There are several alternatives to queso fresco that can be used in various dishes. In this article, we’ll share with you the best queso fresco substitute and provide tips on how to use these options effectively in your recipes.
Queso fresco is a cheese that originated in Mexico. Its name translates to “fresh cheese”.
This cheese falls under the “queso franco” category due to its pure white color. This white cheese is typically made from cow’s milk, although some producers also use goat milk.
Queso fresco does not undergo any aging, so it has a crumbly and firm texture. It has a mildly salty and tangy flavor. This fresh and bright taste is comparable to fresh mozzarella.
To make queso fresco, the milk is acidified using rennet, lemon juice, or vinegar to form a creamy fresh cheese.
Queso fresco is a common ingredient in Mexican dishes, including tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas.
It’s commonly crumbled over refried beans, salads, and soups.
Queso fresco is among the many kinds of cheese that are difficult to melt. This property may be both an advantage and a disadvantage, though.
You can find this cheese at some supermarkets and Mexican food stores.
You should find a substitute for queso fresco for several reasons.
First, queso fresco has a high moisture content, which can easily support the growth of bacteria. Because of this, queso fresco is not a good cheese to store. Bacteria growth can cause it to spoil quickly, especially if not properly refrigerated or stored.
In addition, processed queso fresco may be high in sodium. And if not processed correctly, it may contain traces of lactose. People with sensitivity to lactose and those watching their sodium intake might find it unsuitable.
Moreover, like many dairy products, consuming large quantities of queso fresco means a high saturated fat intake. Lastly, since queso fresco does not melt well, it may not be the best choice for certain recipes where melted cheese is a critical ingredient.
Panela is also a Mexican cheese, like queso fresco. It has a similar white color, but it is less crumbly.
This cheese is crumbly, so you can use it like queso fresco. Crumble or dice and add it to Mexican dishes like quesadillas and enchiladas.
Panela cheese holds its shape very well even after you cook it. It does not melt, so you can grill it and eat it on its own. That said, skip using it for melty or stringy cheese dishes.
Panela cheese is very easy to find in stores, so it is an accessible alternative.
And it has lower fat content than most Mexican cheeses.
Tip: Note that panela cheese has a bolder flavor than queso fresco. For this reason, reduce the amount when using it to substitute queso fresco.
Feta cheese is a brined, cured, and aged cheese. This Greek cheese contains either sheep milk alone or a mixture of sheep and goat milk.
Feta cheese is a great substitute for queso fresco because it has a similar texture. It is also firm and crumbly, so you can use it in any dish that calls for queso fresco.
For example, you can use it instead of crumbled queso fresco as a dish topping. Feta cheese is also a good ingredient for salads.
On top of that, its tangy and salty taste can complement spicy Mexican dishes like queso fresco does.
For a closer flavor match to queso fresco, you may soak feta cheese in water for a few hours before using it. Doing so will reduce its saltiness and tanginess significantly.
Tip: Note that feta has more tang than queso fresco and is usually saltier. You may use it as-is if your dish needs a more intense flavor.
Ricotta salata is a dried and aged version of ricotta cheese, which people make using cow, goat, sheep, or water buffalo milk. The longer it ages, the less salty and the harder it becomes.
So, if you want a salty taste, choose a young ricotta salata. But if you want something you can grate, choose aged ricotta salata as it is firmer.
Regarding taste, ricotta cheese has a slightly salty and milky flavor with a hint of tang, making it a good match for the taste profile of queso fresco.
It also has a mild nutty flavor that can add another layer of complexity to the dishes. Additionally, ricotta salata pairs well with Mexican and Mediterranean ingredients. So, it is a useful ingredient to have in the kitchen.
It is a direct and ideal substitute as a topping for salads, pasta, and soups.
Tip: It is important to note that ricotta salata is not a good cheese for spreading. For this reason, you are better off with another swap for use in sandwich spreads.
