Cotija cheese is that crumbly cheese that graces so many of our favorite Mexican dishes. It’s salty, tangy flavor adds punch to everything from refried beans to elote. Let’s take a look at this delicious Mexican cheese, plus 8 ways to devour it!
Post first published on August 31, 2021. Last updated June 24, 2023.
Just saying the word sends me into a dreamy state as I think about all its creamy, salty goodness and the hundreds of varieties it comes in.
No doubt about it, I’m a cheese LOVER. I admire the way it can take on so many forms: creamy, buttery, funky, or sharp. But the one cheese I turn to when I want to add “umph” to a dish is Cotija.
Are you a fan? Let’s take a closer look at this important Mexican ingredient and 20 fantastic ways to use it!
what is cotija cheese?
Queso Cotija is a cow’s milk cheese from the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán, Mexico.
It is an aged cheese but you can buy it in varying states of aging. Cheese labeled, fresh cotija cheese, is not actually a fresh cheese, it has just been aged less time and is moist and firm and crumbles into big chunks. Feta cheese or ricotta salata make a good substitutes for fresh Cotija.
The aged version (cotija añejo) is harder and drier and is perfect for crumbling or grating. Aged cotija is more similar to parmesan or pecorino Romano or other aged Italian cheeses.
does cotija cheese melt?
Cotija cheese has very little moisture so it will soften with heat but still maintain its crumbly texture.
That doesn’t mean it should only be relegated to the garnish of a dish. Even though you aren’t going to get massive cheese pulls out of Cotija, I still love mixing it into recipes. Keep scrolling for some of my favorites!
where to buy it!
Nowadays you can find Cotija at almost every grocery store with the other Mexican cheeses like queso fresco and Oaxaca cheese.
If you can’t find it at your local store, check your neighborhood Latin market or ask your grocer to get with the program and start stocking it!
You can buy Cotija in blocks, wedges, or already grated.
How To Store It
Keep cotija sealed in an airtight container for the best storage. It is one of those awesome cheeses that will last forever—up to a month in the refrigerator.
Is Cotija Cheese Healthy?
Cotija packs tons of calcium and some vitamin A but has about the same amount of calories as most cheeses like cheddar or parmesan even though it is partly made with skim milk. The real issue with cotija is the sodium content. The sea salt amount is high. It has twice as much sodium (280 mg) as shredded Mexican cheese (170 mg).
8 Delicious Cotija Recipes
Now let’s take a look at my favorite ways to cook with Cotija. Yes, its feather-light crumbles are most often added to the top of a dish but you’ll be surprised at how nicely it incorporates itself into a recipe as well.
The salty taste of cotija is perfect with savory dishes like these stuffed mushrooms. The cheese crumbles into the filling and holds it all together as it bakes.
Sprinkling these pretty tacos with cotija is a no-brainer. Add some crema, a few slices of avocado and you’ve got yourself an easy weeknight dinner.
In Mexico, cotija is often added as a garnish on soup but with this tasty soup it is cooked right in, giving it a tangy zip but we don’t stop there! The finishing touch are crunchy cubes of toasted cotija cheese cornbread that soak up all that rich, creamy black bean broth.
The cotija isn’t merely crumbled over the top of this fresh and vibrant Cobb salad (which would also be good). No, we’ve upped the game by making it the focal point of the dressing which is sweet and tangy with garlic, paprika, lemon juice, and honey.
These are not your run of the mill enchiladas. This enchilada casserole has eight layers of beans, goat cheese crumbles and cotija cheese, sauce, roasted vegetables, and crispy tortillas.
You’ve heard of Mexican street corn but have you ever had Mexican street carrots?
Crispy tostadas drowning in tangy chile sauce with tender pork and a shower of cotija.
Pasta is amazing with cotija. It is a good substitution wherever you’d use any Romano cheeses or parmesan cheese. Try it in the cozy lasagna recipe made with chorizo bolognese.
more mexican ingredients to explore!
- 11 Delicious Ways To Use Tajín
- How To Make Mexican Chorizo From Scratch
- 17 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce Recipes
- What Are Flor de Jamaica?
- 21 Insanely Delicious Tomatillo Recipes
- Inside A Mexican Pantry: The Ultimate Guide
- 12 Jicama Recipes To Get Your Crunch On
what’s your favorite way to eat it?
Leave me a comment below and let me know! Did you try one of the recipes listed above? When you do please let me know by snapping a pic and tagging me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see!