Do you have a recipe that calls for Manchego cheese, but you don't have any on hand? In this handy guide, you will find the best manchego cheese substitute for whatever recipe you're cooking.
What is Manchego Cheese?
Manchego cheese, also known as queso manchego, is a sheep's milk cheese manchego cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain. It has a creamy, buttery texture and a slightly tangy and nutty flavor.
The cheese is crumbly when young, becoming firmer and more manageable to grate as it ages. Manchego has a distinct salty taste that pairs wonderfully with cured meats, olives, almonds, and red wine.
This popular Spanish ingredient is used in many different cuisines. Its versatility makes it perfect for grating over pasta dishes, using in-baked casseroles and gratins, adding to salads or cheese platters, and slicing for tapas and sandwiches.
Manchego cheese can also be melted, though it may separate when cooked. Manchego's smooth, creamy taste and firm texture lend itself well to various dishes.
6 Reasons You May Need a Manchego Cheese Substitute
There are a few reasons why you may need or want to use a substitute for this well-known Spanish cheese manchego cheese substitutes:
- Allergies: Sheep's milk is one of the more common dairy allergens. Replacing Manchego cheese allows those with an allergy or sensitivity to enjoy recipes safely.
- Lactose intolerance: The lactose content in sheep's milk is higher than cow's milk, making Manchego unsuitable for some.
- Flavor: Some find the tangy, sheepy flavor of Manchego unpleasant. Subbing it provides a more mellow, mild taste.
- Availability: Manchego can be hard to find, depending on where you live. Substitutes make recipes requiring manchego cheese substitutes (6 uses) more accessible.
- Cost: Quality Manchego is one of the pricier cheeses. Alternatives provide a more budget-friendly option.
- Melting: Although it can be melted, Manchego doesn't always achieve an ideal melted consistency. Substitutes like mozzarella melt smoothly.
The Best Manchego Cheese Substitutes
If you need an alternative to Manchego, these cheeses make excellent substitutes for flavor, texture, and melting properties. Here are the top swaps to use in place of Manchego:
1. Asiago Cheese
Why it works: Asiago cheese has a similar firm, dense texture and tangy flavor. It becomes more crumbly with age, just like Manchego. The taste is robust, with nutty notes.
Example dishes: Pastas, pizzas, salads, sandwiches
2. Cheddar Cheese
Why it works: Cheddar cheese has a creamy texture with crystalline dots, giving it a mouthfeel like Manchego. Its flavor is nutty and complex, and it is a cow's milk cheese.
Example dishes: Quiches, grilled cheese, casseroles
Measurement: Use the same amount as Manchego. Aim for cheddar cheese aged 1-3 years.
3. Monterey Jack Cheese
Why it works: Monterey Jack cheese has a supple, smooth texture and mild, buttery taste like Manchego. It melts extremely well, too.
Example dishes: Quesadillas, nachos, soups, dips
Measurement: Use the same quantity. For more bite, combine with cheddar.
4. Mild Cheddar Cheese
Why it works: Young, mild cheddar cheese provides Manchego's creamy texture and delicate flavor. It grates and melts nicely.
Example dishes: Mac and cheese, paninis, cheese plates
Measurement: Use the same amount as the recipe calls for. Avoid strongly flavored aged cheddar.
5. Mozzarella Cheese
Why it works: Fresh mozzarella cheese offers a creamy, smooth mouthfeel similar to Manchego and a mild, milky taste. It melts beautifully.
Example dishes: Pizzas, pasta, baked dishes
Measurement: Use the same quantity of fresh cheese. Part-skim or whole-milk mozzarella cheese works well.
6. Muenster Cheese
Why it works: Muenster cheese provides a soft, smooth texture and mellow, nutty flavor like young Manchego. It melts exceptionally well.
Example dishes: Grilled cheese, paninis, flatbreads
Measurement: Use the same amount as Manchego. Make sure Muenster is well-aged.
Why it works: Gouda has a dense, creamy texture reminiscent of Manchego. When aged, it takes on a complex, caramelized flavor.
Example dishes: Soups, sandwiches, cheese platters
Measurement: Use the same quantity. Opt for a semi-soft gouda aged three months to 1 year.