Fresh cotija has a soft texture that makes you crumble with your hands. When you do so, it makes it perfect for topping salads, tostadas, and other dishes. The aged cotija, on the other hand, is comparable to parmesan cheese. You can either grate or slice it before using it.
The biggest difference cotija has from queso fresco is that it is saltier. You may need to use less of it to replace queso franco. Always start with a small amount and add more as you do a taste test.
Like queso fresco, though, cotija isn’t a good melting cheese.
But because of its flavor and texture, there are better choices for desserts and soups. Consider using another swap for these instances.
Tip: It makes an excellent ingredient for stuffing in wraps and burritos, though. Cotija is also great for dishes like refried beans and pizzas.
Farmer’s cheese uses cow, sheep, or goat milk. It has a mild, milky flavor and dry, crumbly texture, making it a great substitute for queso fresco.
If you are sensitive to lactose, farmer’s cheese is your best alternative. After all, this kind of cheese is fermented completely. It has no traces of lactose left.
You can use it with roasted vegetables, herbs, and meat. It also makes a nice filling for sandwiches, wraps, and rolls. This cheese can serve as a topping or a garnish for most dishes that call for queso fresco as well.
When making the swap, consider that farmer’s cheese has a milder taste than queso fresco. So, you may have to use more of it to achieve the same flavor as queso fresco.
Tip: The mild flavor of farmer’s cheese is excellent for almost anything.
Queso Blanco is an excellent substitute for queso fresco as it is firm and crumbly. Cheesemakers use the same ingredients to make it. That said, queso blanco itself is mild and has a milky flavor.
You can use it as a crumbled topping for soups and curries. It is also great for pasta and salad recipes.
You may cut them into cubes and stuff them into peppers, burritos, and tacos. Due to its texture, queso blanco could be better as a spread. So, if you need spreadable cheese, use another alternative.
Tip: Queso Blanco has the tiniest hint of a sour taste that pairs well with spicy dishes. This cheese does not melt, so it is great for grilled and meaty recipes as it can hold its shape.
Dry curd cottage cheese is an ideal substitute for queso fresco. The fermentation process in making dry curd cottage cheese removes most of its lactose, making it suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals.
One of the biggest advantages of dry curd cottage cheese over queso fresco is its longer shelf life. This cottage cheese has a lower moisture content, making it less prone to bacterial growth. If you need to store cheese, you are better off keeping dry-curd cottage cheese than queso fresco.
Dry curd cottage cheese has a mild and bland flavor, similar to queso fresco. It is a close flavor match, but you can add salt if it lacks taste.
Tip: Its crumbly texture makes it perfect for dishes that need topping or garnish. You can use it in all recipes that call for queso franco, including salads, tacos, and fajitas.
Monterey Jack cheese is an excellent substitute for queso fresco because of its mild flavor, semi-soft texture, and versatility. It also complements spicy dishes well. That said, it is no surprise that it is widely used in Mexican and Spanish cuisines.
However, Monterey Jack cheese has a high-fat content, so you may need to watch the amount when using it to replace queso fresco in recipes.
When you stuff it in burritos and enchiladas, you can expect gooey cheese inside after you heat them. This consistency also makes it a great topping for tamales and tacos.
The good thing about Monterey Jack cheese is that it is widely available. You can easily find it in grocery stores, so it is a great option if you’re in a hurry.
Tip: Monterey Jack differs from queso fresco because it has excellent melting ability.
Muenster cheese is a variation of French Munster cheese and is softer and milder in taste. For this reason, it is a suitable replacement for queso fresco.
Aged Muenster cheese may alter your recipe too much because of its intense flavor and aroma.
Choose a young Muenster cheese for a mild flavor.
Muenster cheese is also soft, so it easily crumbles like queso fresco. Crumble it over dishes as you’d do queso fresco.
Unlike queso fresco, Muenster cheese melts well to add a nice texture to pizzas and burgers.
But it is important to note that Muenster cheese is processed cheese. It may contain emulsifiers and stabilizers.
Tip: Muenster cheese is a better match for you if you find queso franco too tangy.
