Should you crumble cotija cheese on top of your tacos or queso fresco? Is sour cream an acceptable sub in for crema? What’s even the difference? We’re here to answer all your questions and more with this handy dandy guide to the most common Mexican cheeses.
Cotija cheese is a hard and crumbly cow’s cheese (like feta) that is named after a town called Cotija, Michocan. It's a salty cheese that is typically available in July through October. It gets warm when heated but doesn’t melt. Use it when you want the saltiness and texture but don’t want to lose the crumble: toss it in salads, to top tacos, or on elotes.
Queso fresco’s literal translation is “fresh cheese”. It’s an un-aged firm cheese that is typically crumbled like cotija (though you can also find it sliced like ricotta salata). Though it is a meltable cheese, it’s delightfully fresh and salty and most often used raw. Slice it up and use in fresh salads or with sweet fruit or enjoy it tucked into a warm tortilla with slices of creamy, nutty avocado.
Crema is very similar to sour cream—it can be drizzled on burritos, nachos, and more and it adds a rich flavor to any dish. It’s runnier than sour cream and less tangy with a subtle sweetness. Use it to cool down spicy dishes or add just the slightest bit of creaminess to soups.
Anejo cheese is typically a pre-grated cheese that you find in the market and it's similar in taste and texture to Romano cheese. It’s a firm, aged cheese traditionally made from skimmed goat’s milk (and sometimes cow’s milk). Sprinkle it on any one of your favorite Mexican dishes or try it on pasta, to give your Italian meal some Latin flair.
Queso de Oaxaca
Queso de Oaxaca is the Mexican version of mozzarella cheese. It’s a white, semi-hard cheese with a string-cheese like quality. It’s less salty that mozzarella cheese but with the same melting capabilities. Use it in quesadillas and empanadas, dishes where you want that ooey-gooey factor.