9 Best Substitutes For Cotija Cheese

Cotija cheese is a famous Mexican artisan cheese; it is the Mexican version of parmesan used for savory dishes, snacks, and soups. It adds a unique taste profile to dishes.

Because Cotija cheese is mainly produced in Mexico, you may find it hard to get in some locations, and even when you do, it is a little bit expensive because it is imported.

Fortunately, plenty of cheeses can serve as suitable substitutes for cotija cheese, such as feta cheese, añejo cheese, parmesan cheese, Grana Padano cheese, queso fresco cheese, ricotta Salata, and pecorino romano cheese.

Let’s quickly learn more about these cotija cheese alternatives and how they can be used to replace cotija cheese.

What Is Cotija Cheese?

Cotija cheese is also known as Mexican parmesan; it is made from cow’s milk and has a crumbly texture and salty taste. It is available in two different types: fresh and aged.

Both types of Cotija cheese are relatively salty, but the fresh version has a soft and milder taste while the aged version is much more intense.

Cotija cheese Is a prized item for Mexican cuisine, mainly because it doesn’t melt. This makes it the perfect garnish for dishes like beans, tacos, and tostadas.

Cotija cheese has an intense tangy and saltier taste compared to parmesan. It also provides notes of sour butter and pineapple, depending on the season it was produced.

The cheese gets its sharp taste from the combination of rock salt and milk. It gets tangier as it ages, so the aged variety has a funkier taste.

Best Substitutes For Cotija Cheese

1. Feta cheese

Feta can be regarded as the Mediterranean cousin of cotija and adds the perfect tangy bite to your dish. Feta makes an excellent substitute for fresh cotija, as it has a similar ability to crumble to perfection.

Feta originated from Greece and has a creamy texture with a salty aroma that complements any dish it is added to. It can also be served alone with some fine olive oil and crusty bread.

Feta is reasonably easy to find, and you can get this cheese from your local grocery store. It is crumbly cheese like cotija, so you can crumble the tasty cheese and sprinkle as much as you would want onto your meal.

Feta possesses so many similarities to cotija, so you do not need to make any adjustments when making a substitution. Unlike cotija cheese, feta is typically packaged in brine, so be mindful of the liquid when using feta; make necessary adjustments to the amount of salt you add to the meal.

2. Queso Fresco

This cheese is often compared to mozzarella as opposed to cotija but possesses similar properties that make it a suitable substitute for cotija cheese.

Queso fresco loosely translates to fresh cheese; it has a combination of great flavors that makes it a great addition to any dish that includes dairy and any Mexican dish in particular.

This cheese is slightly more acidic but crumbles very well and can be sprinkled over dishes such as tacos and salads. Because queso fresco is a tad more acidic, you’ll need to reduce the rest of the other acid-heavy ingredients such as lime or tomato you use in the dish.

3. Anejo cheese

Añejo simply translates to aged in Spanish. As the cheese matures, it becomes firmer, making it suitable for grating and shredding.

Añejo is actually just an older version of queso fresco; it has a similar flavor but a harder consistency. This cheese is often rolled in paprika to give it a spicy kick and usually has a red hue rind due to its seasoning.

You can use this sharp cheese for any dish that calls for cotija because of its similar tangy saltiness. Añejo cheese has a robust flavor like its Hispanic cousin, cotija.”

When using grated añejo rather than cotija in a dish like a spicy burrito, you may want to reduce the amount of cheese you use due to the added spice.

4. Parmesan cheese

Cotija is part of the parmesan family; it is considered the Mexican counterpart of parmesan, so it works as a successful substitute for Mexican cheese. You can grate parmesan as you would an aged cotija.

Parmesan cheese is a staple in many households, and you probably have some in the refrigerator; it can be used in a pasta dish or to fix up a quick chicken parmesan. This quick and easy alternative to cotija can be used in any recipe.

Parmesan has a salty taste paired with its sparkling texture, but keep in mind is that the more aged parmesan is, the stronger the flavor will be.

Taste your dish as you replace cotija with parmesan to ensure that the cheese flavors aren’t overpowering and are providing your desired taste.

5. Grana Padano

This is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. Grana Padano cheese has a crystal-like appearance and texture that is similar to parmesan but with a creamier finish.

This is a hard cheese with a bit of nutty and mild taste. Grana Padano originates from northern Italy and is aged for at least nine months; this allows the cheese to develop a unique flavor.

Grana Padano matches cotija cheese in terms of texture, making it a useable substitute. This is a delicious cheese but has a sweeter hint and low-key flavor, impacting the recipe’s overall taste.

Using grana Padano in place of cotija may steer the dish away from the authentic flavor, but you are definitely going to achieve the perfect creamy and gooey dish.

If you can’t stand strong flavors, this might be the option for you. Grana Padano has a very mild taste and is fairly cheaper than the rest of other imported Italian cheeses like parmesan.

6. Pecorino Romano

This is another Italian cheese that is a little less talked about, unlike its famous counterpart, Parmigiano Reggiano. Pecorino romano has a very complex flavor and can be used in various dishes. It is one of the oldest Italian cheeses you can find on shelves today.

Pecorino Romano has a strong nutty flavor that perfectly complements pasta recipes and can be used to substitute cotija cheese without hesitation.

It is a hard cheese with a funky and tangy essence that resembles cotija enough to be used as an alternative in recipes. You can use a one-for-one ratio when swapping pecorino romano for cotija.

7. Ricotta Salata

It is easy to confuse ricotta Salata for the fluffy and versatile fresh ricotta cheese used in lasagnas and stuffed shells, but they are two different types of cheese.

Ricotta Salata is aged, which gives it a salty taste. It is aged for at least three months, and this achieves a deliciously tangy cheese with a  dense consistency, which makes it easy to grate and use in replacement of shredded cotija cheese.

This salty, crumbly cheese has an aroma of a light, fresh cheese with a hearty dry texture and a slight milky taste. This firm cheese is commonly used in Sicilian cuisine and is an excellent addition to salads and any Mexican-inspired dish calling for cotija.

Vegan Cojita Cheese Substitutes

8. Almond-Based Vegan Cotija

If you have certain diet restrictions, you can make your own cotija cheese. You will likely find the ingredients to make a dairy-free cotija substitute at your corner store.

You’ll need some almonds, olive juice, lemon, and a bit of salt, to make a vegan version of cotija. The olive oil gives this pseudo cheese the same briny note and depth as real cheese.

The texture of this vegan cojita cheese also matches that of real cotija; it crumbles perfectly and can be sprinkled on tacos, salad, or whatever Mexican dish, especially if it is plant-based.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, pulse and blend for about five minutes before transferring the mixture into a cheesecloth, squeeze out any extra liquid, and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours. After which, your perfect bundle of cheese is ready to be enjoyed and used to complete your dish.

9. Tofu-Based Vegan Cotija

Another dairy-free option you can use in place of cotija cheese is to make a tofu-based vegan cheese. Because this recipe features tofu as opposed to the typical nut such as almond or cashew, they turn out creamy with a tangy punch.

To make this, you’ll need tofu, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, and some salt. Reduce the water content of the tofu by straining it with a cheesecloth; this helps to achieve that ideal crumbly texture of cotija.

Nutritional yeast gives the dish its cheesy taste. You can use this vegan version of cotija in recipes that call for the original cotija cheese and still achieve a delicious result.

You can make tofu-based cotija cheese ahead of time, and it stays fresh for up to a week; this helps save time when making a vegan dinner.

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