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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. 

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.

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 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:

  1. Tex-Mex Quinoa salad 
  2. Mexican Street Corn
  3. Beef Taco Salad
  4. Elotes
  5. Black Bean Tostada
  6. Cotija-crusted Quesadillas 
  7. Cheese Enchiladas
  8. Salsa Roja
  9. Potato and Bacon Soup
  10. Cotija Grilled Shrimp

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.

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.

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.

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 cheese.com, 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.

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.

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.

Ingredients

  • Parmigiano reggiano

Instructions

  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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