Got a weakness for that melt-in-your-mouth cheesy goodness?
Are you one of those people that truly believe a little cheese added to just about anything makes it that much tastier?
Are mac’n’cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheese and cracker platters your kind of meal?
If so, know that you are not alone.
Cheese is one of the happiest accidents in food history.
Cheese was discovered when an entrepreneurial shepherd decided to store some fresh milk in a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach. He then later opened it to find that it had transformed into curds of fatty goodness (along with some whey to drink).
To make cheese, all you really need are three ingredients: milk, salt and live microbial cultures.
The specific strains of microbes added to the milk are what give different types of cheese their distinct flavor.
This article will give you all the gouda stuff on the different types of cheeses.
We’ll share the 7 main types of cheese, get into hard cheeses versus soft cheeses (and fresh cheeses, fermented cheeses, and every crumbly cheese in between!) and the most popular cheeses around the world.
Read on — we promise a delicious read ahead!
What Are The Different Types Of Cheese?
When it comes to categorizing the different types of cheese, cheese types can’t be grouped based on one single standard.
Because there are so many factors that need to be considered when we try to classify the different cheeses, including:
- milk source
- length of aging
- fat content
- method of processing
- country of origin
So without further ado, let’s dive into the different types of cheeses!
What Are The 7 Types Of Cheese?
There are hundreds of different types of cheese. And while each cheese has its own unique quirks and characteristics, they can be broadly sorted into one of seven groups.
1. Fresh cheese (no-rind cheese)
These are the spreadable, soft cheeses with creamy textures and very mild flavors.
Fresh cheeses are also known as “unripened” cheeses because they aren’t aged.
Because of their higher water content and because they have no rind, fresh cheese can start to go bad after just a few days. So fresh cheese must be eaten soon after it’s made.
The texture of fresh cheese also depends on how much whey and moisture is drained from the final product. This can result in everything from crumbly cheese (queso fresco) to soupy cheese (cottage cheese).
Fresh cheese can be covered in herbs, wrapped in leaves or rolled in ash. Each finishing contributes to its distinct flavor.
Our favorite fresh cheeses:
- Cottage cheese (USA/UK)
- Cream cheese (UK)
- Ricotta (Italy)
- Mascarpone (Italy)
- Chevre (France)
- Queso fresco (Mexico)
Fresh cheeses are perfect for adding to salads, mixed into pasta dishes, and stirred into soups!
2. Soft-ripened cheese
Soft cheese is also known as bloomy rind cheese, soft white cheese, white rind cheese or white fuzzy rind cheese.
Soft cheeses ripen from the outside in, so their inside is often runnier than the outside.
These creamy, earthy cheeses are distinguished by a thin white rind of blooming mold around them.
The best-known soft-ripened cheeses are Brie and Camembert, both from France.
During their short aging period, soft-ripened cheeses are exposed to particular strains of mold, like Penicillium camemberti. This mold works to convert fats into aromatic compounds called ketones.
This is what gives the ammonia-like smell to Camembert.
Soft-ripened cheese is best to eat at room temperature when the flavor profile is maximized. But if it smells too strongly of ammonia, throw it out!
Soft-ripened cheeses include:
- Brie (France)
- Camembert (France)
- Cambozola (Germany)
Soft cheeses are great for cheese and cracker platters to best appreciate their distinct flavor.
3. Semi-soft cheese
Semi-soft cheeses have a moist, flexible and creamy consistency.
They’re made from lightly pressed curds with a rubbery, elastic texture.
Once the cheese is formed, it’s rinsed and brushed with a saltwater and bacteria solution. This helps encourage molds to appear. (Yum!)
The molds can be gray, white or brown and form a leather-like rind.
Havarti is a classic semi-soft cheese with a very mild flavor.
Some of our favorite semi-soft cheeses:
- Havarti (Denmark)
- Muenster (American)
- Jarlsberg (Norway)
- Chaumes (France)
Semi-soft cheeses are ideal for snacks, desserts, sandwiches and other recipes where the cheese needs to be melted.
4. Washed-rind cheese
This type of cheese is responsible for some of the stinkiest cheeses in the world!
The famed (and defamed) Limburger cheese packs a pungent aroma, not unlike that of a pair of old sneakers.
The stinkiest washed-rind cheeses are rinsed twice a week with seawater, beer, wine or liquor for two to three months.
Why wash the rind?
This practice was believed to have started with monks who wanted to prevent mold from growing on their cheese. By washing it with brine or beer they not only killed the mold but promoted the growth of a bacteria called Brevibacterium linens.
(And B. linens, it turns out, is also one of the main bacteria found on unwashed feet!)
Even with a strong scent, though, many washed-rind cheeses have a mild taste.
Washed-rind cheeses can be soft, semi-hard or hard.
