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Queso Fresco Substitute – 12 Best Ideas Good For Your Health

Queso Fresco is an indispensable ingredient in Mexican foods. If it isn’t available in your kitchen, check out our post for the Queso Fresco substitute list!

Introduction

Queso Fresco plays a pivotal role in mouth-watering dishes. This crumbly and soft cheese adds a perfect texture and flavor to your dish. Sometimes you might run out of this ingredient in your kitchen. How can you make a superb meal without this Mexican cheese? 

Fear not. Let’s go for a Queso Fresco substitute! There is a wide range of different types of cheese available, which have the nearly same flavor as queso fresco. Read until the end to get hold of 12 best ideas for this cheese.

12 Best Queso Fresco Substitutes

Feta Cheese

This option is the most popular and easily found queso fresco alternative. It also shares the matching soft texture and mild taste with queso fresco.

Feta Cheese

If you are not a professional cook or have little time for the kitchen corner, it would be confusing to distinguish those two ingredients at first sight. Both are white in texture and creamy.

Feta cheese is mainly made from sheep’s milk or cow’s milk. It will be tangier and sharper with sheep’s milk yet milder with the other. For this reason, this pick shows a delicate flavor. Its creaminess and richness add a great taste to warm spices such as paprika, cayenne, and cumin. 

It is also hard to ignore its refreshing and cooling note with a crumbling feel at first bite. I find that dry French varieties would be better for crumbling over food despite their Greek origin. Greek feta cheese is also not compatible with salads due to its tangy and salty taste.

Danish feta version is creamier and easier to slide through than Greek ones. Your salads and stuffing will look much more attractive with this type.

Moreover, feta cheese can replace queso fresco in almost any recipe. Stuffed peppers, burritos, grilled dishes, salads, and enchiladas are a few to name. However, it will not work well with soups and desserts.

For vegetarians, this one will surely not let them down. This healthy choice offers only 74 calories and 6 grams of fat in one ounce. This low-fat and low-calorie cheese can offer an abundant source of calcium and B vitamins.

Feta cheese is aged and brined, so using a small amount of feta or rinsing a block of cheese in cold water is highly recommended. This way, you can reduce the salty and bold taste.

Ricotta Salata

Unlike ricotta with its soft and fluffy texture, Ricotta Salata is an aged and dried version. This salty Italian cheese is made from aging, salting, and pressing fresh ricotta in at least two months.

Ricotta Salata

A slice of Ricotta Salata is often used as garnish cheese or a dessert. When aged at least five weeks, it can work as a grated ingredient. The younger cheese will be saltier. 

This type of cheese is traditionally made from sheep milk and cow milk. Sometimes, it is also made from the whey leftover from pecorino romano. This ingredient has 90 calories and eight grams of fat, acceptable nutritions.

These ingredients make it mild yet salty to work as a seasoning agent. You will be immediately attracted to the subtly milky flavor like regular ricotta. Yet, the clay-like, chalky, sponge-like dry texture enables you to easily slice the cheese block into the desired shape.  

What makes Ricotta Salata a great alternative for queso fresco is its crumbly and white look. This texture is ideal for working as a topping for pasta, soups, and salads. You can also use the cheese for Mediterranean and Mexican cooking.

Besides salads, I often use them for stews and some stuffing for burritos, bread, and tacos as well. However, its dry firmness doesn’t let you spread the cheese easily. So sandwich spreads are not recommended.

Furthermore, grilling at a high temperature can turn this one into a goopy and grainy texture, messing up your whole dish. Thus, avoid using Ricotta Salata for grilled ones.

Pot Cheese

Pot cheese is another variation of conventional cottage cheese. This version got its name from farmhouse kitchens. In this case, the just-collected milk was cooked into a fresh cheese in a big pot on the stove.

Pot Cheese

The cheese shows a thick consistency with larger curds. It is a midway version between farmers’ cheese and cottage one. Yet, unlike dry farmer cheese, this one comes with some whey but doesn’t swim in it.

The crumbly and slightly dry flavor with a creamy and neutral texture makes it ideal as a spread. On the other hand, the milky and sweet taste is suitable for blintzes, pies, and other dessert recipes. 

You can also add some to souffle batters or cheesecake to keep them rich and moist. For cookie lovers, the dense and rich texture from pot cheese will be almost irresistible.

If you are passionate about cooking, you should try to make pot cheese once! This ingredient is best for personal use and super easy to make at home. Due to this, it doesn’t last too long, so try to use it in a few days.

