If you ever tried Manchego cheese you would know why people went crazy for it in the last couple of years. It’s taste combined with texture and the ability to age pretty well made cheese lovers across the world pretty much drool all over this famous cheese.
But why is it so special? Let’s dive into some of the main aspects of Manchego and why it is so good.
First of all, it comes from Spain, from a particular part of Spain to be exact, named La Mancha region. It’s made of sheep’s milk, and it usually needs about 60 days to age for it to be perfect. Generally speaking, though, it can age anywhere between 60 days to 2 years. The older it gets, the better. But more complicated at the same time.
Its texture is unique, as well. It has a crisp layer that covers the tasty and creamy inside of it. You can even find air bubbles inside based on how old it is and how well it’s made. What needs to be addressed is that you should cut off the coat when you eat Manchego. It’s not so pleasant to eat.
Taste & Facts
As for the taste – it’s neutral. It’s not as strong as other cheeses such as cheddar, but it’s far from tasteless. That’s why it’s great to use it in various mixtures and as a part of many dishes.
One thing that makes Manchego very special is that it has a PDO status which means “Protected Designation of Origin”. What does this mean exactly? Well firstly, it means that it’s produced from a specific type of milk and in a particular part of the Earth. Its age needs to be between 60 days and two years. Not more, not less. It needs to have a maximum of 12 cm in height and a maximum diameter of 22 cm.
You can see that Machengo cheese is made upon some standards, and that usually means it can get quite expensive. And that’s where we come to the critical point of this article. Being so hard to get hands upon and usually pretty expensive, people who would like to use Manchego in their dishes need to find certain substitutes for it (if they can’t get their hands on the real thing).
Since the Machengo is unique finding it’s alternative can be super hard. But that’s why we are here. On the list below, you’ll find some of the best substitutes for Manchego cheese out there. Now, we aren’t saying some of them are exact replicas or near-like Manchego. Far from it, since if you want a Manchego, you’ll need to buy one.
But, the cheeses on the list have something similar to Manchego, whether that’s taste, texture or something else. And that’s why they are on the list. Therefore, without further ado, let’s dig into the best alternatives to Manchego cheese and find out what’s the best one out there.
Tomme De Brebis
Far from the heights of the French Alps, the Tomme Brebis comes. It’s another cheese that’s pretty rare to get, but if you know where to look, you’ll find it.
It shares a lot of similarities with Manchego. Firstly, it ages pretty much the same. Form 6 months to 2 years is an optimal time to let these cheeses sit out. The texture is pretty similar, as well. It has a crispy coat that hides a tasty and creamy inside. Same as the Manchego.
If you look up the Internet – “The best Manchego cheese substitutes”, this is the cheese which will pop out as the first pick in 90% of the time. And there’s a reason for it. It’s also made from sheep milk (although some variations are made from goat milk), same as Manchego. If you know it shares other similarities mentioned above, it comes as no surprise that this cheese is a little brother of Manchego.
If you don’t live in the USA, you might not have heard about Monterey Jack. But, if you ever tasted it, you would know why it resembles Manchego so much. It ages up to 6 months, and it’s made from cow’s milk. So far, it doesn’t have many similarities with Manchego.
But, and that’s a big but, the taste is pretty much identical. It’s creamy, neutral and it resembles the Manchego taste so much that if you were blindfolded and given to taste both of them – we doubt you would be able to find the difference.
So, if you’re from the USA and French and Spain cheeses are far out of your reach, the Jack cheese (That’s how Monterey Jack is usually called) might be the perfect pick for you.
Another Europe-oriented cheese. Pecorino comes from Italy, Sardinia to be exact. It should be eaten in small doses since it’s taste is extremely strong. It ages up pretty well, and the older it gets, the texture becomes harder. It’s made of sheep’s milk, same as Manchego but other than that it’s an entirely different cheese.
The one thing that makes this an excellent substitution is the fact that it can pretty much replace Manchego in every meal possible. People put it in salads, pasta and so on. But, keep in mind it’s taste is very strong, and you should always use just a little bit of it.
Oh, and by the way, it has a PDO status as well. Another plus for Pecorino.
This mention might be the first time you hear about this fantastic French cheese from the Comte region, but we doubt it will be the last. It’s made of cows milk but don’t let this fools you. Despite that, it resembles Manchego in pretty much everything. The look, the taste and the texture of it are virtually the same as of the Manchego.
The texture of this cheese is semi-hard, and it comes with a creamy aftertaste based on its age. You can find it in premium supermarkets.
Zamorano is a compatriot of the Manchego. It comes from Spain being made in the province called Zamora. It’s sheep’s milk cheese, and it offers the same strong specific sheep milk cheese taste. It ages up to 6 months and goes well with bread or garlic.
What’s cheddar doing on this list you may ask? And that’s a legitimate question. In its basics, cheddar is very different from Manchego. The texture, taste and everything else is in contrast. But, the thing about cheddar is that it changes its touch, taste and look based upon how old it is. And it can age a lot.
So, if you look to replace Manchego with cheddar, you should look for the ones that are quite old. If they age a lot, they will resemble a Manchego way more than a typical cheddar would. If you want to pick the best type of cheddar for your experiment – take the English one. It’s the one that resembles the most to Manchego when it ages.
There is not much to say about Asiago. It’s a neutral cheese made from cow’s milk. It can vary in terms of texture meaning when it’s old; it has a taste similar to Manchego. When it’s fresh, it’s smooth and creamy. Knowing this, if you want to use Asiago as your Manchego alternative, you should look for the one that has some age to it. That’s the only way you will get the most out of it and enjoy the taste similar to Manchego.
Vegan Manchego Cheese Substitute
We know that many people look for a vegan type of cheese. It’s healthier, but at the same time, many people think that such a cheese doesn’t have the taste needed to be even considered as an option. In most cases, that’s wrong. There’s a bunch of vegan cheeses out there which are incredibly tasty.
If you want a perfect Manchego vegan cheese substitute, look for the one that has hemp seed and chickpea in it. It’s usually made of a combination of walnuts, garlic, sea salt, nutritional yeast and pine nuts. You can add or take out something as per your wish since you can make this type of cheese pretty much on your own. You can love it or hate it but to do that – you need to try it out.
If you have an opportunity to buy real Manchego cheese, do it. You’ll love it and enjoy every second of it. On the other hand, if it’s far from your reach and the shops near you don’t have Manchego available, hopefully now you know what can replace it.
Try some of the cheeses mentioned above out and give us feedback on how they go. We’re curious to find out whether any of them worked out for you and if you know for a better cheese which can serve as an alternative, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will gladly add it to the list.