8. Pecorino Romano
Why it works: Pecorino Romano boasts a firm, granular consistency and sharp, nutty, salty flavor like aged Manchego.
Example dishes: Pasta, pizza, salads, vegetable dishes
Measurement: Use a little less Romano than Manchego - it has a stronger taste.
Example dishes: Pastas, pizzas, salads
Measurement: Use a bit less Parmesan than Manchego since it has a more pronounced flavor.
10. Queso Quesadilla
Why it works: This Mexican cheese has a mildly tangy taste and a smooth, creamy texture when melted. It works well in Tex-Mex recipes.
Example dishes: Quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas
Measurement: Use the same amount as Manchego.
11. Zamorano Cheese
Why it works: Zamorano cheese is a Spanish sheep's milk cheese with a crumbly texture and tangy, nutty flavor similar to Manchego.
Example dishes: Tapas, charcuterie boards, salads
5 Best Vegan Manchego Substitutes
For plant-based recipes, these vegan-friendly alternatives mimic Manchego's texture and mild flavor:
1. Aged Smoked Tofu
Why it works: Smoked, firm tofu offers a dense, crumbliness similar to Manchego.
Example dishes: Salads, tapas, sandwiches
Measurement: Use the same amount as the Manchego called for.
2. Nut-based Cheese
Why it works: Nut-based cheeses can provide a crumbliness and smoky, salty taste like Manchego when aged.
Example dishes: Pastas, pizzas, baked dishes
Measurement: Use the same quantity of Manchego specified.
3. Cream Cheese Style Spread
Why it works: Creamy, tangy vegan cream cheese provides Manchego’s soft texture when melted.
Example dishes: Melted cheese, casseroles, dips
Measurement: Use the same amount of Manchego listed.
4. Coconut Oil-based Feta
Why it works: For salads and cheese boards, feta-style coconut cheese offers Manchego’s signature crumble and tang.
Example dishes: Salads, appetizer platters, pasta
Measurement: Use the same amount as the recipe calls for.
5. Cashew Cheese
Why it works: Fermented cashew cheese can mimic the dense, sliceable texture and subtle nutty flavor of Manchego when aged.
Example dishes: Pizza, sandwiches, cheese boards
Measurement: Use the same amount as the recipe calls for Manchego.
Dishes That Commonly Use Manchego
Manchego cheese is widely used in Spanish cuisine, but it also works deliciously in dishes from around the world, especially in recipes requiring melted cheese. Some recipes that typically call for Manchego include:
- Quesadillas: Manchego is often used in quesadillas, adding its signature salty, tangy flavor when melted between tortillas. Manchego cheese substitute: Monterey Jack cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, queso quesadilla
- Pasta: Grated Manchego sprinkled over pasta adds a creamy, rich depth and nutty accent. Manchego cheese substitute: Parmesan, Romano, Asiago cheese, cheddar
- Pizza: Manchego's subtle tang and browning make it a tasty pizza topping. Manchego cheese substitute: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack cheese, provolone, smoked gouda
- Empanadas: Manchego lends its iconic Spanish flavor to savory empanada fillings. Alternative cheese: Queso quesadilla, Monterey Jack cheese, cheddar
- Salads: Crumbled Manchego provides the perfect salty accent and creamy bite to freshen up salads. Manchego alternatives: Feta, brie, fresh mozzarella
- Tapas: Sliced or grated Manchego served with cured meats, olives, and bread is a classic Spanish tapa. Suitable manchego substitute: Cheddar, Parmesan, Asiago cheese
- Grilled Cheese: Manchego adds a distinctive tangy accent between bread when making grilled cheese sandwiches. Alternative for manchego: Monterey Jack, Gouda, mild cheddar, Muenster
- Soups: Shredded Manchego sprinkled over soups contributes a pleasant salty richness. Manchego cheese substitute: Gruyère, fontina, shredded mozzarella
- Casserole: Melted Manchego gives casseroles a creamy, savory flavor. Substitute manchego cheese: Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda
- Cheese Boards: Manchego's trademark tang makes it a delicious addition to a cheese platter. Manchego replacement: Parmesan, aged gouda, pecorino, cheddar
- Sandwiches: Sliced Manchego layered into sandwiches provides a subtly sweet, nutty taste. Substitute for manchego cheese: Havarti, gruyere, Muenster
- Tarts: Manchego gives a nice salty bite and luxurious finish when baked into savory tarts. Manchego cheese substitutes: Gruyere, smoked cheddar, aged gouda
- Burgers: A Manchego cheese slice on burgers adds a gourmet twist with a creamy, salty flavor. Alternatives for manchego cheese: American cheese, Monterey Jack
- Focaccia: Manchego's salty savor makes it a tasty addition when baked into focaccia bread. Manchego alternatives: Mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, Asiago
- Baked Pasta: Melted Manchego provides rich, indulgent flavor in baked pasta. Alternatives for manchego cheese: Ricotta, smoked mozzarella, fontina
Helpful Tips for Substituting Manchego Cheese
Follow these handy tips to ensure you pick the right cheese and adjust recipes perfectly when substituting for Manchego:
- Opt for cheese with a similar texture for sandwiches, cheeseboards, and eating raw. Mozzarella, young cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Muenster work well.
