Best Cotija Cheese Substitute?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cotija Cheese

Photo by Amy Wagliardo

Cotija cheese in one of the most famous cheeses in Mexico. You have probably enjoyed it, if you are a fan of Mexican food. This cheese provides many dishes with a salty finish. It has a crumbly texture and salty flavor and is often served on soups, tostadas, and tacos. Cotija cheese is a great choice for a last-minute sprinkle thanks to its crumbliness and for this reason it’s a popular corn topping. Fresh cotija cheese is similar to feta cheese, while aged cotija cheese resembles parmesan. Cotija cheese cannot be found at any store but there are several options to choose from if you need a substitute. Other dairy products have a comparable flavor and are just as tasty.

Sometimes, there is a reason for which cotija cheese may not be used. For example, many people tend to have milk allergies and cotija cheese is prepared from cow’s milk. This may be dangerous for the health of those people. Another reason you may not want to use cotija cheese is lactose intolerance. The cheese is quite fresh and may cause some gastrointestinal issues.
Sharp, dry traits of aged cotija cheese, crumbly quality of young cotija cheese and the salty flavor are some of the priorities of a cotija cheese replacement. It is important to find an alternative which is required by your recipe.

Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a great substitute for fresh cotija cheese and can be easily found in grocery stores. It is a popular Greek cheese with soft texture and salty flavor, just like young cotija cheese. There is no need to alter the cheese at all if you use it as a substitute.

Feta cheese gives about 100 calories per 1 oz, some from protein and from fat. There are many different flavors and choosing the right one will have an impact on your food. Most brands offer healthier varieties, such as an option with reduced amount of fat.

Feta and cotija cheeses have a lot of similarities and for this reason feta can be used instead of cotija without any tweaks. Crumble feta cheese in the same manner and sprinkle it onto your meal.

Feta is widely accepted as a replacement in many different recipes, such as migas – a Mexican dish that features veggies, chips, scrambled eggs and, of course, cheese. The salty and tangy flavor is an excellent choice for salad, pizza and other dishes. In order to keep it fresh feta is packaged in a container with brine because it is known to dry out quickly. One of the best ways to store it is by freezing it.

Queso Fresco

Queso fresco is another excellent substitution for cotija cheese. It is more acidic in flavor but has a similar texture. It is made from cow’s milk and has a less salty and slightly milder flavor. On average, this Mexican-oriented cheese has fewer calories compared to cotija cheese. Its calories are from some protein and fat.

Even though it is an excellent replacement for cotija cheese, queso fresco can be hard to find in some places. It crumbles nicely and provides a similar texture because these cheeses have similar properties.

The name of this cheese translates to fresh cheese and is great addition to many dishes, especially Mexican-based ones. Queso fresco is an excellent replacement in dishes such as Mexican refried beans. The cheese is usually sprinkled over dishes such as salads. Keep in mind the acidity of queso fresco if you want to add acid-heavy ingredients to your dishes such as tomato.

Goat Cheese Crumbles

Goat cheese crumbles can be easily found in stores and is another great substitute for cotija cheese. It has a strong flavor like parmesan and texture similar to feta cheese. Goat cheese crumbles have a similar salty flavor to cotija cheese and have more calories per oz. Unlike cow-based cheeses, goat cheese crumbles are easier to digest and metabolize. If you want to use this cheese, get the variety that is a bit dry and crumbly. The logged goat cheese crumbles are not a good substitute.

This cheese with a firm texture similar to feta cheese is an excellent choice for dishes such as Mexican salads but works great with many Mexican-style recipes.

Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is salty, flavorful and easy to grate. It is an excellent option if you want a hard cheese to replace cotija. They have quite similar texture and flavor, which is indicated by its pale-yellow appearance. Depending on the manufacturer, parmesan cheese usually ages for one to three years. Although it is a great substitute, it is more expensive. Parmesan cheese prices vary from $20 (for a small piece) to hundreds of dollars (for a wheel), depending on its size. The reason is the amount of milk required to make it.

This Italian-made cheese goes great with Italian recipes such as risotto, pasta or pizza and can be used in many others as well. Parmesan cheese is an excellent substitute for aged cotija cheese and can be used in any recipe. Its sparkling texture and saltiness make it a great replacement. Keep in mind that the older parmesan cheese is, the stronger its flavor will be. Taste it while you prepare your meal to avoid lack of taste or overpowering.

Ricotta Salata

Ricotta Salata cheese in another great substitute for cotija cheese. It is made from the milk of either sheep or goat but other variants are made with cow’s milk. This cheese has a firm texture but is not as salty as cotija cheese so you’ll have to increase the amount of salt in your dish. This Italian cheese may not be available at grocery stores, but specialized cheese stores may have it.

It has milder flavor and for this reason it’s not used in dish such as sauces or soups but it is commonly used cheese in tacos and tostadas and for topping corn, as a substitute for cotija cheese. Ricotta Salata cheese is both milky and nutty and a great addition to pasta dishes, wine, and sandwiches.

The cheese combines a hearty dry texture with the aroma of fresh cheese. It is an excellent choice for Mexican-inspired dishes that require cotija cheese.

Romano Cheese

Choosing this cheese over parmesan may be controversial for some people because cotija cheese is known as the “Parmesan of Mexico,” due to the similarity in appearance and texture of the two cheeses. Almost any aged cheese is a great replacement for the aged cotija cheese. Romano cheese is an excellent choice because of its salty, tangy flavor. It goes better with Mexican-based dishes than other aged cheeses.

Romano cheese is the best cotija replacement because it is more versatile. However, there are some exceptions. For example, parmesan cheese goes great on Mexican street corn. This cheese has about 110 calories per 1 oz, and most of them come from protein and fat calories. Last but not least, Romano cheese is widely available and you shouldn’t have problem finding it in your local grocery store.

Almond-based vegan cotija

Cotija cheese may be hard to find at your local grocery store, but you should not have trouble finding ingredients to make a diary-free alternative. You can make a vegan version of cotija cheese by tossing together lemon, almonds, olive juice, and a bit of salt. This pseudo cheese has the same depth as real cheese due to the olive juice. Cotija cheese and this dairy-free one have the same texture, making it an excellent choice for your salad, tacos or any other Mexican meal based on the plants.

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor for a few minutes and then place the content in a cheesecloth. Make sure that all extra liquid has been squeezed out, and then put it in the fridge. Come back after a day and see what happens. You will find a perfect bundle of cheese once you open the cheesecloth. At this point it should crumble easily. Use it to make any dish you like.

About Cotija Cheese

You might find cotija cheese in your local grocery store, if you live in a large city. Try to find it in the cheese section. Alternatively, try the specialty food shop that has Mexican-based products.

The cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. During this process the cheese is heated and the distinctive flavor of cotija is removed.
If stored correctly, cotija cheese will last for about 4 weeks. It should be stored in the fridge, wrapped in waxed paper, and placed in an airtight container. On the other hand, aged cotija cheese can last for up to 3 months, if it is stored in the same way.

Final thoughts

Cotija cheese is a must while making Mexican-based dish. You do not have to change your plans, if you don’t have it because there are many easy-to-get substitutes these days. Make sure to check your recipe before you decide which cotija cheese replacement is best for you.

Cotija Cheese

Image source: Amazon Product Advertising API
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

back to top