How To Melt Oaxaca Cheese: An Easy 10 Minute Guide [2024]

How to melt Oaxaca cheese

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Oaxaca cheese, also known as “quesillo”, is a cherished gem in Mexican cuisine, loved for its stretchy, gooey texture and delicate flavor.

As a versatile and delightful ingredient, learning how to correctly melt Oaxaca cheese is essential to elevate your dishes to a whole new level.

Whether you’re making classic Mexican dishes or experimenting with global recipes, let’s unravel the secrets to achieve the perfect melt and celebrate the beauty of this beloved cheese.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese?

Knowing how to melt Oaxaca cheese is essential for achieving that perfect gooey texture and indulging in its rich, creamy taste.

Before melting, it’s important to bring the cheese to room temperature, as cold cheese may not melt evenly. Allowing the cheese to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes ensures a smooth, even melt.

There are various methods that you can use to melt Oaxaca cheese, each tailored to specific dishes. The method that should use depends on the meal that you are preparing. That in turn will usually tell you whether you need to use an oven or if a hot-plate would be the better option.

We’ve set out below a few tips on using different equipment, and then we give some suggestions to cook the best quesadillas, tlayudas, and other Mexican classics.

But before we dive into that, let’s briefly take a look at why you might make you want to melt Oaxaca cheese in the first place!

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

What is Oaxaca Cheese?

Oaxaca cheese, also known as quesillo, originates from the picturesque region of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. In particular, the town of Reyes Etla is renowned for its production of Oaxaca cheese.

This traditional cheese is made from cow’s milk, although some variations may include a blend of cow’s and goat’s milk, which adds a delightful complexity to its flavour.

What sets Oaxaca cheese apart is its unique stretchy, stringy texture, similar to that of mozzarella, making it an ideal melting cheese.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

Why is Oaxaca Cheese Ideal for Melting?

Oaxaca cheese is ideal for melting due to its unique stretchy and stringy texture, which makes it a delight to watch as it transforms into a creamy, oozy consistency when heated.

It is known for its exceptional melting properties, making it a favorite in numerous dishes that require that desirable, mouthwatering melt.

The high moisture content in Oaxaca cheese contributes to its exceptional melting capabilities.

As the cheese heats up, the moisture turns into steam, creating a beautiful stretchy and stringy texture that is perfect for creating that characteristic cheese pull in dishes like quesadillas and enchiladas.

Moreover, Oaxaca cheese has a mild and delicate flavor, allowing it to complement a wide variety of ingredients without overpowering their taste.

Its subtle taste blends harmoniously with both traditional Mexican flavors and global cuisines, making it a versatile cheese for melting into a plethora of dishes.

Whether used as a filling, topping, or a binding agent, Oaxaca cheese adds a luxurious creaminess and indulgence to any dish.

Its ability to blend and meld with other ingredients elevates the overall taste experience, creating a satisfying and comforting meal.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

Choosing the Right Oven and Equipment

The perfect melt of Oaxaca cheese requires not only the right techniques but also the appropriate oven and equipment.

Whether you have a conventional oven, a microwave, or other kitchen tools, each option presents its unique advantages for melting Oaxaca cheese to perfection.

Conventional Oven

A conventional oven is a reliable and versatile tool that you can use to melt Oaxaca cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and place the dish containing the cheese inside. The even heat distribution in a conventional oven ensures uniform melting, resulting in a consistent and delightful texture.

Whether you’re making enchiladas, casseroles, or any baked dishes, the conventional oven provides an excellent environment for achieving that dreamy, oozy melt.

Convection Oven

For those with a convection oven, the fan-assisted circulation of hot air can accelerate the melting process.

This is particularly advantageous for dishes like quesadillas or tlayudas, where a quicker melt is desired while retaining the crispy texture of the tortilla.

When using a convection oven, reduce the temperature by about 25°F (15°C) and keep an eye on the cheese to avoid over-melting.

Broiler Function

If you prefer a quick and intense melt, the broiler function is your go-to option.

This setting directs intense heat from the top of the oven onto the cheese, creating a beautifully bubbly and caramelized top layer.

For dishes like gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches or enchiladas with a golden, crispy cheese crust, the broiler function adds a delightful touch to your creations.


When time is of the essence, the microwave can be a handy tool if you need to melt Oaxaca cheese quickly.

Use a microwave-safe dish and heat the cheese in short bursts of 15 to 30 seconds to avoid overcooking. Stir the cheese between intervals to ensure even melting.

