Mozzarella Cheese Alternatives

Mozzarella cheese is one of the most popular and versatile cheeses used in cooking.

Mozzarella Cheese Alternatives

Known for its mild, milky flavor and soft, creamy texture, it melts beautifully and adds stretchiness and flavor to dishes like pizza, lasagna, caprese salad, and more.

However, there may be times when you don't have mozzarella on hand or need a substitute for dietary reasons.

Luckily, there are many excellent mozzarella substitutes to choose from!

What Makes Mozzarella Cheese so Unique?

Before diving into the substitutes, let's first understand what makes mozzarella cheese special. Here are some of its defining characteristics:

  • Mild, milky flavor - Mozzarella has a subtle, milky taste that isn't overpowering. This allows it to complement other ingredients.
  • Creamy, smooth texture - It has a soft, creamy mouthfeel rather than a firm, crumbly consistency. This contributes to its excellent melting properties.
  • Supple and stretchy - When melted, mozzarella forms long, elastic strands. This adds satisfying chew and richness to dishes.
  • High moisture content - Fresh mozzarella, in particular, has a high moisture content. This gives it a moist, juicy quality.
  • Melts beautifully - Due to its texture, mozzarella melts wonderfully when heated. This makes it perfect for pizza, lasagna, sandwiches, and more.

The ideal mozzarella substitute will share some of these qualities, while also bringing its unique flair to your cooking.

Best Mozzarella Substitutes for Cooking

Here are some of the best substitutes for mozzarella cheese that you can use in both cold and cooked applications:

1. Provolone

  • Flavor profile: Mild, milky, slight tang
  • Texture: Smooth, slightly elastic
  • Melting ability: Excellent

Provolone makes an excellent replacement for mozzarella in recipes where you need the cheese to melt, like pizza, baked ziti, and chicken parmesan.

Aged for 2-3 months, provolone has a similar texture to mozzarella and melts beautifully into a smooth, gooey consistency. Its flavor is mildly tangy with hints of nuttiness. For best results, choose provolone piccante (sharp/aged) over provolone dolce (mild/young) to better match mozzarella's characteristics.

Key Takeaway: With comparable melt, mild flavor, and texture, provolone is one of the top alternatives to use in place of mozzarella, especially in cooked dishes.

2. Oaxaca

  • Flavor profile: Mild, tangy, buttery
  • Texture: Stretchy, elastic when melted
  • Melting ability: Excellent

Oaxaca cheese originated in Mexico and earns its nickname "Mexican mozzarella" for good reason. When melted, it forms long, malleable strands reminiscent of mozzarella.

Made similarly by stretching and molding fresh curds, Oaxaca melts wonderfully on nachos, quesadillas, tacos, and pizza in place of mozzarella. It has a subtly tangy, buttery taste.

For an authentic cheese flavor profile, Oaxaca makes an excellent mozzarella substitute in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes.

3. Cheddar

  • Flavor profile: Sharp, tangy, nutty
  • Texture: Firm, smooth
  • Melting ability: Excellent

Aged cheddar has a sharper, more complex flavor compared to mozzarella. However, its smooth texture and melting qualities make it a useful mozzarella substitute, especially in grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, pizza, and casseroles.

For best results, choose a milder white cheddar over intensely sharp varieties, which can overwhelm other ingredients. A creamy, melty texture can still be achieved. Mixing cheddar with other cheeses helps balance the sharpness.

4. Monterey Jack

  • Flavor profile: Mild, buttery
  • Texture: Creamy, semi-soft
  • Melting ability: Excellent

With its mild flavor and velvety texture, Monterey Jack naturally melts into a creamy consistency much like mozzarella.

Monterey Jack makes a seamless substitution in quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, Tex-Mex dishes, pizza, and pastas wanting that ooey-gooey mozzarella deliciousness. Just take care not to overheat it, as it can separate into oils.

5. Fontina

  • Flavor profile: Nutty, buttery, tangy
  • Texture: Smooth, semi-soft
  • Melting ability: Excellent

Italian Fontina has a rich, creamy mouthfeel and melts beautifully, making it a stellar swap for mozzarella in baked pastas, paninis, risottos, and pizzas. A little bit of Fontina goes a long way in adding nutty, earthy flavors.

The buttery, tangy taste pairs wonderfully with tomato sauces, spinach, and meat. For a mock Caprese salad, use Fontina with fresh tomatoes and basil. The texture won't be as stretchy as fresh mozzarella, but the flavor will impress!

6. Feta

  • Flavor profile: Salty, tangy, crumbly
  • Texture: Firm, crumbly
  • Melting ability: Poor

Feta makes for a flavorful, textural substitution for mozzarella in Mediterranean-style salads, pastas, and pizzas. However, bear in mind that it doesn't melt smoothly when heated.

Crumble feta over dishes at the end for a delicious salty punch, or look for a creamier, less crumbly variety to mix into unbaked items like ricotta stuffed shells. The tangy saltiness pairs fantastically with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, and spinach.

Key Takeaway: For added moisture and flavor, try combining feta with ricotta or cream cheese in baked dishes wanting that melted mozzarella quality.

7. Queso Fresco

  • Flavor profile: Mild, salty, tangy
  • Texture: Crumbly, moist
  • Melting ability: Poor

Queso fresco is a fresh Mexican cheese that makes an excellent substitute for mozzarella in dishes like salads, tacos, and enchiladas where you want those salty, milky pops of flavor.

