup garnish, or as a cotija cheese substitute on Elote or Mexican street corn.

Pros
You can find feta cheese at all local grocery stores, making it easily accessible. You may even have some of this cheese in your fridge already. It provides a unique, complex taste to salads and soups.

Cons
There will be a noticeable difference when using feta instead of fresh cotija. You may need to alter the saltiness of feta as it’s less salty than cotija.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute feta for cotija.

5. Cotija Molido

This version of cotija is shredded or finely ground, providing the same cotija cheese taste. Its form makes it easier and more convenient to use it.

You can use this variety of cotija in any recipe that calls for a block of mature cotija cheese. Try using it as a topping for soup, pasta, and enchiladas.

Pros
This alternative is versatile and requires no prep before using it.

Cons
This option may be challenging to find in local grocery stores, especially if you’re already having trouble finding standard cotija.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio.

6. Ricotta Salata

Ricotta Salata makes another cotija cheese replacement that works as a cotija substitute. This Italian cheese also presents a salty taste and offers a similar white appearance to cotija.

You may notice a slight difference in taste, as ricotta Salata is made from sheep’s milk instead. However, the consistency is the same, and you can crumble or grate this cheese over the desired foods.

Pros
Use this sheep’s milk cheese for any recipe that calls for cotija.

Cons
This option can be challenging to find at the grocery store. When using this swap, you’ll need to add a small amount of salt to mimic the flavor better.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio.

7. Cottage Cheese

While cottage cheese might not seem like an obvious choice due to its higher moisture content, it does work well in casseroles or enchiladas. Expect a sweet, milky taste.

Pros
This creamy cotija replacement is found at all grocery stores and offers a mild enough flavor that bodes well with most Mexican seasoning.

Cons
If you’re looking to mimic cotija’s taste more closely, consider adding additional salt to the recipe. You will also need to use a cheesecloth to get rid of extra moisture in cottage cheese. This process adds an extra step to recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing cotija.

8. Goat Cheese

Goat cheese is made from goat’s milk. It offers a nice saltiness like that of cotija. Expect a tangy, sour taste when using this sub for cotija cheese. This swap is softer, though you can still crumble it for toppings.

Pros
This alternative offers a similar consistency as cotija, provided you purchase goat cheese crumbles. Even with a distinct flavor, you can use this alternative in Mexican cuisine, quesadillas, and enchiladas.

Cons
Ensure your other flavors combine well with the tanginess of goat cheese for the best substitute.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio.

9. Grana Padano

Grana Padano is another cheese that you can use as a substitute for cotija. This substitute has a grainy texture and it’s creamy, fruity, and nutty. Even though the texture and taste are quite different, you’ll still be able to enjoy the slight saltiness.

It is an excellent option for those seeking an Italian cheese like parmesan with a lower price tag. Use Grana Padano in salads, pasta, and tacos.

Pros
This option provides a complex cheesy flavor.

Cons
Grana Padano may be challenging to find at grocery stores as it’s less commonly used in cooking, at least in the US.

Cooking Tip:
Use grana Padano in a 1:1 ratio to replace cotija.

10. Wensleydale

Wensleydale comes from the UK, it offers a complex flavor with a smokey, rich, creamy, sweet taste. While not a perfect match, this cotija cheese substitute adds a unique flavor.

Pros
This cheese similar to cotija offers a salty and crumbly texture. Use this option for quesadillas and dips as it melts well.

Cons
There is a noticeable difference when using Wensleydale as an alternative. Because of this difference, it is not a good substitute for every dish. Some may find it challenging to locate this option in stores.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio for this alternative.

11. Taleggio

Taleggio is another cheese that works as a substitute for cotija cheese. This alternative offers a creamy consistency with a subtle fruity, tangy flavor profile. If you’re looking for a cotija alternative that works well for melting, try taleggio.

Pros
This swap offers a similar salty taste due to a seawater wash as a natural preservation tactic. It works well for melty recipes like dips and enchiladas. Taleggio is an affordable option found at many grocery stores, especially those with more extensive cheese sections.

Cons
When using taleggio there will be a difference in appearance, and consistency.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio for this swap.

12. Anejo

Anejo, also known as añejo or queso añejo, is a Mexican semi-firm option that matches mature cotija’s texture and saltiness.

This replacement ages similarly, even offering a similar texture during the aging phases. Because of this, you can use it to replace the fresh and aged flavor of cotija.

Pros
Use Anejo in baking dishes(like a casserole) and burritos.

Cons
The appearance is much different as Anejo is rolled in paprika, providing a spicy kick flavor compared to cotija.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to use Anejo as a replacement for aged cotija cheese.

13. Red Fox

Red Fox offers a complex taste ranging from sweet to nutty and savory. When bitten into, it has a slight crunch, providing a unique texture. The appearance of Red Fox is similar to cheddar – a light orange color.

Pros
Use Red Fox in any recipe to provide a similar saltiness. It’s a great alternative when looking for a cheese that shreds well.

Cons
This swap is less common, so finding it at local grocery stores can be challenging.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing with Red Fox.

14. Gorwydd Caerphilly

Gorwydd Caerphilly is another replacement with a complex earthy, subtle, and milky flavor. This is a semi-soft cheese with a crumbly center and soft exterior under the rind.

It also offers a mild aroma, perfect for recipes where you want the other scents to be at the forefront.

Pros
This swap also provides a delightful saltiness, mimicking that of cotija. Tomato-based dishes like salsa and soups do well with this replacement.

Cons
The numbers of recipes that work well with this option are limited. Also, Gorwydd Caerphilly varies a lot in texture between varieties, making it potentially challenging to choose the correct consistency for each recipe.

Cooking Tip:
You can use a 1:1 ratio for this alternative as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Substitute for Cotija Cheese?

There are multiple cheese varieties that you can use as cotija cheese substitutes. The two best cotija cheese substitutes include parmesan and feta. Parmesan is the best match flavor-wise, while feta mimics the crumbly texture.

Is Cotija Cheese Like Parmesan?

Cotija cheese is similar to parmesan, sharing commonalities in flavor, consistency, and cheese salt level. While they have different origins, they are excellent replacements for each other. Both options are made from cow’s milk, which accounts for their similarities.

Is Cotija Cheese and Queso Fresco the Same Thing?

Cotija and queso fresco are not the same. Queso fresco has much milder because it is a fresh cheese. However, you can still use queso fresco, though you may want to use a large quantity because of its subtle taste.

What Is the Flavor of Cotija Cheese?

Cotija cheese has a delicious salty and milky taste. This cheese is often found as a garnish on various foods, from enchiladas and burritos. It’s well known for its saltiness.

Summary

While there’s not a perfect replacement for cotija, many alternatives will provide a similar salty taste and appearance. Parmesan works as a good cotija cheese substitute option due to its taste, appearance, and availability. If you can locate ricotta Salata or cotija molido, these swaps are excellent choices as well.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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