I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of queso blanco substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitutes for queso blanco are queso fresco and farmer’s cheese. Paneer is also a solid option, although it has a firmer texture. Feta crumbles well but can be very salty. And what about making your own queso blanco? It’s easier than you think!
I conducted a simple taste test of different queso blanco substitutes to find the best one.
Queso blanco is made by curdling milk in acid instead of rennet. It has a smooth, creamy consistency and a mild, lightly tangy flavor. It also doesn’t melt, making it a favorite topper for tacos, enchiladas, soups, salads, and even on elotes.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Queso Fresco||Very similar||10/10|
|Farmer’s Cheese||Slightly firmer texture||9/10|
|Homemade Queso Blanco||Easy process, customizable||9/10|
|Paneer||Mild flavor, firmer texture||8/10|
|Feta||Creamy with a salty, zesty profile||7/10|
|Vegan Crumble Cheese||Dairy-free option with a similar texture||8/10|
|Cotija Cheese||Hard, salty, crumbly cheese for topping||7/10|
Dive into the world of Mexican cheeses, and you’ll undoubtedly stumble upon queso fresco. It’s typically used interchangeably with queso blanco because both cheeses share a similar texture and mild flavor profile.
They do have one difference – the curdling agent. As I mentioned above, queso blanco is curdled with an acid like lemon or vinegar. But queso fresco is set by rennet, which gives it a slightly firmer texture. But aside from this, I honestly had a hard time telling the two apart! Queso fresco crumbled just as easily as queso blanco and didn’t melt. You can’t really go wrong with this substitute.
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco in a 1:1 ratio with queso fresco.
Farmer’s cheese is one of the oldest types of cheese that’s still produced today, and it’s a great substitute for queso blanco.
Flavor-wise, it offers a mild and slightly tangy profile, reminiscent of queso blanco’s fresh and creamy taste. But I did find farmer’s cheese to be less creamy, which also meant it was even more crumbly than queso blanco. It also has a grainier texture, but you won’t notice this if you’re using it in a dish.
You can easily pick up a pack of farmer’s cheese in most grocery stores. And if you ever see dry cottage cheese, you can use it too! It’s the same thing as Farmer’s Cheese.
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco in a 1:1 ratio with farmer’s cheese.
Homemade Queso Blanco
Calling all DIY enthusiasts! There’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own queso blanco. And when done right, it can rival any store-bought version. Plus, you have the freedom to adjust the consistency and saltiness to your liking.
My go-to is this recipe from The Spruce Eats, which only requires five ingredients plus a cheesecloth. You’ll use the cheesecloth to extract the curds that will become your queso blanco.
A batch lasts for up to a week in the fridge and you can use the leftover whey as a substitute for buttermilk or yogurt in your baked goods.
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco in a 1:1 ratio with the homemade version.
For those familiar with Indian cuisine, paneer is likely one of the first queso blanco substitutes you’ll think of.
It’s also set in acid like queso blanco and boasts a mild, milky flavor. But the extra step of pressing the curds gives paneer a noticeably firmer texture than queso blanco. This isn’t an issue though, because you can still seamlessly crumble paneer over your tacos, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros.
Pro tip: For leftover paneer, I highly suggest you try cubing it and frying or grilling the cubes. The paneer will develop a lovely golden crust that is simply delicious.
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco in a 1:1 ratio with paneer.
Hailing from Greece, Feta boasts a crumbly texture and a robust taste profile. It has a creaminess similar to Queso Blanco, but it also comes with salty, sour notes that make it stand out.
To mellow out the salty flavor and make your feta taste more like queso blanco, give the block of cheese a quick rinse to wash off the excess salt. Then pat it dry and get crumbling!
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco in a 1:1 ratio with rinsed feta.
Vegan Crumble Cheese
For those seeking a dairy-free alternative, this homemade vegan crumble cheese from My Quiet Kitchen is a revelation. It’s not as rich as queso blanco, but it provides a light creaminess with a hint of tang. Plus, it crumbles just like queso blanco – based solely on appearance, you’d have a hard time telling them apart
The recipe calls for only five ingredients: almonds, lemon juice, sea salt, nutritional yeast, and agar agar. And the process couldn’t be any easier. After soaking the almonds, you simply have to blitz the ingredients in the food processor, bring the mixture to a boil, and let it cool.
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco in a 1:1 ratio with vegan queso blanco.
If you want to stick with the Mexican theme, cotija cheese is a solid substitute for queso blanco. Often dubbed the “parmesan of Mexico,” it’s a hard, crumbly cheese with a punchy, salty kick.
It’s an excellent substitute for queso blanco if you’re using it as a topping, but a little goes a long way! Too much and the dish will become very salty. Sprinkle a pinch over chili, beans, or corn for a burst of flavor.
How to Substitute: Replace queso blanco with ½ the amount of cotija cheese.
Other substitute options
The options above are my top queso blanco substitutes, but you can also use the following if you happen to have them on hand:
- Young Goat Cheese: This has a more pronounced tangy flavor than queso blanco, but it can still work as a substitute. It has a crumbly texture that softens and becomes spreadable when heated.
- Halloumi: This Mediterranean favorite is much firmer than queso blanco and has a rubbery texture. It won’t crumble in the same way as queso blanco, but it works great if you were planning to fry or grill the queso blanco because ti doesn’t melt.
Substitute to avoid
While researching, I came across one substitute that just didn’t work when I tried it
While Monterey Jack has a similar mild and creamy flavor to queso blanco, I wouldn’t recommend it as a substitute because it melts so well!
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Best Queso Blanco Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- ½ gallon whole milk
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 4 to 5 tbsp vinegar
- Combine the milk, whipping cream, and buttermilk in a large pot. Cook the mixture over medium heat until nearly boiling (about 190 F).
- Add in the vinegar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Small curds will begin to form. Gently stir for 5 minutes, then let the mixture cool, for 10 more minutes.
- Line a large colander with 2 to 3 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the mixture into the colander, draining the whey (liquid) from the curds. Once the cheese is cool enough to handle, lift the cheeseloth and twist to secure the cheese inside the cheesecloth. Squeeze off excess whey.
- Hang the cheesecloth over a sink for about an hour and let the excess whehy drain further.
- Once well-drained, store teh cheese in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.