For those who haven’t tried Mexican street corn or elotes, it is the perfect summer corn dish. Grilled corn smothered in mayo and sour cream, and topped with plenty of chili powder, cotija cheese, cilantro, and lime juice. Most of these ingredients are easy to find at any grocery store.

However, cotija cheese can be difficult to track down and can be a bit out of people’s price range. These cotija cheese substitutes are more widely available and more budget friendly.

What is Cotija Cheese?

Before we get into the replacements, what is cotija cheese? Cotija is an aged Mexican cheese made with cow’s milk and named after the town of Cotija, Michoacán. It is a white cheese with a firm texture, with a fairly salty, milky taste. A young cotija may resemble a mild feta, whereas an older cotija is more similar to a parmesan. 

Cotija Cheese Substitutes

As mentioned above cotija cheese can be fairly similar to a mild feta or a parmesan and both of these are acceptable replacements. Here are some other cheeses that can be used as substitutes. 


Feta seems to be the most common substitution for cotija, it has a fairly similar texture and flavor profile. Its wide availability makes it one of the best options for substitution. 

Parmesan and Romano

Parmesan has a similar flavor profile has a much firmer texture, but is a good choice if you are lactose intolerant because parmesan has an extremely low lactose content making it better tolerated by people with sensitive stomachs.

Romano has a bit of a funkier flavor profile than cotija, in addition to being a much harder cheese.

Queso Fresco

Queso fresco is a very budget-friendly option being a fraction of the price of cotija, but it can be much harder to find, so it’s not a great option to go with unless you know where to find it.


Ricotta is a soft mild cheese if you’re planning on using it as a replacement for cotija you will definitely need to add some lemon juice and salt to achieve a more similar flavor.

The most interesting characteristic of cotija cheese is that it does not change shape or consistency when cooked. It will soften slightly but otherwise will remain nearly identical in texture. This means that cotija can make a great filling for baked goods because the consistency can enhance your end result.

Each of these cheeses has their perks and are all absolutely delicious. But if you want a really delicious dish, make sure to follow the our Elote Mexican Corn recipe.