Popular Cheeses from A to Z
American cheese is widely recognized by its mild and creamy flavor, white or orange-yellow coloring and easy-to-melt quality. You can count on this all-time family favorite to be at home everywhere — from the dinner table to the picnic table, and from lunch boxes to luncheon buffets.
Not only does American cheese make delectable grilled cheese sandwiches and superb chef’s salads, it’s also perfect in cream-based soups. It melts beautifully over vegetables and baked potatoes, and makes a classic topping for cheeseburgers.
Asiago is an Italian cheese with a flavor similar to a blend of aged Cheddar and Parmesan. This cow’s milk cheese is named after its point of origin—a quaint village in the Northern part of Italy. Young Asiago has a mild and sweet flavor while aged Asiago is well-loved for its sharp, fruity flavor.
Young Asiago can be chunked or sliced for sandwiches, wraps or snacking. Aged Asiago is the perfect grating cheese and can be added to soups and salads.
Pair Asiago with Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Burgundy, Merlot, Dolcetto or Barbera.
Blue cheese offers flavors ranging from delicate and only slightly tangy to richly earthy and very sharp. Textures can range from crumbly to readily spreadable. This cheese is easily distinguished by the green-gold marbled interiors. The blue streaks are a result of mold from harmless bacteria that is added during manufacturing. Though all blue cheese shares the basic flavor of Penicillium Roquefort, different milks make them individually distinctive.
Blue cheese can be used to make salad dressing and dips, and works well in pasta dishes, omelets, crepes and soufflés. It can also be served for dessert with fresh fruit.
Pair blue cheese with Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Port, Late Harvest Riesling, sweet reds or whites, fruity reds, Amarone or Port.
Brick cheese is ivory to creamy yellow in color with flavor that ranges from very mild to pungently sharp. The cheese, which originated in Wisconsin, is dotted with small, round openings. When young, brick has a mild and sweet flavor with a touch of nuttiness. It is easy to slice and makes a perfect melting cheese at this stage. The more pungent variety resembles the surface-ripened beer cheese, or beer kase, of Germany with a strong flavor that increases with age.
Brick cheese is great over casseroles and soups and makes a particularly good sandwich with pumpernickel bread and raw or sautéed onions.
Pair mild brick cheese with light red wine or beer and aged brick with fruit juices, iced tea or lemonade.
Brie is the most popular of all imported French cheeses. This soft-ripened cheese is made with cow’s milk and has a white or off-white bloomy rind and a soft and slightly runny interior with a mild glossy paste.
Brie should be eaten when it is “affine” or fully ripened. The aroma should be reminiscent of fresh mushrooms and always pleasant. A chalky texture is a sure sign that it was cut before its peak. As with most cheese, brie should always be served at room temperature so its full texture and flavor is allowed to develop.
Brie has its origins in the region of Ile-de-France not far from Paris and can be traced back to the 5th century.
Serve brie at room temperature with fresh fruits and walnuts or layer with sun-dried tomatoes and bake en croûte for a special treat.
Pair brie with Bordeaux and Burgundy wines.
Caerphilly is a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese that is mild and creamy with a buttery flavor that finishes with a hint of lemon. This English cheese originated in Wales in the late 20th century. When demand exceeded Wales’ capacity, they persuaded cheesemakers in Somerset, England, to make the product; it has been an English favorite ever since.
Caerphilly is the perfect snacking cheese and can be served with fruit, bread, chutney or preserves.
Pair Caerphilly with dry white wines.
Cheddar is a cow’s milk cheese that is widely regarded for its rich, full flavor.
Cheddar’s trademark sharpness develops at about two years into the aging process, and is due to the increasing concentration of salts and acids that begin to build in the cheese. At about this time, the salts begin to bind to themselves and form small crystals. At about three years of aging, the salts begin to form small granules and by five years the salts can form into small, “crunchy” grains. This is a natural and desirable part of the aging process and it adds to the complexity of the cheese and its flavor appreciation.
Cheddar can be added to cream-based soups or sauces, shredded over baked potatoes or melted over steamed vegetables and baked dishes. It is also great in a traditional toasted cheese sandwich or served with a slice of apple pie. Pair Cheddar with red wines like Zinfandel or Merlot and with pale ales or stout beers.
