What Is Oaxaca Cheese And What Does It Taste Like?

Named after its birthplace of Oaxaca, Mexico, Oaxaca is a stringy semi-soft cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk. Basically, Oaxaca looks like a tightly wound ball of white string cheese, with a similar texture and taste as Italian mozzarella (via New England Cheesemaking Supply Company). In fact, though contested, Oaxaca is believed to have been influenced by Italian immigrants who settled in Mexico in the 1950s. In its hometown, it's lovingly known as "quesillo."

Oaxaca is part of the pasta filata ("spun paste") — or stretched-curd — family of cheeses. During the cheesemaking process, rennet is added to milk to separate the solid curds from the watery whey. The curds are then softened by being submerged in hot water. And when they become just soft enough, the curds are then stretched and kneaded to create their iconic stringy texture (via MasterClass). Oaxaca cheese is then rolled into a ball to maintain its elasticity and preserve its flavors. You'll also often find Oaxaca sold in the shape of a long rope for easy cutting.

What does Oaxaca cheese taste like?

Oaxaca has a mellow, buttery flavor with the slightest hint of saltiness, according to Cheese.com. Cheese lovers adore its rich character without being too over-the-top. And when it comes to texture, Oaxaca is stringy, chewy, and melt-in-your-mouth creamy. Children and adults alike love to peel it apart, eat it straight as a quick and easy snack, or add it to special dishes for an extra level of cheesiness.

While more commonly produced in Mexico, many U.S. dairy farmers have a knack for making this beautiful cheese, too. Crave Brothers Farmstead in Waterloo, Wisconsin — the Dairy State — makes Oaxaca that's perfect for incorporating into pizzas, pasta, quesadillas, and nachos, as well as pairing with fresh fruits and veggies or a tall glass of beer or wine. It's even awesome when fried to make ooey-gooey cheese sticks or curds. Since it melts super easily, Oaxaca is an ideal stuffing for many recipes that call for lots and lots of cheese, such as enchiladas and stuffed peppers. When shredded, it's often enjoyed as a tasty garnish atop hot soups, crispy salads, and savory tacos.

Oaxaca can be found in many Latinx markets or in some grocery store delis. According to Travel + Leisure, Oaxaca, Mexico is the origin city of yet another epicurean treasure: mezcal.