Best Substitutes for Cotija cheese

Best Substitutes for Cotija cheese
Best Substitutes for Cotija cheese

Cotija is known as Queso Cotija is a dry grating cheese that comes from the town Cotija in Michoacán, Mexico. This cheese is made from raw cow milk, and it is white in color resembling some of its substitutes, viz, feta in terms of looks and Parmigiano-Reggiano in terms of taste. The cheese changes its flavor characteristics over time. However, fresh Cotija is white and very salty. Originally, making cotija cheese would require aging raw cow’s milk for a whole three months up to a year, however thanks to the scientific advances; we are able to speed up the process by using certain special enzymes which also boost the flavor of the cheese. Cotija has a strong and salty taste with a crumby and dense texture.

Many individuals find this cheese perfect to use for tacos, salads, chili, pasta, casseroles, tostadas, soups, and the list goes on.

Its versatility and popularity often make the stores run out of this amazing cheese. What do you do then when the stores run out of this amazing cheese? If you are looking for Cotija cheese substitutes, then you are in the right place. This article provides commonly available types of replacement cheese that will work deliciously well in your next recipe.


Añejo Cheese

Añejo cheese or Añejo Enchilado is an aged Mexican cheese that is made from skimmed goat milk. However, nowadays, you find it being manufactured from cow milk. Añejo in Spanish means aged. Traditionally, it has a brick-red exterior, which it derives from being rolled in paprika. This gives the cheese an added bit of a spicy kick to add on to the sharp, strong, and salty flavor. You will often spot it in baked and grilled foods, especially tacos, enchiladas, and burritos.


Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is probably the most famous and most widely used cheeses in the world. Authentic Parmesan cheese is PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) protected, and only certain cheeses from select provinces can be called so.
Parmesan is made from unpasteurized cow milk. It is known for its hard, crystalline, grainy, and dense texture and its nutty, sharp, savory, pungent, and almost fruity flavor. Its versatile flavor and texture make it a great addition as a garnish and addition to pasta, salads, vegetables, and other dishes.


Feta Cheese

Feta is one of the most famous Greek cheeses. It is also protected by the EU legislation, which states that only those cheeses made in Macedonia, Trace, Central, and mainland Greece, Peloponnese, Lesvos, and Thessaly can be called feta, while the rest are called white cheese.
Unlike other cheeses, feta is made from 30% of unpasteurized goat milk mixed with sheep milk, grazed on specific pastures of the region.


Romano Cheese

Romano is another widely used Italian cheese. It is also one of the oldest cheeses dating right back to the 1st century BCE and was named after Rome. This cheese was originally made from the pasteurized or unpasteurized milk of cow, goat, sheep, or a combination of two or all three types of milk. It takes around 5 months and above to be ideal for consuming.



Padano has a similar hard texture to Cotija cheese. It has a sweeter; more subtle flavor so if you are cooking for kids or adults that do not like “exotic” flavors, then Padano may be a good option for this reason.

The availability of Cotija has greatly grown in recent years with most major grocery chains carrying the cheese because of its popularity. However, there are times when you might not be able to find the cheese for a recipe and you will have to settle for any of the above substitutes. Finding a good Cotija cheese replacement is a relatively easy task as long as you know what style of Mexican cheese you prefer.

Nutritional Values Summary Table

Item Calories (per 100g) Total Fats (g) Carbohydrates (g) Proteins (g) Source Works Best In
Añejo Cheese 372 29.5 2.5 25 Pressed and aged cow’s milk Grating over dishes, snacking
Parmesan Cheese 431 28.4 3.2 38.4 Hard cow’s milk Grating, sauces, risottos
Feta Cheese 264 21.3 4.1 14.2 Brined curd cheese Salads, pastries, spreads
Romano Cheese 387 29 3.7 25.4 Hard cow’s milk Grating, cooking, snacking
Padano Cheese 387 29 3.7 25.4 Hard cow’s milk Grating, cooking, snacking


What cheese is the same as cotija?

Parmesan cheese can be a suitable substitute for cotija cheese in some dishes. Both cheeses have a crumbly texture and a savory, salty flavor.

Are Feta and cotija the same?

Feta and cotija are similar in that they are both crumbly and salty cheeses, but they come from different regions and have distinct flavors. Cotija cheese is often drier and saltier than feta, which has a tangy and briny taste.

What if I don’t have cotija cheese?

If you don’t have cotija cheese, you can use Parmesan cheese or a combination of feta and Parmesan to mimic its crumbly texture and salty flavor.

Is cotija cheese just queso fresco?

No, cotija cheese and queso fresco are not the same. While both are Mexican cheeses, they have different flavors and textures. Cotija cheese is aged and crumbly with a salty taste, whereas queso fresco is a mild, soft cheese with a fresh taste.


If you replace the fresher and softer version commonly used in the United States, cheese-like feta could be your best bet. But if you are trying to find an alternative for the harder variation of Cotija that has also aged long enough, you could use Romano cheese or Parmesan. Cotija cheese can be used with anything from tacos to salads and soups. The possibilities are endless with this multipurpose Mexican cheese. These are some of the best alternatives that can be used to replace the Cotija cheese. They will provide almost the same flavor to your dishes. The next time you really need a good Cotija cheese substitute, you can choose one of the best alternatives like Anejo, Feta, Parmesan, and Romano for your recipe.

Ji Eun Kim

Written by Ji Eun Kim

Don't listen to anyone who says you can't be vegan and do well in sports and fitness. Vegans can do great, look good, and feel awesome!

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