Hoop Cheese Substitutes

Hoop cheese is a tasty cow's milk cheese with a mild, slightly salty flavor and firm texture.

Hoop Cheese Substitutes

It has a short shelf life and can be difficult to find in regular grocery stores.

If you don't have access to hoop cheese, there are several excellent substitutes you can use instead.

What Is Hoop Cheese?

Hoop cheese gets its name from the round "hoops" that give the cheese its shape. Fresh hoop cheese curds are drained of whey and pressed into molds to form wheels or blocks. The cheeses are then dipped in wax, allowing them to age slightly while retaining moisture.

There are two main types of hoop cheese:

  • Hard hoop cheese - A firm, cheddar-like cheese sold in large 20-pound wheels covered in red or black wax. It has a medium to sharp flavor profile. This is the most common type found in country stores across the American South.
  • Soft hoop cheese - A mild, white curd cheese similar to farmer's cheese or dry cottage cheese. It contains very little fat or calcium and has a short shelf life. Soft hoop cheese adds creaminess without much flavor.

Some key traits that make hoop cheese special in cooking applications:

  • Subtle tangy, salty flavor
  • Dry, crumbly texture when fresh
  • Creamy mouthfeel when melted
  • Neutral base that blends well with other ingredients

Now let's look at the best substitute options to use when hoop cheese is not available.

Key Takeaway: Hoop cheese comes in soft and hard varieties. Both have a mild taste, with the hard hoop cheese being firmer and more aged.

Best Hoop Cheese Substitutes

For Hard Hoop Cheese

If you can't find the firm, cheddar-like hard hoop cheese, these alternatives make great substitutes:

Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar is an obvious choice when replacing hard hoop cheese. Aged cheddar offers a similar firm, dense texture that melts beautifully. The flavor is more pronounced than hoop cheese, ranging from mild to extra sharp.

For recipes where hoop cheese plays a supporting role, a mild or medium cheddar will mimic the original without overpowering. Extra sharp cheddar can be used in moderation to add some tang.

Colby Cheese

Like cheddar, colby is an American cow's milk cheese. It shares the dense, sliceable texture of hard hoop cheese. The big difference is colby has an even milder taste and melting properties that more closely match hoop cheese.

Monterey Jack

Monterey Jack is another alternative for recipes calling for melting hard hoop cheese. Compared to cheddar, it offers a creamier, less crumbly texture when heated. The white color and buttery bland flavor helps it better blend into the background.

Key Takeaway: For hard hoop cheese, use mild/medium cheddar, colby, or Monterey Jack depending on flavor intensity wanted. They all melt well in cooked dishes.

For Soft Hoop Cheese

Recreating the light tang and airy but firm texture of soft hoop cheese takes some trial and error. Here are the top options:

Dry Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese that has been thoroughly drained makes an excellent base substitution. Remove as much liquid as possible by draining through cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator. The drier curd resembles unsalted soft hoop cheese.

Farmer's Cheese

Like hoop cheese, farmer's cheese starts with the same simple process - curds are drained and pressed into blocks. The culturing gives it a tangier, more complex flavor. Still, its high moisture content and spreadable texture works great in baked goods.


For a vegan alternative, tofu mimics some traits of soft hoop cheese. Blending helps break down the soybean curds into a ricotta-like texture that works well in dips, desserts, spreads, etc. Just don't expect the same melting capability.

Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta has a grainy texture similar to soft hoop cheese. It is saltier and richer than hoop cheese, but makes a good substitution in no-cook applications like cheesecake, fruit dip, etc.

Key Takeaway: Replicate soft hoop cheese using drained cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, blended tofu or ricotta.

How To Store Hoop Cheese

Properly storing hoop cheese helps retain texture and prevent spoilage. Guidelines for storage:

  • Fresh hoop cheese - Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in original wax coating or cheese paper.
  • Cut hoop cheese - Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
  • Aged, hard hoop cheese - If wax rind is intact, can be kept at room temperature up to 2 months. Once cut, keep refrigerated.

Key Takeaway: Fresh and cut hoop cheese should be refrigerated. Aged hard hoop cheese with rind can sit at room temperature.

Cooking With Hoop Cheese Substitutes

Hoop cheese adds subtle dairy flavor and creamy texture to both sweet and savory recipes. With so many options available, experiment to see which substitute best suits different dishes.

Here are some of the most popular ways to cook with hoop cheese:

  • Baked pasta - Mix grated hard hoop cheese into macaroni and cheese or baked ziti. The melty texture takes these comfort foods to the next level. Try mild cheddar or Monterey Jack.
  • Quesadillas - Sprinkle crumbled fresh hoop cheese over tortillas before crisping up in the pan. Farmer's cheese offers that same light tang.
  • Sandwiches - Sliced hard hoop cheese makes a simple but tasty lunchmeat sandwich. Mild cheddar does the job nicely.
  • Casseroles - In recipes like green bean casserole or broccoli rice casserole, the creamy texture of soaked cottage cheese shines when soft hoop cheese is missing.
  • Cheesecake - Smooth, subtly sweet cream cheese desserts utilize soft fresh hoop cheese wonderfully. Ricotta cheese steps in perfectly here.
  • Biscuits - Drops biscuits take on a whole new level of decadence when you add crumbles of fresh hoop cheese to the dough. Try farmer's cheese instead.


How can I soften hard hoop cheese?

Leave refrigerated hard hoop cheese out at room temperature for 30-60 minutes until slightly softened. For immediate use, shred or dice the cheese then microwave in 10 second intervals until spreadable.

What's the difference between hoop cheese and farmer's cheese?

The main difference lies in the culturing process. Hoop cheese curds are directly set into molds with little aging or culturing. Farmer's cheese undergoes additional fermentation before being formed into wheels or blocks.

Can you freeze hoop cheese?

Freezing is not recommended for fresh hoop cheese as it can negatively impact texture. If you do freeze, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and use within 2 months. Thaw slowly in the fridge before using.

Is hoop cheese healthy?

Hoop cheese is relatively healthy, offering a good amount of calcium and protein with less fat than other hard cheeses. However, it does contain high levels of sodium worth watching if on a low-sodium diet. Those sensitive to dairy should also use caution.


While you may struggle to find genuine hoop cheese depending on your location, there are plenty of accessible substitutes that offer similar virtues.

Cheddar, farmer's cheese, and ricotta all shine in their own way when hoop cheese is missing from the recipe.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions