Cotija Cheese: What It Is and How To Use It

2 mins read

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.


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.


Best Substitutes

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.

2. Feta

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.

3. Parmesan

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.

5. Anejo

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.


Does Cotija melt?

Cotija is not a melting cheese. This particular cheese crumbles nicely, which is why it’s used heavily as a topping or garnish.

Is Cotija made with animal rennet?

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.

Does Cotija cheese have lactose?

Cotija cheese has little to no traces of lactose, most people who are lactose intolerant are able to tolerate this particular cheese.