All recipes that call for cotija cheese are simply delicious, aren’t they? Not just for Mexican cuisine, you can use it to top your salads, layer it on a burger, sprinkle it on corn on the cob, or add it as a garnish for your favorite chili recipe. When it comes to cotija, the possibilities are literally endless.
But what happens if you need to make something that includes cotija cheese and can’t find it in the grocery store? Should you just skip over those pages in the recipe book and make something else instead? Absolutely NOT!
The truth is that cotija cheese has quite a few substitutes that have a similar dry, crumbly texture with a strong salty flavor. Sounds good, right?
Well, get those recipe books out, folks. Because if you love cotija cheese as much as us but can’t find it in the grocery store, or maybe you’re just looking to experiment using different cheeses in your meals, we’ve lined up some great substitutes for cotija cheese, including vegan options.
Table of contents
- Best substitutes for cotija cheese
- 1. Queso Fresco
- 2. Cotija Molido
- 3. Feta Cheese
- 4. Goat Cheese Crumbles
- 5. Romano Cheese
- 6. Parmesan Cheese
- 7. Ricotta Salata
- 8. Grana Padano
- 9. Pecorino Romano
- 10. Anejo
- 11. Vegan Cotija
- 12. Tofu Cotija
- 13. Violife Just Like Parmesan
- 14. Gorwydd Caerphilly
- 15. Wensleydale
- 16. Cottage Cheese
- 17. Homemade Cotija Cheese
- Recipes with cotija cheese
Best substitutes for cotija cheese
1. Queso Fresco
Topping our list of the best substitutes for cotija cheese is this fluffy and creamy Mexican cow’s milk cheese — Queso Fresco. While it was traditionally made from raw cow milk, you can easily find pasteurized versions nowadays.
Queso Fresco which literally translates to “fresh cheese” in Spanish, is a wonderful stand-in for cotija due to its buttery texture. The texture is somewhat drier when compared to cotija, but it’s incredibly similar in flavor.
Use it as a 1 to 1 substitute for your soup garnishes and salads. In fact, queso fresco is commonly used in Mexico, crumbled on top of the classic dishes to add a unique flavor. The fluffy and airy texture of queso fresco gives it the appearance of froth, which floats beautifully on the surface.
So, the next time you find queso fresco in the store or happen to have some on hand, use it to complement heavier dishes like huevos rancheros, enchiladas, and tacos or simply use it as a delicious cheese dip.
2. Cotija Molido
If you are looking for a finely grounded version of cotija cheese, cotija molido is probably the perfect pick.
Since this variety is perfectly grounded to perfection, you can use it in many recipes that require you to use a version of cheese that is grated finely.
This substitute of regular cotija cheese is widely used in various recipes, such as pizzas, soups, or pastas. It has a distinct taste that mimics the flavor and aroma of regular cotija cheese, which would be a tasty treat for your taste buds.
3. Feta Cheese
This cotija cheese substitute has a rich texture that will melt in your mouth.
Feta cheese’s distinct, saltish flavor will surely appeal to your taste buds. Moreover, it can add a rich, creamy touch to any dish you like.
If you like to tantalize your taste buds, you can top it up with olive oil and spread it on freshly baked bread.
This super tasty cheese is easily available in the market, unlike the mostly unavailable cotija cheese or out of stock in most markets.
If you want to use Feta instead of cotija cheese, then simply shred it and top up your meals for enhancing the flavorful experience.
4. Goat Cheese Crumbles
If you were looking for cotija cheese but cannot find it, worry no more. We have come up with another amazing substitute for it which is ‘goat cheese crumbles.’
Yes, you heard it right! Goat cheese crumbles are firmer in texture. Their texture is closer to feta cheese, but the taste is even better.
Goat cheese crumbles are not just a great substitute for normal cotija cheese, but they also turn out to be an excellent replacement for aged cotija cheese, which has a potent flavor and aroma.
Goat cheese crumbles can mimic the aroma and taste of both regular and aged cotija cheese, which is a must-have ingredient in Mexican dishes.
5. Romano Cheese
Perfect for lactose-intolerant folks, romano cheese makes a wonderful aged cotija substitute. This aged, hard cheese comes from pasteurized or unpasteurized animal and plant milk.
As far texture goes, it’s grainy, hard, and grates super easily. The best thing about this salty, pungent cheese is that it’s readily available in stores. You can slice it up with or without the skin and use it as a 1 to 1 substitute, just like you would parmesan.
You’ll be glad to know that besides being absolutely delicious, romano cheese consists of many important nutrients, including Zinc, Vitamin B12, Phosphorus, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B2.
6. Parmesan Cheese
Since cotija is a part of the parmesan family, this sharp and nutty hard cheese works as a wonderful stand-in for Mexican cheese. Since parmesan grates beautifully, just like an aged cotija, you can swap it out in any recipe — From pasta dishes to a quick parmesan chicken.
Depending on the manufacturer, this pale-yellow Italian cheese ages 1 to 2 years. But keep in mind that while parmesan is a great substitute for cotija, it isn’t cheap. A small piece of parmesan can cost you up to $20, whereas a wheel costs as high as $1000. And the reason why parmesan is so expensive is because of the amount of milk that goes into making the cheese.
Since parmesan’s flavor can get quite strong as it ages, keep tasting as you cook your meals to make sure the cheese flavor isn’t too overwhelming.
7. Ricotta Salata
Not many people know that the fluffy, fresh ricotta present in lasagnas and stuffed shells is different from ricotta Salata. Ricotta Salata is actually the salted and aged version of normal ricotta. The addition of Salata means salted. Following the cheese-making process, it is tightly pressed to remove any liquid and aged for nearly three months.
