A Brief Guide to Mexican Cheeses

Published on July 19, 2021

One of the joys of Mexican cuisine is its dazzling variety of cheeses. You may be familiar with queso fresco, but it is only one in a whole world of delicious cheeses – from soft, fresh cheeses, to firm, aged cheeses, to creamy cheese spreads. Mexican cheeses can be used in many different ways – as a garnish, as stuffing, in sandwiches and on crackers, or as a flavour enhancer in soups and stews.

So which Mexican cheeses should you try? Read our list of 10 popular Mexican cheeses below and you are sure to find one (or more!) to suit your tastes.

Queso fresco
Spanish for “fresh cheese”, this cheese is white, soft and crumbly, resembling feta cheese. Traditionally, it’s made of raw cow milk or a combination of goat milk and cow milk. It has both salty and non-salty varieties. Queso fresco is often used as a topping for guacamole, appetizers and beans. If you make our guacamole recipe, try sprinkling some queso fresco on top!

Queso añejo
“Añejo” means “old” in Spanish, and indeed, this is the aged version of queso fresco. It is firmer and drier than queso fresco but used in similar ways. It is also considered a good cheese for baking and grilling.

Queso panela
A smooth, white, slightly salty cheese, queso panela differs from queso fresco in the way it’s made, with skim milk. This makes it firmer and more flexible. It does not melt when heated, but it can be fried. Many people enjoy it plain as a snack, in a sandwich, or cut it up into a salad.

Queso manchego
Mexican queso manchego is similar to the original Spanish manchego, however, while Spanish manchego is made with sheep milk, the Mexican version is made with a combination of cow milkand goat milk. This light yellow cheese is similar to cheddar in flavour, and is great as a snack or an appetizer. It also melts well and can be used in dishes like quesadilla.

Requesón is a soft cheese similar to ricotta or cottage cheese. This mild, non-salty cheese is often used as a filling for empanadas, enchiladas and gorditos, and can also be used as a spread.

Queso Oaxaca
Queso Oaxaca is named after the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, where it originated from, but today it is popular across Mexico. Queso oaxaca looks like string cheese, which is a result of the curdling process in its production which shapes it into strings. It’s soft and creamy, and melts well, which makes it perfect for dishes that require melted cheese like quesadillas and stuffed chilis. It is also used often as a garnish for tostadas, beans and soup.

Queso cotija
Queso cotija is an aged, hard, light yellow cheese with a dry, crumbly texture. Its consistency and sharp salty flavour resemble parmesan cheese. It is often sprinkled on salads, pasta, grilled corn, and beans.

Queso chihuahua
Queso chihuahua is also called queso menonita, after the people who first produced it – the Mennonite community in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It’s a light yellow, aged, firm cheese with a strong taste similar to cheddar cheese. As it melts easily, it is commonly used as a filling for stuffed chilis and tamales. Another popular use for it is queso fundido – a melted cheese dip eaten with chips. Monterey Jack cheese is also a great substitution for this cheese, because of its flavour and meltability. It’s for this reason at Quesada we use a Cheddar and Jack cheese blend

Queso asadero
Queso asadero is Mexican cheese that’s great for melting. It is soft, white and creamy with a mild taste, and is often used to make pizzas, quesadillas and queso fundido.

Queso crema
The last cheese on this list is actually a cream. It is traditionally prepared with cow milk combined with additional cream. Its rich and smooth consistency makes it great as a spread, or a garnish for soups and tacos. It is also used in making desserts.

The next you visit a Mexican restaurant (or prepare a Mexican dish at home), make sure you try one of these cheeses!