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What is Oaxaca Cheese?

By S. N. Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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Oaxaca [pronounced Wuh-HAH-kuh] cheese is a semi-soft white cow’s milk cheese from Mexico. It is named for the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where it originated from. Like mozzarella, Oaxaca cheese is produced using the pasta filata method of stretching the curd. Sometimes, long, flat strands of cheese are wound into a ball and sold this way. Resembling a ball of large strands of yarn, the cheese in this form is called quesillo [pronounced Kay-SEE-yoh], meaning “rope” or “string” cheese.

Oaxaca cheese is also available in short braids, bricks, or rounds. In bricks, it is sometimes referred to as Asadero [ah-sah-DEH-roh] cheese. The word asadero means “roaster” and alludes to this cheese’s fitness for melting. Asadero cheese is a favorite for serving in quesadillas or over burgers. It is sometimes sold sliced for this purpose, and occasionally can be found under the name queso quesadilla.

The texture of Oaxaca cheese is supple and smooth. The flavor is mild and buttery and does not intrude on the foods it is served with. In both texture and flavor, it might be compared to a young Monterey Jack cheese.

Oaxaca cheese is pleasant enough snacking on its own. It could be served on a cheese plate to balance more strongly flavored cheeses. Although it lacks standout flavor, its mildness and texture might be especially appealing to children.

What Oaxaca cheese is particularly well suited for, however, is its meltability. It is used for all manner of dishes that feature melted cheese, such as nachos, chili con queso, queso fundido, enchiladas, and chiles rellenos. Because Oaxaca cheese is an extremely popular Mexican cheese, it is available in many large grocery stores and specialty Mexican grocers. Both mozzarella and provolone are similar in texture, however, and may be substituted for Oaxaca cheese if the latter is unavailable.

If you would like to try Oaxaca or Asadero cheese, try sprinkling it shredded or finely diced over chili, tostadas, or tacos. Shred or slice it thinly and melt it over nachos or inside quesadillas. Sliced into sections, it is a great "lunchbox" cheese for both kids and adults.

For a delicious Mexican version of pizza, top a prepared pizza dough with sliced fresh tomatoes, shredded Oaxaca or Asadero cheese, sliced black olives, sliced grilled chicken or cooked ground beef, and chopped roasted chile peppers. Bake until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Garnish with chopped cilantro and sliced green onion before serving.

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Discussion Comments

By anon343680 — On Aug 01, 2013

@Potterspop: Do you think you can share one of those oaxaca making recipies? Where I live it's nearly impossible to get a hold of a good quality queso Oaxaca.

@Lonelygod: You can always try Cauliflor empanisado y relleno de queso. It tastes really good!

By popcorn — On May 30, 2011

@lonelygod - A really amazing quesadillas recipe I found that uses Oaxaca cheese is very simple and totally delicious.

All you need for it is your flour tortillas, salsa, Oaxaca cheese, and any toppings you want to add.

I love to add onions, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, and lots of jalapeno peppers.

All you need to do is lay out your tortillas, layer the Oaxaca cheese on half, and then add your chopped toppings to the half with the cheese. From there you just fold the tortillas and cook for around 2 minutes until the Oaxaca cheese is nicely melted.

Nothing is better than tortillas for dinner.

By lonelygod — On May 28, 2011

I love Oaxaca cheese as well. Does anyone have any recipes centered on Oaxaca that you would be willing to share? I am always looking to experiment in the kitchen and would love to try out some new ideas that others have tried themselves.

What I love to do is make some nachos, smother them with red onions, jalapeno peppers, cheddar, sour cream, guacamole, oregano, salsa, and lastly Oaxaca. The result tastes amazing and is great for serving at parties.

Plus, for those interested, try searching for some dip recipes. Oaxaca cheese is wonderful in dips. I find it gives it a great flavor and melts easily.

By Potterspop — On May 28, 2011

As part of a month long cooking course held in Mexico I got to learn how to make Oaxaca cheese. It was much more difficult than I had imagined, but very worth it. Things always seem to taste better when you've made them yourself.

The bonus is I left with a dozen new Oaxaca cheese recipes that my friends are going to benefit from on a weekly basis!

By yumdelish — On May 28, 2011

@Penzance356 - I love Oaxaca too, it makes a great white cheese dip that really impresses party guests. Personally I think if you're going to buy cheese it may as well be the full fat version.

I once compared the nutrition facts of the two versions and there's not enough difference between them to make it worth it. Why not just eat it a bit less often instead of compromising on taste?

By Penzance356 — On May 28, 2011

I love Mexican food but it's starting to show on my waistline. I have been comparing cheese nutrition facts, but it's hard to justify eating too much of any kind. I am still trying to find out how many calories are in the reduced calorie version of oaxaca. Sigh!

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