Queso Oaxaca
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Guide To Mexican Cheese

Called "queso" in Spanish; learn about the array of specialty Mexican cheeses. Our guide includes most of the commonly found Mexican cheeses as well as other Hispanic cheeses used in Mexican cooking.

Article by: Barbara Bowman

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Mexican Cheese (Queso)

Fresh Cheese

  • Panela: Adapted from a Greek basket cheese whole unpasteurized milk curds are salted and drained in baskets to form this fresh cheese. Panela is best eaten fresh as a snack or to top salads or other cold dishes. You can also use panela to crumble over tacos or chili.

    Substitute: Ricotta
  • Queso Blanco: A moist, crumbly cheese that becomes creamy when it is heated. The cheese is very versatile so you can use to crumble over you favorite Mexican dish or even fry it on your comal.

    Substitute:  Monterrey Jack
  • Queso Fresco: Translates to "fresh cheese". With its crumbly texture and slightly acidic flavor it can be crumbled atop beans, salads or even rice dishes or used to stuff chiles or for quesadillas.. Queso Fresco is probably the most common Mexican cheese found in Mexico as well as the U.S In some regional areas of Mexico the cheese curds are still ground on a metate then hand pressed into round molds.
    Mild Feta Cheese

  • Requeson: A "Hispanic Ricotta" style cheese. Use in any recipe that calls for ricotta from salads and even desserts. Requeson is a lower-fat cheese.

    Substitute:  Ricotta

  • Crema: Not really a cheese but a dairy staple in Mexican cuisine. Crema is a heavy cream similar in taste to creme fraiche (which is a good substitute but best to just make your own).  Thicker versions of crema are used as additions to sauces and the thinner crema is used as a topping for tostadas, tacos and enchiladas.

    Substitute:  Creme Fraiche,  Sour cream (thinned) OR Make your own

Soft And Semi-Soft Cheese

  • Anejo: Translated "anjeo" means aged.  Anejo cheese is dry and gratable or can be crumbled then used on tacos, salads or any dish where you want to add a zesty flavor..

    Substitute: Romano

  • Asadero: The traditional use for this mild, chewy cheese is a filling for chiles rellenos and a popular Mexican dish called chile con queso. In Qaxaca trompillos (wild berries) are used in the cheese making process and this imparts a distinctive flavor not found in Northern Mexico or in the U.S. versions.

    Substitutes: Teleme, Muenster, Jack, Fontina

  • Chihuahua: Brought to Mexico from the Mennonites, Queso Chihuahua is similar to mild cheddar but becomes tangy when it is aged. Good versions are hard to find the U.S. so you may prefer to substitute with a Muenster or medium Cheddar. Chihuahua cheese is used for melting in chiles rellenos and a Mexican fondue called queso fundido

    Substitute:  Jack or mild Cheddar

  • Oaxaca: Long ribbons of cheese are rolled up to form a ball to make this traditional mozzarella-like cheese. The balls of cheese are used shredded to top tostadas and little appetizers (antojitos) or may be sliced and added to quesadillas or chile rellenos. Look for a spicy versions too which is flavored with cherry

    Substitute: Mozzarella or Armenian String Cheese

Semi-Hard And Hard Cheeses

  • Chontaleno and Chontaleno Ahumado, dry, grating cheeses, ahumado refers to a smoked.version

    Substitute: Parmesan

  • Cotija: A dry grating cheese similar to Parmesan. The aged version is referred to as "anejo". Both are used crumbed or grated

    Substitute:  Parmesan

  • Enchilado - A version of Cotija Anejo coated with chile used for it's spicy flavor as well as for color.

    Substitute: Feta

  • Manchego: A Spanish sheep's milk cheese traditionally sliced and served wtih membrillo (quince paste). Manchego adds a nice salty, nutty flavor to dishes

    Substitute: Pecornio Roman

  • Queso Criollo: One of the few Mexican "yellow" cheeses very similar to Munster which is a good substitute. This is a gratable cheese

    Substitute: Munster

  • Queso Seco para Freir - A dry, aged cheese used on crispy quesadillas or grated onto beans or other Mexican dishes. This cheese can also be fried (queso frito).

    Substitute: Parmesan

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