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Oaxaca cheese is a soft and white Mexican string cheese. It’s perfect for melting, making it popular in fillings for enchiladas and Chili Relleno. Similar to mozzarella, this queso is mild and fresh!
Cheese is such a huge part of Mexican cuisine! There are tons of Mexican cheeses to choose from, between fresh and crumbly varieties like Queso Fresco and Cotija, to aged quesos like Queso Añejo and Queso Chihuahua to creamy Mexican Crema.
Today I want to focus on Oaxaca cheese. It’s named after the town it originated in: Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-kah), Mexico. I use it in so many different dishes. Some favorites include my already-mentioned Chili Relleno, this Tex-Mex taco pie, and my beef enchilada casserole.
Anytime you’re dealing with a recipe that calls for good melting cheese, Oaxaca is a great choice – especially if you want to bring some real authentic Mexican flavor to your dishes.
What is Oaxaca Cheese?
It’s a soft, white, fresh, string cheese. It’s also called Queso Oaxaca and is made from cow’s milk. Mexican Oaxaca cheese boasts a mild, almost buttery flavor. The texture is creamy and most varieties are slightly salty.
Melted Oaxaca cheese works wonderfully as a filling, and is often compared to unaged Monterey Jack and mozzarella. Before it’s been melted it looks a lot like string cheese – yes I’m talking about those snack-sized portions of mozzarella you throw in your kids’ lunchboxes. The difference? I find that the Mexican variety is a whole lot more delicious! It’s also larger and is often sold in “rope” form. It looks a lot like a ball of cheesy yarn.
I’ve already noted the Oaxaca cheese pronunciation. Its namesake is a town in Mexico that you pronounce the same exact way. Many believe that Dominican monks from Italy brought the cheese-making tradition with them when they settled there. It’s made using the same process as mozzarella, so it makes sense!
Ways to Use Oaxaca Cheese
You can use it in recipes that call for melty cheese. Shredded Oaxaca cheese is delicious in tacos, burritos, and PERFECT for quesadillas. It’s also a great way to take the heat of a spicy meal down a notch. Besides, whoever said no to a little extra melted cheesy goodness? I know I never have!
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy it:
- Enchiladas Rojas (red enchiladas)
- Enchiladas Suiza (white chicken enchiladas)
- Creamy cheese grits
- Breakfast burritos
- Queso dip
- Mexican cheese stuffed meatballs verde
Substitutes for Oaxaca Cheese
If you’re in a crunch and can’t find any locally, you can always substitute in mozzarella, Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Muenster cheeses. A good rule to follow when looking for a substitute for Oaxaca cheese is to opt for other semi-soft cheeses with a mild flavor.
Monterey Jack is technically a semi-hard cheese, but it’s so widely available in supermarkets across the US. It’s often used in Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes, and although Oaxaca is milder, you can use it as an Oaxaca cheese substitute.
To keep your recipe authentically Mexican, you could also substitute Queso Asadero for Oaxaca. It’s melty, soft, and white as well. It’s often called “queso quesadilla” as it’s so commonly used in the dish.
5 Great Oaxaca Cheese Recipes
Below you’ll find even more Oaxaca cheese recipes that I think you’ll love! I’ve included some more of my own, and a few others that I can’t wait to try out myself:
- Rajas con crema (roasted chiles in a cream sauce)
- Oaxacan cheese fritters
- Queso fundido (chorizo and Oaxaca cheese dip)
- Oaxaca grilled cheese
- Mexican baked chicken
What Does Oaxaca Cheese Taste Like?
Queso Oaxaca boasts a mild and slightly earthy flavor. It’s very similar to mozzarella, but it does taste more buttery and it tends to melt better. There’s also a hint of salt to this queso. It’s made with cow’s milk and is lightly dipped in saltwater to form a thin rind on the outside, which could explain that added saltiness!
Where to Buy Oaxaca Cheese?
Head to a specialty Mexican or Latin American market near you first. These types of shops usually sell the cheese by weight. You can also sometimes find it pre-shredded. If you don’t have a specialty shop near you, check out an organic grocery store like Whole Foods. This cheese is so popular these days it’s easier and easier to find at the supermarkets like Fred Meyer, Safeway and Winco. Check out the specialty cheese section at your local store – you may be surprised to find it there!
What Makes Oaxaca Cheese Different?
This Mexican cheese is so often compared to mozzarella that you may be wondering what makes it so special! There are subtle differences between the two, and all chefs know that no two kinds of cheese are created equally!
Oaxaca cheese is made from cow’s milk, while mozzarella can be prepared with either cow or buffalo milk – that’s where the famous mozzarella di bufala gets its name! Both kinds of cheese are white and mild, but their textures differ. Queso Oaxaca is soft and stringy, while mozzarella is spongy.