Longhorn cheese is a tasty semi-hard cheese that originated in Wisconsin, USA.
It has a sweet, mild flavor and a springy, elastic texture that makes it great for melting.
If you don't have longhorn cheese on hand or want to try some alternatives, several other cheeses can substitute in recipes.
What is Longhorn Cheese?
Longhorn cheese gets its name from the long cylindrical shape in which it's molded during production, similar to a cow's horn. It's a type of Colby cheese made from cow's milk and has a pale orange color.
Some key characteristics of longhorn cheese:
- Semi-hard - It has a firm, sliceable texture that is softer than cheddar.
- Mild and sweet flavor - Longhorn has a mellow, subtly sweet taste.
- High moisture content - Around 40%, which gives it a springy texture.
- Melts well - Due to its texture, longhorn cheese melts smoothly in recipes.
- Rindless - Unlike some semi-hard cheeses, longhorn has no rind.
- Versatile - Its mild flavor pairs well with other ingredients.
Longhorn's mellow taste and gooey melt make it a popular choice in recipes like grilled cheese, burgers, nachos, mac and cheese, and fondue.
Best Substitutes for Longhorn Cheese
Several cheeses make suitable replacements for longhorn in recipes. Here are some of the top options:
Monterey Jack is an excellent substitute with a very similar taste and texture. Like longhorn, it's a semi-hard cow's milk cheese with a pale yellow color and moderately soft, springy texture.
Monterey Jack offers the same mild, slightly sweet flavor that makes it ideal in melty dishes like quesadillas. Opt for a young version as more aged Jack can take on a sharper taste.
Mild cheddar provides a comparable mellow flavor to longhorn. Aged around 3 months, it has a smooth texture that melts well. Yellow mild cheddar makes the closest match for longhorn's color.
For recipes where you want more pronounced cheesy notes, use mild instead of medium or sharp cheddar. It won't overpower other flavors.
Colby cheese is perhaps the most direct substitute, as longhorn is actually a type of Colby. Traditional Colby has an identical pale orange hue and medium-firm texture.
Like longhorn, Colby offers a very mild, delicate flavor. Its moist, elastic quality also gives it excellent melting properties.
Gouda is another good melty alternative. Young gouda shares the same pale yellow color as longhorn. It has a subtler, creamier taste than aged gouda.
For a close textural match, choose a semi-soft gouda. Its pliable texture mimics longhorn when melted.
Havarti provides a buttery, herbaceous flavor unlike longhorn's sweetness, but its soft, creamy texture when melted makes it a handy substitute.
When buying havarti, avoid very aged varieties, which become crumbly. Milder, younger havarti works best for achieving that smooth melted consistency.
Fontina has a rich, nutty taste that's more complex than longhorn but still quite mild. It shares a similar elasticity that makes it melt extremely well.
To better mimic longhorn, use a younger fontina. As it ages, fontina becomes more crumbly, dry, and punchy.
Key Differences Between Longhorn and Substitutes
While these cheeses make suitable flavor and texture replacements, there are some differences to keep in mind:
- Color - Longhorn has a distinct orange hue. Substitutes like Monterey Jack and mild cheddar are also pale yellow-orange, while others like Colby and gouda are lighter.
- Saltiness - Longhorn has a mild saltiness. Cheeses like Colby and Monterey Jack match this, while gouda and havarti tend to be less salty.
- Age - Longhorn is not aged very long. Choosing younger cheeses like mild vs. sharp cheddar will provide a closer match.
- Firmness - Longhorn is moderately firm so semi-hard cheeses work best. Very firm cheeses may not melt as smoothly.
- Moistness - Longhorn has a high moisture content. Substitutes like Colby and Monterey Jack have a similar springy moistness when melted.
- Origin - Longhorn hails from Wisconsin. Cheeses from other regions like gouda and havarti offer different flavor profiles.
How to Substitute Longhorn Cheese in Recipes
Longhorn cheese is extremely versatile in cooking. Here are some tips for substituting it in recipes:
- For a 1:1 direct replacement, use Colby or Monterey Jack which share longhorn's characteristics most closely.
- Adjust salt by tasting when using less salty cheeses like gouda or havarti. You may wish to add a pinch more salt.
- Try combining cheeses for more complex flavor. Mix in small amounts of bold cheeses like sharp cheddar or parm with milder Colby or Jack.
- With very melty cheeses like havarti or fontina, use a bit less and cook at lower heat to prevent over-browning.
- For baked dishes, choose firmer cheeses that won't become greasy or separate, like mild cheddar or gouda.
- In cold sandwiches, use thinly sliced firmer cheeses to mimic longhorn's sliceable texture.
- When in doubt, lean towards milder, younger cheeses to match longhorn's flavor profile.
With some simple tweaks longhorn can be replicated closely or substituted creatively in any recipe!
Is longhorn cheese expensive?
No, longhorn cheese is quite affordable, typically costing around $4-6 per pound. This makes it cheaper than many cheddar, gouda, and swiss cheese varieties. Several suggested substitutes like Colby and Monterey Jack cost about the same.
What cheese tastes most like longhorn?
The two cheeses most similar in flavor and texture to longhorn are Colby and Monterey Jack. Both offer the same mild, subtly sweet taste and moist texture that makes longhorn popular.
Is longhorn cheese healthy?
Like most cheeses, longhorn is high in fat and sodium so it should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. However, it is a good source of protein and calcium. Substitutes provide comparable nutritional value.
Can you replace longhorn with mozzarella?
Mozzarella is quite different from longhorn in taste and texture, so it is not the closest match. However, part-skim mozzarella can be used in dishes where you want the melting ability but don't require an exact flavor replicate.
Is there a good vegan substitute for longhorn?
Some vegan-friendly alternatives with similar melting qualities include Daiya cheddar style shreds, Follow Your Heart gouda slices, and Chao original creamy slices. While the flavor and texture won't perfectly mimic real cheese, they work well in melty applications.
Longhorn cheese is appreciated for its mellow sweetness and smooth, stretchy melted texture.
Luckily, several readily available cheeses make excellent stand-ins when you need to swap out longhorn. Mild cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, gouda, havarti, and fontina all provide similar flavors, colors, and textures that allow them to substitute seamlessly in most recipes.