Elote is an indulgent Mexican version of corn on the cob, where the corn is topped with mayo and flavorings like chili powder, lime juice, and cilantro.
This summertime delicacy is topped with Cotija cheese for a salty flourish.
However, if you can’t get your hands on this crumbly Mexican cheese, you can replace it with other types of cheese to prepare the next-best version of this recipe.
Let’s find out which cheese works best for this purpose.
Which Cheese Goes on Elote?
Elote wouldn’t taste the same without its iconic cheesy topping because the cheese in the garnish adds delicious saltiness and richness to the recipe.
Here are the different types of cheese that would work well with the earthy flavors of this popular Mexican summertime snack.
Authentic Elote always has a crumbly cheese coating of Cotija cheese.
Cotija is a Hispanic-style cheese that originated in Cotija in Mexico, hence the name.
Cotija cheese is a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine.
It’s added as a finishing flourish on Elote after the corn is slathered in mayo and seasonings.
It gives Elote a distinct salty and creamy flavor.
This cheese is made from cow’s milk and rock salt.
It’s white and salty when fresh. It becomes hard and crumbly as it ages.
Cotija has a strong tangy and dense salty flavor.
While fresh Cotija resembles Feta, aged Cotija is more like Parmesan in texture and flavor.
Feta is a type of Greek white cheese made from the milk of cows and goats.
It’s prepared from brine curd and has a tangy, salty, and rich flavor. As Feta ages, it becomes hard and crumbly.
Fresh Cotija cheese is similar to Feta. Like Cotija cheese, Feta is dense and crumbly.
It’s not as salty but has a similar flavor. So it is a good substitute for Cotija cheese on Elote.
Compared to other types of cheese, Feta has fewer calories and lower fat content.
This cheese will add a delicious creamy flavor to Elote and blend well with the rest of the ingredients, like mayo and Mexican herbs used to make Elote.
Parmesan is a hard Italian granular cheese with pale-yellow color and distinct flavor.
It’s built with layers of flavors, so it tastes subtle when you first bite into it.
However, the flavors develop, and it tastes intensely salty at the end of each bite.
The taste of Parmesan has similarities with that of aged Cotija.
It has hints of almonds and butter.
This cheese is widely used in Mexican cooking because it’s a close substitute for Cotija.
The texture is also similar to Parmesan as it’s very crumbly.
However, it’s not as salty as Cotija. Another difference between the two is that Parmesan melts when heated.
The flavors of this cheese go well with cooked corn.
You can grate Parmesan into tiny shreds and add it to Elote for a delicious and creamy finish.
Parmesan is expensive because the manufacturing process uses a lot of milk, and the cheese takes significantly longer than other cheeses to mature.
As the name suggests, Romano is Roman cheese. It’s a hard, salty cheese made from cow’s or goat’s milk.
It has a grainy texture, and you can easily grate it.
Romano cheese has a strong rind. As the cheese ages, it becomes harder and easier to grate.
The texture and flavors of Romano cheese depend on the type of milk it’s made from.
Romano made from cow’s milk has delicate flavors compared to that made from sheep’s and goat’s milk.
Cheese made from sheep and goat milk is tangier with a sharp aftertaste.
Romano cheese is widely used as a topping for pasta and soups.
Shavings of this cheese are also used in creamy sauces.
The salty taste of Romano cheese makes it a good choice for Elote.
You can either grate it over the corn or use shavings to garnish and heat it so that the cheese melts and sticks to the corn.
5. Queso Fresco
Queso Fresco is a creamy Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk.
It has a strong tangy flavor. It’s moist and creamy, with buttery notes.
This cheese has a distinct sharpness comparable to Cotija cheese.
It’s widely used in Mexican cooking as a topping for enchiladas, tacos, and other traditional dishes.
This cheese isn’t as dense as Cotija cheese. However, the flavors are similar.
It works beautifully with most of the herbs and seasonings used in Mexican cooking.
It goes well with Elote; the rich and buttery saltiness enhances the flavor of corn on the cob.
Queso Fresco can be crumbled and added to the corn for a unique flavor.
6. Ricotta Salata
This aged Italian cheese is prepared from sheep’s milk.
It has a milky white color and is firm and dense. It’s creamy and very salty.
This cheese is a harder version of the more widely available Ricotta cheese that is soft and spreadable.
Ricotta Salata is used for slicing, and you can use it as a topping for various dishes.
The grainy texture makes it work as a garnish.
It’s also easy to grate. The salty and nutty taste of Ricotta Salata makes it work well with Mexican staples like corn and beans.
Hence, it goes well with Elote. This cheese doesn’t melt when heated.
So it will not be too messy when you use it as a topping for Elote.
Anejo is an authentic Mexican cheese made from cow’s or goat’s milk.
It’s an aged cheese with a hard exterior.
The cheese wheel is usually rolled in paprika to create a dark red exterior.
The strong flavor of this spiced exterior works beautifully against the sharp and salty flavors of the softer part of the cheese.
Anejo is expensive because it’s made from skimmed milk.
Anejo has a dry and crumbly texture that makes it good for crumbling and grating.
It’s widely used in Mexican cooking as a topping for enchiladas and stuffing for tacos.
The flavors are similar to that of Romano and Parmesan, but it’s spicier and saltier.
The closest replacement for Anejo is Cotija. Hence, you can use Anejo with Elote.
8. Cotija Molido
Cotija Molido is the ground form of traditional Cotija cheese.
It has the same flavor as Cotija cheese and can be used as a substitute for Cotija in most recipes.
This powdered cheese is just as salty, sharp, and aged.
However, it has a fine texture and is softer than grated or shaved Cotija.
Using Cotija Molido in different recipes will save you the effort of having to grind Cotija cheese.
Hence, it’s a good choice when you must use cheese as a topping for pizzas, enchiladas, and street corn.
You can even add it to a cheese shaker and conveniently use it as a topping for different dishes.
The flavor of this cheese works well with traditional Mexican spices and cooking ingredients.
This is one of the best replacements for whole Cotija cheese in Elote.
It doesn’t melt upon heating, but the texture just becomes softer.