The French word for goat and goat’s milk. Chèvre is typically used to describe fresh goat cheeses with a snowy white color, mildly tangy flavor, a soft yet slightly crumbly texture and a fresh dairy fragrance. There are literally dozens of different goat cheeses produced in France and the United States today. The range of flavors and textures can vary as much as any of the cheeses made from cow’s milk. Goat cheese is relatively low in fat, easily digested and a wonderful source of calcium and protein. Chèvre can be covered in herbs such as thyme or rosemary, spices like black pepper or green peppercorns, a fine vegetable ash or served au naturel. For good reason, it remains one of the fastest growing categories of cheese.
Serve chèvre as a dessert cheese with fresh fruit or spread on baguettes or bagels.
Pair chèvre with Rhone reds, Pouilly-Fumé or Sancerre.
Colby is a semi-firm cheese that is produced in the same style as Cheddar, but features a softer, semi-firm texture. Colby comes in a warm, orange color, is peppered with tiny holes and features a rich, welcoming flavor.
Colby makes the perfect addition to roast beef, turkey and ham sandwiches. It also works well when cubed in macaroni salad or shredded as a topping for chili.
Pair Colby with red wines, beer, white grape juice or apple cider.
Colby Jack (also called Marble Jack or Co-Jack) is the perfect marriage of the flavors, textures and orange and white colors of Colby and Monterey Jack. The cheese is semi-firm with a mild, creamy flavor and distinctive orange and ivory marbling.
Colby Jack adds wonderful eye-appeal and flavor to cheese platters, pizzas, casseroles and sandwiches. It can also be used for nachos, cut into sticks as a snack and cubed for garden or fruit salads.
Pair Colby Jack with fruity wine or white grape juice.
Devon Cream is a clotted yellowish cream with 55-60% fat content. It is so thick it does not need whipping.
Serve Devon Cream in tea, over berries, fruit salad, fruit pies or cakes. It can also be served with waffles, crepes and scones for the perfect English Cream Tea. Add it to horseradish to make a delectable sauce for beef, or use in tomato sauce for pasta.
Pair Devon Cream with Sancere or Semillon.
Mild and tangy semi-firm table cheese with a pale yellow interior and a red wax rind. Created over 600 years ago in the town of Edam, Holland. It is second only to Gouda as Holland’s most exported cheese. This cow’s milk cheese is known for its mild and sometimes salty flavor and makes a good alternative to Gouda.
Serve Edam with peaches, melons, cherries and apricots, or atop your favorite cracker.
Pair Edam with beer or American Rieslings.
A white, pickled cheese that has considerable salt added to prolong its keeping quality. Feta’s manner of curing 4 to 6 weeks in a brine bath distinguishes it from all other cheeses. This brining process gives feta a soft, crumbly texture and a strong, salty flavor.
The original feta was a sheep’s milk cheese made in the Balkans, especially Greece. It is often made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, or goat’s and cow’s milk and sometimes it is made from cow’s milk alone. Imported feta has protected name status and can only come from Greece.
Feta may be eaten as a table cheese. It also crumbles perfectly onto Mediterranean salads. Because it melts so beautifully, it is used in a wide variety of cooked dishes. Pair feta with Muscat or Beaujolais.
The original Fontina is only made in the Aosta Valley of northern Italy from unpasteurized milk. The initials CPF (Consortium of Fontina Producers) appear on each wheel certifying its origin. Fontina has a delicate, nutty, almost honeyed flavor, somewhat like Swiss Gruyere but sweeter and more buttery. It is a medium ripened cheese, with a smooth, elastic, straw-colored paste that has sparse round holes. Techniques used to make Fontina resemble those used for Swiss cheeses however a very different starter culture produces distinctive flavors and only a few tiny holes. Depending on age, Fontina is mild and milky, faintly nutty or memorably complicated in flavor.
Fontina makes a fine eating cheese when served as an appetizer, snack or dessert. It is also very versatile in cooking.
Pair Fontina with Gamay Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, light red and fruity white wines or bock beer.
