Different types of cheese are becoming popular every day. That is likely because of how accessible they are becoming across the globe! People can experiment and blend cuisines much more easily and create delicious new recipes.
That’s great and all, but what if you still don’t have access (or affordable access) to that specific cheese? Today, we specifically look at Oaxaca cheese, a specific variety that has lately exploded in popularity.
So, what are the best substitutes for Oaxaca? We recommend trying any semi-soft, stringy cheese with a mild flavor and creamy texture. The best options for this would include Mozzarella, Asadero, and string cheese. Other alternatives include Monterey Jack, Muenster, cheese curds, and Chihuahua.
Today, we will explore all of these alternatives in great depth. We’ll look at the best alternatives, how they work, and why they work so well. And our list includes a variety of products so you can choose what works best for you and your budget!
What Is Oaxaca Cheese?
Oaxaca cheese isn’t as well-known as most, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or difficult to find! It is a sort of Mexican cow’s milk cheese that was invented in the little town of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, hence the name.
This cheese is extremely similar to stringy cheeses such as mozzarella. When the technology was carried over from Italy, however, the town did not have access to buffalo milk. As a result, Oaxaca was born!
Depending on where you are in the world, this cheese may be known by another name, such as quesillo. However, some people refer to it as “Mexican mozzarella.”
The cheese is stretched and rolled into a ball to make Oaxaca. The method is known as pasta filata, and it is the same method used to manufacture string cheese and mozzarella.
That is why Oaxaca has a texture and consistency comparable to mozzarella cheese! It is classified as a semi-soft cheese. This cheese is rich, creamy, and buttery.
It can be stretched and worked to some extent when working with it (again, just like a mozzarella). It is also a cheese that melts well in soups, casseroles, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
When it comes to flavor, it isn’t particularly powerful. This mild cheese has earthy undertones, which some call “mellow.” It has a distinct salty flavor, but not nearly as strong as feta or Edam.
So, how does this cheese look? Probably mozzarella, right? Both yes and no. The form of Oaxaca cheese is similar to that of mozzarella. It is also white or golden in color. Its silky smooth soft feel is likewise comparable.
This cheese, on the other hand, is pulled and coiled into a ball, much like a ball of yarn. Sometimes the ball is somewhat pushed before being wrapped; other times, the ball is simply wrapped. You can grate, pull apart, or slice this cheese to use it. It can be melted, grilled, or used as a tasty garnish in salads or sandwiches.
Choosing The Best Substitute For Oaxaca Cheese
Before substituting an ingredient, as we usually advise, you must first choose what you intend to substitute it with. Oaxaca cheese has a texture, flavor, and mouthfeel that are entirely distinct. Thus, it is relatively simple to find a suitable replacement for one or more of these characteristics! Let’s examine the optimal method for selecting a substitute for specific Oaxaca cheese qualities.
Since Oaxaca cheese doesn’t have an exceptionally prominent flavor, the texture is arguably the most common trait people want to substitute. To recap — this cheese is classified as a semi-soft cheese. It isn’t aged, like most other Mexican cheeses. That means it has a very soft mouthfeel because of its higher moisture content.
Furthermore, Oaxaca is tender, firm (but soft), and can even be seen as being stringy. When you pull pieces off a larger block it will pull away in stringy pieces, like mozzarella.
So, if you choose an alternative based on the texture of this cheese, go for other semi-soft cheeses that are un-aged. The best options for these are also cheeses that have been made in a similar way (using the pasta filata method). Naturally, if you haven’t guessed it yet, mozzarella and string cheese is your best bet in this regard.
Oaxaca has a mild and earthy flavor with salty undertones. It is quite a neutral cheese, making the alternatives (based on flavor) quite broad. If you are only looking for a similar flavor and the texture doesn’t matter, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and Meunster cheese are arguably the best options. Even though Gouda, for example, has a similar semi-soft texture, it doesn’t have a similar flavor at all. So, it won’t work as well.
Therefore, if you want a substitute that serves the same purpose, you might not care about the texture or taste. Despite having an identical flavor or a similar semi-soft texture, certain cheeses stubbornly refuse to melt, crumble, or tear.
