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Cotija Cheese Substitute: 5 Decent Alternatives To Rely On

Cotija Cheese Substitute: 5 Decent Alternatives To Rely On

It’s so nice to have a cotija cheese substitute handy in your fridge, and we’ve discovered a few that do the job just fine and dandy. 

If you want to learn more about the delicious Mexican cheese called cotija cheese and the best substitute for cotija cheese, you have come to the right place.

Here you will even learn where cotija cheese originated from and the best ways to use cotija cheese.

It’s not always easy to find alternatives in the kitchen when you need them.

These four substitutes instead of cotija cheese work on eloté, tacos, on top of queso, and a mixture of two or more works even better. 

No need to run to the store if you have any of these four cotija cheese alternatives.

It may not always be practical to keep every kind of cheese around, and it can be kind of a bummer if you thought you had what you needed but SURPRISE! It’s gone.

Aged cheese is hardy and that means you can often keep shaved parmigiano or whole pieces stored in your refrigerator for weeks.

Feta, even crumbled, usually lasts for a month when it’s kept chilled and covered. 

So if you run out of cotija cheese, check your fridge and see if you have any of these great substitutes on hand.

SubstituteFlavor/Texture ComparisonSuggested Ratio
Queso FrescoLess salty, similar texture1:1 with Cotija, add sea salt if needed
Feta CheeseSalty, tangy, similar textureEqual amounts as Cotija
Parmigiano ReggianoSavory, sharp, less saltyStart smaller, add sea salt, adjust
Pecorino Romano CheeseSaltier and sharper than Parmesan1:1 ratio, adjust for saltiness
Ricotta SalataFirm, salty, similar to aged Cotija1:1 with Cotija
A close-up photo of a grilled corn cob topped with white grated cotija cheese and a dollop of white sauce.

Cotija cheese substitutes

If you’re running low or out of cotija cheese and can’t make a trip to the grocery store, don’t frown!

Fortunately, there are a few good substitutes for cotija cheese—look closely, as you probably already have these replacements in your kitchen!

1. Queso fresco

Since queso fresco literally means “fresh cheese” in Spanish and has a slightly salty taste but features a milder flavor, this is a good reason that the cheese would be a great substitute, especially fresh cotija cheese. 

To use it as a substitute. Keep in mind that it’s slightly less salty than cotija so better taste your dish and add sea salt if needed.

  • Slightly less salty but similar in texture to fresh Cotija.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use in a 1:1 ratio with Cotija, adding a bit of sea salt if needed.

2. Feta cheese

Made from sheep’s milk or a blend of goat and sheep milk, feta cheese features a salty and tangy flavor with a strong aroma that’s quite similar to cotija cheese. 

Other than that, this variety also has crumbly and grainy texture, perfect for sprinkling over salads, soups, roasted vegetables, and pasta.

  • Salty and tangy, similar in texture to Cotija.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use equal amounts as Cotija.

3. Parmigiano reggiano

Commonly known as parmesan cheese, parmigiano reggiano is Italian hard cheese notable for its savory and sharp aftertaste. 

However, unlike cotija, parmigiano reggiano can be used as a table cheese and can be melted. 

Since it’s less salty, it’s best to add sea salt into your recipe when you use parmesan instead of cotija cheese. 

Also, start with a smaller quantity when replacing and work your way up.

  • Savory and sharp, less salty than Cotija.
  • Suggested Ratio: Start with a smaller amount, add sea salt, and adjust to match Cotija’s flavor.

4. Pecorino romano cheese

Considered as one of the most ancient types of cheese, pecorino romano is incredibly crumbly with a saltier and sharper flavor than parmesan cheese, making it a good candidate for cotija substitute. 

According to, this variety was a part of the staple diet of soldiers at war way back in the Roman times. 

It’s used in pasta dishes, bread, sauces, risottos, pizzas, and soups.

  • Saltier and sharper than Parmesan, closer to Cotija.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use in a 1:1 ratio, but adjust for saltiness as needed.

5. Ricotta salata

Take note, ricotta salata and ricotta are two different cheese varieties. 

Ricotta salata is the aged version of ricotta that features a firm texture and salty flavor. 

Due to its distinctive textural nuance and taste, ricotta salata is undeniably one of the decent substitutes for aged cotija cheese.

  • Firm texture and salty flavor, similar to aged Cotija.
  • Suggested Ratio: Use in a 1:1 ratio with Cotija.

What is cotija cheese

Cotija is a type of cheese typically made from cow’s milk. 

It originated in Mexico and was named after the town of Cotija, Michoacán, where the cheese was once made by local cheese makers in the high mountains nearly 400 hundred years ago.

Traditional cotija cheese consists of unpasteurized milk from pasture-raised cows, salt, and rennet then undergoes an aging process for at least 100 days. 

Cotija, pronounced as ko-TEE-hah, isn’t consumed as a table cheese due to its saltiness. 

It has a distinct white color, with a crumbly, dense textural nuance, and addictively salty and strong flavor. 

Cooks utilize the cheese to elevate the flavor of their recipes, such as crispy taquitos, corn on the cob (eloté), tinga tacos, stuffed poblano peppers, nachos, and guacamole. 

Nationwide, cotija is also used as a grating cheese. 

You can garnish it with chili, sprinkle it over salad, soups, or pasta, or layer it on your favorite burger recipe.

What does cotija cheese taste like?

The flavor of cotija cheese can be described as very salty and sharp at the same time. 

It has a briny taste that outpaces supermarket cheddar cheeses, which usually contain about 1 1/2 percent salt.

As the cheese ages,its taste drastically changes and becomes sharper and stronger. Aged cotija does not melt.

If you have tried parmigiano reggiano and ricotta salata, these varieties resemble the salty flavor and dry texture of cotija, making it a good substitute for the aged cheese.

What Is Cotija Cheese Similar To?

Cotija cheese is similar to feta cheese and Parmiginao reggiano.

Parmigiano Reggiano is similar in flavor but less salty but it is also a harder cheese than cotija cheese.

Feta cheese has a stronger flavor and texture that is more similar to cotija cheese.

Is Feta Cheese And Cotija Cheese The Same Thing?

No, feta and cotija are not the same cheese.

The two kinds of cheese do taste fairly similar but they are made from different types of milk.

Cotija cheese is traditionally made from cow’s milk.

Feta cheese is made in two different methods. The first and most common method is from sheep’s milk.

The second method is from a combination of sheep’s milk and goat milk.

A close-up photo of a block of Cotija cheese, a crumbly white cheese often used in Mexican cuisine.

What is cotija cheese used for?

There are several ways to incorporate that cotija cheese flavor in your daily cooking. 

Since it’s salty and sharp, it pairs well with savory dishes such as taquitos, corn on the cob, tinga tacos, and stuffed poblano peppers.

Cotija crumbles easily and enhances sweet and acidic flavors.

Following are some of my favorite recipes that involve using cotija cheese:

The bottom line

We’ve discovered that these four cotija cheese substitutes work well in many dishes. 

There is something salty, sharp and crumbly about all of them that allows for a cotija alternative. 

So if you’ve run out and your eloté really needs the cheese, try one of these or even a combination. 

You may even find your new favorite aged cheese.

4 Cotija Cheese Substitutes

4 Cotija Cheese Substitutes

Here are 4 cotija cheese substitutes you can use if you are out of cotija.


  • Parmigiano reggiano


  1. Pick parmigiano reggiano as your cotija substitute.
  2. To ensure that you get the closest taste to cotija as possible, add a pinch of sea salt to your recipes if needed. 
  3. Start with a smaller quantity when replacing them and work your way up.

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