What Oaxaca Cheese Is And What It Tastes Like

If you've been to a Mexican restaurant, you've probably seen it on the menu: Oaxaca cheese. You may not be too familiar with this cheese beyond its usual proximity to tacos, but it's a good one to discover. It's a cheese that's made for melting, and its mild flavor means it pairs well with bright, bold dishes.

Oaxaca cheese is a semi-soft, rindless cheese that comes from the city of Oaxaca in Mexico. It's a supple, stretchy cheese that forms in ribbons that are wound into a ball before selling. If it sounds a lot like mozzarella, you're not wrong — it has a similar "string cheese" quality. It's considered to be a member of the pasta filata or "spun paste" category of cheeses. These cheeses are defined by the way they are made, with the curds being stretched in hot water before being formed into their final shape. The end result is a cheese that expands, stretches, and melts perfectly.

Its mild flavor is similar to other favorite cheeses

Pasta filata may have an Italian origin, but the stretching process at the root of queso Oaxaca is one that came from Dominican monks who settled in Mexico centuries ago. Traditional lore tells a story about a local girl discovering Oaxaca cheese after becoming distracted while making cheese. As she tried to fix her error, the curds became stretchy and stringy, and that result is the Oaxacan cheese (or quesillo, as it's referred to in Oaxaca) that has become a staple in Mexican cuisine.

The vague resemblance to a ball of mozzarella isn't the only thing the two kinds of cheese have in common. They both have similar flavor profiles. Queso Oaxaca has a mild, savory fresh taste that is reminiscent of the cows' milk it's made from but is slightly more buttery than its Italian cousin. Some people compare the flavor to that of Monterey Jack –  creamy and mellow with a hint of brightness. The mellow flavor means it's easy to incorporate into recipes without overpowering other ingredients.

The perfect melting cheese for midnight snacks

The combination of being luxuriously meltable and deliciously mild makes Oaxacan cheese a perfect contender for cheesy meals and snacks. Throw it on top of your favorite nacho recipe along with jalapeños, oregano, and other spices to your liking, and serve them up with sour cream or guacamole. It also makes for a creamy addition to a chorizo torta, melted between two buns and a dash of chile peppers for a nice kick.

It's a perfect choice for a simple quesadilla or grilled cheese since it's really going to shine anywhere you need some major melting action. You can even try it in mac and cheese for a tangier twist that's still gooey and good. Skip the pretense and eat it right out of the fridge to bask in its simple goodness. Truly the best quality of Oaxacan cheese is how versatile it is. It's a welcome addition to any dish that needs a little cheese and an instant favorite for anyone who gives it a try.