Tofu is an excellent substitute for queso fresco, especially if you want a vegan alternative. This option is versatile because it has a neutral taste. Because of this flavor, you can use it in sweet and savory dishes, making it a handy ingredient.
Among the kinds of tofu, opt for silken tofu, which is the extra-firm variety. This type of tofu will retain its shape and texture even after you cook it.
That said, you can crumble tofu as a topping or stuffing. It makes a perfect ingredient for tacos, burritos, and other similar dishes. Additionally, it is an excellent addition to baked dishes and desserts as it does not melt.
The best thing about tofu? It absorbs flavors very well. So, you can make it taste like anything you want. This characteristic ensures that it will not change the flavor of your dish.
Tip: Although tofu is a great substitute for queso fresco in most recipes, it may not be suitable for soups and curries as it can become too mushy.
Homemade queso fresco is better than the ones found at the store. If you make it yourself, you are sure of its ingredients.
Crumble queso fresco substitutes over your tacos as a topping or as a filling. Monterey Jack, Muenster, and Feta are perfect for tacos.
For a vegan taco, tofu is the perfect ingredient. Make sure you season it well, though, so you won’t end up with a bland-tasting alternative.
Any substitute for queso fresco will blend well with fresh vegetables. Crumble feta or cotija over baby spinach, romaine lettuce, and avocados.
Add some olives, red onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle your salad with either honey mustard vinaigrette or a creamy ranch dressing.
Shred Munester or Monterey Jack cheese to replace queso fresco as an enchilada filling. You may also opt to use these substitutes as toppings. If that is the case, add them on top before baking.
Crumbled feta or cotija cheese are also great as toppings. Choose either one or combine them for a richer taste.
In a quesadilla recipe, you may use crumbled and seasoned tofu as a queso fresco replacement. Similarly, shredded Monterey Jack or Muenster will also do a good job of enhancing the flavor of your dish.
Adding cotija cheese will perfectly mimic queso fresco, too, so it can add texture to your quesadillas.
Queso fresco is a crumbly cheese, so a good substitute should have a similar texture. Feta cheese, goat cheese, and cotija cheese are your top choices if the texture is critical to your dish.
Queso fresco has a mild, slightly tangy flavor. If you do not want a flavor shift, choose an alternative with a close flavor profile. Your best options are panela cheese, queso blanco, and Monterey Jack cheese.
Queso fresco is not a melting cheese. You’ll want an ingredient that does not melt as well for a direct substitute. Tofu is a great pick in this case. But if you want the opposite, opt for Monterey Jack or Muenster cheese, as they melt beautifully.
Depending on your location, some queso fresco substitutes may be more readily available than others. It is a good idea to check your local grocery stores to see what types of cheese they carry. Among the most widely-available ones are feta, panela, and cotija cheese.
Queso fresco is a relatively low-fat cheese, so if you want an equally healthy substitute, choose a cheese with a similar nutritional profile. Panela cheese, queso blanco, and goat cheese are among the closest nutritious alternatives.
Cheesemakers only use three ingredients to make queso fresco. These ingredients are milk, vinegar, and salt. Some may use a combination of cow and goat milk, while some use pure cow’s milk. Other people also replace vinegar with lemon juice or rennet.
Various choices are available if you don’t have queso fresco cheese. You may opt for queso blanco, dry-curd cottage cheese, or panela. Other alternatives include Oaxaca and pot cheese. For a vegan option, silken tofu is the top pick.
Queso fresco does not melt like mozzarella. The reason for this is its low-fat content and high moisture level. That said, queso fresco is a crumbling, not a melting cheese.
If you need to replace fresco in your recipe, you can use queso blanco, panela cheese, and feta cheese are the closest ones you can get. Farmer’s cheese, ricotta salata, and cotija cheese are equally good options. Silken tofu is an excellent vegan option that can replace queso fresco in all dishes.
Do consider that each alternative will have a difference in flavor or texture. Ultimately, the best queso fresco substitute will depend on your personal preferences and the specific recipe you are making.