Pot cheese is also a great option that any vegetarian should not miss. It contains only 60 calories and 4 grams of fat content. Therefore, don’t hesitate to use it to make your salads and vegetables tastier.

Farmer’s Cheese

Farmer’s cheese is one of the most available types on the market. Dry curds make it dry, crumbly, and firm. Different types of animal milk will result in final products creating varying levels of softness.

Farmer’s Cheese

What makes farmer’s cheese a favorite ingredient is its complete fermentation. Thus, all the lactose has been well fermented, ideal for those with lactose intolerance.

People taking a daily-restricted diet will appreciate this one because it only offers 50.1 calories with 4.5 grams of fat content.

Blending farmer’s cheese with mayo, sour cream, or Greek yogurt also offers you tasty dishes. A flavorful and rich dip will make them more eye-catching and mouth-watering.

Its milky and mild note works perfectly with roasted vegetables, aromatics, spices, herbs, and meat. In addition, it is perfect for dessert dishes, including pancakes, blintzes, and pierogies. 

Therefore, you can use it for any recipe requiring queso fresco. Yet, you will need to adjust the quantities to achieve the same cheese taste in your dishes when using queso fresco.

Paneer

Paneer should not be a strange name for cheese lovers. This traditional Indian cheese offers a sweet and milky flavor that satisfies any vegetarian or vegan. It provides users with around 265 calories and 26.9 grams of fat in 100 grams.

Paneer

Unlike other types, it is made of curdled milk and a sort of vegetable and fruit acid like lemon juice. Those ingredients make it soft, unaged, and not melt.

Cow and buffalo milk is often used to make paneer, which ensures a unique balance between softness and firmness. This balance enables you to cut the block into small squares. 

While the cheese is pretty crumbly, it is also chewy. Thus, you can use it as a topping or an add-on to dishes. Stews, tacos, taquitos, curries, and fajitas are a few dishes to name. 

Indian dishes and Mexican cuisines both use plenty of spices. Thus, they need some sort of cheese to offset the intensity and heat. This makes paneer a perfect substitute for queso fresco when making a Mexican dish. 

You will surely appreciate its firm and chewy texture if you plan to make some grilled dishes. Instead of melting, the texture’s surface tends to brown beautifully with a soft interior content. This allows you to use paneer cubes for your pizza, fresh salads, and kabobs.

Overall, paneer is not highly recommended for sandwiches and soups due to this texture as well. 

Queso Blanco

Queso blanco is another substitute that deserves your consideration. This white cheese has so many similarities with queso fresco that not many people can distinguish them.

Queso Blanco

Queso blanco is often made from cow’s milk or goat and cow milk mixture. This makes it mild and milky without being too salty or tangy. Like paneer with the same ingredients, the soft, dry, and crumbly cheese doesn’t melt. 

Its signature firmness lets you use it in cubes and get a perfect brown texture over grilled dishes. However, this quality may prevent you from spreading the cheese easily. Thus, this type is not best for sandwiches or any dish requiring a spreadable one.

For rich, spicy, or heavy dishes, queso blanco promises to be a perfect counterpart. Its slight hint of sourness can balance the overall taste and offer the best flavor of spicy Mexican cuisine.

Thus, it is also a great replacement for queso fresco in crumbling cheese dip with its rich content. You will get a heavy dip for your favorite chips, nachos, and breadsticks. 

Moreover, for those who are on a diet, this option is not suggested. 100 grams of queso blanco can offer 357 calories and around 29 grams of fat. 

Monterey Jack Cheese

With a mild buttery texture, Monterey Jack cheese promises to work as well with enchiladas, burritos, and quesadillas as queso fresco. This great food ingredient can turn any dish into a masterpiece without overpowering its base flavors.

Monterey Jack Cheese

Another main attraction of this cheese is its wide availability. You can find it easily in the nearest store and get your dish done quickly. At first glance, Monterey Jack shows a pronounced yellow texture. 

This texture tends to intensify with age, but the color will still remain attractive all the time. The cheese is made from skim or full-fat cow’s milk to have a creamy taste. 

Thanks to this, it can perfectly complement the heat and intensity from spices like cayenne, jalapenos, chili powder, or paprika. The ingredient also melts well, ideal for enchiladas, gooey and cheesy burritos. 

Slicing and shredding it as a topping for stale tacos and warmed tamales is also not a bad idea. Monterey Jack can offer 100 calories and 8 grams of fat in one ounce. 

Due to this high-fat content, you should only use a smaller amount than the amount of queso fresco in the recipe.

Tofu

For those looking for a vegan queso fresco substitute, it is lucky not to miss out on tofu made from soy milk curds.