- Choose a cheese that melts smoothly in cooked dishes, like mozzarella, Monterey Jack, queso quesadilla, or fontina.
- Use a sturdy cheese like Asiago, cheddar, or Parmesan for acidic foods like tomato sauces and dressings.
- Add a nutmeg, paprika, or thyme pinch to creamier cheeses to approximate Manchego's distinctive tang.
- When using strongly flavored cheeses like Romano or Parmesan parmesan, reduce the amount to prevent overpowering the dish.
- Test a small amount of any substitute to ensure you're happy with the flavor and texture before using it.
Is Manchego cheese similar to Parmesan?
Although both can be grated and add richness, Manchego has a creamier, smoother mouthfeel than Parmesan's granular texture. Manchego is also less sharp and salty-tasting than Parmesan.
What is a substitute for Manchego cheese in Australia?
Is Manchego cheese like Asiago?
Yes, Asiago is one of the closest substitutes for Manchego in terms of texture and flavor. Both cheeses develop a crumbliness and nutty, tangy taste when aged. Asiago is comparable to a young Manchego.
Is Manchego similar to Gouda?
Aged goudas can make a reasonable substitute for Manchego. Both have a creamy, smooth consistency and deep, slightly sweet, nutty notes when matured. Manchego is usually more crumbly than Gouda, though.
What cheese does Manchego cheese taste like?
With its creamy and mild flavor, with a slight tang, Manchego resembles cheeses like Monterey Jack, young cheddar, Asiago, and Gouda. However, its distinctive sheep's milk taste sets it apart.
What is Manchego cheese used for?
Manchego is widely used in its native Spanish cuisine, especially tapas, quesadillas, empanadas, and pasta. It also works well in salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, casseroles, soups, tarts, and cheese boards.
What style of cheese is Manchego?
Manchego is a Spanish-pressed cheese made from sheep's milk. It has a firm, compact texture and ages well, developing a crumbliness and intensely nutty, tangy sheep's milk flavor. Manchego is in the same style as cheeses like Pecorino Romano.
Does Manchego taste like goat cheese?
Is Manchego similar to pecorino?
Pecorino Romano is an excellent substitute for Manchego, especially the aged version. Both are firm, crumbly cheeses made from sheep's milk with a tangy, nutty, salty flavor. Pecorino Romano is stronger than Manchego, though.
What goes well with Manchego cheese?
Is Manchego cheese a good melting cheese?
Manchego can melt well when young and semi-soft. Aged Manchego does not tend to melt smoothly - it can become grainy or separate when cooked. For the best melting properties, a cheese like Monterey Jack or cheddar is preferable to Manchego.
How is Manchego cheese eaten?
Manchego can be enjoyed in many ways. It is delicious sliced or cubed in tapas and charcuterie boards, grated over pasta or soup, melted in quesadillas or grilled cheese sandwiches, diced into salads, and baked into casseroles or pizza.
What Italian cheese tastes like Manchego?
Aged pecorino romano is the most similar Italian cheese to Manchego - both are made from sheep's milk and have a hard, becoming crumbly when mature, with a tangy, nutty taste. Young Manchego is comparable to Italian mozzarella.