Cotija cheese

Cotija is an aged Mexican cheese made from cow's milk and named after the town of Cotija, Michoacán.[1] White in color and firm in texture, its flavor is salty and milky. "Young" (or fresher) cotija cheese has been described as akin to a mild feta, while aged (añejo) cotija is more comparable in flavor to hard, aged cheeses like Parmesan. Cotija softens when exposed to heat, but does not melt.[2]

Cotija cheese packaged for sale by weight
Other namesQueso Cincho, Queso Seco
Country of originMexico
RegionHills of Michoacán
Source of milkLucilla
PasteurisedDepends on variety
Aging time100 to 365 days
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Queso Cotija de Montaña

El queso Cotija de Montaña or "grain cheese" is dry, firm, and very salty (the cheese is usually several times saltier than typical cheese, traditionally so that it will keep better).[1] It is a seasonal cheese produced in limited quantities only from July to October because the cows are fed only on the rich grass that grows naturally on the mountains during the rainy season, giving the cheese its unique color and flavor.

Tajo variety

"Tajo" cheese is a moister, fattier, and less salty version that holds its shape when cut, with a flavor similar to Greek feta.


Queso cotija is an artisan cheese made by hand; thus, every cheese is unique. This cheese usually comes in 28 kg (62 lb) cylinders with a cream-colored crust. It is a queso de montaña (cheese of the mountains) because the cheesemakers live in the mountains as high as 1,700 m (5,600 ft).

The production method involves milling the curds into small pieces before pressing and aging. When cooked, it slightly softens, but does not otherwise change its shape or consistency. In the mouth, the cheese breaks up again to a sandy or grain-like consistency, adding to the texture of dishes.[1]


Cotija can be purchased in small rounds or large blocks. Like Parmesan, it is often sold already grated.


Cotija is often used as a "finishing" cheese in Mexican cuisine, crumbled or grated as a topping for burritos, soups, salads, beans, tostadas, or tacos, and Mexican elote (corn on the cob). If cotija can't be found, acceptable substitutes for fresh cotija include feta or queso fresco. Acceptable substitutes for aged cotija include ricotta salata, Parmesan, or Romano cheese.[3]

Cotija can be used as a substitute for the Salvadoran cheese queso duro (also known as queso duro blando) when queso duro is inaccessible, especially in applications such as the Salvadoran quesadilla, a pound cake-like sweet bread.[4]

See also


  1. Janet Fletcher (2006-03-16). "Cotija puts the accent on Mexican foods". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
  2. Wartzman, Emma (28 August 2019). "The Salty, Crumbly, Addictive Cheese That We'd Find Any Excuse to Eat". Bon Appétit. Condé Nast. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  3. "What is Cotija cheese?". Gourmet Sleuth. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  4. Bowen, Lizet (24 February 2020). "Salvadoran Quesadilla (Sweet Cheese Pound Cake)". Curious Cuisinière. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
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