The list of washed-rind cheeses include:
- Limburger (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands)
- Taleggio (Italy)
- Epoisses (France)
- Munster (France)
5. Semi-hard cheese
Semi-hard cheeses are made from curds that are heated, pressed and molded.
Then they’re left to ferment for three to nine months.
Semi-hard cheeses have less moisture and tend to have holes. Their rinds can be natural, wax or made of cloth.
Semi-hard cheeses get their flavor in two ways:
- The strain of bacteria.
- The age of the cheese.
With semi-hard cheeses, the length of the aging process is what determines the hardness of the cheese and its sharpness. This is because cheese loses moisture as it ages.
As the cheese hardens, the natural flavor of its proteins becomes stronger and stronger.
Cheddar is the classic semi-hard cheese. It’s also by far the largest category of cheese on the market.
Semi-hard cheeses include:
- Mozzarella (Italy)
- Cheddar (England)
- Gouda (Netherlands)
- Edam (Holland)
- Monterey Jack (USA)
- Manchego (Spain)
- Emmental (Switzerland)
- Swiss (Switzerland)
- Gruyere (Switzerland)
The best way to enjoy semi-hard cheese?
The possibilities are endless!
In sandwiches, on crackers, and on pizza are just the start. The sky’s the limit for incorporating semi-hard cheeses into your culinary creations.
6. Hard cheeses
Hard cheeses are generally the most complex and firmest of the different types of cheeses.
These are the extra-hard, extremely low-moisture cheeses like Parmesan, Manchego, and Asiago — well known for their pungent saltiness and rich umami flavor.
Hard cheeses are pressed for hours — or weeks. This helps the curd become more compact while removing the whey. After being pressed, the cheeses are packed into molds and carefully stored.
Here’s our hard cheese list:
- Parmigiano-Reggiano (Italy)
- Asiago (Italy)
- Pecorino (Italy)
- Manchego (Spain)
Because of their hardness, this type of cheese is perfect for grating over dishes like pasta and soup rather than sliced.
7. Blue cheese
Among all types of cheese, blue cheese is hard to miss.
If you’ve ever seen the spidery blue veins of a ripe Roquefort or Stilton cheese you’ve probably wondered where that weird blue stuff comes from.
The answer, yet again, is mold.
Interestingly, the blue mold will only grow when exposed to air.
When blue cheeses are first pressed into molds, their inside is pristine white. But at some point during the aging process, the cheesemakers pierce the skin of the wheel.
As soon as air is introduced, the mold begins to grow!
Blue cheeses generally have a sharp, salty or nutty flavor.
Our list of blue cheeses includes:
- Roquefort (France)
- Stilton (UK, Ireland)
- Gorgonzola (Italy)
- Danish blue (Denmark)
And what’s the best way to enjoy blue cheese?
We’ll leave that one up to you!
What is pasta filata?
This type of cheese refers to the classic Italian stretched-curd cheese preparation.
Pasta Filata is Italian for “spun paste.”
Fresh cheese curds are first steeped in a hot water bath. Then, they’re stretched, spun and kneaded into different shapes.
Mozzarella is arguably the most famous Pasta Filata.
The heating and kneading process aligns the protein structure of the cheese, making it stretch even more when it’s melted — perfect for pizza!
Examples of Pasta Filata cheeses are:
- Mozzarella (Italy)
- Burrata (Italy)
- Provolone (Italy)
- Queso Oaxaca (Mexico)
- Scamorza affumicata (Italy)
- Caciocavallo (Italy)
What Are The Most Popular Cheeses?
In the US, mozzarella has now become the most popular cheese in America according to a report by Quartz. But before that, most cheese made in America was American cheese.
Processed cheddar cheese, to be exact.
The study shows that “Italian cheese is the new American cheese.”
In addition to mozzarella, other types of Italian cheese, like ricotta and parmesan, are at the top of the list in the States.
In Switzerland, Italian cheese is the most popular import, followed by French and German cheeses.
What’s the best way to eat cheese?
In the end, it doesn’t matter too much about what the most popular cheese is or what type of cheese it is.
The important thing is that there’s a world of cheese out there left to be explored!
After reading this article, make sure to try new kinds of cheese that you’ve never had before.
Experiment with different recipes. Challenge your palate.
Food is something to be enjoyed, and mindful, conscious eating habits are something we can all practice.
To learn more about which diet is best for you, make sure to check out Eric’s video on how to find your best diet.
‘DIET’ DOES NOT MEAN ‘TEMPORARY ALTERATION OF YOUR LIFE FOR SHORT-TERM GAIN,’ IT MEANS ‘WAY OF LIFE.’
— ERIC EDMEADES, Author of Mindvalley’s WilfFit Program
So, which type of cheese is your favorite? What new kind of cheese are you most excited to try? Let us know in the comments below.