What Is Cotija Cheese?

You might not know it, but more likely than not, you have eaten Cotija cheese at some point in your life. If you have ever visited a street taco stand, you've probably noticed a white, crumbly cheese being sprinkled on top of your favorite tacos. But what is that amazingly delicious cheese? That is Cotija cheese.

But what IS Cotija cheese?

Cotija is a hispanic-style hard crumbly cheese made mostly from cow's milk that is aged anywhere from three to twelve months. Cotija is very firm compared to other cheeses, and so it doesn't actually melt but instead used as a topper cheese for tacos, casseroles, salads, and other dishes.

The availability of Cotija has grown in recent years with most major grocery chains carrying the cheese as it rises in popularity. There are times, however, where you might not be able to find Cotija cheese for a recipe and you'll might have to settle for a replacement.

Here are a few Cotija cheese substitutes if you find yourself in that very situation.

What is a good substitute for Cotija cheese?

Finding a good Cotija cheese substitute is a relatively easy task as long as you know how what style of the Mexican cheese you prefer.

If you're replacing the fresher, softer version typically used in the United States, a cheese like feta might be your best bet. This replacement won't give you the distinctive taste of Cotija, but it will hold you over in a bind.

If you're trying to find a substitute for the harder variation of Cotija that has been aging longer than its softer counterpart, you can use romano cheese or parmesan. There's a reason why cheese experts consider Cotija to be the "Parmesan of Mexico," so don't be afraid to use it as a substitute.

Now that the availability of Cotija cheese is no longer a problem (except for those of us who won't settle for any substitutes), incorporating the cheese into a recipes shouldn't be a problem.

Cotija cheese recipes

Cotija can be used with anything from tacos to casseroles and from salads to soups. Basically, the possibilities are endless with this versatile Mexican cheese.

Here are a just a few of our favorites.

Mexican Corn Salad
This simple corn salad incorporates quite a few complex flavors with not too much work. With fresh cilantro, lime juice, Cotija cheese, and a few spices all mixed in with freshly roasted corn, this recipe should be a hit at any dinner party or family meal this summer. Don't forget to save some Cotija for the garnish.

Chipotle-Lime Flank Steak Street Tacos Topped With Cotija Cheese
This recipe will take a little more work than the Mexican corn salad listed above, but honestly, it's worth it in the end. The chipotle-lime sauce combined with the freshness of the flank steak really make for quite a distinct variation on the street taco. Add some Cotija cheese at the end and you have yourself a match made in culinary heaven.

One-Skillet Enchilada Casserole With Cotija And Crema
Who said casseroles had to be boring? Anyone with that mentality obviously hasn't tasted this take on the classic family meal. Combing all of the ingredients of a standard enchilada and putting them in casserole form will please just about anyone in the family. This recipe calls for quite multiple cheeses and creams, but the Cotija should take centerstage here.

Zucchini Soup With Cotija Crisps
Those of us looking for ways to spruce up our soups have met our new best friend with this great zucchini soup recipe. By taking the Cotija cheese, flattening it into small circles and baking them into tiny crisps add a whole new flavor and texture to this robust soup.

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