Every cheese starts with the same four ingredients: milk (usually from cows, goats, or sheep), plus salt, culture, and enzyme. Yet anyone who’s ever gone shopping for cheese knows that those basic ingredients can yield fascinatingly different cheeses. How do you choose a cheese you’ll love? The easiest way is to get a general understanding of six basic types of cheese. Start with this cheese guide, and we’ll have you talking like a cheese pro in no time.
Find the perfect cheese for any recipe or cheese tray with this handy cheese guide with info for cheese-lovers of any skill level.
These soft and rindless types of cheese are crafted within a day and are meant to be enjoyed soon after they’re made. Some of the different cheeses in this category include:
These fresh and creamy cheeses have soft, sometimes fuzzy or wrinkly rinds, a result of a natural mold that has been added to the milk during the cheese-making process. Often found on a cheese board, these types of cheese become luscious and fuller in flavor when served at room temperature.
Here are some of the different cheeses you’ll find in this category:
Brie and Camembert: These two cheese names might sound familiar—their rich, mild, and creamy appeal make them among the most popular cheeses for serving at parties! These cow’s milk cheeses are also the best cheese candidates for serving warm and wrapped in pastry crust.
Soft-ripened goat cheese: Goat cheese that has been allowed to age can develop a soft, bloomy rind. There are many cheese names and brands available, and they range from chalky to creamy in texture; when it comes to flavor, they range from light and tangy to downright assertive. If you love goat cheese, it’s worth going to a dedicated cheese shop and talking to a pro to find the types of cheese you’ll enjoy. We especially love serving these on a cheese board.
Washed-rind cheeses: These types of cheeses are also aged to develop a rind. However, the cheese-maker goes one step further: As the cheeses age, their rinds get rubbed or washed with a solution (often of salt and water, though sometimes of a local product such as beer, wine, or brandy). This step brings beefy and bold effects to these very different cheeses. In fact, true cheese-lovers often refer to these cheeses as “smelly”—and in the cheese world, that’s a compliment! Some washed-rind cheese names you’ll find include Taleggio (from Italy) Reblochon and Èpoisses De Bourgogne (from France) and—perhaps the smelliest of them all—Limburger (made in both Germany and the U.S., originally from Belgium).
Semisoft cheeses have a smooth interior and high moisture content. As they age, they become more firm and pungent. We grouped these together, as some cheeses in this category can be either semisoft or semihard, depending on how long they’ve been aged.
Here are some of the most popular cheeses in these categories:
In general, cheeses become firmer and more pungent as they age. The hard texture of these types of cheeses makes them the best cheese for grating, and their taste is sharp.
Look for these cheese names when seeking great graters!
These types of cheese have distinctive blue veins created by the addition of a helpful mold during the cheese-making process. The flavor ranges from mild to assertive to quite pungent.
Here are some cheese names you’ll often see when hunting for blue varieties:
Use this cheese guide to tell you how to pick cheese depending on how you plan to use it:
Best Types of Cheese for a Cheese Board: What are the best types of cheese for a cheese board? The cheeses you like best! Many different cheeses can be used. The trick is to offer a range of flavors (from mild to strong) and textures (from soft-ripened to hard). Yes, even hard cheeses—like Parmagiano-Reggiano can work on a cheese board; although you can’t slice these types of cheese, they break into delightfully snackable chunks and shards. Limit your cheese picks to around five different cheeses—more can become overwhelming.
If you’re looking for a never-let-you-down selection for your next cheese board, include Brie or Camembert (nearly everybody loves them), Manchego (one of the more popular cheeses from Spain), a well-aged cheddar, and a soft-ripened goat cheese (the latter will please the true cheese aficionados in your crowd). And, for good measure, include one of the blue cheese varieties. (You’ll never go wrong with Stilton.)