Are you a fan of Mexican cooking? If you are, I am sure you must have heard of cotija cheese. Also said to be the Mexican counterpart of parmesan, cotija is an extremely versatile cheese. This article has information on the best Cotija cheese substitutes!
Cotija cheese might not be too commonly used everywhere. However, Mexican food fanatics will definitely know how wonderful it is! However, what if you decide to use it and can’t find any? Use a Cotija cheese substitute!
So I am sure you must be wondering, what are the best Cotija cheese substitutes? The best cotija cheese substitutes are feta, queso fresco, parmesan, grana padano and ricotta salata.
However, before I start discussing the substitutes, let me give you all a little more information on Cotija cheese. This will be helpful, especially for people that haven’t heard about it before. So, let’s get started!
Quick Peek: Cotija Cheese
This section has all the information you need on Cotija cheese. You will get to know what the cheese exactly is, its flavor and texture, uses, and nutritional information. So, let us explore cotija cheese.
What Is Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is an aged Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk. This amazing cheese is named after the town of Cotija in Mexico. It is an artisan cheese generally made by hand. Hence, every block of cheese is unique.
It is called a mountain cheese as the cheesemakers of this cheese usually live in the mountains. It is usually produced during the months of July to October. This is because the cows are fed the natural grass growing in the mountains during the rainy season.
That gives the cheese a unique color and flavor. While producing cotija cheese, the cheese curds are ground into small pieces and then pressed and aged. This makes the cheese curds into a semi-hard solid block.
Describing Cotija Cheese: Flavor And Texture
Cotija cheese is a semi-hard variety of cheese. It is white in color with a firm and dry texture. Once bitten into, it has a grainy and crumbly texture, similar to that of parmesan cheese. Moreover, once the cheese is cooked, it softens a bit but does not change its overall texture.
When we talk about taste, Cotija cheese predominantly has a salty flavor. The flavor is milky, too. However, the salt content in Cotija cheese is generally much higher than in other varieties of cheese. Young cotija cheese has a texture quite similar to that of feta cheese.
Uses Of Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese is extremely popular in Mexican cuisine due to its Mexican origin. However, it is now gaining popularity in various parts of the world. The cheese is extremely versatile and makes a great substitute for parmesan cheese too.
Due to the highly salty flavor of Cotija cheese, it is mostly used in savory food. It can be used on top of various savory baked goods to add flavor. Moreover, it makes a great addition to tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas.
Cotija cheese, due to its salty flavor, also goes extremely well with corn on the cob. The cheese adds a lot of flavor to corn, especially when it is covered with butter and mayonnaise. Moreover, it can be used in burgers and salads too.
Cotija Cheese On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
As it is a type of cheese, cotija cheese generally tends to have high amounts of calories and fat. A serving of around 5 grams of cotija cheese contains 18 calories, out of which 14 calories are from fat.
Cotija cheese contains saturated fats and cholesterol, with high amounts of sodium. Hence, it should be eaten in moderation, especially by people trying to watch their weight and people with cardiovascular issues.
The cheese also contains very minimal amounts of carbohydrates and proteins. However, being a dairy product, it does have high amounts of calcium and vitamin A. The calcium in the cheese helps improve bone and teeth strength, and vitamin A helps improve eyesight.
Why Use A Substitute For Cotija Cheese?
I am sure this question must have popped into your mind at least once. While it is a valid question, there are a few reasons why you could consider using a substitute for cotija cheese.
Firstly, cotija cheese is made in Mexico and imported to various countries. For this reason, it can be a little expensive and may not be within everyone’s budget. Also, because of the same reason, there are chances of the availability of the cheese being limited.
In these cases, a substitute will definitely come handy. Moreover, it contains saturated fats and cholesterol. Although this may be a problem with most types of cheese, there are various types of cheese that are healthier and worth consideration.
Moreover, if you have any of the substitutes handy, why bother running to the store? You can always just use a substitute instead and save yourself some time. These are reasons worthy enough to consider using a substitute.
I think I have given you enough information on cotija cheese. Now, let me take you to the main attraction of this article, its best substitutes. Read on to know all about them!
7 Best Cotija Cheese Substitutes
This section has the best substitutes for cotija cheese. Moreover, you will get to know how to use each substitute in your recipes too.
Feta is originally from Greece with a creamy texture. It has a salty taste and crumbles similar to unaged Cotija cheese. Hence, it can work as a substitute for the same.
Feta is very easily available worldwide. It will definitely be more readily available than Cotija cheese, which itself is a great reason to use it as a substitute. It has many similarities with cotija cheese.
Hence can be added to any recipe as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio. Feta is, however, usually packed in brine since it tends to dry out quickly. So, while using it as a substitute, make sure you add some of the brine to give it a moist texture.
2. Queso Fresco
Queso fresco is more acidic than Cotija cheese and crumbles well, similar to cotija cheese. Hence, it can be used as a substitute for the same.
The texture of queso fresco may seem a little dry as compared to that of cotija cheese. However, it does have a similar sharp flavor. Queso fresco generally works well with various savory dishes such as tacos, soups, enchiladas, etc.
Moreover, it also makes a great addition to various salads. It can be used as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio, generally. However, keep in mind that queso fresco is acidic. So, you might want to alter the amount of the other acidic ingredients in your recipe.
