With so many delicious Mexican cheeses available, don’t settle and buy just “Mexican cheese” or “Mexican blend” products. Discover the wide variety of authentic Latin American cheeses available to add to your Mexican recipes.
Here’s our quick guide to help you cook like a Mexican at home using traditional cheese.
Meaning “Fresh cheese”, this soft, salty and crumbly cheese is made with whole milk. It can be stuffed in chilis, sliced or melted, but is most often used sprinkled over enchiladas, beans or antojitos.
Substitutions: Ricotta Salata, French feta
This is a mild-tasting fresh cheese that melts really well. It’s a perfect topping on a bowl of chile con queso or as a stuffing for Chile Rellenos.
Substitutions: Teleme, Domestic Muenster, Provolone
Despite sharing the same name as the Spanish variety, Mexican Manchego cheese is often made with cow’s milk (and not goat’s milk). Light yellow in colour, this great multi-purpose cheese makes a delicious appetizer or snack. It can also be easily shredded or melted on dishes.
Substitutions: Spanish Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano
Made with skimmed milk, this soft, white cheese is firmer and considerably more flexible than queso fresco. As it can be easily cut (but not crumbled) and is slightly salty, it’s most often eaten alone or as a snack or appetizer. It’s also popular in sandwiches or salads, or for making fried cheese.
One variety of panela cheese is queso canasta or basket cheese, named after the rustic basket it's sometimes packed in in Mexican markets.
Substitutions: Farmer's cheese, Monterey Jack
Meaning “white cheese”, this soft, crumbly cheese is perfect for sprinkling on hot foods such as refried beans or enchiladas, and also cold dishes like salads.
Substitutions: Halloumi, Indian Paneer, Quark, Farmer Paneer.
Also known as quesillo, it’s named after the State of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and described as the ‘mozzarella of Mexico’. It’s creamy white and moderately soft string cheese appearance stems from the curdling process, which forms lots of string that’s then wound into a ball. Melting quickly, it’s often used for quesadillas, stuffed chilis, or other dishes needing melted cheese or served with chile de agua. It is also great shredded, can top refried beans, tostadas, and soup, or simply eaten as a snack.
Substitutions: String cheese, mozzarella, domestic Muenster
Named for the Mexican state from which it originates, this cheese is also sometimes referred to as queso Mennonite, for the Mennonite farmers who first made this cheese. A firm, light yellow aged cheese that resembles a mild cheddar in taste and texture. Aged, it has a more robust and tangy flavour than most Mexican cheeses. It’s melts easily and is often used to make queso fundido (a melted ‘dipping’ cheese). It can also be grated on dishes or used to stuff chile Rellenos or tamales.
Substitutions: Monterey Jack, mild Cheddar
This intensely flavoured cheese is considered Mexico’s answer to an aged parmesan. Taking its name from the town of Cotija in Michoacán state, this strong-smelling, dry, salty, aged cheese is often crumbled or shredded on salads, beans, pasta, and antojitos.
Mexico's answer to ricotta cheese, this creamy and mild tasting cheese is so soft it can be spread. It’s great for filling chilis, enchiladas, and antojitos, such as tlacoyos and gorditas.
Substitution: Full-fat ricotta
Queso Doble crema
This “double cream cheese” is a very soft, white cheese made with additional cream. Being creamier than other varieties, it’s great for spreading and making desserts.
Substitutions: Cream cheese
These are just a few of the many varieties of Mexican cheeses available but try as many varieties as you can find. Check out the La Mexicana website to discover our great choices.