What this is: Learn the 8 different types of cheese
Who it's for: For cheese lovers who want the big picture
There are many, many different ways to organize cheese. Every cheese-eating country has a system that is a little different, and there is no single agreed upon way to divide them—should it be by texture? By process? By milk type, or country, or both? The problem with most of these systems is that they speak to people in the cheese biz, but not necessarily the people that are buying the cheese. While a monger would know the difference between a washed rind and a washed curd cheese, these sorts of categories hardly help the average person who just wants to get some nice cheeses for a party.
Enter: us. We’ve come up with a system we think you will like—in fact our whole business is built on this system! We break cheeses into categories by how they are made and we name them in a way that it’s easy for everyone to understand! While there are always outliers and cheeses that cross categories (because cheesemakers are great innovators), 99% of all cheeses will fall into one of these categories pretty soundly.
Read below for our overview of the 8 types, and dive deeper into each one by following the links.
aka whey cheese
The most frugal of all, this cheese is traditionally created by pulling the last of the remaining protein out of the whey left from other cheesemaking (often mozzarella). The result is a fresh cheese with small curds that can be transformed into savory or sweet dishes. This cheese can also be made from whole milk instead of whey.
Tasting notes: mellow to tangy, smooth to chunky
aka pasta filata
This cheese has a unique texture that may seem more processed than more than the rest, and that’s because it is. After being cut into curds, it is drained and then placed in warm water and then stretched like taffy (pasta filata means “spun paste” in Italian). This gives these cheeses a bouncy, stretchy texture that’s perfect for melting or pulling apart (like on pizza, for example)
Tasting notes: fresh to milky, smooth to chewy
Examples: mozzarella, provolone
aka fresh, unaged cheese
Perfect for the impatient cheese lover, these cheeses are meant to be eaten right away so their, well, fresh and bright flavors keep their quality! These cheeses have no rind and can be bright, lemony, and refreshing.
Tasting notes: lemony to salty, smooth to crumbly
Examples: feta, chèvre
aka soft-ripened/surface-ripened cheeses
These are your Brie-like cheeses. They have either a downy rind (the bloomy ones) or a wrinkled, brainy-looking one. Just inside the rind you will likely find an oozy layer called the “cream line” that will gradually ripen the whole body of the cheese (aka the “paste”) for a warm mushroomy or a tangy yogurt-like taste.
Tasting notes: tangy to mushroomy, creamy to dense
Examples: Brie, Camembert
aka pressed cheeses
This is the staple cheese category for many. It’s a huge category that includes crumbly English cheddar and great Goudas. If you need cheese for a sandwich, you can't go wrong here.
Tasting notes: subtle to sharp, creamy to salty
Examples: Gouda, cheddar
aka pressed and cooked cheeses
This type includes traditional Alpine cheeses with which the curds are cooked before being pressed into its shape. The extra step of cooking the curd makes them perfect for melting in fondue with flavor ranges from nutty to caramelized onion.
Tasting notes: grassy to nutty, supple to hard
Examples: Gruyère, Parmigiano
aka washed rind cheeses
These are creamy cheeses whose rinds are washed with brine or potent potables (cider, beer, etc.) The rind on these guys are funky or stinky, while the body of the cheese (aka the “paste”) will have a savory, umami flavor with a texture that can be anywhere from cuttable to spreadable to dippable.
Tasting notes: funky to meaty, supple to runny
Examples: Taleggio, Munster
aka blue cheeses
Whether bold in flavor or just bold in look, cheeses in this type can be polarizing. Their salty creaminess can be the star on a juicy burger or the highlight of a dessert plate. Some people hate these cheeses, which makes blue fans secretly happy that they don’t have to share.
Tasting notes: sweet to piquant, creamy to crumbly
Examples: Roquefort, Stilton
The magic of our cheese type names is that any cheesemonger anywhere in the world will still understand exactly what you are looking for!
Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.