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What Is Oaxaca Cheese? Your FAQ & Storage Guide

What Is Oaxaca Cheese? Your FAQ & Storage Guide

Ready to learn what is Oaxaca cheese? First, it’s pronounced Wah-HA-Kah, and aka Mexican Mozzarella!

Now, join me as we talk more about Oaxaca cheese: origin, taste, shelf life, and more!

Oaxaca cheese is in the mozzarella family of cheeses, a semisoft and white cheese made from cow’s milk.

Makers of this cheese stretch the curd into ribbons, which are then knotted or formed into a ball. Like in the mozzarella-making process, Oaxaca cheese gets dipped into salt water that creates a thin rind. (Cacique)

Oaxaca cheese is one of the over 1,800 different types of cheese in the world. 

There is a legend as to how the Mexicans created this cheese. 

The part that is a fact is this: milk left to curdle for too long loses moisture and crumbles.

But a little hot water can revive it, turning it into a sticky, stretchy mixture perfect for making string-cheese balls.

Dominican friars from Italy brought to Mexico the same technique they used to make mozzarella.

The Mexicans would stretch the curds and knead the long, ribbon-like strips into a ball the size of a softball.

Ultimately, it became known by a second name–Quesillo!

Now there are so many things one should know about Oaxaca or Quesillo.

This article lists the facts you must know about this type of cheese.

You’ll also find a few recipes at the bottom of this article, so you can try using the cheese in your cooking. 

Learn everything about Oaxaca cheese–its origin, flavor profile, shelf life, the cheesemaking process, and culinary uses!

How to say Oaxaca

Pronounced (Waa-HAH-kuh), Oaxaca is a type of cheese that looks like a delicious ball of string cheese. 

Any cheese connoisseur, aka Caseophile, needs to learn how to correctly say the names of cheese.

As this type of cheese has Spanish or Mexican origins, read H in place of X–just as the Spanish way of saying Mexico is “Meh-heeko.”

The name Oaxaca comes from the word “Huaxyacac,” which is of Nahuatl origin–an Uto-Aztecan language of the Nahua people living in Central Mexico. 

The “Huaxyacac” references a tree called “Guaje,” found around Oaxaca.

So for the sake of Turophiles or cheese lovers, it is essential to discuss root word origins and the correct pronunciation.

Pronounced (Waa-HAH-kuh), this type of cheese looks like a delicious ball of string cheese.

Where does Oaxaca cheese come from?

So, Oaxaca is a real place.

The cheese is native to its namesake city in Mexico

It is also in this location that one can find the best authentic semi-soft cheese that is the Quesillo!

You’ll find this cheese is very much like mozzarella regarding texture.

The reason for the similarities in consistency is that Oaxaca cheese also follows the same process as making Italian string cheese.

What does Oaxaca cheese taste like?

The Quesillo has an enjoyable taste. 

It has that melt-in-your-mouth goodness that’s hard to miss!

Kids will love its flavor’s lightness and its gooey, melty, creamy, buttery feel. 

The flavor is somewhat earthy yet mild and a little bit salty.

Those who tasted it found the cheese comparable to the flavors of a young or unaged Monterey jack–only with the textures of mozzarella.

Is Oaxaca cheese aged cheese?

No, Oaxaca is a semi-soft, fresh cheese, which means it is not kept in its rind for long periods of time to develop its flavor. 

It’s best to consume it on the same day it’s made. 

Otherwise, unopened fresh cheese, in particular Oaxaca, lasts up to a week in the fridge. 

Even before this time, molds may grow–making it unfit for consumption. 

When it comes to soft, fresh cheese, when you see any sign of mold, you should immediately throw it.

Don’t just slice away the part with the mold.

The entire cheese is unfit for consumption at this point.

Can you shred Oaxaca?

Quesillo holds its shape well, just like mozzarella–so to answer the question: Yes, you can shred Oaxaca cheese. 

It also melts quickly, making it a go-to cheese for baking quesadillas, chicken enchiladas, and chile Rellenos. 

You can also use it to garnish tacos, tostadas, beans, and soups. 

To shred Oaxaca, place the flat bottom of the Quesillo against the box grater.

Take note that the shredded pieces tend to melt quickly, so you better make use of it right away.

Is Oaxaca cheese the same as queso fresco?

No, Oaxaca cheese and queso fresco are different products. 

Queso fresco also is a famous cheese in Mexico; it’s a soft, spongy, and creamy cheese that tends to crumble like feta. 

However, both Oaxaca and queso fresco are fresh cheeses (neither has been aged).

Oaxaca is less tangy as queso fresco.

Also, queso fresco, aka cotija cheese, won’t melt since it has a more granular texture.

What kind of cheese is Oaxaca?

Oaxaca or quesillo is white, semi-soft, fresh cheese, and some brands hand-pull their cheese into ribbons, creating a ball. 

It is a semi-soft cheese made of cow’s milk. 

Originating from Mexico, this artisan cheese has characteristics similar to string cheese.

It has a slight saltiness and creaminess to it. 

It’s comparable to other cheeses like mozzarella and Monterey jack cheese that’s unaged.

What is Oaxaca used for?

The most straightforward recipe for Oaxaca cheese is to heat it in a pan with chorizo to make the tasty dip Queso Fundido.

Oaxaca cheese makes a good filling for enchiladas and rolled tortillas with beans or tomato sauce. 

This artisan cheese pairs equally well with unusual ingredients like the Mexican edible cactus Nopales, mushrooms with onions, poblano peppers, and chicharron or pork rinds. 

It’s also excellent with mac and cheese, pasta, and pasta-salad dishes. 

When baking with chicken dishes like enchiladas or making nachos and quesadillas, go for the melty, stretchy quesillo.

