10 Best Substitutes For Cotija Cheese – A Comprehensive Guide

If you are looking for substitutes for Cotija cheese, then I’ve got a massive, comprehensive list for you!

Today, we’ll take a look at the best alternatives for this unique Mexican cheese. Although some of these options may be a little hard to find or expensive, there’s bound to be one that meets your needs!

Substitutes For Cotija Cheese.

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What Is Cotija Cheese?

Before looking at Cotija cheese alternatives, you need to understand what you are replacing.

This delicious Mexican cheese is made from cow’s milk and is extremely popular in Mexican, Latin American, and Tex-Mex cuisines. It’s often used in a filling or topping, such as quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.

Aged Cotija has a very white color due to the production method. It also has a firm and slightly dry, crumbly texture with a strong milky but mildly salty flavor.

Fresh Cotija is similar to feta cheese. It is a lot softer than the aged version I mentioned above.

The semi-hard Cotija cheese also has very unique melting characteristics, which is why it is used in certain dishes. It will never melt completely but it will soften and create a stretchy, cheesy texture.

Cotija Cheese.

10 Best Substitutes For Cotija Cheese

Let’s take a look at the best substitutes for Cotija cheese. You will see some of the options on my list today are better suited for texture and others for flavor.

At the end of the day, as I’ve mentioned before, you can choose what works for you.

1. Queso Fresco

This is another Mexican cheese that is extremely underrated outside of Latin American cuisines and is your best option as a substitute for cotija.

This cheese has a milder salty and milky flavor that is also rich and creamy. Also, it has a similar crumbly, semi-soft consistency that fresh Cotija has!

The best part about queso fresco is that it is more affordable than cotija cheese.

QUESO FRESCO on a wooden board

2. Feta Cheese

Feta cheese has various textures. Try to avoid soft, creamy options, like Danish feta. You want to buy the crumblier feta products to replicate the texture of Cotija cheese.

Also, feta is traditionally salty, which is another reason it’s a fantastic alternative for Cotija. You can buy flavored options, such as black pepper feta cheese or herb-infused feta cheese.

FETA CHEESE on a wooden board

3. Anejo Cheese

I must be honest, I have never heard of Anejo cheese until a little while ago, and I’m still not an expert in any way. But it’s basically an aged version of Cotija cheese. due to similar characteristics.

So, Anejo is more difficult to find than Cotija and is less commonly produced. It has to be aged for at least one year before it can be sold as such. 

Then, there is a smoked version and an air-dried version. I loved the smoky one, as it creates a more complex flavor profile.

Anejo has similar salty flavors to Cotija but with a nutty and almost buttery undertone. You will likely use a little less of this substitute for Cotija cheese to avoid creating a dominant flavor.


4. Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan is a great cotija cheese alternative for flavor. It is incredibly easy to find, and you get loads of options too! You can even buy vegan parmesan cheese!

Another great thing about this hard cheese is that there are different options at different price points. This makes it accessible to everybody!

Other than convenience, parmesan has a slightly salty flavor and crumbly texture. But, unlike Cotija, the crumbs are hard, not semi-soft. 


5. Grana Padano

Next up is a similar cheese to Parmesan, Grana Padano. This is a rare aged cheese that is quite salty. Naturally, it also has a very crumbly texture, but like Parmesan, it’s dry.

Grana Padano also has some nutty undertones similar to Anejo.


6. Cottage Cheese

This is a fantastic texture alternative!

Cottage cheese is very different from Cotija. It’s a fresh cheese with a high moisture content. While it is crumbly, it’s a lot wetter and softer than Cotija. Nevertheless, it works wonders! Especially as a topping on baked dishes!

This alternative for Cotija is also quite salty and very milky. But again, it’s the texture that makes this cheese a good option.


7. Pecorino

This cheese is quite extraordinary, making it hard to find and expensive.

It’s one of those products that can only be called by its name if it meets specific requirements. Pecorino Romano is only made in Lazio in Tuscany or Sardinia in Italy.

Furthermore, it’s only ever made from sheep’s milk. A little goes a long way since it has a long shelf life. The cheese is aged for at least 16 months, which gives it a hard, crumbly texture and sharp, salty, nutty flavor that is similar to cotija cheese.

big PECORINO cheese

8. Semi-Soft Goat Cheese

Also known as goat cheese crumbles, this is a cheese that is firmer than chevin (which has a cream cheese consistency) but softer than aged goat’s cheese products. Which makes this a perfect substitute for cotija cheese.

You can also make your own by adding a little extra salt to the creamed chevin log. This will extract moisture from the creamy cheese, which can be drained off. Then, once your moisture is removed, the cheese gets a more crumbly texture, like cottage cheese.

9. Ricotta Salata

This is not the same as the ricotta you know from your local grocery store. Ricotta Salata is specially made in Italy using extremely salty sheep’s milk. 

Its consistency is similar to that of cottage cheese, but the flavors are completely different. Ricotta Salata is less sharp and saltier.

So, use this substitute for Cotija cheese in moderation.


10. Red Fox Cheddar

Despite its massive difference in color, texture, and even flavor, its melting properties are the same. And that’s exactly why it makes a great substitute for Cotija cheese.

There’s no point in listing the different hard cheeses that can work when none of them are easy to find. 

Red fox cheddar is extremely easy to find, affordable, shockingly versatile, and can be bought in different sizes as well.



In essence, finding a substitute for cotija cheese opens up a world of possibilities to explore. Whether you opt for the mild creaminess of queso fresco or the crumbly texture of feta, each alternative brings its unique twist to your dishes.

You can experiment with flavors and textures that suit your taste and are readily available depending on where you live. Embrace the versatility and discover new recipes with these fantastic cotija cheese alternatives.

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