Cotija Cheese: Substitutes, Ingredients, Recipes
You’ll adore the popular Mexican cotija cheese if you like salty, crumbly cheese. It’s one of my favorites and I use it frequently in my dishes.
Cotija cheese is a crumbly Mexican cheese that can be found in a variety of dishes. Everything from refried beans to elote benefit from its salty, sour flavor.
Let’s have a look at this delectable Mexican cheese, as well as the various methods to consume it!
Cotija Cheese is a cow’s milk cheese made in Mexico that is used to top everything from soups to tacos to salads.
The cotija cheese’s mild and tangy flavor has made it a staple in many Mexican states, particularly Michoacán, where it originated.
Cotija cheese is traditionally aged for 100 to 12 months, which helps to dry it out (it doesn’t melt when heated), making it ideal for crumbling or grating over dishes.
What is Cotija Cheese?
Cotija is a crumbly Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk that has a salty flavor.
Cotija cheese is named after the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacan, and it comes in two varieties: fresh and aged (or aejo). It’s commonly used as a topping for elotes, or grilled corn.
Despite the fact that both sorts are salty, the fresh version is soft, whilst the aged version is much tougher, similar to Parmesan.
Cotija Cheese Substitutes
Cotija can be found in most Mexican supermarkets. Try these substitutes if you don’t have it on hand.
- Parmigiano Reggiano: is a type of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Parmesan is an Italian hard cheese that can be used to replace crumbled cotija when grated.
Parmesan cheese, unlike cotija, melts and is slightly less salty, so taste your dish and season with sea salt if necessary.
- Pecorino Romano: is a hard cheese made from pecorino Romano sheep’s milk. The pecorino Romano is an Italian cheese that is similar to Parmesan but is manufactured from sheep’s milk instead of cow’s milk. Pecorino is saltier than Parmesan and thus a better cotija alternative.
- Ricotta Salata: is a dried and aged version of the well-known fresh Italian cheese, ricotta. It works well as a stand-in for fully aged cotija.
- Feta cheese: Feta is a sheep’s milk cheese from Greece (or a combination of goat and sheep milk).
It has a crumbly texture that is more akin to cotija than the other cheeses on this list.
- Queso fresco: Queso fresco literally translates to “fresh cheese,” and it refers to a variety of crumbly or soft cheeses that haven’t been matured.
- Queso aejo: Queso aejo is an aged Mexican cheese (the term “aejo” means “old”) that was previously made with goat milk but is now more typically made with skim milk and rolled in paprika. It has a milder flavor than cotija and is easily grateable.
Different Ways to Use Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese has a savory, salty flavor and a crumbly texture that goes well with a range of dishes.
The cotija should be added to meals at the last minute because it does not melt. Cotija cheese is commonly served in the following ways:
- Tacos: Set up a taco bar with warm homemade tortillas, pickled red onions, chopped cilantro, and cotija cheese bowls—it goes well with almost any taco filling.
- Elotes: are corn on the cob slathered in sour cream or mayonnaise, then topped with cotija cheese, cilantro, lime juice, and ancho chili powder.
- Tostadas with beans and cheese: To make a quick and satisfying snack, top crispy handmade tostadas with refried beans and cotija cheese.
- Wet burritos and enchiladas: Cotija gives these creamy, saucy foods a pleasant textural boost.
- Quesadillas: Fill heated tortillas with vegetables and melted cheese, such as Oaxacan cheese, cheddar, or mozzarella, then fold them in half. For added saltiness, fry in oil and top with a sprinkling of aged cotija.
Queso Fresco vs. Cotija Cheese
These two Mexican kinds of cheese are frequently interchangeable in recipes, though queso fresco lacks the same deep tang as cotija cheese.
Both are made with cow’s milk and have a nice crumble, so they’re great as a condiment or tasty garnish.
The primary difference between these two types of cheese is their age.
Cotija cheese takes three to a year to mature, whereas queso fresco, which means “fresh cheese,” is ready to consume practically immediately.
These are the most widely available Mexican cheeses in grocery stores around the world.
Uses for Cotija Cheese
Elote and esquites, which combine grilled corn with lime-tinged crema and finely grated cotija, are two of the most popular cotija cheese dishes.
Some recipes call for either cotija cheese or queso fresco, a milder and softer Mexican cheese than cotija.
Cotija has a greater body and a stronger bite, which allows it to stand up to the chili powder and corn sweetness better. Cotija can be used in a variety of ways.
