Mexican food is winning a wide audience. Mexican eateries are becoming more and more popular, and access to products is getting easier. We can easily get tortillas in shops, although not exactly like in Mexico or jalapeno peppers, habanero!
Good quality Mexican cheeses are still lacking. Delicious Queso Oaxaca melting in quesadilla, delicate Queso Fresco crumbs or fresh Queso Panela slices in a Mexican salad. Authentic Mexican cuisine offers a wide selection of cheeses, which are unfortunately hard to find in our country. Most Mexican cheeses are handmade, fresh, young and mild, with a very short shelf life. For these reasons, they are difficult to import or recreate.
But there is no need to despair! Suitable cheese substitutes at home from Mexico can be used.
The best substitute: buffalo mozzarella, sprinkled with extra salt
Oaxaca cheeseit is probably the most famous and typically Mexican cheese, and also the most sought after outside Mexico. Anyone who has ever had a quesadilla made by señora at a street stall in Oaxaca will understand why you should look for this cheese. Oaxaca cheese is a fresh creamy white cheese wrapped like a ball of string. It is quite hard and can be peeled into thin strings. It is slightly salty, has a pleasant sour shade and melts well. The traditional Oaxaca queso is made by hand from fresh, unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is used for quesadillas, enchiladas and chile rellenos. So the best option is to replace it with buffalo mozzarella, or as a last resort, regular mozzarella. Add a little salt and you’ll have almost the same! The only downside is
QUESO FRESCO (Queso Ranchero)
Best substitute: Paneer with added salt or very mild feta
Queso fresco , literally translated as “fresh cheese”, is the ubiquitous white cheese that can be found crushed into flautas, enchiladas, tostadas, and frijoles refritos (fried black beans). It is found all over Mexico and varies by region. It is white, creamy and mild. There are a few substitutes you can use instead, though you can also make it yourself. Paneer – Indian cheese is made in a very similar way and is a good replacement. It has a slightly milder taste and less salt – add some salt to counter this. Another option is a very mild creamy feta like French or Danish variety. They are still a bit stronger than Queso fresco , but it tastes great crumbled for dinner.
The best substitute: cream ricotta.
It is simple. Requesón is a Mexican / Spanish version of ricotta. Any fresh ricotta with full cream will go perfectly with any recipe requiring a Mexican requesón. In Mexico it is used as a filling for enchiladas, chile relleno, gorditas and many desserts.
Best substitutes: Paneer, halloumi or hard ricotta
Queso Panela is sometimes referred to as “queso de la canasta” (basket cheese) because of the way it is hung in the basket for setting, which in turn creates the shape and characteristic pattern of the basket on the outside of the cheese. The panel is easy to make. It is a fresh, white cheese, soft but stronger than queso frescco and very mild in flavor. It can be sliced and grilled as a snack (does not melt) and is commonly found in salads, served in soups, and is a great filling for enchiladas. The best substitutes are paneer, halloumi or very hard ricotta.
Best substitutes: fresh Pecorino, Gouda, Havarti or mild cheddar
The Mexican Manchego is not like the usual Spanish Manchego. It is much softer, softer and younger than its distant cousin in Europe, and instead of being made from sheep’s milk like the authentic Manchego, the Mexican “queso tipo Manchego” is usually made from cow’s milk or a mixture of cow and goat milk. It has many uses, but just to name a few: it is used in quesadillas for a stronger flavor than Oaxaca cheese, for Mexican fondue, or for melted toast. The best replacement is definitely not the Spanish Manchego, but fresh pecorino, gouda or havarti which will put you very close to the Mexican Manchego. Otherwise, mild cheddar will suffice.
Best substitutes: Parmesan
This handcrafted artisan cheese from the town of Cotija, Michoacán, is a cheese that is often used on a grilled cob of corn. It is a hard, spicy, salty, white, ripened cow’s milk cheese that is easily crushed or grated. It does not melt. Some people call it “Mexican Parmesan.”
Best substitutes: Cheddar or Monterrey Jack
The Queso Chihuahua is from … you guessed it, the same state that gave us these adorable little dogs, the Chihuahua. This cheese has an interesting history, it was the first one made by Mennonite immigrants who settled in Chihuahua in the 1920s. It is a pale yellow semi-soft cheese, sometimes referred to as Queso Mennonita. It is sold either young and fairly mellow, or after it has matured to a sharper taste. Tarts are used as a cheese topping for many dishes, as a filling for chile relleno or for making queso fondue. The best substitutes are: medium and mild cheddar or Monterrey Jack.
Best substitutes: Provolone (young variety)
Queso Asadero is also made in Chihuahua and is a semi-soft, pale yellow cheese with a slightly chewy texture and a sour color. It melts well and is used in chile con queso, chiles rellenos, queso fondue and served alone as a “botana” (snack). The best substitute is the mild provolone young cheese.