For grilled cheese sandwiches, for instance, halloumi (another pasta filata cheese) is not a suitable substitute for Oaxaca since it does not melt. Substituting sliced Moliterno for torn Oaxaca cheese in salads won’t achieve the same visual effect. Therefore, before settling on a replacement, one must always determine the function being replaced.
Availability And Price
Now, even if you have discovered the best alternative to Oaxaca cheese, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is accessible or affordable. There are several varieties of semi-soft stretch cheese available. But depending on your location, they can still be out of reach.
Therefore, it is ideal to pick an option that is simple to locate in your location. Once more, mozzarella is perhaps the best cheese (particularly bocconcini balls) and is available worldwide.
Best Oaxaca Cheese Substitutes
So, without further ado, here are our favorite Oaxaca cheese alternatives! We started with some simple and inexpensive solutions. This will provide you with more options to pick from. However, later on, we include some excellent choices that may be more difficult to locate. However, they are still fantastic solutions that will suffice!
1. Belgioioso Fresh Mozzarella Log
If you are still unsure as to which cheese is the best substitute for Oaxaca, the answer is mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella is another variety of semi-soft, unaged, and stretchy spaghetti filata cheeses. In fact, it is the most well-known example of this type of cheese! In comparison to Oaxaca itself, it is extremely accessible and inexpensive across the globe.
Mozzarella cheese is available in numerous forms. There are pressed blocks, little balls, and big balls the size of eggs. This makes it adaptable in terms of its applications. It can be used as a melting cheese, garnish, or texture enhancer.
For the most realistic flavor, choose mozzarella made from cow’s milk rather than buffalo milk. Yes, it is essentially Oaxacan, but it is not produced in that region or in the same manner; it is just mozzarella made from cow’s milk.
As a result of being preserved in brine, these alternatives have a fairly neutral taste that is somewhat salty. Overall, mozzarella is your best alternative to Oaxaca cheese.
2. 365 by Whole Foods Market, Cheese String Mozzarella
Although string cheese is a common food item in many American households, it is mostly unknown outside the United States. But if you are able to locate it, it is a fantastic substitute for Oaxaca!
The world over, you may find a wide variety of string cheeses. Their commonalities lie in their same manufacturing process and their mild, unobtrusive flavors.
The cheeses are often sold in long strands that are braided before being packaged. Airtight bags are then used to store and transport these braids before they are sold in bundles.
String cheese, like Oaxaca and mozzarella, is a melt-in-your-mouth variety. It can be split into bits for use in salads and sandwiches. It can’t be grated, or if it can, it’s going to be a huge hassle!
String cheese is almost never preferred over mozzarella because of its limited variety. The similarities end there, though, because the taste and texture are virtually identical.
3. Whole Foods Market, Monterey Jack Bar
This semi-hard cheese, which is sometimes referred to as “jack,” is created from cow’s milk. Although it is equally creamy and luscious, it has a little stiffer consistency than Oaxaca.
Monterey Jack lacks maturity for the most part. However, there are some products that have a considerably stiffer consistency and a more bitter flavor after maturing for up to 6 months. Therefore, be certain that you can utilize that.
This cheese melts incredibly well and is frequently used in sandwiches. In addition, it can be cut and grated. It cannot be torn, though, like string cheeses can.
Therefore, Monterey Jack cheese might not be the best choice if you’re searching for anything as striking as ripped mozzarella pieces.
It is likewise on the sweeter side of things and has a light flavor. To compensate for the lack of cheese, you can naturally add more salt to your dish. You can even choose from options that are flavored, which might be a lot of fun to try!
4. El Latino Queso Oaxaca/Oaxaca cheese
So, first and foremost, we must define Asadero – contrary to popular belief, it is not the same cheese as Oaxaca. And, just to be sure, we called a skilled cheese-making acquaintance who explained the distinction! Consider these two types of cheese to be sparkling wine vs Champagne.
While they are nearly same, the name of the product is determined by the region. Furthermore, there are subtle distinctions between genuine Champagne and other sparkling wines.
Asadero is another semi-soft cheese created with the pasta filata process. However, this cheese is created in Chihuahua, a town in Northwest Mexico.
The main distinction between these two is that Asadero has a softer flavor. However, this permits it to be used in many more ways. So, since it’s nearly identical to Oaxaca, why didn’t we rank it higher? Asadero, like Oaxaca, can be difficult to discover and rather expensive.