Exceptional flavor with a rich, creamy texture and beautiful, consistent greenish blue veining. It is a cow’s milk cheese that is known for its slightly piquant, full, earthy flavor. Gorgonzola gets its name from the town located in the Po Valley near Milan where it has been made since A.D. 879.
Heat and toss gorgonzola with pasta or stir it into risotto or mashed potatoes. Gorgonzola matches nicely with fish, poultry and beef dishes and makes a nice snack with pears, apples, walnuts, cashews and apricots.
Pair gorgonzola with red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel, or dessert wines like Port and Late Harvest Rieslings.
A semi-soft to hard cheese similar to Edam. Aged one to four months for a mild and buttery flavor.
Originally from the village of Gouda, northeast of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, Gouda cheese, pronounced “how-da” by the Dutch, was already being exported to other countries as far back as the 13th century. Today, Gouda is the largest selling cheese in Holland representing 60% of all cheese production. It is typically encased in an inedible red wax rind. Made from full cow’s milk it has a semi-firm, straw-colored body scattered with a few small irregular holes. Gouda’s nutty and mellow flavor is also available in a smoked variety.
This classic snacking cheese is also excellent on sandwiches and burgers, or on a fruit tray.
Pair Gouda with Beaujolais Villages or lager beer.
Hard, straw-colored cow’s milk cheese from Northern Italy’s Po Valley that is very similar to Parmigiano Reggiano®. Grana Padano has become popular in the states for its mellow, nutty flavor. Grana means “grain” in Italian and originates from the 11th century. Its main differences from Parmigiano Reggiano® are that it is allowed to be handmade year round and can be sold after it has aged a shorter period of time. Its name is legally protected “D.O.C.,” and production is strictly controlled. Made from partially skimmed cow’s milk, Grana Padano is very high in protein and other nutrients. It has a compact grainy texture and an inedible hard oily rind.
Grana Padano can be grated and served in pasta dishes, soups and salads, or eaten with dried fruit and nuts.
Pair Grana Padano with Barolo, Chianti or Brunello.
An earthy hard cheese with a nutty and fruity flavor. Inedible light brown natural rind is stamped with “Gruyère” and “Switzerland” in blue or red. This cow’s milk cheese is aged a minimum of 100 days and is peppered with tiny round holes.
Gruyère originated before the 12th century and is named after the District of Gruyeres in the canton of Fribourg in French-speaking Switzerland. As with all the other name-controlled Swiss cheeses, always look for the Swiss Seal and Swiss name on the rind of the cheese.
Gruyère can be mixed with Emmental for fondue, used for making Mornay sauce or melted over vegetables.
Pair Gruyère with Rhone whites, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.
An all-natural cow’s milk cheese with small irregular holes, a mild and creamy flavor and tangy, milky aftertaste. This rindless cheese is ivory in color and is available plain or can be infused with a variety of flavors like dill, caraway, jalapeño or herbs and spices.
The entire Danish dairy industry owes its present vitality to one very industrious Danish farmer, Hanne Nielsen, a 19th century cheesemaker who traveled throughout Europe in search of new techniques. She created Havarti, named it after her farm, and it became one of the world’s most popular cheeses. Havarti is a semi-soft table cheese known for its versatility.
Serve Havarti on a fruit plate with apples, folded into omelets or added to a sandwich.
Pair Havarti with American Merlot, Spanish Rioja Crianza or beer.
Muenster is a semi-soft cheese with a rich, smooth and creamy texture, a mild, tangy, buttery flavor and a distinctive orange rind.
Enjoy muenster on sandwiches, burgers and in casseroles. Serve it cubed for cheese platters, or melt on toast for a delicious breakfast.
Pair muenster with beer, juice, cider or fruity wines.
Hard cheese that features a spicy fragrance, a dense yellow interior and a dry, tangy flavor from the addition of cumin and/or caraway seeds.
Named after the Dutch city of Leiden, this is one of the most important cheeses of Holland. Its rind is covered in an inedible red wax, or sometimes with mustard yellow, and is always imprinted with the famous crossed keys that are the symbol of its town of origin. Leyden is made using partly skimmed cow’s milk and buttermilk. Legend has it that this flavorful cheese inspired the saying: “Once a Dutchman eats a piece of Leyden, he is spoiled for any other cheese.”
