10 Common Types of Mexican Cheese
Cheese is an important part of Mexican food, adding a salty, savory dimension to tacos, sopes, tamales, and more. There are so many different kinds of Mexican cheeses that it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the grocery store. Below are some of the most popular varieties.
- Queso fresco is, literally, fresh cheese. Queso fresco is soft, moist, and crumbly, like feta, making it perfect for sprinkling over antojitos (little snacks or appetizers) and beans. It’s a whole milk cheese and can vary in saltiness. Queso fresco is often sold wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk. Learn about queso fresco in our guide here.
- Queso añejo (old cheese) is aged queso fresco with a harder, drier texture and is often sold pre-grated, like parmesan. Queso añejo is usually served crumbled on top of enchiladas.
- Cotija is an aged cheese, named for the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán. Cotija has a strong salty flavor, making it an ideal topping for beans, salads, antojitos, and other Mexican dishes (it’s commonly sprinkled on top of elote, or grilled corn). At room temperature or colder, it is dry and crumbly, but it will soften slightly when warmed. Learn about cotija cheese in our guide here.
- Queso de Oaxaca, known as quesillo in Oaxaca, looks like a ball of white string cheese (not unlike mozzarella). It’s creamy and mildly flavored, and it melts easily, making it an ideal stuffing for quesadillas or chiles rellenos. It can also be shredded and used as a garnish on top of soups, tostadas, and beans. Learn more about queso de Oaxaca here.
- Panela is a soft, white cheese made from skim milk, which makes it firm and flexible (it will not melt when heated). It’s gently salted and can be eaten plain as a snack, or it can be sliced and used as a sandwich filling. Learn about panela cheese in our guide here.
- Crema is a naturally-sourced, thickened cream that’s like a combination of American sour cream and French crème fraîche. Typically used as a garnish after cooking, crema adds a rich and tangy bite to soups, vegetables, and tacos.
- Chihuahua cheese, from the state of Chihuahua, is also known as queso menonita, since it was first produced by Mennonite farmers. With a flavor similar to mild cheddar or Monterey Jack, this cheese can be used as a filling for tamales and chiles rellenos. Sometimes Chihuahua cheese is aged, giving it a more sour flavor.
- Requesón is Mexican ricotta. Unlike most cheeses, which are made with curds, requesón (and ricotta) are made with whey. Requesón can have a texture like cottage cheese and is used as a filling for gorditas and empanadas.
- Queso asadero is a melting cheese with a mild flavor from the state of Chihuahua. It’s similar to queso Oaxaca and can be used in quesadillas.
- Manchego is a Spanish cheese originally made with sheep's milk. In Mexico, manchego is typically made with cow's milk (or goat’s milk). Mexican-style manchego has a flavor reminiscent of sharp cheddar and can be eaten on crackers or sandwiches.
Want to Learn More About Cooking?
Become a better chef with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by culinary masters, including Gabriela Cámara, Chef Thomas Keller, Massimo Bottura, Dominique Ansel, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.