While the microwave may not achieve the same level of browning as the oven, it’s a convenient option for simple dishes like quesadillas or toppings for nachos.

Griddle or Hot Plate

For a unique twist, consider using a griddle or hot plate to melt Oaxaca cheese.

This method works well for dishes like quesadillas, where you can place the tortillas directly on the hot surface and top them with shredded cheese.

The direct heat creates a quick and evenly melted cheese layer, resulting in a deliciously crispy exterior and gooey interior.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

How To Melt Oaxaca Cheese In Different Mexican Dishes

Now that we’ve looked at the various equipment settings, we can look at the steps required to melt Oaxaca cheese in specific meals.


Quesadillas are a quintessential Mexican dish that feature melted Oaxaca cheese in all its glory.

To create the perfect quesadilla, start by heating a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla on the skillet and sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Oaxaca cheese on one-half of the tortilla.

Fold the tortilla in half, covering the cheese with the other half, and press it gently.

Cook the quesadilla on each side for about 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the tortilla turns golden brown and crispy.

Serve the quesadilla with your favourite toppings such as salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.


Tlayudas, also known as Oaxacan pizzas, follow a similar process.

Begin by toasting a large, thin tortilla on a hot griddle or comal. Once the tortilla is slightly crispy, spread a layer of refried beans on top, followed by a generous amount of shredded Oaxaca cheese.

Add toppings of your choice, such as chorizo, vegetables, or avocado slices. Continue cooking until the cheese has melted and the toppings are heated through.

The result is a delectable combination of flavors, with the gooey cheese acting as a binding agent for the toppings.

Chiles Rellenos

Chiles rellenos are a favorite among Mexicans, featuring roasted poblano peppers stuffed with a flavorful mixture and covered in a fluffy egg batter.

To melt Oaxaca cheese for chiles rellenos, start by roasting the poblano peppers over an open flame or in the oven until the skin is charred and blistered.

Remove the skin, seeds, and veins from the peppers, creating a cavity for the filling. Stuff the peppers with a mixture of shredded Oaxaca cheese and other ingredients of your choice, such as picadillo (spiced meat and vegetable filling) or sautéed vegetables.

Carefully dip the stuffed peppers into a beaten egg batter, coating them evenly.

Fry the chiles rellenos in hot oil until the egg batter is golden and crispy, and the cheese inside has melted.

Each bite bursts with the delightful flavors of the melted cheese and savory fillings.


Enchiladas are another beloved Mexican dish that showcases the melting prowess of Oaxaca cheese.

To create enchiladas, warm the tortillas slightly to make them pliable. Fill each tortilla with a mixture of shredded Oaxaca cheese and your desired filling, such as shredded chicken, beef, or beans.

Roll the tortillas and place them seam side down in a baking dish. Cover the enchiladas with your favorite sauce, such as a red enchilada sauce or mole sauce. Sprinkle additional shredded Oaxaca cheese on top of the enchiladas.

Bake in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling.

The melted Oaxaca cheese binds the enchiladas together, providing a creamy and delightful taste that complements the rich flavors of the sauces and fillings.


Empanadas are both savory and sweet pastries that can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including Oaxaca cheese.

To melt Oaxaca cheese for empanadas, begin by preparing the empanada dough and dividing it into small portions.

Roll out each portion into a circle and place a spoonful of shredded Oaxaca cheese in the centre. Fold the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape and seal the edges by crimping them with a fork.

Place the empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg or milk for a golden finish. Bake in the oven at 375°F (190°C) for 15-20 minutes or until the empanadas are golden brown and the cheese has melted inside.

The result is a delectable pastry with a flaky crust that reveals a molten core of Oaxaca cheese, creating a truly indulgent treat.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese in Different Climates

The climate in which you’re going to melt Oaxaca cheese can impact the cheese-melting process, requiring some adjustments to achieve the perfect melt.

Hot and Humid Climates

In hot and humid climates, Oaxaca cheese can become softer and slightly sticky due to moisture in the air.

To prevent the cheese from becoming too soft, store it in the refrigerator until just before use.

Additionally, work quickly to assemble dishes, ensuring the cheese doesn’t become too sticky as it’s handled.

Using a griddle or skillet to melt Oaxaca cheese in hot and humid climates can be beneficial, as it allows for a quick and controlled melt, reducing the risk of the cheese becoming overly soft.

Cold Climates

In colder climates, Oaxaca cheese may firm up more quickly, making it challenging to achieve an even melt.

