The Shelf Life of Cotija Cheese: How Long Does It Last?

How long does cotija cheese keep?

Cotija cheese, a popular ingredient in Mexican and Central American cuisine, has grown in popularity in recent years. However, little information is available about its shelf life. Unlike most other cheeses, cotija cheese has unique characteristics that affect its longevity and storage methods. In this article, we will examine the factors that influence the shelf life of cotija cheese, including storage methods, signs of spoilage, and freezing considerations.

What is cotija cheese?

Cotija cheese is a type of aged cheese made from cow’s milk. It is native to Mexico and other Central American countries. The cheese is produced in different ways, resulting in different flavors and textures. A characteristic of cotija cheese, regardless of its age, is its saltiness. It has a crumbly texture and a flavor similar to mild feta. Cotija cheese is commonly used in Mexican and Central American dishes, but it can also be incorporated into a variety of recipes.

Cotija Shelf Life

The shelf life of any food is affected by three factors: temperature, nutrients, and moisture, which promotes bacterial growth. Cotija cheese has a longer shelf life than some other cheeses due to its high salt content, which acts as a preservative. However, because it is made from cow’s milk, which is perishable, the cheese is still susceptible to spoilage.
Fresh cotija cheese, which contains more moisture, has a shelf life of about 4-6 weeks when properly stored in the refrigerator. Aged cotija cheese, with a lower moisture content, can be kept for several months. The exact shelf life depends on the storage conditions.

Proper storage of cotija cheese

Cotija cheese requires special storage methods to ensure its longevity. The best way to store both fresh and aged cotija cheese is to wrap it in clean wax paper or parchment paper. Wax paper is less breathable, making it a suitable option. After each use, wrap the cheese tightly to prevent exposure to air.
Next, place the wrapped cheese in an airtight container or resealable bag. This step helps prevent the cheese from absorbing odors from other foods in the refrigerator, such as garlic or onions. It is important to store cheese in a refrigerator with stable temperatures, as fluctuations can accelerate spoilage. Avoid storing cheese in the refrigerator door or near raw meat, as this can lead to cross-contamination.

Freezing Cotija Cheese

While it is possible to freeze Cotija cheese, it is important to note that the texture and flavor may change significantly. Freezing causes water molecules to form ice crystals, which can break the structure of the cheese and result in a dry, crumbly texture. Therefore, it is recommended that frozen cotija cheese be used within six months for best quality.
To freeze Cotija cheese, follow these steps:

  1. Wrap the cheese tightly in wax or parchment paper.
  2. Wrap it again in plastic wrap for an extra layer of protection.
  3. Finally, wrap the cheese in aluminum foil to prevent excessive freezer burn.
  4. For added protection, place the wrapped cheese in an airtight container to prevent odor absorption.

If you are defrosting frozen cotija cheese, take it out of the freezer and leave it in its original packaging. Place it on a plate and thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Slow thawing helps preserve the structure and flavor of the cheese.

Signs of spoilage

To ensure the safety and quality of cotija cheese, it is important to recognize signs of spoilage. When dairy products spoil, they often develop a sour odor and taste. The presence of a bitter or rancid odor indicates that the cheese has begun to spoil. Discoloration is another sign of spoilage; cotija cheese should be a uniform white color, and any change in color or the appearance of spots may indicate spoilage.
In addition, the presence of mold growth on cotija cheese is a clear indication of spoilage. If mold is present, it is recommended to discard the affected portion and use the remaining cheese immediately. Any mold growth on Cotija cheese is considered harmful and consumption may pose a health risk.

Related questions

Why does my cotija cheese smell?

Cotija cheese, like many other cheeses, is made with yeast, bacteria and fungi that contribute to its flavor. These microorganisms are living organisms and may give off a slight odor. However, if the cheese smells sour and rancid, it is advisable to check for other signs of spoilage.

Can grated cotija be frozen?

Grated cotija cheese can be frozen using the same steps as above. Freezing grated cheese is a better option than freezing an entire block because it is easier to incorporate into recipes and provides convenience. However, it is important to note that frozen grated Cotija cheese can clump together, so it is recommended that portions be defrosted and separated before use.


Cotija cheese, with its unique flavor and texture, is a versatile ingredient in Mexican and Central American cuisine. Understanding the shelf life and proper storage methods for cotija cheese is essential to maintaining its quality and preventing spoilage. Fresh cotija cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately 4-6 weeks, while aged cotija cheese can be stored for several months. Properly wrapping the cheese in wax paper, storing it in an airtight container, and maintaining stable refrigerator temperatures are crucial to prolonging its shelf life.
It is possible to freeze Cotija cheese, but this can alter its texture and flavor. For best quality, freeze in portions and use within six months. Recognizing signs of spoilage, such as sour or rancid odor, discoloration, or mold growth, is important to ensure food safety.
By following the recommended storage guidelines and being aware of signs of spoilage, you can enjoy delicious Cotija cheese in your favorite recipes while maintaining its freshness and quality.


How long does cotija cheese keep in the fridge?

Cotija cheese will keep in the fridge for about 4-6 weeks if stored correctly.

Can Cotija cheese be frozen?

Yes, Cotija cheese can be frozen. However, freezing may alter its texture and flavour. It is recommended that frozen cotija cheese be used within six months for best quality.

What is the best way to store cotija cheese?

To store cotija cheese, wrap it tightly in wax or greaseproof paper and place it in an airtight container or resealable bag. This will protect the cheese from air and prevent it from absorbing odours from other foods in the fridge.

How can I tell if cotija cheese has gone bad?

Signs of spoilage in Cotija cheese include a sour or rancid smell, discolouration and the presence of mould. If any of these signs are present, it is advisable to discard the affected portion and use the remaining cheese immediately.

Can I freeze grated Cotija cheese?

Yes, you can freeze grated Cotija cheese. It is recommended to portion the grated cheese and freeze it in airtight containers or resealable bags. Thaw and separate the portions of grated cheese before use, as they may clump together when frozen.

Why does cotija cheese have a salty flavour?

Cotija cheese is known for its salty flavour due to the high salt content used in its production. The salt acts as a preservative, helping to inhibit bacterial growth and extend the shelf life of the cheese.