We’re all familiar with the popular kinds of cheeses, feta, gouda, cheddar, and parmesan. But one of the lesser-known, but equally delicious, cheeses is Oaxaca cheese.
Somewhat similar to mozzarella, this wonderfully stringy and buttery cheese has become a bit of a favorite for both snacking on and using in all kinds of meals such as grating on pasta dishes and my personal favorite, which is putting it in a quesadilla.
But with it being somewhat of the more niche cheese kinds, it’s not always available at every supermarket and grocery store.
That’s why we’ve put together a complete list of the absolute best Oaxaca cheese substitutes so you can get a taste of that distinct flavor and texture without having to search too hard for it.
The best substitutes for Oaxaca Cheese
Oaxaca cheese is made from Cow’s milk by combining rennet, which is a complex set of enzymes from a baby cow, lamb, or goat while their diet is still 100% comprised of their mother’s milk. This gives the cheese its unique, rich, and creamy flavor.
The process to make it is quite long and involved, where softened milk curds are stretched and kneaded thoroughly in order to give it that stringy quality.
It originates from Mexico and is one of their most highly produced cheeses. But due to its popularity, it’s now produced in quite a few different countries, with the US in particular now being a big Oaxaca cheese producer.
While Manchego has a bit of a firmer quality to it because it’s made from sheep’s milk, it retains much of that rich buttery taste that Oaxaca Delivers.
Where it differs is in the texture, instead of the wonderfully gooey and stringy texture that Oaxaca has, this one is a little tougher and more yellowed due to it being aged for potentially up to 2 years.
This makes it less ideal for something like a pizza topping, but for anything baked like lasagna, it’s the perfect substitute!
One of the biggest benefits of Ricotta cheese is that it’s so readily available. You shouldn’t have any issues sourcing this from your local grocery stores and supermarkets.
It has a nice and mild flavor and is not going to change the feel of a dish much when compared to Oaxaca, and works really great in anything like sandwiches, manicotti, and lasagna.
Because it has a slightly softer texture (although not in a ‘stringy’ sense) it can also be used as a dip or even a spread for sandwiches.
Not to be confused with the small dog breed, Chihuahua is actually the name of a small state in Mexico where this particular kind of cheese originates from.
So far all the suggestions have been fine from a taste point of view, but lack that softer and milder texture that the Oaxaca has, which makes them less ideal when used as a topping where the stringiness is required.
This is where Chihuahua cheese comes in, it’s really good for melting and has that wonderfully soft quality to it making it ideal for things such as quesadillas or sauces.
4. Monterey Jack Cheese
Monterey Jack cheese can be a really good substitute, but there are a few things to consider and steps to take in order to make it the best substitute possible.
The first thing to note is that you can get this cheese ‘unaged’ or ‘aged’. When compared to Oaxaca, the unaged version has a more mild flavor. So while it’s a little more expensive you may wish to get the aged cheese so it has a little bit of a stronger flavor to it.
The next step is (whether you use aged or unaged Monterey Jack Cheese) to be sure to shred it regardless of the cooking scenario. This will help it to melt uniformly and achieve a consistency that’s a little closer to that of Oaxaca.
5. Asadero Cheese
Asadero is another cheese that’s actually made primarily in Chihuahua again and uses a similar kind of kneading process during its production that is somewhat similar to that of Oaxaca.
This gives it that signature soft texture and stringy quality when cooked.
Flavor-wise it’s perhaps a little milder than Oaxaca, but if you’re cooking anything like pasta or making quesadillas there are plenty of opportunities to get that stronger flavor from other ingredients. Try pairing it with green chiles or cilantro to give it that extra bit of kick.
That texture and stringy quality require quite a specific process to achieve, so substitutes like this work exceptionally well.
6. String Cheese
While perhaps not quite as authentic (or tasty) as some of the more premium Mexican-produced cheeses mentioned here, simple processed string cheese does have that soft and stringy quality that so many look for from Oaxaca.
It also gets top points for availability, you should be able to find this at plenty of grocery stores no matter what country you live in.