To overcome this, before you melt Oaxaca cheese, you should allow it to reach room temperature. This step ensures that the cheese melts evenly and smoothly, creating that desirable stretchy texture.

Consider using an oven or broiler for dishes in colder climates, as they provide even heat distribution and consistent melting.

Storage Considerations

Regardless of the climate, proper storage is essential for preserving the quality of Oaxaca cheese.

Always keep the cheese refrigerated, wrapped in plastic or stored in an airtight container to prevent it from absorbing odours and maintain its freshness. You can also place a piece of wax paper between slices or shreds of Oaxaca cheese to prevent them from sticking together.

Avoid freezing Oaxaca cheese, as freezing can alter its texture and affect its melting properties.

Melting Techniques

In any climate, the key to achieving the perfect melt lies in using the appropriate techniques for different dishes.

For example, for baked dishes like enchiladas or casseroles, using a conventional oven at the right temperature and duration ensures an even melt and delicious texture.

In contrast, for quick melts like quesadillas or tlayudas, a hot griddle or skillet can provide the desired results.

Experiment and Adapt

While climate can influence the melting process, experimentation and adaptation are key to achieving the perfect melt in any setting.

Observe the cheese closely as it melts, adjusting the heat and cooking times as needed.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques and oven settings to find what works best for your climate and specific dishes.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

Troubleshooting Common Issues When You Melt Oaxaca Cheese

While it can be a delightful experience, sometimes unexpected issues may arise when you melt Oaxaca cheese.

Understanding and troubleshooting these common problems will help you achieve the perfect melt every time.


One common issue that arises when you melt Oaxaca cheese is ending up with a rubbery texture.

This can happen when the cheese is overheated or melted for too long.

To avoid this, be mindful of the heat source and avoid cooking the cheese at high temperatures for an extended period. Instead, use low to medium heat and melt the cheese just until it becomes gooey and creamy.


Another challenge may be the separation of the cheese into a clumpy, grainy texture.

This typically occurs when the cheese is subjected to direct high heat or if it’s not allowed to melt evenly.

To prevent separation, use gentle heat and stir the cheese occasionally as it melts. This will help distribute the heat and ensure a smooth, cohesive melt.

Uneven Melting

Uneven melting can lead to some parts of the dish being perfectly melted while others remain solid.

To melt Oaxaca cheese evenly, ensure the cheese is evenly distributed throughout the dish and consider using an oven or microwave for more consistent results.

Additionally, avoid overheating the cheese, as it can lead to uneven texture and flavor.


Burning the cheese is a common issue, especially when using high heat or broiling for too long.

To avoid burning, keep a close eye on the cheese as it melts and adjust the heat or cooking time accordingly.

For dishes that require browning, such as baked enchiladas, allow the cheese to brown just enough to achieve a golden color without charring.


While the stringy texture of melted Oaxaca cheese is desirable in certain dishes, excessive stringiness can be a problem.

This may happen when the cheese is pulled apart too much or allowed to cool for too long after melting.

To avoid excessive stringiness, use the cheese while it’s still warm and melted, and avoid over-stretching the cheese during preparation.


Overcooking Oaxaca cheese can lead to a loss of its delicate flavor and texture.

To avoid overcooking, melt the cheese just until it reaches the desired consistency and remove it from the heat source promptly.

Overcooking can also cause the cheese to become tough and chewy, detracting from its natural creamy melt.

How to Melt Oaxaca Cheese: A 10 Minute Guide

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of melting Oaxaca cheese is a rewarding culinary endeavor that opens doors to a world of delicious possibilities.

With its stretchy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and delicate flavor, Oaxaca cheese lends itself beautifully to a wide range of dishes, from traditional Mexican classics to global fusion creations.

We’ve explored various techniques, equipment, and considerations for achieving the perfect melt. Whether you’re using conventional ovens and broilers or experimenting with microwaves and griddles, each method offers its unique benefits and allows you to tailor your approach based on the dish and your preferences.

Make sure that you know your climate in which you intend to melt your cheese. Understanding the cheese’s melting behavior in different climates is essential for ensuring a consistent and delightful melt every time.

By adapting your techniques and being mindful of temperature and humidity, you can overcome challenges and create perfectly melted Oaxaca cheese regardless of your location.

Ready to get cooking? May the stretchy melt of Oaxaca cheese bring joy and satisfaction to your cooking experiences, and may it continue to be a cherished ingredient that elevates your dishes and celebrates the magic of authentic Mexican flavor.

Happy melting!

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