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Looking to add some zing to your Mexican recipes? Try cotija cheese! This salty and crumbly cheese is a favorite in savory dishes like tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, and soups.
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What is Cotija
Cotija cheese is a type of Mexican cheese that is commonly used in a variety of dishes. It is a salty, crumbly cheese that has a distinct flavor and texture. It is named after the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, where it originated. It is pronounced Koh-tee-hah.
The cheese is made from cow’s milk and aged for several months. It is usually sold in small rounds or crumbled into pieces. The texture is similar to feta cheese, but it is saltier and has a stronger flavor.
How To Use It
One of the most common uses is with Mexican cuisine. Use it as a topping for dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and refried beans. You can also use it in salads and as a garnish for soups.
Possibly the most popular use of this cheese is when making Elotes, or Mexican street corn. Elote is grilled corn on the cob that is typically covered in a mixture of mayonnaise, chili powder, lime juice, and cotija cheese. The cheese adds a salty, tangy flavor to the dish that balances out the sweetness of the corn.
1. Queso Fresco
Another Mexican cheese, this one is soft and crumbles also and has a similar texture. The taste is much more mild, milky, slightly tangy, and not nearly as salty. This makes a wonderful substitute for cotija.
If you’re unable to get Mexican cheeses, Feta is a close substitute. It has a soft, crumbly texture just like cotija and has a rich, tangy and salty flavoring. The flavor is slightly more mild than cotija, but as a substitute this is as close as you will get.
This is an Italian cheese that is typically finely ground, but it can be grated, crumbled or shaved. The taste is strong, tangy and salty. It is also lactose free.
4. Goat Cheese
This creamy cheese can be crumbled also and has a nice mild, mellow flavoring. Texture wise, it’s very similar.
The flavoring of añejo is very similar, it is slightly more bold because it is simply aged cotija cheese. If you are able to find this, it’s a great substitute.
- Refrigerator: Store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.The shelf life varies depending on the aging process. However, it should stay fresh for almost a month, while aged cotija may last even longer.
- Freezer: freeze in an air tight container for 6-8 months.
Cotija is not a melting cheese. This particular cheese crumbles nicely, which is why it’s used heavily as a topping or garnish.
Cotija cheese is made using animal rennet, this means that if you are following a vegetarian diet, you will want to avoid this particular type of cheese.
Cotija cheese has little to no traces of lactose, most people who are lactose intolerant are able to tolerate this particular cheese.
Recipes Using Cotija Cheese
Mexican Street Corn Salad with Cotija
- 4 cups corn kernels (approx 5 ears)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 jalapeno seeds and membranes removed, diced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- ¼ cup cotija cheese crumbled
- ½ bunch cilantro diced
- 1 green onion diced
- 1 teaspoon lime juice freshly squeezed
- Mexican Crema
- cotija cheese crumbled
- fresh cilantro diced
- tajin or chili powder
- lime wedges
- Remove the husks and silk from the corn cobs. Cut the corn off the cob.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn, jalapeno, and salt. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the corn and jalapeno are softened.
- Remove the corn and jalapeno to a large bowl and add in the mayonnaise and sour cream while corn is still warm. You can add more if you desire a creamier texture.
- Stir in the crumbled cotija, diced cilantro, green onion and fresh lime juice. Taste and adjust salt/lime juice as needed.
- Serve in a large bowl with desired toppings. Can be served warm or cold.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.