To make up for what it lacks in the flavor department consider using some extra spices and herbs to increase the flavor a bit.
7. Queso Panela
What makes Queso Panela such an ideal cheese is that it’s well known to absorb the flavors of what it’s served with.
So it’s very common for the cheeses to be coated with things like garlic and chili pepper which really imparts this intrinsic and delicious flavor.
In terms of being an Oaxaca substitute, its main redeeming factor is that it’s so soft. Not necessarily known for being ‘stringy’, but its light and malleable quality makes it ideal for any baking scenario such as pizza or lasagna. Or even soups work well too!
8. Queso Fresco
This is a mild and fresh-tasting cheese that has a slightly salty and tangy quality to it. This makes it less ideal in certain situations such as a pizza topping but does work well for anything baked or cooked such as lasagna or pasta.
It’s considered a staple Mexican cheese and as such is relatively accessible, you should be able to find it quite easily!
But its most redeeming quality is the texture which is nice and soft, so although it’s not stringy it does develop that smooth and buttery feel when cooked which makes it a pretty good Oaxaca substitute.
9. Muenster Cheese
This is a fairly basic cheese that’s not dissimilar from something like American or Swiss. It has a light and sweet flavor with a wonderfully creamy texture.
This makes Muenster cheese a great choice for almost any application you’d normally use Oaxaca cheese, in particular sandwiches and pizza toppings.
This one is only useful in particular circumstances as it’s both quite firm and salty. This makes it less ideal for pizzas or quesadillas where the flavor of the cheese is more ‘exposed’ to the diner.
But when heated it does soften quite a bit, so when used in lasagna and similar dishes, it can work well.
Because this is a handmade cheese it also means it’s quite hard to source and can have quite a lot of variation from purchase to purchase. Try to ask if you can try a little beforehand before buying!
11. Cheese Curds
Cheese curds are essentially small pieces of curdled milk that many will know and love for their prevalent use in the Quebec dish poutine.
It’s quite soft and carries with it a mild flavor, so when used in place of Oaxaca it can offer a lot of the same qualities, just not the stringiness part.
They’re also pretty cheap and easy to source so you can always grab some in a pinch.
One of the all-time best substitutes for Oaxaca.
During the manufacturing process, mozzarella cheese is put into hot salty water which on a molecular level rearranges the proteins into long strands which are then compressed and expanded upon repeatedly.
This gives it that signature stringy quality the Oaxaca has but arguably does it even better! The perfect choice for a pizza topping.
In addition to that, it also has a mild and unobtrusive flavor which works great in almost any cooking scenario.
13. Homemade Oaxaca cheese
If you’re willing to put in a bit of extra work, it’s very possible to make some Oaxaca cheese at home by yourself.
Because it’s so similar to mozzarella you’ll find the process is almost the same. You essentially just boil milk with some kind of acid such as lemon juice until it all curds.
Not a quick and easy fix, but if you learn how to make this well then you’ll never be left without an adequate substitute.
How to choose the best Oaxaca Cheese substitute
One of the defining aspects of Oaxaca cheese is its mild flavor. But usually, when people lean towards this they are looking for that soft and stringy quality too.
It’s incredibly easy to find a substitute that tackles one of these aspects, making it appropriate for certain cooking scenarios. But it’s quite difficult to find substitutes that match both qualities.
So here is a quick rundown of which substitute offers the best qualities.
For that signature mild flavor we recommend Muenster cheese, it can be used in any situations you’d usually use Oaxaca for and it’s not going to disappoint you from a flavor perspective.
Although do note it’s a soft cheese, but not the most stringy in the world.
For this we recommend Mozzarella, there is a good reason why it’s used so commonly on things like pizzas and that’s because it’s the quintessential ‘stringy’ cheese.
String cheese is by far the most accessible, often used by kids for the school lunches you should be able to find it absolutely everywhere.
Our top pick
The single best substitute for Oaxaca cheese is in our opinion good old Mozarella.
It has a remarkably mild flavor which works perfectly in any cooking scenario you’d usually use Oaxaca for, More importantly, it has that wonderful stringy quality to truly makes it the best substitute.
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