What Is Cotija Cheese

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When you hear about cotija cheese, you might assume that it’s a variety of cheese originating from Mexico.

However, cotija cheese is actually a type of Spanish cheese.

The name “cotija” comes from the town of Cotija in Mexico, where the cheese originated.

Cotija cheese is a white, crumbly cheese that is similar to feta cheese.

It has a strong, salty flavor and is often used as a topping for dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, and salads.

The cheese can also be grated and used as a garnish.

Cotija cheese is made from cow’s milk and is aged for two to three months.

The cheese is high in fat and protein, and it is a good source of calcium.

If you’re looking for a tasty, versatile cheese to add to your cooking repertoire, try cotija cheese.

You won’t be disappointed.

This article will provide information on what cotija cheese is, its nutritional value, and some ideas on how to use it.

What Is Cotija Cheese

What Is Cotija Cheese?

Cotija cheese is a type of cheese that originated in the town of Cotija in Mexico.

The cheese is made from cow’s milk and is aged for two to three months.

It has a strong, salty flavor and is often used as a topping for dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, and salads.

The cheese can also be grated and used as a garnish.

Cotija cheese is high in fat and protein, and it is a good source of calcium.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of cotija cheese contains:

  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 330 mg (14% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI))

The same serving of cotija cheese also contains 8% of the RDI for phosphorus, 6% of the RDI for vitamin A, and 4% of the RDI for vitamin B12.

Cotija cheese is a good source of several nutrients that are important for bone health, including calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A.

Vitamin B12 is also essential for bone health, as it helps the body absorb calcium.

How to Use Cotija Cheese

Cotija cheese can be used in a variety of dishes.

It can be crumbled and used as a topping for enchiladas, tacos, salads, and soups.

The cheese can also be grated and used as a garnish.

If you have eaten Parmesan, ricotta salata, or feta you have an idea of the taste of cotija.

You can get it either aged or fresh and young.

For the latter, the aging takes place for about 3 months or 100 days.

This version is the most similar to feta in terms of flavor, color, and texture.

The aged version takes on the sharper and salty characteristics common in Romano and Parmesan cheeses.

This type is also easier to grate while the young option is easier to crumble.

Cotija doesn’t melt the same way other cheeses do.

This is why it’s a great choice for topping a hot dish.

If you are wondering about the cost, it’s at the same price point as ricotta salata and feta.

Is There a Difference between Queso Fresco and Cotija?

Usually, you can use either of these cheeses in a variety of recipes.

The main difference is the deeper tang of cotija.

However, both are made using cow’s milk and offer a pleasing crumble.

That’s why they are a great option for those looking for a tasty garnish or a condiment.

Another difference between the two is age.

Queso fresco, Mexican for fresh cheese, doesn’t go through an aging process.

In fact, you can eat it immediately after it has been made.

On the other hand, cotija cheese is matured for 3 – 12 months.

Both are the most common type of Mexican cheese in the world.

Cotija Cheese

How Does Cotija Taste?

The taste of cotija is similar to feta; salty, tangy, and bold.

The taste is more intense in the aged version.

As for the texture, it’s dry and crumbly.

The color also changes as it ages; going from white to yellowish-brown.

While the taste and texture are important, cotija is also known for its smell.

The cheese has a strong and pungent aroma that some people find pleasant while others find it too intense.

How Can I Use Cotija Cheese?

The two main types of dishes that use this cheese are esquites and elote.

Both feature grilled lime-tinged crema, grilled corn, and finely grated cotija cheese.

Recipes used to make these dishes give you the option of choosing either queso fresco or cotija cheese.

Your preferences determine how you use cotija cheese.

If you are looking for a softer and milder flavor go for queso fresco.

On the other hand, cotija has a stronger bite and more body.

It’s the reason why it stands up better to the sweetness and chile powder of corn. 

Furthermore, you can use cotija on any meal that requires cheese.

However, it pairs best with citrus-laden, chile-based, or tomato dishes.

Cotija cheese has an adhesive quality when it’s finely grated.

This is a great feature as it ensures the cheese clings to your meal.

