Are you looking for a vegan-friendly alternative to Panela cheese? Finding the right substitute can be tricky and time consuming.
You’re in luck – we’ve done the research for you.
In this article, we explore the five best replacements for Panela cheese, so you don’t have to.
What’s Panela Cheese?
Panela cheese, also known as queso panela, is a semi-soft cheese traditionally made in Mexico from cow milk.
It is rennet-free, has a mild aroma and is slightly salty.
Panela has a white to yellowish color and a soft, slightly crumbly texture.
It melts easily when heated and produces an even consistency.
The cheese is often used grated in dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, taquitos and soups.
Panela can also be sliced for adding to salads or sandwiches for a touch of creaminess.
Besides its uses in cooking dishes, panela cheese can also be enjoyed on its own.
It can be cut into cubes and served with crackers or added to toast or hamburgers with other toppings like lettuce and tomatoes.
Panela cheese pairs well with champagne or other sparkling wines as its mild flavor allows the fine bubbles of the beverage to come through nicely on the palate.
5 Best Panela Cheese Substitutes to Consider
Although Panela is becoming increasingly popular due to its distinctive flavor, not every recipe calls for it and if you find yourself without this key ingredient there are several suitable substitutes you can consider.
Here are five of the best:
1 – Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is a soft, crumbly white cheese that is most commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine.
It’s made from sheep or goat milk and has a salty, rich flavor with notes of tanginess.
Feta can be used as a topping for salads, pizzas, pies, or can even be incorporated into dishes such as pasta and casseroles.
It is also an excellent option for sandwiches and wraps.
Feta cheese is relatively low in fat until it is packaged in brine, which increases its fat content significantly.
Unlike some other cheeses, feta has less sodium than paneer making it a healthier alternative if you’re watching your sodium intake.
If you want to replace paneer but don’t want an excess of saltiness in your dish then feta could be the solution.
2 – Queso Fresco
Queso Fresco is another soft, unaged white cheese similar to Panela.
It is traditionally made from cow’s milk, but it can also be found in goat’s and sheep’s milk varieties, depending on the region.
Compared to Panela, Queso Fresco is a bit saltier with a mild flavor and crumbly texture.
It’s great for crumbling over salads or tacos, melting over burritos or stuffing into quesadillas.
Queso Fresco can also be used as a dip or spread for crackers, chips and other snacks.
3 – Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a curd cheese that typically has a mild flavor and creamy texture.
It is most often made from pasteurized cow’s milk, but it can also be made using goat or sheep’s milk as well as from vegetable-based sources like soy.
Unlike panela cheese, which is firm and density, cottage cheese has a much softer texture and will always have some moisture in it.
It can be used as a spread, dip or in recipes requiring some moisture to bind the ingredients together such as lasagna or quiches.
Consider adding herbs of your choice for extra flavor when using cottage cheese.
Cottage cheese can also be used as an even healthier alternative to full-fat panela cheese in sandwiches or wraps.
4 – Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is an Italian cheese made from whey, milk, vinegar and salt.
It is a semi-soft cheese with a creamy texture and mild flavor.
Ricotta is often used as an appetizer with bread or crackers, or added to lasagna and other dishes.
It can also be served as a dessert with fruits such as strawberries or bananas in Italy.
Ricotta is high in protein and calcium, making it a healthy snack option for both adults and children.
5 – Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is a mild, soft white cheese with a slightly sweet and tangy flavor, most commonly associated with bagels and cream cheese.
It is made from cow’s milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized to remove any bacteria, then processed into blocks or tubs.
Cream cheese is usually sold in its unripened form, with salt and/or other additives added for flavor.
Its texture can range from semi-solid to liquidy depending on the moisture content of the milk used and the additional ingredients added.
Cream cheese works very well as a substitute for panela cheese in many dishes as it has a similar texture but with a much milder flavor profile that can be balanced out with the addition of herbs or spices.
Ultimately, panela cheese is a unique type of cheese with a mild and sweet flavor.
It can be difficult to find outside of Latin American markets, but it’s definitely worth seeking out for its creaminess and subtle sweetness.
But if it’s not in your local store or you can’t find any online, don’t worry.
The five substitutes listed here are all great alternatives that offer similar flavor profiles—and so much more.
From soft goat cheese to sharp Parmigiano Reggiano, there’s certainly something that can help complete your Latin American style dish.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!