Cotija cheese is a salty, slightly acidic, cow’s milk cheese with a strong personality. Named after the city of Cotija in the state of Michoacán, it has been produced in the region for over 400 years. Traditionally, after the dairy cows grazed in the mountain pastures throughout Jalisco and Michoacán during the rainy season, the cheesemakers would bring down their cheese to be aged in Cotija for at least two months.
Cotija is a hard, dry, aged, and mature pressed cheese with a grainy texture that crumbles easily. It has a high salt content, so it isn’t really a cheese you want to take a big bite out of or have on a cheese platter. But it is perfect for adding a tangy and salty finish to a dish, be it savory or sweet. Grate some Cotija over tacos, enchiladas, corn, salads, and more to add lots of savory flavor.
Even though the real Cotija cheese has a collective brand recognition, Cotija producers haven’t been able to have it get the desired and prestigious denomination of origin. Although it is very prided locally, it is also known all over Mexico and increasingly abroad. Its availability in the US is pretty recent, maybe not even a decade.
You can usually find Cotija as a square or round block, cut into pieces, or already grated or crumbled at your local market, like in the photo above. You can think of Cotija as a Mexican version of parmesan.
14comments inCotija Cheese
Just watched your show that featured your husband’s favorites. Going to make the shrimp cocktail Pacifico for my sons & grandson next time they visit. Looks yummmmmmy! Love watching your show–learning new foods and techniques.
Thank you for tuning in, Helene! Have fun cooking for your sons and grandson!
Hi, Pati — I wonder if you could comment on “soft” Cotija cheese. It is available in U.S. stores and while the taste is similar, the texture is NOT.
Whether it is elotes or the many versatile uses of the crumbly version, they are very different.
Yes, I hear you. Depending on the brands and where you find them, they are not exactly like what you find in Mexico. Have you looked for the FUD USA brand queso Cotija cheese? I thoroughly recommend it: http://fudusa.com/en/producto/cotija-cheese-2/
The only brand I’ve been able to find in my area is Cacique Cotija Cheese at Walmart. Are you familiar with this? Is it any good?
That will work great, Judy!
Love watching the show. The food always looks so good. Fun watching you with your sons too. Nothing like having hungry boys to cook for.
So true! I’m so lucky to cook with and for my hungry boys 🙂
I have retired to the mountains of West Virginia. Finding food items from other countries and cultures is very difficult and I use internet groceries most often.
Is there a website you would recommend for the wonderful items from Mexico that you highlight in your newsletter?
Thank you so much,
Huntington, West Virginia
For produce I recommend Melissa’s…but anything you find is great, Terence. Have fun cooking!
I love the Cotija cheese I buy here in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. It’s somewhat dry, but definitely not hard. Do you know whether the Cotija sold all around México is actually the same as that from Cotija, Michoacán?
It depends on the producer…I would check the label.
Pati, is Cotija cheese similar to the Zacapa cheese of Guatemala?
I have not tried the Zacapa cheese from Guatemala, but now you made me really curious to try… and to go to Guatemala!