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.