Tofu Queso Fresco Substitute

This vegan ingredient has a total of 280 calories and 21 grams of fat content. That’s why it is a special alternative for non-vegans desiring to cut down on their dairy consumption. 

There are several kinds of tofu with different types of textures. You can get a soft, firm, and extra-firm layer. Yet, the last one is closest to the texture of queso fresco. 

Tofu is more commonly used in South-East Asia, and its versatility and wide applications are indisputable. It can replace cheese, eggs, and meat in countless dishes, including desserts and savory ones.

Tofu also satisfies your demands as a filling, stuffing, and topping. Your enchiladas, fusion-style curries, and meaty stews will be more mouth-watering with some pieces of a firm or extra-firm tofu.

Despite its overly mild taste, tofu is low in calories and fat and offers various essential minerals. So if you are reducing dairy from your daily diet, it can ensure you have some valuable vitamins.

Cotija (Fresh)

You will love the good salty and crumbly taste of the popular Mexican cotija cheese. Cotija is named after the Cotija town in the state of Michoacan. In detail, it is made from cow’s milk to have a salty flavor and crumbly texture.

Cotija (Fresh)

When this white cheese is aged for a shorter time period, its texture is moist and crumbly like that of feta. On the other hand, the older version is firmer and sharper like Parmesan. 

Cotija can soften with heat, but it doesn’t melt. So you can use it for sprinkling and crumbling. This perfect finishing is also commonly seen in Mexican dishes like tacos, posole, enchiladas, or nachos. For a veggie burger, you can add some cotija to the mushroom and black bean mixture to have a flavor patty. 

This cheese has a high calorie and fat content, which offers you the required energy for a long day. In 100 grams, it shows 357 calories and up to 28.6 fat grams. 

You can use rich cotija for all recipes that need feta and other types of Mexican cheese. Yet, it is worth remembering to use a smaller amount of cheese or decrease the overall amount of salt. 

Cotija is saltier than queso fresco, so I bet that you don’t want to let the salty taste overwork your dishes.

Oaxaca

Mexican goat cheese is a great queso fresco alternative, especially when you struggle to find a mild variety. In this case, Oaxaca proves its superiority and wide availability. It is much easier to find and more common in home cooks.

Oaxaca

This white and soft cheese is made from cow’s milk, so it looks and tastes a lot like queso fresco. In savory and spicy dishes, Oaxaca offers a perfect buttery note in its mellow and sweetish flavor. 

This type is mild and creamy, ideal for enchiladas, poblano peppers, and quesadillas. This buttery taste works well with chile rellenos and all flavorful dishes. You can also shred and use it as a garnish on tostadas, beans, soups, and tacos. 

Thanks to its soft and stretchy texture, Oaxaca is often related to mozzarella. Although it melts well into rich fondue-like goodness, it can keep its shape. That’s why it is great for baked dishes like pasta, lasagna, and open-faced sandwiches.

Unlike other cheeses, this one is stretchy and soft enough to cut into long strings. You can wind those strings into a knot or balls and use them as a topping.

One serving of Oaxaca only has 80 calories and six fat grams, so it is still suitable for those on a diet.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has a bad reputation for its unattractive appearance on cheese boards. But I have found some ways to make it useful and delicious.

Cottage Cheese

Let’s face that: cottage cheese is a low-calorie and high-protein food staple. Thus, I often use it as an alternative for sour cream, cream cheese, and ricotta. 

Cottage cheese is made from skim milk, cream, and vegetable acids like lemon juice, rennet, and vinegar. This acidified milk results in a mixture of separating curds from the whey. Those curds are rinsed well and have some added salt.

Thanks to its nutritional benefits, this type is a brilliant idea for babies in their development. Besides 163 calories and 2.3 fat grams, it offers a wide range of minerals and essential vitamins like vitamin B12.

The milky whiteness with a mild flavor provides a perfect balance to your salad. I also often make some afternoon snacks with applesauce and cottage cheese. The sweet and savory hit seems irresistible and unforgettable.

Adding one or two scoops of this cheese to the pancake batter is also a big part of a brilliant cooking recipe. The idea of soft and melting within and crispy on the texture will attract the pickiest eaters.   

Muenster

Have you ever seen a white cheese with an eye-catching orange ring? This is what exactly muenster cheese offers at a first look. The cheese is 100% milk to have mild and buttery cheese.

Muenster

Its taste can jog your mind about a mild Monterey Jack cheese. However, it also comes with a salty kick as it is well seasoned. Muenster is best for melting. Their rich and earthy taste doesn’t contain spicy notes despite the yellow rings.