However, queso fresco doesn't melt smoothly when heated. For the best results, sprinkle it on at the end of cooking or looking for warming just until it softens while retaining shape. Queso fresco offers a perfect non-melty alternative to mozzarella in both sweet and savory dishes.

8. Halloumi

  • Flavor profile: Salty, briny, squeaky texture
  • Texture: Firm, squeaky when grilled
  • Melting ability: Poor

Halloumi is a semi-hard Cypriot cheese made from sheep and goat's milk that mimics mozzarella in its saltiness. When cooked, it develops a lovely golden exterior while still retaining its shape.

Pan-fry or grill halloumi until crisp and pair it with watermelon, tomatoes, olives, and fresh herbs for a unique take on Caprese salad. The salty, briny flavor stands up well to bold ingredients. Just don't expect it to get melty and gooey!

9. Ricotta

  • Flavor profile: Mild, creamy, slightly sweet
  • Texture: Soft, moist, creamy
  • Melting ability: Poor

Fresh, soft ricotta can't replicate mozzarella's stretchiness and melting traits. However, it adds delightful creamy texture and mild flavor to lasagna, manicotti, cannoli filling, cheesecakes, and other baked Italian desserts.

For the best results, use ricotta as a filling and pair it with a good melting cheese like provolone or Italian cheese blends. The soft texture and subtle sweetness pair wonderfully with tomato sauce, spinach, and herbs.

10. Burrata

  • Flavor profile: Mild, creamy, tangy
  • Texture: Soft, creamy, rich
  • Melting ability: Poor

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella on the outside and a creamy, stringy filling inside. It makes an indulgent substitute for mozzarella in Caprese salads, bruschetta, and antipasto platters needing that soft, creamy nuance.

However, the high moisture content prevents burrata from melting smoothly. Use it as a decadent topping or filling in dishes rather than cooking it directly. The fresh, tangy creaminess pairs fantastically with prosciutto, arugula, tomatoes, and basil.

Dairy-Free Mozzarella Substitutes

Many nut-based, soy-based, and coconut oil-based cheese products aim to mimic the melt and texture of dairy mozzarella. Here are some top-rated vegan mozzarella options:

  • Miyoko's Vegan Mozz - Cultured cashew nut product offering creamy texture and authentic flavor. Melts and stretches similarly to dairy mozzarella.
  • Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds - Shredded coconut oil-based cheese alternative that melts well. Mild and creamy flavor.
  • Good Planet Foods Mozzarella Style - Allergy-friendly option made from cassava and sunflower oil. Suitable for vegans, tree nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free. Melts smoothly.
  • Violife Just Like Mozzarella - Vegan mozzarella alternative made from coconut oil. Stretches when melted. Tangy, creamy flavor.

When using vegan mozzarella, some trial and error may be needed, as melting capability can vary across brands. Look for keywords like "melts", "stretches", and "gooey" when seeking a mozzarella duplicate for pizza, lasagna, etc.


Can I use Parmesan instead of mozzarella?

Yes, you can use Parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella in certain recipes. Parmesan has a sharper, nuttier flavor profile compared to the mildness of mozzarella. It also has a hard, crumbly texture rather than being soft and creamy.

While Parmesan won't provide the same meltability and elasticity, it can add delightful flavor when grated over pasta dishes, risottos, pizzas, and salads. For best results, combine Parmesan with a small amount of cream or ricotta cheese to add extra moisture and bind the ingredients.

What's a good mozzarella substitute for Caprese salad?

Great mozzarella swaps for Caprese salad include burrata, fresh cow or buffalo milk mozzarella, ricotta, and mild feta. Soft, fresh cheeses complement the flavors of basil, tomatoes, and olive oil nicely. Halloumi and queso fresco also make interesting substitutions if you pan-fry or grill them first.

Can I freeze fresh mozzarella cheese?

It's best not to freeze fresh mozzarella cheese. The high moisture content can lead to a dry, crumbly texture when thawed. Freezing also risks altering the flavor of fresh mozzarella.

However, if necessary to prolong freshness, you can freeze mozzarella short term. Slice into 1/4-inch pieces and place wax/parchment paper between layers before sealing airtight. Thaw in the refrigerator and use within 2 months. Expect some compromise to the original smooth, creamy texture.

What's a good melted mozzarella substitute for pizza?

Provolone, fontina, Monterey Jack, mild/young cheddar, and Oaxaca all melt deliciously on pizza, similar to mozzarella. For best results, choose cheeses with a semi-soft texture and mild, buttery flavors that won't clash with your pizza toppings. Grated Parmesan can also add nutty, salty pops of flavor.

Can I substitute mozzarella for Swiss cheese?

Absolutely! Swiss cheese makes an excellent melty substitute for mozzarella in grilled cheese sandwiches, fondues, pizza, and casseroles. Its nutty, mildly sweet flavor pairs well with deli meats. For salads and appetizers wanting fresh mozzarella's softness, try other mild soft cheeses like feta or ricotta instead.


From provolone, cheddar, and Oaxaca to fontina, feta, and vegan options, you have plenty of choices to substitute for mozzarella cheese.

Consider the recipe, your flavor preferences, and dietary needs. Aim for cheeses that melt smoothly and share mozzarella's mild, creamy essence

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!