Also, the Oaxaca cheese is great with burgers, ribs, pork chops, shrimp, and an omelet.

Can you melt Oaxaca?

Without a doubt, this fresh cheese is the type that’s also a melting cheese.

In Mexico, it’s called an “Asadero” or roaster cheese, as it’s an easy-to-melt ingredient.

The white mild buttery cheese melts quickly, even while grating. 

The flavors of Oaxaca cheese will continue to develop and become richer while heating. 

There are different ways of melting Oaxaca cheese.

First, the double boiler method applies indirect heat to melt the cheese.

This process is suitable for when you want to keep the cheese from separating. 

You can also melt it in a bowl in the microwave, but you need to keep stirring it constantly–around every 20-second increment to prevent the cheese from separating.

How long does Oaxaca cheese last after opening it?

You can keep an unopened package of Oaxaca cheese in the fridge for a week.

But according to V&V Supremo, a popular cheese manufacturing company, the cheese should be kept in the refrigerator after opening, wrapped in plastic.

When stored this way, the consumer can take advantage of the cheese and use it within 4 days. 

You should store the Oaxaca in the coldest part of your fridge, far from the opening where the temperature changes often. 

Sealing the quesillo tightly in an airtight container or plastic wrap is also essential to its shelf life.

However, refrain from taking out the container now and then to take a few strips and then put them back into the fridge. 

Cheese needs a steady temperature, not where the temp fluctuates.

Storing it in the refrigerator door makes it subject to frequent temperature and humidity changes as it is frequently opened throughout the day.

Remember that Oaxaca cheese is a fresh cheese with a short storage life.

It is for immediate consumption.

How to store Oaxaca cheese

If you bought your cheese in a can, remember to refrigerate it at once, especially after opening it. 

Once opened, Oaxaca cheese will stay fresh in the fridge for several days, no longer than a week. 

The same goes for homemade cheese.

However, if you still have unopened Oaxaca cheese in its original packaging (can or vacuum-sealed plastic), the first thing to check is the expiration date on the packaging.

You can generally keep unopened commercially-produced Oaxaca cheese in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Oaxaca cheese doesn’t separate or crumble as much when frozen.

It can be pretty easy to grate once thawed.

Here’s a simple and efficient way to store Oaxaca cheese in your refrigerator: 

Tools needed:

  • Oaxaca cheese
  • Airtight container, plastic wrap
  • Refrigerator

Instructions for storing Oaxaca cheese in the refrigerator:

  • Place the opened package containing Oaxaca in an airtight container or plastic wrap. 
  • Note: You can also try these cheese storage bags.
  • Store the cheese in the refrigerator, preferably the coldest part of the fridge.

Where to find Oaxaca in most grocery stores?

Whenever you’re in Oaxaca, you can head to the local market for the freshest, most authentic-tasting quesillo. 

You can also try Latin American and Mexican grocery stores abroad. 

Some brands sell pre-shredded Oaxaca cheese in resealable bags.

Meanwhile, other cheesemongers sell Oaxaca based on the weight of the entire ball of string cheese. 

Also, try the specialty cheese section of your local grocers and Whole Food, Publix, and HEB.

It’s worth a shot to check out Costco, which sells the El Mexicano Queso Oaxaca Cheese.

Meanwhile, Walmart carries the brand Cacique Oaxaca Cheese.

How is Oaxaca cheese made?

Are you interested in attempting to make Quesillo at home? 

Keep in mind that it requires both skill and tons of patience to make this much-coveted artisan cheese. 

You would also need rennet enzymes from calves to separate the milk into liquid whey and solid curds. 

You may then soften the curds by fully submerging them in hot water.

The result will be a pliable, long, thin, stringy texture that you can knead into a ball.

Recipes that use Oaxaca cheese

Try this recipe to make your version of Quesillo at home. 

This recipe can last 7 to 10 days refrigerated. 

You can use it for various other dishes like the ones below.

It’s an addictive recipe that takes its cue from mozzarella sticks. 

To make it more Mexican, use freshly ground corn tortillas to coat the cheese’s exterior instead of Italian breadcrumbs. 

This recipe also adds a nice kick to this tasty appetizer.

If you love the taste of fried cheese, you’d also enjoy these on tacos layered with poblano peppers and spicy sauce.

There’s also the surprising bit of sweetness with the mango salsa.

Enjoy the burst of flavors with this dish!

You’ll need to know this easy recipe for delicious dips for game night.

Your guests will love the meaty-cheesy gooey taste, and you’ll love the ease of making it!

Buttered bread, thin slices of bacon, garlic powder, chili, and chipotle peppers are just some of the ingredients in this particular sandwich. 

It’s a unique take on grilled cheese that highlights the great taste of Oaxaca cheese.

The bottom line

Oaxaca cheese, which also goes by the name quesillo, is a particular type of cheese from Mexico.

It has a lightly salted taste that melts quickly, just like mozzarella. 

They are also similar when it comes to the cheesemaking process.

It’s perfect for baking and garnishing. 

It holds its shape well before it comes into contact with heat.

And since it’s a fresh cheese with a short storage life, it’s best consumed immediately!

How To Store Oaxaca Cheese In The Refrigerator

How To Store Oaxaca Cheese In The Refrigerator

Here’s a simple and efficient way to store Oaxaca cheese in your refrigerator so you can enjoy the cheese for a few days after opening.


  • Oaxaca cheese
  • Airtight container or plastic wrap
  • Refrigerator


  1. Place the opened package containing Oaxaca in an airtight container or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. 
  2. You can also try cheese wraps.
  3. Store the cheese in the refrigerator, preferably the coldest part of the fridge.

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