All about Cheese in Mexico

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panela cheeseBy Donneley McCann

Today we are going shopping for CHEESE (QUESO) and hopefully this will be a useful guide to Mexican cheeses.


Queso blanco.  This creamy white cheese is made from skimmed cows

milk and is like a cross between cottage cheese and mozzarella. It softens when

heated but does not melt and is a good choice for stuffing enchiladas.

Queso fresco.  A spongy white cheese used to crumble over botanas (snacks)

as well as on enchiladas or a salad.  Usually made with a combination of cow’s and

goat’s milk.  A mild feta is an acceptable substitute.

Queso panela.  A soft, white cheese most often served as part of an appetizer

snack tray.  It absorbs other flavors easily and is sometimes coated with a garlic and

chile paste or wrapped in toasted avocado leaves to be served with cocktails.

Requeson.  A loose ricotta like cheese used to fill enchiladas and to make

cheese spreads.  Ricotta can be its substitute.



Queso anejo:  Simply an aged version of queso fresco and can become

quite firm and salty as it ages.  Primarily used as a garnish crumbled or grated

over a variety of dishes.  Romano is a substitute.

Queso oaxaca:  Also known as quesillo is by far the most popular cheese

for making quesadillas.  It is a stretched curd cheese, kneaded and wound into

balls or braided and should be pulled apart into thin strings before use.   Mozzarella

or string cheese can be used in its place.

Queso Chihuahua or queso menonita:   Named after the Mennonite communities

of Northern Mexico that first produced it. It is   pale yellow in colour and can vary in

taste from mild to a near cheddar-like sharp. Especially good for making queso frito, a

breaded fried cheese dish.  Used like a mild cheddar or flavourful jack cheese.



Queso criollo:  A pale yellow cheese   similar to munster it can be used


Queso manchego:  Introduced to Mexico from the Spanish region of La

Mancha this buttery yellow cheese is good for melting   or for serving with fruit or




Queso anejo enchilada: with its spicy red coating has been aged to where

it is served as a condiment.  A strong feta is its partner.

Queso cotija:  Named for the town of Cotija, Michoacan where it originated,

this is a sharp, crumbly goat cheese called “the parmesan” of  Mexico.  Usually served

over beans and salads.

Queso manchego viejo:  This is a manchego that has been aged to hardness and

is more intense in  flavour.  Quite often shaved over appetizers.

To note … Mexican cheeses do not actually melt and separate when heated (like cheddar or Monterrey Jack) but soften and retain their shape.

I heartily encourage you to try the huge variety of Mexican cheeses we have available

to us… not only are they tasty and nutritious but far cheaper than their imported

counterparts. Also seek the Mexican fetas, blues, cheddars, mozzarellas, etc. They

too will aid in reducing your food costs.

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