And this process leads to a deliciously tangy cheese with a super consistency and awesome grating abilities that make ricotta Salata an incredible cotija replacement. With ricotta Salata, you enjoy the aroma of a light, fluffy cheese with a hearty dry texture that crumbles beautifully on salads and a ton of Mexican-inspired dishes.
8. Grana Padano
This crowd-favorite Italian cheese is like parmesan with a crystal-like appearance, hard consistency but with a creamier finish. This hard cheese with a slightly nutty, albeit mildly soft bite, originates from northern Italy. Following production, it’s aged for nearly 9 months and develops a uniquely delicious flavor with a sweeter taste.
You can use Grana Padano as a one-to-one swap for a more subtle flavor than cotija with a creamier and cheesier finish. Since it’s so mild, Grana Padano cheese is an amazing cheese alternative for folks with a sensitive palate.
What’s more, this cotija substitute is super cost-effective. And unlike most expensive Italian cheeses like parmesan, Grana Padano isn’t super costly.
9. Pecorino Romano
Incredibly hard, crumbly, with a saltier and stronger flavor than your regular parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano is a wonderful substitute for cotija cheese.
Made from sheep’s milk, this delicious Italian cheese was once part of a stable diet for the Roman army. In fact, it’s one of the oldest cheeses in Italy that is still made according to the original recipe.
You can use it in your favorite pasta dishes, breads, soups, risottos, and pizzas.
When it comes to anejo cheese — the cheese turns into a hard block that is easily grated or shredded as it ages.
Since it’s actually an older form of queso fresco, the flavor is somewhat similar, but the consistency is harder. While it mixes the same way as cotija, it’s a lot more crumbly and slightly drier. When fresh, Anejo crumbles beautifully into salads.
Keep in mind paprika is added to anejo during its making process to impart an additional zing to its sharp flavor. If you’re putting together a spicy enchilada, you may want to hold back on the cheese just a bit.
Furthermore, while Anejo is loaded with calcium, phosphorus, and protein, it is somewhat high in sodium and saturated fat.
11. Vegan Cotija
Another wonderful cotija cheese substitute, this vegan cotija is perfect for vegans who still want to indulge in cojita’s cheesy goodness. Unlike other processed vegan cheeses, the texture and taste of vegan cotija hit just right.
Now it definitely isn’t like the original; however, it definitely evokes the similar sensation and taste of cotija cheese.
For starters, it gives a rich and fresh flavor to your Mexican cuisines. Being made up of slivered almonds, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil, vegan cotija is beautifully crumbly and salty with tangy flavor notes.
Best of all, there’s no dairy whatsoever, and it’s simply delicious. You can use it to top your soups, salads, enchiladas, and pastas perfectly.
12. Tofu Cotija
There are many people who are allergic to different products, such as nuts or deliberately want to say no to products that include any animal cruelty. If you are amongst such people, then Tofu Cotija is the best substitute.
This version of cotija is made up of organic products, such as ACV (apple cider vinegar), yeast, and salt.
Many people like to experiment in the kitchen and make DIY products, which taste great and are indeed very healthy and satisfying.
If you have the time and energy to make your version of cheese, then this is the best pick for you.
13. Violife Just Like Parmesan
Are you one of those who like to keep things organic and vegan yet find the taste of parmesan the best out of all sorts of cheese? Then let us break it for you that you can devour your favorite kind of cheese without compromising it for being non-vegan.
Yes, you heard that right! Violife has a taste that is very similar to the traditional parmesan cheese. The premade vegan violife cheese mimics the salty taste and mouth-watering aroma of cotija.
The good news is that this amazing version of cheese is available in the majority of the grocery stores, so finding Violife cheese won’t be a hassle for you anymore.
14. Gorwydd Caerphilly
If you are a cheese lover, then you must know that a cheese that is white with a super crumbly texture can be a great substitute for the traditional cotija cheese. We have picked up another great option that is available in the market for you, and it is called the Gorwydd Caerphilly cheese.
This amazing version of English cheese can be a great replacement for regular cotija cheese. The tangy aroma and salty taste are what your taste buds would thank you for. The crumbly texture would allow you to top up several dishes, as per your liking.
If you are a fan of English cheese and love the taste and texture of regular cotija cheese, you will love the Wensleydale cheese. This amazing version of cheese mimics the taste, aroma, and texture of the natural Cotija cheese to a great extent.
However, it is more likely to be similar to ricotta cheese, as it has a sweet and tangy taste.
The sweet touch in this super tasty Wensleydale cheese can be a great topping for a variety of dishes, including nachos, tacos, and salads as well.
Wensleydale cheese is comparatively mild in taste and has a distinct sweet aroma and flavor, which is similar to honey.
16. Cottage Cheese
Whether you eat it on its own or along with sweet treats such as berries and honey, cottage cheese is definitely a good substitute for cotija cheese.
Made through the same process as mozzarella, cottage cheese is creamy and slightly sweet. Although remember that it tastes the best when consumed fresh. So make sure you check the expiration date on the package before purchasing.
Moister and softer than your regular cotija cheese, cottage cheese is one of the healthiest substitutes on our list so far. Loaded with proteins and calcium but low on calories, cottage cheese is the perfect low-calorie cheese to add to your daily diet routine. If you can’t part with your weekend dose of a pizza, you can eat it guilt-free by substituting your cheese with cottage cheese instead.
17. Homemade Cotija Cheese
Feel adventurous? Try making your own homemade cheese.