7 Best Substitutes for Cotija Cheese


Cotija also called Mexican parmesan, is a cheese made from cow’s milk that tastes salty and crumbly in texture. Named after the town of Cotija, it comes in two different types: fresh and aged.

Though both types are relatively salty, the fresh version is soft while the aged version is much harder.

Unlike other cheeses, cotija cheese doesn’t melt. That’s why it’s often used in Mexican cooking as a garnish for dishes like beans, tacos, and tostadas.

7 Best Substitutes for Cotija Cheese

Cotija cheese may be hard to find in some locations. When imported, it can be a little expensive to buy. Moreover, this cheese is rich in fat so some people might want to avoid it. Fortunately, there are plenty of replacements you can try instead of Cotija cheese.

Feta cheese

Feta cheese is a soft, brined white cheese with small or no holes, compact touch, and no skin. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp.

It provides an excellent source of nutrients like calcium and proteins and contains high-quality sodium and saturated fat.

Feta is a healthier substitute because it is lower in fat than cotija cheese. If you’re watching your weight but can’t avoid cheese, feta is ideal for you. Add it as a topping to your food for the same effect but fewer calories.

Ricotta Salata

A commonly used substitute for cotija cheese that folks love to use is ricotta. Use it to garnish corn, tostadas, and tacos.
The main reason for using ricotta is its visual appearance. The dense white texture makes it a very attractive topping for finger foods and salads.

It contains less fat and salt with 10 percent of fat, of which 6 percent is saturated. This makes ricotta another healthy substitute. It’s great for diabetics and people with high blood pressure. Ricotta cheese is also rich in proteins and a good source of calcium.


Parmesan cheese has a hard, gritty texture and is fruity and nutty in taste. It is a hard, grainy cheese with a sharp, pungent flavor profile and a nutty undertone.

You might have heard of it for its use in Italian cooking. Most kinds of pasta and pizzas come with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese.
It is naturally low in fat, free in carbs and lactose-free, and a good source of protein and fats. Parmesan is also rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium. It contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, and B12, phosphorus, zinc, and copper.


Romano cheese is made from pasteurized or unpasteurized milk using animal, plant, or microbial rennet. It has a grainy texture, a hard and brittle rind, and grates easily.

This cheese can be eaten even by those who are lactose intolerant. Since it is an aged, hard cheese, it is naturally lactose-free.
Romano cheese contains essential nutrients such as Phosphorus, Zinc, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, and B12. Besides being nutritionally potent, this cheese also brings an interesting texture to the plating. Slice it up with or without the skin for a tempting look to replace Cotija cheese.


Padano is made from unpasteurized, semi-skimmed cow’s milk from two milkings and generally aged for two years.

It contains amino acids that relax your blood vessels, which subsequently lowers the risk of hypertension.

The Grana Padano processing determines an important bioavailability of vitamins and minerals. It contains proteins with 9 essential amino acids that make it a highly digestible product.

Grana Padano is lactose-free due to the characteristics of its production and aging process, leading to a reduction of lipids. It contains a galactose content of less than 10 mg per 100 g.

Mexican Queso Fresco

Mexican Queso Fresco is a moist and creamy type of cheese with a slightly salty flavor. It can make a good substitute for cotija because of its buttery notes. The texture of this cheese feels drier compared to cotija, but it has the same sharp flavor.

This type of cheese is common for salads and garnishing soups. Its fluffy and airy texture gives it the appearance of froth, which floats beautifully on the surface.

Since this is also a handmade cheese produced in Latin America, it matches the effect of Cotija cheese. It is neither too hard nor crumbly so it’ll suit your palette perfectly.


Anejo is rolled in paprika during its making process to add an extra zing to its salty, sharp flavor. It is milder than Cotija and when it is fresh, it crumbles beautifully into salads. Because of this, if you use it as a substitute, you’ll enjoy its flavor and form.

It mixes in the same way as Cotija but it is a lot more crumbly and a little dry. When Anejo cheese matures it tastes like a dream. Simply grate some onto your dish for an enhanced taste and more temptation.

This cheese has both pros and cons. The pros are that it is high in calcium, phosphorus, and protein. However, much like Cotija, Anejo too is high in sodium and saturated fat.


Is Cotija cheese the same as feta?

These are two separate kinds of cheeses that are native to different countries. Cotija cheese comes from Mexico and feta is Greek. However, their uses are similar and one can be replaced with the other.

Which cheese is closest to cotija?

The cheese closest to regular Cotija cheese is feta. Whereas, for aged Cotija cheese, romano is a better option.

What is the flavor of cotija cheese?

Cotija is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese. It’s white in color and its texture is firm and dry. The taste of this cheese is salty and milky.

Bottom Line

Cotija cheese is 99.99% lactose-free but it is also high in fats. It is made in Mexico and imported to other countries, which is why it can be expensive. There are many different substitutes for this cheese.

Feta cheese, Padano, Mexican queso fresco, anejo, parmesan, feta cheese, ricotta salata can be used as an alternative to cotija cheese.

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About Karen Wilson

Karen is a foodie to the core. She loves any variety of food - spicy or junk! Her slender body and height are deceiving, as she enjoys eating hearty meals that would leave most people gasping for air. She has an appetite for life, and wants everyone around her to share in it too.