Chihuahua cheese is also known as queso menonita because it was first made by Mennonite farmers in the Chihuahua region of northern Mexico.
Chihuahua cheese has a mild flavor similar to cheddar and Monterey Jack. If you ever find yourself wanting to emulate those flavors without the main cheese, worry do not, there are several Chihuahua cheese substitute like Muenster and Oaxaca cheese.
What is Chihuahua Cheese?
Chihuahua cheese a semi-hard, white cheese made from cow’s milk. You can get varieties made with either pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. It is a young cheese, meaning it ages three to six months. Many varieties available in grocery stores are aged even less.
The texture of chihuahua cheese makes it great for shredding, crumbling, or melting. It is a wonderfully versatile cheese you will find in many Mexican-style dishes.
Common uses for Mexican Chihuahua cheese are fillings for tamales and chiles rellenos. Substituting chihuahua cheese with more readily available ingredients is easy. Several kinds of cheese have a similar color, flavor, and texture profile to chihuahua cheese such as Muenster, and Oaxaca.
5 Recommended Chihuahua Cheese Substitute
There are two kinds of mozzarella readily available at your grocery store. You can get soft blocks of this lightly flavored, white cow’s milk cheese, or you can get it pre-shredded in bags.
Shredded mozzarella in bags is the most convenient way to purchase this cheese. Eight ounces is equal to two cups dry measurement.
Most shredded cheese comes in small, resealable bags. This makes it easy to measure your cheese and keep any leftover in the resealed bag in your refrigerator.
In its fresh form, mozzarella is a soft, sliceable curd cheese. Many Italian delicatessens make this cheese fresh daily. You’ll pay more than what is in the grocery store, but the flavor is worth it.
Shredding blocks or balls can be difficult. It is much softer than chihuahua cheese. You are better off thinly slicing it.
Mozzarella is best known as the perfect pizza cheese. It melts evenly when spread in a thin layer and has that classic stretch when you pull a piece away from the pie.
Use it as a substitute for chihuahua cheese when topping enchiladas or chili. It will create a lovely layer of stretchy, melted cheese for flavor and garnish.
If you can’t find this cheese, there are several alternatives to mozzarella cheese with similar taste.
Mild Cheddar Cheese
Mild cheddar is also a cow’s milk cheese but originated in Somerset, Great Britain. It gets its name from a process called “cheddaring.” The cheesemakers add rennet to cow’s milk to make curds. Then they cut the curds into slabs that they stack and turn repeatedly. This unique process eliminates moisture and acidifies the curd.
Cheddar bears the most similar flavor profile to chihuahua cheese. It is sweet and slightly tangy and gets sharper as it ages. A mild cheddar ages about three to six months. Chihuahua is a young, tangy cheese.
Chihuahua cheese is white or faint yellow. Cheddar is available in both white and yellow. You can add a little color to your dish by choosing yellow, but keep the same flavor.
Mild cheddar melts beautifully. When using cheese to melt into a filling such as in quesadillas, a mild cheddar works nicely instead of chihuahua cheese.
A sharp cheddar does not melt as well, so be sure to get mild. You’ll also stick closer to a mellow flavor profile with mild cheddar.
Mild cheddar is one of the most readily available cheeses in American grocery stores. While Walmart does sell queso chihuahua, cheddar is an easy, inexpensive substitute. You can purchase eight ounce bags of shredded cheese which equals two cups. Substitute the same measurement of cheese in your recipe.
Muenster is a semi-soft cheese made in the USA. Food historians believe that it could be an imitation of Alsatian washed-rind cheese named after the city of Munster in Germany.
Muenster cheese came about when German immigrants made their cheese with locally sourced ingredients in their new home. Now, the spelling distinguishes the two in labeling.
While muenster is a semi-soft cheese similar to chihuahua cheese and the others on the list, it has a much smoother texture and is not crumbly. The body of the cheese is pale with a bright orange rind.
