Asadero cheese is a semi-soft white Mexican cheese that melts well and has a mild, slightly salty flavor.
It originates from the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Asadero cheese is also sometimes referred to as Chihuahua cheese or queso asadero.
This delicious Mexican cheese is a popular choice for dishes like quesadillas, chiles rellenos, queso fundido, and nachos.
However, asadero cheese can be difficult to find outside of Mexico and areas with large Hispanic populations.
If you don't have access to authentic asadero cheese, don't worry! There are several great substitutes you can use instead.
What is Asadero Cheese?
Asadero cheese is a braided white cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk. It has a smooth, pliable texture similar to mozzarella but is not as soft or creamy.
Asadero cheese is characterized by:
- A mild, slightly salty flavor
- A firm, sliceable texture when cold
- Excellent melting properties when heated
- A pale ivory to light yellow color
- A braided or rope-like shape
Traditionally, asadero cheese is made by kneading and stretching the cheese curds in hot whey rather than hot water like other pasta filata cheeses such as mozzarella. This gives asadero a distinctive firm, elastic texture.
As a semi-soft melting cheese, asadero works very well in baked or grilled dishes. When melted, it becomes soft, gooey, and stretchy.
Why Use an Asadero Cheese Substitute?
There are a few reasons you may need an asadero cheese substitute:
- Asadero cheese can be difficult to find. Outside of Mexico and select Hispanic grocery stores, this cheese can be very hard to source.
- You may have dietary restrictions. Asadero contains dairy, so won't work if you follow a vegan or dairy-free diet.
- You may want something more affordable. Asadero is imported, so can be pricier than local alternatives.
- You need a substitute for a specific recipe. Something mild and melty like mozzarella may work better.
Using a substitute allows you to still enjoy the intended flavor profile and texture of a dish, even without access to the authentic cheese.
Best Asadero Cheese Substitutes
Fresh mozzarella, especially buffalo mozzarella, makes an excellent asadero cheese substitute. It has a very similar soft, mild flavor and melting texture.
For best results, use fresh mozzarella packed in water rather than low moisture, pre-shredded mozzarella. Add a pinch of salt to fresh mozzarella to better mimic asadero's salty flavor.
Mozzarella melts a little smoother and more evenly than asadero. But overall it closely replicates the gooey melted texture and mild flavor of asadero cheese.
Monterey Jack is a creamy white American cheese that comes in both aged and unaged varieties. Unaged Monterey Jack works best as an asadero substitute.
With its semi-soft texture, subtle tang, and excellent melting abilities, unaged Monterey Jack makes a great replacement for melted asadero cheese.
Aged Monterey Jack has a sharper, more pronounced flavor that isn't as close of a match. Try to find unaged Monterey Jack at the deli counter or cheese shop for best results.
Oaxaca cheese, also called quesillo or Mexican mozzarella, is another Mexican braided cheese. It makes a good substitute for dishes where you want asadero's rope-like shape and stringy melted texture.
However, Oaxaca cheese has a more prominent salty, acidic flavor. So it won't replicate asadero's very mild flavor as closely as mozzarella or Monterey Jack.
Queso blanco is a fresh Mexican-style cheese, similar to feta or ricotta salata. It has a crumbly texture when raw but melts smoothly.
Queso blanco is milder in flavor than asadero and also not a true pasta filata cheese. But when melted, it makes an acceptable substitute in dishes like quesadillas, nachos, or cheese dips.
Pepper jack is a spiced Monterey Jack cheese. It has a similar semi-soft texture and excellent melting abilities.
The added flavor from chili peppers gives it a different overall taste. But in dishes with other strong flavors, pepper jack can mimic the gooeyness of melted asadero well.
A young, semi-soft provolone cheese can also work as an asadero cheese substitute, especially when melted.
Provolone has a very mild, faintly nutty flavor when fresh. Shredded or sliced provolone melts into a thick, creamy texture much like melted asadero cheese.
For best results, choose a provolone aged for just 2-3 months instead of the more aged varieties.
Queso Asadero Substitute Options for Common Dishes
Here are some asadero cheese substitutes to try in popular Mexican dishes:
|Good Asadero Substitutes
|- Monterey Jack
|- Queso Blanco
|- Oaxaca Cheese
|- Pepper Jack
|- Monterey Jack
|- Queso Blanco
|- Oaxaca Cheese
|- Monterey Jack
The melty texture is important for dishes like quesadillas and nachos. Mild flavor is key for enchiladas. And excellent melting properties are vital for dips like queso fundido.