This wonderful melting cheese is great for pizza, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and tuna melts. I also often use it for grilled cheese sammies.

One serving of muenster can have 104 calories and total fat of 8.5 grams. It provides users with a wide range of vitamins and minerals, so don’t hesitate to check out some recipes with this cheese.

The Differences Between Queso Fresco Vs Feta In Nutrition Facts

As mentioned before, feta cheese is one of the best queso fresco substitutes. So, let’s compare their nutritional facts for a detailed look:

Per 100g Queso Fresco Feta
Calories 299 265
Carbohydrates 2.98 g 3.88 g
Fat 23.82 g 21.49 g
Protein 18.09 g 14.21 g
Water 51.42 g 55.22 g
Calcium 566 mg 493 mg
Iron 0.2 mg 0.65 mg
Magnesium 24 mg 19 mg
Potassium 129 mg 62 mg
Sodium 751 mg 1139 mg
Vitamin B1 0.042 mg 0.154 mg
Vitamin B2 0.173 mg 0.844 mg
Vitamin B3 0.027 mg 0.991 mg
Vitamin B6 0.076 mg 0.424 mg
Vitamin B9 0.007 mg 0.032 mg
Vitamin E 0.37 mg 0.18 mg
Vitamin K 0.001 mg 0.002 mg

Benefits Of Using Queso Fresco For Vegetarians

Queso fresco is an excellent ingredient that brings fantastic taste and nutrition to your dish. Its benefits for a vegetarian are indisputable.

This slightly salty, sour, and milky flavor promises to freshen up my daily meals, especially salads. The cheese also has a low content of sodium and fat, which makes it a superior choice over aged cheeses.

For those with a lacto-vegetarian diet, queso fresco works beautifully with their fruits and vegetables salad mixture. It would be much better if you opt for a nut-based queso fresco.

This lower-cholesterol cheese includes enough fibers to help you maintain a healthy and balanced digestive system. The Omega 3S fat is also available to boost your overall immune system.

Plant-based protein in this type of queso fresco increases cancer prevention and reduces the risk of diabetes.

Queso Fresco For Vegetarians

How To Make Homemade Queso Fresco Substitute

Making your own Mexican cheese is much easier than you have ever imagined. Before getting your hands dirty, let’s prepare the following ingredients: 

  • 16 cups of whole milk
  • two tablespoons of kosher salt
  • ½ cup of white vinegar

Step-by-step instructions to make queso fresco cheese substitute:

  • Step 1: Heat the milk

Combine milk and salt in a heavy stockpot, then switch the medium-high heat to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Step 2: Add some rennet to the milk and whisk thoroughly to have the best combination
  • Step 3: Let the mixture sit for at least an hour
  • Step 4: Cut the custard

Let’s check whether the milk has firmed up as a curd. If yes, use a whisk to cut this block into ¼ inch chunks. If the milk hasn’t been set yet, let it sit for another 15 minutes.

However, don’t let it sit for too long, or else the curb will be too hard to make cheese.

  • Step 5: Let the cheese sit for another 10 minutes. You should notice that the curds fall to the bottom and separate from the whey.
  • Step 6: Use a slotted spoon to transfer curds to the colander and discard the whey.
  • Step 7: Drain curds: Drain the curds with a damp cheesecloth and twist it gently. 
  • Step 8: Leave the cheese for an additional 10 minutes. After that, unwrap and break up it manually. Add and massage the salt gently into the cheese.
  • Step 9: Mold the result into the cheese mold. Then, fold the cheese cloth’s ends and press it into the mold. You should do it gently and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • Step 10: Flip it carefully, and you have got the best results! You can store it for one to six hours in the fridge to have a firm block.

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Conclusion

Long story short, it goes without a shade of doubt that queso fresco is an indispensable ingredient in most Mexican food. This cheese adds a great flavor to your food taste while offering an eye-catching texture.

However, if you are still confused, don’t worry, as our queso fresco substitute recommended above will work wonders. Among those types of cheese, feta cheese always wins my heart. 

This one is mild yet rich enough to suit the pickiest eaters. It is also a great choice for vegetarians. You will even make much more delicious dishes with proper cooking methods and recipes!

 

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Anya Kaats

Hi! I’m Anya, a San Diego-based Holistic Health Coach and Marketing Consultant on a mission to share good food, health & happiness with as many people as possible. I am a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and have worked in the natural & organic products industry for my entire professional career with companies such as Suja Juice, Brad’s Raw Foods, and Mamma Chia. While my life may be totally consumed with healthy food now, nutrition wasn’t always a passion of mine.