Cotija Cheese and Mexican Food
Cotija cheese (pronounced co-ti-ha) hails from Michoacan in Mexico and features crumbly cow’s milk cheese made by artisans from the town of the same name. When aged, it develops similar characteristics as both feta and Parmesan.
Soups, tacos, salads, and grilled dishes such as elite or chilaquiles all benefit from incorporating cotija’s robust flavors into them; queso fresco makes an equally great alternative if cotija is unavailable.
1. Cotija Cheese Tacos
Cotija cheese is best known in Mexican dishes, yet it also pairs well with other cuisines. Made from cow’s milk and similar in flavor and texture to feta and ricotta salata – but without melting as quickly – Cotija can be found either in block form or grated fine like snow for easy adhesion with food items.
Spicy tomato and chile-based dishes and citrus-flavored food pairings benefit most from using cheese as an additive or garnish. Cheese also adds depth and richness to creamy dishes such as enchiladas and beans and pairs incredibly well when served alongside rich foods like cream sauces like enchiladas.
Queso fresco and feta are suitable substitutes if cotija can’t be found. You can find this cheese at large grocery store chains and specialty Hispanic grocery stores throughout the U.S.
2. Cotija Cheese Enchiladas
Cotija cheese, typically produced from cow’s milk, is often used as an added touch in Mexican dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and nachos, while it’s also great to incorporate into more savory recipes such as soups and stews.
Cotija cheese can be found at most large grocery stores and Hispanic specialty grocers, though its pricing might be higher than queso fresco due to its longer shelf life.
Cotija cheese adds a great salty texture to these chicken enchiladas, featuring shredded chicken, green chile sauce, and homemade corn tortillas rolled up around it all for an enjoyable and filling meal. Finish it with fresh cilantro leaves for garnish and extra sour cream for dipping! If Cotija is unavailable in your area, Parmesan will work just as well!
3. Cotija Cheese Salad
This simple Esquites recipe offers freshness and flavor in equal measure, pairing perfectly with heartier meals such as cheese enchiladas or chicken fajitas.
This salad features sweet and lightly charred grilled corn accented by Cotija cheese’s salty flavors. Garlic and scallions add oniony notes, while smoked paprika and chili powder give depth of flavor.
Make this delicious salad easily at home: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Swap the sour cream for plain Greek yogurt if you prefer lighter dressings. Keep this salad chilled in the fridge for at least 24 hours, adding jalapenos just before serving for maximum heat! Bring this summer side dish for your next potluck or backyard barbecue event.
4. Broiled Peppers Stuffed with Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese is an excellent complement to tomato- or chile-based sauces, citrus dishes, and black bean soup. When finely grated, it makes a beautiful garnish and has an adhesive quality, making it suitable for words requiring cheese to adhere to food like black bean soup, chicken mole, Mexican street tacos, and nachos.
Cotija cheese was traditionally produced using unpasteurized cow’s milk; now, it can be purchased pasteurized and ready for use at any time of year. Young cotija is similar to feta in texture and flavor; aged varieties boast salty-sharp characteristics identical to Parmesan or Romano cheeses – perfect for crumbling over hot dishes.
5. Stuffed Potatoes with Cotija Cheese
Cotija cheese resembles feta in flavor–bold, tangy, and salty–making it an excellent accompaniment for soups, salads, tacos, and even Mexican street corn (elite). It works exceptionally well when crumbled onto dishes or grated for seasoning. Its popularity makes it one of the favorite toppings or seasoning ingredients on menus around Mexico and Central America.
The main distinction between cotija and queso fresco is their different aging processes; it is aged three months to one year for its distinctive flavor, while fresh queso fresco does not possess this salty bite.
Assemble potatoes by scooping out potatoes, layering shredded Monterey Jack cheese, poblano peppers, and crumbled cotija cheese; return to oven, baking until heated through and cheese is bubbly. Serve topped with lime sour cream. Refrigerate remaining portions and reheat when needed in the range.
6. Cotija Cheese Tacos with Shrimp
Cotija cheese is an integral component of Mexican cuisine. A complex, crumbly cheese with a distinct flavor and texture, Cotija can be found at most supermarkets or specialty cheese shops.
Cotija cheese has often been compared to Italian Parmesan; however, its intense saltiness offers much more robust flavors. Cotija also shares many qualities with Greek Feta and Italian Pecorino Romano cheeses.
These Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema are an exceptional way to enjoy cotija cheese, with incredible combinations of flavors, brightened up by lime crema. If cotija is unavailable, queso fresco makes an adequate substitute – reduce its quantity accordingly to compensate for its different flavor profile.
7. Green Tomatillo Salsa and Chicken
Make this delicious verde salsa chicken recipe quickly and easily in just one pot for a satisfying one-pot meal, packed with fresh flavors and chunky texture that store-bought salsa can’t match!
Note: Always select high-quality cotija cheese when creating Mexican dishes, such as chilaquiles. Cotija adds rennet to the heated milk and coagulates its curds using heat; its unique taste adds depth and dimension to tacos, salads, and grilled vegetables.
Make this dish your own by customizing it with additional veggies and spices. Try replacing some jalapenos with serrano peppers to increase heat or adding some scallions for more oniony notes.