Key Takeaway: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Oaxaca, and Queso Blanco make great substitutes in baked dishes, while spicier cheeses work for nachos. Mild, melty cheeses are best for quesadillas and enchiladas.
How to Choose an Asadero Cheese Substitute
With so many options for substituting asadero cheese, it can be tricky to decide which one to use. Here are some tips:
- Consider the flavor – is a mild or more pronounced flavor needed?
- Think about texture – should the cheese melt smooth or remain stringy?
- Factor in cost – is a budget-friendly option like mozzarella best?
- Check for allergies – does the recipe need to be dairy-free?
- Match the purpose – is the cheese being melted, crumbled, sliced, etc?
- Read the recipe – does it specify a cheese type or flavor profile?
- Use your best judgment – if still unsure, opt for mild and melty mozzarella as a default.
Knowing the qualities of the asadero cheese needed for a particular dish will help you decide which substitute works best.
How to Store Asadero Cheese Substitutes
Proper storage is important for preserving freshness and flavor. Here are some storage tips:
- Keep refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or cooler. Don't store cheese substitutes at room temperature.
- Store in original packaging until opened, then transfer to an airtight container or zip-top bag.
- Minimize air exposure by tightly wrapping cheese to prevent drying out.
- Use within expiry date for maximum freshness and flavor. This is especially important for soft fresh cheeses.
- Keep separate from foods with strong odors that may transfer to the cheese.
How to Use Asadero Cheese Substitutes
Using a substitute for asadero cheese is straightforward:
Many asadero substitutes can be grated or shredded when a recipe calls for grated asadero:
- Use a grater or shredder to cut the cheese into thin pieces.
- Softer cheeses like mozzarella may shred easier when slightly chilled.
- Shred in the size specified in the recipe - coarse or fine.
- For maximum meltability, avoid pre-shredded bagged cheeses and shred your own.
- Add shredded cheese as a topping to dishes like enchiladas, tacos, nachos, or casseroles.
For recipes needing sliced asadero, simply slice the substitute cheese into thin slices:
- Chill firmer cheeses like Monterey Jack or provolone slightly to aid slicing.
- Cut into even slices about 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick using a sharp knife.
- Separate slices and stack on a plate. Avoid leaving them touching or they may stick together.
- Use sliced cheese in quesadillas, on burritos, in sandwiches, or anywhere else slices are needed.
Many Mexican dishes rely on melted asadero cheese. To melt substitutes:
- Shred or slice cheese first so it melts evenly.
- Add directly on top of dishes and bake or broil until melted.
- For dips, combine grated cheese with liquid and heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and creamy.
- Let melted cheese cool slightly before eating so it doesn't burn.
- Use melted cheese for nachos, quesadillas, dips, casseroles, enchiladas, and more.
With a modest amount of preparation, asadero cheese substitutes can transform dishes needing melted cheesy goodness.
Why is asadero cheese hard to find outside of Mexico?
Asadero cheese isn't common outside Mexico because it has a short shelf life. The process of making asadero cheese involves kneading the curds in hot whey rather than brine. This gives it a more elastic, bendable texture but also means it doesn't keep as long. So authentic asadero isn't widely exported. It's mainly found regionally near where it's produced in northern Mexico.
What's the difference between asadero and Oaxaca cheese?
While both Mexican braided cheeses, asadero and Oaxaca cheese differ in taste and texture. Oaxaca cheese has a more pronounced salty, tangy flavor from being kneaded in hot water rather than whey. It also has a softer, moister texture than the firmer, drier asadero cheese. Oaxaca works well melted for dishes where its stringy texture is desired.
Can I substitute asadero cheese with queso fresco or cotija?
Queso fresco and cotija are crumbly cheeses, so they can't mimic asadero's stretchy melting texture. Their flavors are also quite different. Cotija is very salty and crumbly. Queso fresco is milder but still maintains a crumble when cooked. Due to their very different textures, queso fresco and cotija are not the closest substitutes for replacing melted asadero cheese.
Is asadero cheese easy to make at home?
While homemade asadero is possible, it requires skill and practice to knead and stretch the cheese curds properly. Most home cooks don't attempt to make it from scratch. Alternatives like mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and queso blanco are much easier to make at home. But if you have cheesemaking experience and want an adventure, try your hand at creating homemade asadero!
Asadero cheese may not be easy to come by for those outside of Mexico. However, several excellent asadero cheese substitutes can allow you to still enjoy your favorite Mexican dishes.
For the signature salty, mildly tangy flavor, try mozzarella or Monterey Jack. Oaxaca and queso blanco offer a similar pulled texture. And provolone or pepper jack replicate the melted smoothness.