That distinct rind comes from annatto which is a sweet, nutty flavoring. Annatto is in yellow cheddar as well but colors the whole cheese. Muenster has a sweeter flavor than chihuahua or mild cheddar.
Muenster makes an excellent substitute for chihuahua cheese in appetizer dishes since muenster is typically served as an appetizer. Its creaminess when melted makes it ideal for queso dip or cheese sauce to top loaded nachos.
Muenster can also be the star of a sweet and creamy side dish for your Mexican quinine. Try mixing in some muenster into Queso Chihuahua Polenta. Prepare your polenta according to the packaging, then melt some muenster into it just before serving.
Muenster is another easy to find cheese in American grocery stores. You will likely find it in 8 ounce blocks rather than pre-shredded like our other chihuahua cheese substitutes. Luckily, if you grate the cheese yourself, the measurements are the same. Four ounces of shredded cheese equals one cup.
Monterey Jack is a California semi-hard white cheese that gets its name from some monks and a salesman. It is made from cow’s milk and has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. You’ll find that it is less tangy than chihuahua cheese but slightly harder and more crumbly.
The first producers of what we now call Monterey Jack cheese were 18th-century Franciscan monks near Monterey California. Their monastic-style farmer’s cheese was later sold commercially by a man named David Jacks.
Monterey Jack is widely available in grocery stores. You’ll find it similarly priced and packaged as cheddar or Muenster. Monterey Jack is set apart by the wide selection of variations on this cheese.
Many cheesemakers marble Monterey Jack with Colby to make Colby Jack or with cheddar to make Cheddar Jack. Flakes of dried chiles added make Pepper Jack. Experimenting with the flavor and texture combinations you can find with these Jack cheese will add flare to your Hispanic-style dishes.
Since Monterey Jack is the hardest cheese on this list, it has the highest melting point. It can hold up to the heat for making Queso Frito.
Questo Frito means “fried cheese” in Spanish. Chunks of cheese are breaded and deep-fried similar to mozzarella sticks.
Hard cheese crumbles better than soft cheese. Substitute any form of Monterey Jack in dishes calling for queso chihuahua crumbles. Luckily, measurements are not usually an issue when you crumble cheese over a dish. Use to your taste.
Can’t find monterey jack but need something similar? See popular cheese similar to monterey jack.
Also known as quesillo, Oaxaca is a white, semi-hard cheese originating from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca cheese is also known as queso asadero when it is produced in the northern province of Chihuahua.
Dominican friars from Italy brought the string cheese process from Italy when they settled in Oaxaca. Like the original makers of mozzarella, the friars did not have water buffalo milk available in Mexico. They made their cheese with cow’s milk instead, giving us queso de Oaxaca.
The texture is similar to string cheese. The flavor profile is more like that of Monterey Jack.
This soft, stringy, sweet cheese is perfect for crumbling atop tacos, nachos, and other dishes. Because it melts nicely, stuffed pepper dishes such as Chiles Rellenos work well with Oaxaca cheese.
You can find fresh queso asadero in many southern states. Although, many cities have Mexican food markets where you can get authentic ingredients for your dishes. Just keep in mind that queso asadero and Oaxaca cheese are the same.
You won’t normally find Oaxaca pre-shredded in bags like cheeses made in the United States. You’ll find it in 8 ounce rounds. The ratio of 4 ounces equals 1 cup still applies to this cheese as well.
You may wonder what cheese you are getting in various dips and dishes at Mexican restaurants. Many of the cheeses on our list have similar colors, textures, and flavors.
A discerning palate can appreciate the subtle differences in a dish when one cheese is substituted for another.
Most times, a Mexican restaurant serves chihuahua or asadero cheese on tacos. These are excellent choices for making your tacos at home. You can crumble the cheese directly from the block or grate it.
Queso Fresco is a young, crumbly cheese similar to feta. It works well crumbled on tacos and salad, but it doesn’t melt well. For melting cheese for a dip or filling in empanadas or quesadillas, use chihuahua or one of the other substitutes on our list.