Lastly, you can use it as a garnish on top of nachos, Mexican street tacos, chicken mole, or black bean soup.

Using it this way on such foods and others results with a pretty and tasty meal.

How do I Cook Cotija Cheese?

The first thing you will notice with cotija is it doesn’t melt like other cheeses.

If you want the shape and color of cheese to remain the same, use cotija.

That’s why it’s a great option for topping a hot meal.

You can explore it on its own or when making dishes that aren’t necessarily Mexican.

You can also use this cheese to make salads.

Additionally, you can mix it into vegetable burgers, meatballs, and other dishes.

Cotija is also a great substitute for feta.

You can also add it to a charcuterie board or eat it plain.

The options for cooking or eating this type of cheese are limitless.

Common Cotija Cheese Recipes?

Cotija cheese is used in a variety of recipes.

You can use it when making salads, burgers, meatballs, and so on.

The options are endless.

However, here are some common cotija cheese recipes:

-Creamy Corn Salad with Cotija Cheese

-Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with Cotija Cheese

-Fruit and Cotija Cheese Salad

-Cotija Cheese and Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

-Cucumber, Cotija Cheese, and Lime Salad

As you can see, cotija cheese is a versatile ingredient.

You can use it in sweet or savory dishes.

It’s a great addition to any meal.

In case you can’t find cotija cheese, you can use feta or ricotta salata as a substitute.

Where Can I Buy Cotija?

It’s easy to get this type of cheese in a large grocery store or supermarket.

Try looking for it in retail stores that stock a large variety of international ingredients.

Take note that Latin markets usually have it in store.

Additionally, they provide more variations of the cheese including different maturations and brands.

When you buy cotija you will notice it’s packed either pre-grated or in block form.

The former version is fine like fluffy snow.

This is the best texture for covering the top of enchiladas or coating elote.

How Is Cotija Cheese Stored?

The best way to store cotija is by placing it in an airtight container and storing it in your refrigerator.

Some brands pack it in pre-grated packets that have a resealable top.

If this isn’t the case, you can put it in a container or bag that can be sealed completely.

Usually, cotija can stay fresh for about 30 days.

However, this is determined by the duration it was aged.

The longer it has matured the longer it takes before it expires.

Discard cotija if you notice an off-smell or mold.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Does Cotija Last?

Make sure cotija is placed in a sealed container and stored in the refrigerator if you are not using it.

On average, fresh cotija is good for about 30 days while aged cotija can last up to 90 days.

Is Cotija Cheese Hard?

Not really.

It’s usually semi-hard and cannot melt.

This is why it’s used on anything from tostadas to tacos and salads to soups.

Does Cotija Melt?

When heated, cotija doesn’t melt but it will soften.

This is why it’s used in Mexican dishes that require a cheese garnish.

Can You Get Sick from Eating Cotija Cheese?

Yes and no.

Any cheese, including cotija, can make you sick if it’s not stored properly.

However, as long as you purchase it from the refrigerated section of the grocery store and it hasn’t expired you won’t get sick.


Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese that can be used to make a variety of meals.

It’s a great option for meals that require a cheese garnish.

It’s also a good choice if you don’t want your cheese to melt when it’s heated.

You can find many recipes that use cotija as the cheese of choice.   

What Is Cotija Cheese

Cotija Cheese

Cotija cheese is made from cow’s milk and is aged for two to three months. The cheese is high in fat and protein, and it is a good source of calcium.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 378 kcal


  • 4 cups grilled corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise.
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder.
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
  • ½ cup cotija cheese.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 zest lime.
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice.


  • Grill corn over high heat until lightly charred. Use a sharp knife to cut corn kernels away from cob.
  • Mix together mayo and sour cream and stir into corn.
  • Season with chili powder, salt, pepper, lime juice, cilantro and cotija cheese then stir to combine. Serve immediately with lime wedges.



Calories: 378kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 13gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 773mgPotassium: 371mgFiber: 5gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 737IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 222mgIron: 1mg
Keyword What Is Cotija Cheese
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