5. Muenster Cheese
We believe that Muenster cheese is grossly underestimated. It is another semi-soft cheese produced primarily in the United States. This cheese is frequently produced with a rind, which helps retain moisture for a longer period of time.
The cheese can perform practically all of the same functions as Oaxaca cheese. It can be melted, grated, and sliced. It can be torn, but it will not create a stringy texture.
For flavor, Muenster is relatively neutral. There is nothing particularly remarkable about it. However, this makes it even more adaptable in its applications.
This cheese is extremely creamy and delicately soft. Additionally, you can get aged variants with a more pungent flavor character.
6. Queso Menonita Los Altos Cheese – Queso Chihuahua
You thought we were talking about Fido, didn’t you?
As we discussed previously, Asadero cheese originates in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. To be fair, there is a second specialty cheese available, also known as Queso Chihuahua.
This mild white cheese is reminiscent of Monterey Jack in both texture and taste. As with most mozzarella cheeses, it can be purchased in the form of a round, a braid, or a ball.
This facilitates the acquisition of a feasible choice that can be cut, grated, torn, and diced. This cheese replacement also serves a practical purpose. It melts smoothly and adds an incredible amount of flavor and richness to any dish.
7. Manchego Cheese Whole Wheel – Approx
Manchego is frequently used as a substitute for Oaxaca. We find these discrepancies to be excessive. The advantages of utilizing Manchego include the fact that it has the same extraordinarily rich, buttery, and creamy mouthfeel and flavor as Oaxaca.
This cheese, though, is matured. Compared to Oaxaca, its texture is more firmer. Even the Manchego cheese that has been kept for the shortest period of time—three months—has a highly solid texture and an intensely pungent flavor.
This cheese is also produced using sheep’s milk. Consequently, the flavor is also very diverse (on top of being aged). But you might think about using Manchego cheese as an alternative if you want something that melts beautifully over and into foods.
8. Ricotta Salata Cheese – Sheep milk
The fact that ricotta is so simple to get makes it an excellent substitute for Oaxaca. It’s cheap, tasty, and can be used in a variety of ways. Ricotta is technically a fresh, soft cheese. It has a high moisture content and is damp in general.
You can, however, drain the liquid and leave it to hang for a bit. This will help it become more of a strained cheese with a thicker, chunkier consistency.
This cheese may be manufactured from almost any animal’s milk, giving you a wide range of options. Whichever you choose, they will all have a relatively mild flavor.
Ricotta works well in dishes that call for Oaxaca to melt. Soups, casseroles, spaghetti, and sauces are all excellent uses for them. This cheese cannot be grate, sliced, or torn.
9. Queso Panela
So, in all honesty, this option originally threw us for a loop. It is a soft, fresh cheese that appeared to have little resemblance to Oaxaca cheese until we experienced it. Granted, it should only be used as a replacement for toppings that melt or baked items. Thus, its uses are restricted. However, if you do use it, it will help you get a texture that is extremely creamy and dense.
It melts into food and absorbs flavorings exceptionally effectively. In addition, it is frequently seasoned (e.g., with pepper, herbs, or garlic), which will enhance the flavor of your food.
10. Cheese Curds
Cheese curds, if you can find them, are an excellent substitute for Oaxacan cuisine. The process of manufacturing cheese results in the formation of these curds. When milk is heated to make cheese, a creamy mass rises to the surface and the whey sinks to the bottom. Unlike matured cheese, cheese curds are only mildly firm. However, they are exceptionally luscious and smooth.
You can trust that this option will function wonderfully as a melting cheese in any dish. Because of how well it melts, it is frequently used in the production of cheese sauces and similar products.
11. Cotija Cheese El Mexicano Queso Cotija
Last but not least, we have a different variety of Mexican cheese that is even more widely available than Oaxaca. But because they have so many different textures, you have to search for a certain item that will serve your purpose.
It is a fresh cheese often produced with a mixture of goat and cow milk. Additionally, it tastes slightly acidic or tart. That results from the cheese recipe’s inclusion of vinegar or lemon juice.
Numerous types of white cheese are referred to as queso fresco. All of them have a delicate texture and rich buttery flavors. Since it isn’t stringy, it is typically only suitable for use as a garnish, topping, or melted ingredient.