Well, when we’re considering substituting Manchego in a dish, it’s really important to know what type of Manchego we’re trying to replace. Check out the page linked there to make sure you know what you’re talking about, then read on…
Finding a Substitute for Manchego Viejo
It’s most likely that this is what you’re looking for – a hard cheese with a complex, intense flavour. Maybe you’re grating it or just slicing it and eating it off a cheese board. The two obvious options are Pecorino Romano and Asiago.
Asiago is a beautiful cheese from a small region in the north-east of Italy. It can be aged to extreme hardness and has a spicy, sweet taste – really well worth trying! However, if you can’t get Manchego then it’s unlikely that you can get Asiago as it’s even less prominent.
So your best option is Pecorino Romano. Also Italian, this cheese rests somewhere between Parmesan and Manchego. It’s not as salty and strongly flavoured as Parmesan, and also not as dry. It doesn’t quite approach Manchego’s refined taste, but still it’s a pretty good substitute as it will behave essentially the same way – maybe use a little bit less so it’s not overpowering.
If you can’t even get Pecorino then you’ll have to go with Parmesan, but you really don’t want to use too much as it will rapidly take over the whole dish with its strong saltiness.
Filling in for Manchego Curado
The obvious substitute for this gorgeous melting cheese is Mozzarella. It’s also a semi-soft cheese which has high moisture content so that means that it melts perfectly – hence its traditional role on pizzas and lasagna. The main difference is that real Mozzarella is made from buffalo milk, which tends to be a bit lower in protein and higher in fat than the sheep’s milk of traditional Manchego, though conversely it’s also higher in calcium and lower in lactose.
If you’re not a Mozzarella fan then you can definitely try cheddar or Gruyère or even a Monterey Jack (if you’re in the US), but they’re all a bit more strongly flavoured than Manchego Curado so they won’t be a perfect replacement.