This cow’s milk cheese goes well with almost any cuisine, but it’s especially good with hot tomato or chile-based foods and citrus-based dishes.
When grated finely, it has an adhesive characteristic that works well when you want the cheese to attach to meals.
It looks and tastes great on black bean soup, chicken mole, Mexican street tacos, and nachos, among other things.
How to Cook With Cotija Cheese
Cotija, unlike most cheeses, does not melt when heated.
This makes it a fantastic component for topping a hot meal when you want the color and shape of the cheese to keep the same.
Cotija cheese is frequently used as a garnish, but it’s also worth trying on its own, even if you’re not making a Mexican dish.
The cotija makes a great salad cheese and may also be used in meatballs, vegetarian burgers, and other dishes where feta is the major dairy ingredient.
Cotija cheese is delicious on its own or as part of a charcuterie board.
What Does It Taste Like?
The flavor of Cotija cheese is comparable to that of feta cheese: strong, acidic, and salty.
Cotija that is younger can be crumbled or chopped up to provide a unique flavor to a dish, whilst older cotija is great for grating.
It isn’t creamy cheese at all. It has a chewy texture and a heartier, fluffier mouthfeel.
Recipes for Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese recipe is more of a garnish than a recipe’s main ingredient.
Enchiladas, salads, scrambled eggs, guacamole, and soups all benefit from a fresh and creamy coating.
Add a handful of cheese on top even if the recipe doesn’t call for it.
Where can I Buy Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is available in many large supermarkets, particularly those with a diverse selection of international products.
The cotija cheese is virtually always available in Latin markets, and they have a wider variety of brands and maturations to choose from. Cotija cheese is available as a block or pre-grated product.
The latter has a fine texture, similar to fluffy snow, and is ideal for coating elote or topping enchiladas.
Storage for Cotija Cheese
Refrigerate the cotija cheese in an airtight container until ready to use.
Cotija is frequently sold in pre-grated packets with a resealable cap. If not, place the cheese in a sealable bag or container.
It should last for around a month, depending on how long the cheese has been cured. Cotija that has been aged may survive much longer. If the cheese develops mold or has an off-odor, it should be discarded.
People are also inquiring
- What is the cotija cheese equivalent?
Feta is a fantastic substitute for fresh cotija cheese. Parmesan or Romano cheese is a decent alternative for aged cotija cheese.
- Is cotija cheese similar to feta cheese?
Feta cheese has a crumbly texture and a salty flavor comparable to cotija cheese, but it’s usually easier to come by.
This alternative is widely accepted in the culinary world, yet cotija has a distinct flavor that is well worth the wait if you can obtain it.
- What is the flavor of cotija cheese?
Cotija is a mild, salty cheese made from cow’s milk.
It’s dubbed “Mexican Parmesan” for its ability to bring salt, oil, and umami to a wide range of Mexican dishes. Other cheeses have a saltier flavor than Cotija.
- Is cotija the same as queso cheese?
Taste: Queso fresco has a milder flavor than cotija and isn’t nearly as salty, especially cotija that has been aged for a long period.
Texture: Queso fresco has a softer, moister texture than cotija, which is drier and more hard.
- Is cotija cheese moldy?
Cotija is made from cow’s milk and goes through the standard acidity (by lactic acid bacteria) and rennet coagulation processes to become a curd.
Cut the curd, drain it, and press it into a mold.
- How do you use cotija cheese from Mexico?
It goes especially well with elote, a classic corn-on-the-cob meal topped with mayonnaise, cotija, and Tajn spice.
It’s great in salads, as a burger layer, or as a garnish for your favorite chili dish. The choices are unlimited when it comes to cotija.
- Is there a difference between fresco and cotija cheese?
Cotija cheese is a sort of cow’s milk cheese named after the municipality of the same name in Mexico.
Unlike queso fresco, which has a mild flavor, cotija can provide a punch to any dish.
That’s why you shouldn’t use too much of it so that the flavor doesn’t become overwhelming.
- Is it possible to melt cotija?
Cotija softens but does not melt when heated, making it ideal for crumbling and sprinkling.
Of course, it’s most commonly found in Mexican cuisine, where it’s used as a garnish on enchiladas, nachos, tacos, chilaquiles, and posole.
- Is it necessary to keep Cotija cheese refrigerated?
Keep fresh cheeses like Queso Blanco or Ricotta refrigerated in their original packaging.
If properly stored, Cheddar, Feta, Cotija, Mozzarella, and other hard or semi-hard cheeses can last four to eight weeks.