Leyden can be melted over rice and beans or cut and served with salami, ham, pickles and onions.
Pair Leyden with full-bodied beers, Gin or Zinfandel.
An American replication of Germany’s Limburger cheese that has the same texture and unique aroma, but features a distinctively robust and buttery flavor. Liederkranz® cheese has a moist, edible, golden yellow crust with a pale ivory interior and a heavy, honey-like consistency. It is a time-tested favorite of cheese connoisseurs who appreciate strong aromas and full flavors.
Liederkranz® cheese is best on sandwiches made with dark bread, but it can also be served as an appetizer, added to salads or served with fruits.
Pair Liederkranz® cheese with dark beers.
Ripened in underground caves with an almost Parmesan-like flavor with nutty, sharp and rustic overtones. This semi-soft cow’s milk cheese is pale amber in color and surrounded by a natural, inedible orange-brown rind that is rubbed with olive oil and paprika.
Mahón is produced on the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean off the east coast of Spain. One of the few Spanish cheeses made from cow’s milk, it is also one of the Denominación de Origen “D.O.” protected cheeses. Ripened in underground caves for at least six months, Mahón develops an orange-brown rind from the paprika and olive oil it is brushed with during its aging. It is Spain’s most popular cow’s milk cheese.
Place shards of Mahón into extra virgin olive oil with fresh rosemary or slice and serve on tapas with gazpacho.
Pair Mahón with Priorat white, dry Madeira, Cava and pale ales.
Sheep’s milk makes Manchego tangy and hearty. When aged in olive oil it has a warm and rustic flavor. It is surrounded by an inedible hard rind that is pale yellow to gray-green or black in color. This rind presents an unusual basket-like pattern that is embossed into it from the woven straw used to hold the pressed curds. Its interior is a dark ivory to yellow color. Manchego is a firm cheese with a compact, dry texture.
The most well known of all the Spanish cheeses, Manchego is one of Spain’s Denominación de Origen “D.O.” cheeses. It is produced in La Mancha in Central Spain. Manchego is one of the great cheeses of the world.
Manchego can be served with Spanish olives or as a dessert with dried fruit and nuts. It also works well with quince paste and is frequently found in tapas or grated on vegetables.
Pair Manchego with dry Sherry, Madiera or Tawny Port.
Mascarpone is a sweet, creamy cow’s milk cheese that is pale cream in color. It is a major ingredient in Italian tortas.
Mascarpone can be served as is or combined with other ingredients to make desserts, fillings, toppings, dips and spreads. It can also be stirred into soups and sauces.
Pair Mascarpone with dry sparkling wines like Champagne.
A creamy white, smooth-textured cheese with a gentle flavor and easy-to-melt quality. Monterey Jack has a semi-soft texture, an off-white color, is peppered with small holes and has a mild to mellow flavor.
Melt Monterey Jack in quesadillas or on nachos. It can also be baked in quiches and enjoyed on sandwiches.
Pair Monterey Jack with white wines, iced tea, lemonade or cider.
A creamy, semi-firm, white cheese with a smooth texture and a mild flavor. Smooth melting quality and a fresh taste make this a cheese the whole family can enjoy.
Enjoy Mozzarella on pizza or in lasagna, baked ziti and other Italian dishes. Try it melted on bruschetta or grilled eggplant slices, or serve it with prosciutto and olives on focaccia or with tomatoes and basil in a salad.
Pair mozzarella with light red wine, beer and fruit juices.
A classic Italian hard cheese made with cow’s milk. Parmesan is pale yellow with a granular texture and a sweet buttery and nutty flavor that intensifies with age.
Serve Parmesan as a table cheese shaved over salads and steamed vegetables Add freshly grated Parmesan to casseroles, pizza, pasta, mashed potatoes, risotto, soup or cream and tomato sauces.
Pair Parmesan with red wines like Barolo or dessert wines like Vin Santo.
Among the world’s great and versatile cheeses dating back to the 13th century. Parmigiano Reggiano® is handmade exactly the way it was 700 years ago, by men called “casaros” who apprentice their craft for over a decade before they are allowed to make even one wheel on their own.