Cotija cheese is often known as the Mexican equivalent of parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese has a salty texture and grates and crumbles, very similar to cotija cheese. Hence, it can be used as a substitute for the same.
Parmesan cheese is hard and grainy with a nutty undertone. It is quite similar to aged cotija and can work in various recipes that call for the same. Moreover, parmesan has vital nutrients quite similar to cotija.
Since both these types of cheese are very similar in terms of flavor and texture, you can generally use parmesan in a 1:1 ratio as a Cotija cheese substitute. It is used exponentially in Italian cuisine. However, it makes a great addition to Mexican food too.
Anejo is a type of Spanish-aged cheese. It is usually just aged queso fresco. Hence, it has a texture similar to queso fresco with a stronger flavor. It can easily be used as a substitute for cotija cheese.
Anejo often has a red hue on the rind. This is because it is often rolled in paprika to give it a spicy kick. Moreover, Anejo is generally drier and crumblier than cotija cheese.
Anejo also has very similar nutritional values to cotija cheese. Hence, even from a nutritional standpoint, Anejo works as a great substitute. However, an important thing to remember is that spice is often added to Anejo.
Generally, a 1:1 ratio for substitution works well. However, you may want to cut down the quantity of Anejo by a bit if you want the spice level to be milder.
5. Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is one of the oldest types of cheese out there. It has a nutty and salty flavor, similar to that of parmesan and cotija. Hence, it can be used as a substitute for cotija cheese.
Pecorino romano can work really well as a cotija cheese substitute in almost all savory recipes. It tends to work well for binding too. The salty flavor of pecorino romano adds a lot to a dish.
In fact, you can hardly tell the difference in case you use pecorino romano in place of Cotija cheese. You can use it in a 1:1 ratio as a Cotija cheese substitute.
6. Grana Padano
Grana Padano is a hard cheese with a nutty and mild taste. It does have a sweet undertone as compared to cotija cheese. However, it can still be used as a substitute for the same.
Grana padano is generally creamier than Cotija cheese. It may not give the same salty flavor as Cotija cheese. However, it will definitely make your food creamy and delicious.
Grana Padano particularly makes a great substitute, especially because of its similar texture to that of Cotija cheese. You can consider using Grana Padano in recipes where you don’t want the cheese to overpower the rest of the flavors.
7. Ricotta Salata
Ricotta Salata is a salted and aged version of ricotta cheese. Due to the aging and salting process, the flavor and texture of ricotta Salata are quite similar to that of cotija cheese. Hence, it can be used as a substitute for the same.
Ricotta Salata maybe a salted cheese. However, it is still milder in flavor than cotija cheese. It works best in recipes where you don’t want the cheese flavor to be too overpowering.
It can work well in an array of Mexican dishes such as tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas, along with soups, stews, and salads. Use ricotta Salata as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
Short Recap For Best Cotija Substitutes
These were a lot of substitutes for cotija cheese. I am sure you must have gone through all the substitutes by now. However, are you by any chance still confused about which substitute would work best in your recipe?
No need to worry! For that, I have broken it down further into three categories. Have a look!
Most Suitable: The most suitable cotija cheese substitute is Feta.
Easily Available: Parmesan is the most easily available substitute for cotija cheese.
Best Flavor Profile: Again, parmesan cheese will provide the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for cotija cheese.
As we have reached the end of this article, I hope you were able to find the best substitute for cotija cheese. Cotija cheese can definitely be difficult to find, considering the fact that it is usually imported from Mexico.
However, once you do find it, you might just get hooked on it! This cheese provides so much flavor to various types of food. Moreover, it can be sprinkled on top of Italian dishes such as pasta and pizzas as an alternative to parmesan cheese.
However, it still must be eaten in moderation, considering the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol it carries. Regardless, the next time you are out of cotija cheese, try using one of the substitutes, and I am sure they will work extremely well in your recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the equivalent of Cotija cheese?
Parmesan cheese is the closest to cotija cheese.
Is Cotija cheese expensive?
Usually, since Cotija cheese is imported from Mexico, it can be more expensive than various other types of cheese.
Is feta cheese the same as Cotija cheese?
No, they are both different types of cheese. While Cotija is generally made with cow’s milk, feta is made with either sheep or goat’s milk, or a combination of both.
Is queso fresco the same as Cotija cheese?
Queso fresco generally has a milder flavor than Cotija cheese. Moreover, it is less salty as compared to Cotija cheese. Hence, they are both different types of cheese.
Does Cotija cheese smell bad?
Since Cotija cheese is generally aged, it can have a very strong aroma.
Can you melt Cotija cheese?
Cotija cheese softens while heated, however, it does not really melt. It is best used to sprinkle on top of various foods.
Is Oaxaca cheese the same as Cotija cheese?
No, they are both different types of cheese. Oaxaca is milder in flavor and has a stringy texture similar to mozzarella cheese. Hence, that makes it quite different from Cotija cheese.
Can I freeze Cotija cheese?
Yes, Cotija cheese can be frozen for upto 9 months.
Can Cotija cheese be left out?
Yes, cotija cheese can be left at room temperature for upto 2 hours .
Can Cotija cheese be eaten by vegans?
Cotija cheese is made with cow’s milk. Hence, it is not a part of a vegan diet.
Can cotija cheese be eaten if you have lactose intolerance?
Cotija cheese does contain lactose since it is made from cow’s milk. Hence, it cannot be eaten if you are lactose intolerant.