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Hey Internet, have you ever heard of Cotija? It’s a dry aged cheese, kind of like Parmesan, that’s often crumbled and served atop Elote (Mexican street corn) or Esquites (Mexican corn salad). Honestly, I can see myself putting it on pasta though because it’s just really good.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s really easy and quick, and it only takes a few ingredients to make.
I didn’t even intend to create a recipe for vegan cotija, but my husband convinced me to, since we are in fact also putting out a esquites recipe later this summer, and we might think of other uses for it.
Actually, I bet it would also be great in tacos, on tostadas, and more, so I’m definitely going to have to experiment.
I also thought I might be able to find a vegan cotija in the store, but I wasn’t. Not even at that really expensive health foods store a little ways away from me. Dang.
But I did some reading on the origins, culturing, and flavors of cotija and I think I got it.
The base is sunflower seeds, plus just a few common spices. The sunflower seeds are also easy to substitute if you don’t have them, so let’s just get into the recipe.
What You’ll Need
So like I said above, the base is raw sunflower seeds. They’re neutral in flavor (unlike cashews which are slightly sweet), fairly inexpensive, and they’re great for folks who are allergic to tree nuts.
However, you could definitely substitute in cashews if that’s what you’ve got on hand.
If you want more of a wet and crumbly cheese, rather than dry and powdery, I’d recommend using firm tofu, crumbling it with your hand, and mixing it with the same seasonings, kind of like my vegan goat cheese recipe.
Next, I’m sure you can guess we’re using salt. From what I’ve read, cotija cheese is actually MORE salty than regular cheese, which is already pretty dang salty.
So I’ve kept that in mind. Now, you might not realize this, but the kind of salt you use matters. Or, at least it has an impact on how MUCH you’ll use.
Table salt is the SALTIEST of the salts. It’s super finely ground and just seems to taste the saltiest. I’d go easy on the salt (mix, then taste, then mix, then taste) if this is the kind you’ve got.
Himalayan pink salt sounds kind of boujee, but that’s the kind of salt we use in our house because we love the flavor. It’s not too salty, and just has a really nice taste.
Sea salt is what a lot of bloggers use because it’s somewhere in between the two. It’s not AS salty as table salt, but it’s a little saltier than my fancy pink salt.
Use whatcha like/whatcha got.
Finally, we just have two spices that will flavor our vegan cotija cheese: onion powder and garlic powder. I did a little more onion than garlic, because it gives it a dry, aged flavor that the garlic doesn’t.
How to Make Vegan Cotija Cheese
This is a really complex recipe so I want you to get yourself ready. Get on your apron, get a babysitter, tie up your hair, drink coffee or an energy drink, whatever you need to do.
Step 2: Taste and adjust seasonings, reblend if needed.
Step 3: Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
There you have it. My most complex recipe. Enjoy.
Okay, sarcasm is over (probably).
Serve this vegan cotija on some vegan elote (shameless self promotion, and no I’m not sorry), salads, tacos, tostadas and more. You should also put it on avocado toast (trust me, so good), and on pasta like my vegan vodka sauce and penne.
More Easy Vegan Cheese Recipes
I don’t blame you. Vegan cheese is awesome! Did you know I have a whole section on vegan cheese on my site?!
And here’s my FAVORITE nut-free vegan cheese recipes:
- Nut-Free Vegan Cheddar Cheese - This one’s a fan favorite as well!
- Vegan Brie
- Vegan Feta
- Stretchy, Melty Mozzarella
- Vegan Camembert
- Stretchy, Melty Cheddar Sauce
- Vegan Goat Cheese Crumbles
- Nut-free Soy-free Vegan Cheese Sauce
- Vegan Ricotta
- Vegan Mascarpone
- Queso (part of a nacho fries recipe, but you could just scroll down to the sauce section!)
Teaser: I have a thing for vegan cheese and I come out with new recipes all the time. If you’d like to sign up for my free newsletter so you don’t miss any cheese recipes, please fill out the below form!
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too.
This vegan cotija cheese is:
- Cheesy (I’d hope)
- And great on basically anything, but especially vegan elote.
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!