Completely natural, very high in protein and easily digested, Parmigiano Reggiano® continues to grow in popularity around the world. One of the name controlled cheeses of Italy, Denominazione Di Origine Controllata or “D.O.C.”, there are many imitators that call themselves Parmesan, but the real one is easily spotted by its name Parmigiano Reggiano®etched around the sides of every 75 lb. wheel.
Parmigiano Reggiano® is a hard straw-colored cheese that is made with partly skimmed cow’s milk. It has a compact grainy texture and an inedible natural dark oily rind. It is aged from 22-24 months up to three years.
Grate Parmigiano Reggian®o onto pasta, soup and salad or serve as a dessert with dried fruits and nuts.
Pair Parmigiano Reggiano® with Chianti, Barolo or Brunelo.
Richly flavored, all-purpose cheese with a mild flavor that sharpens with age. Ivory to pale beige in color.
Serve Provolone with Antipasto platters or dessert platters featuring fresh and dried fruits, or broil a slice over a crock of soup.
Pair Provolone with fruity white wines, coffee and fruit juices.
A firm sheep’s milk cheese from Southern Italy or Sicily that is slightly sweet and salty. Ricotta Salata is very different from cow’s milk Italian Ricotta. This pristine white cheese is made from slightly salted curd, and can be aged from three months to a year or more. Ricotta Salata is used for grating and has a milder, less salty flavor than Pecorino Romano.
Enjoy Ricotta Salata cubed on salads or serve with a variety of Italian meats and crusty breads.
Pair Ricotta Salata with Pinot Grigio or Asti Spumante.
A top-quality classic Italian cheese with a sharp, tangy and assertive flavor. Romano is a cow’s milk, creamy white cheese that is hard and dense. It has a sharp piquant flavor and is surrounded by an inedible off-white, natural or black rind.
Grate Romano into pasta, steamed vegetables, soups, salads and pizzas. Sprinkle it over quiches or frittatas, or use it with breading to coat chicken, fish or vegetables.
Pair Romano with red wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Chianti as well as beer.
Pronounced “darby,” this is a gorgeous, firm table cheese that is flavored with sage. Sage leaves are soaked in water and chlorophyll and then the bright green liquid is added to the cheese curds producing a gorgeous grass green with pale yellow marbling effect and subtly tangy herb flavor. Because of its festive green color, many have taken to using Sage Derby for holiday presentations on Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. Made with cow’s milk.
Sage Derby makes great sandwiches with ham and sweet onion relish. It also works well in a traditional grilled cheese.
Pair Sage Derby with beer or hard cider.
This creamy blue cheese is similar to Stilton, but is much sharper and colored with annatto to give it a bright orange hue. Shropshire is made with cow’s milk and has pronounced veining surrounded by an inedible brown rind. Shropshire is originally from Scotland and marketed in England and is now only produced by several creameries in Shropshire, England.
Shropshire is traditionally served after the meal with sweet fruits or crusty breads. It also works well in salad dressings and sauces.
Pair Shropshire with Port wine and robust reds.
This is a classic favorite for the whole family, with a flavor described as mild, mellow, buttery, nutty and rich. Ivory in color with a firm, smooth texture and signature holes.
Use Swiss cheese in casseroles, classic fondues, quiches and classic Reuben sandwiches. It can also be melted over toast or used to top soups.
Pair Swiss cheese with fruity red or white wine, ale or fruit juice.
A cousin to Mozzarella with a mild flavor and a fun shape with strands that kids love to pull apart. Made from part skimmed cow’s milk, it is a healthy, between-meal snack and a great addition to a lunch box. Creamy white in color with a smooth texture and a mild flavor.
String cheese is a popular kids’ snack that can also be used as a topping on pizza, bagels and macaroni and cheese.
Pair string cheese with fruit juices and milk.
A cylindrical cow’s milk cheese with an inedible natural rind. Wensleydale is moist, creamy and crumbly in texture, with a mild but tangy-tart flavor. The recipe for this cheese dates back to Cistercian monks from the 11th century, during the period of William the Conqueror.
Wensleydale is traditionally served with apple pie, but it can also be used for snacking with chutney and crusty bread.
Pair Wensleydale with dry white wines, beer or cider.