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Types of Cheese

Established in almost every cuisine around the world, cheese has been carefully crafted throughout time to become one of those most sought after ingredients in the culinary realm. Different types of cheese are made from varying types of milk and methods, and they are used in thousands of different applications, from sophisticated charcuterie boards to simple nachos.

How do types of cheese differ from each other?

Since types of cheeses are listed by firmness, moisture levels play an important role in the selection process. Higher moisture content results in a softer cheese, while lower moisture content that is densely packed into cheese molds results in a harder cheese. Sometimes certain cheese types are freshly made and eaten that day, other times cheeses are left to age for months - even years! The longer a cheese ages, the more complex the flavors become.

While this aging process happens, a hard coating forms around the cheese known as a rind. This rind becomes thicker as the cheese ages or is washed with brine, developing the flavor profile even further. Depending on the rind’s thickness, it lends a more toasty and mushroomy flavor in comparison to the creamier inside of the paste.

Types of cheeses also differ from each other based on characteristics such as which type of animal supplies the milk, and where in the world the animal roams. The natural environment creates a certain type of taste for the cheese used, which is why there's differences in styles and taste between types of Swiss cheese, types of Italian cheese, types of French cheese, and specialty cheese.

How Many Types of Cheese Are There?

Below, cheeses are classified into six different types: fresh, soft, semi-soft, semi-firm, firm, and blue-veined. Each cheese type features numerous varieties of cheeses, so we've put together the most common cheeses found in these cheese types.

Cheese Pairings

In a hurry and need a quick wine and cheese pairings chart for your party? We've compiled the best wine and cheese pairings, along with their never failing food accompaniments, so you can create an artistic and tasteful cheeseboard for your menu or dinner party.
Wine and Cheese Pairings

Types of Fresh Cheeses

A fresh cheese is the youngest of the bunch: unaged, unripened, rindless, and has the same bright, white color on the inside, out. Texture varies here depending on how the paste is introduced into the world, but the taste is usually mild, slightly acidic, and only lending a small hint of flavor. Since fresh cheese has the highest moisture content, the pure fromage can be rolled in various herbs, spices, crumbled nuts, cut fruit, and even edible flowers.

Restaurant Equipment

Mozzarella

Type of Milk: Buffalo or cow

Flavor Notes: Mild, milky, slightly acidic

Texture: Creamy, elastic

Wine: Soave, or any red or white

Accompaniments: Olive oil, tomatoes, basil, grilled vegetables

 

Restaurant Equipment

Feta

Type of Milk: Sheep and goat

Flavor Notes: Tangy, salty, pungent, intense

Texture: Brittle, dry, grainy

Wine: Rose

Accompaniments: Cucumber, tomato, red onions

Restaurant Equipment

Ricotta

Type of Milk: Cow, sheep, goat, or buffalo

Flavor Notes: Mild, fresh, slightly sweet

Texture: Thick, creamy, spreadable

Wine: Prosecco or Fume Blanc

Accompaniments: Honey, strawberries, nut butter spreads, bananas, jams, eggs, pesto, tomatoes

Restaurant Equipment

Cream Cheese

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Mild, milky, slightly acidic, rich

Texture: Thick, homogenous, creamy, spreadable

Add-ins: Scallions, chives, poppy seeds, roasted garlic, black pepper, honey, mint, dried cranberries, orange zest, dark chocolate

Restaurant Equipment

Cottage Cheese

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Mild, milky, slightly acidic

Texture: Lumpy, creamy, thick, spoonable

Accompaniments: Berries, peaches, bananas, pineapple, granola

Restaurant Equipment

Mascarpone

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Slightly sweet, rich, buttery, slightly tangy

Texture: Spreadable, creamy

Accompaniments: Strawberries, chocolate shavings, honey, in or spooned on top of desserts

Types of Soft Cheeses

Ripened anywhere between 0-30 days, soft cheeses contain a high moisture content, a usually higher fat content, and therefore has a more pudding-like paste. Best served at room temperature, soft cheeses have a rich, velvety, and silky interior that melts in your mouth as soon as it hits the tongue. Right away, a lightly salted butter taste pulls through, followed by a hint of sweetness and a bright, buttermilk acidity. Thin, almost translucent rinds surround soft cheeses that range from pillowy to wrinkly, gray to blue, and fuzzy to fluffy.

Restaurant Equipment

Brie

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Light, buttery, slightly salty

Texture: Silky, smooth, creamy

Wine: California Merlot or Chardonnay

Accompaniments: Green apples, pears, fig jam, honey

Restaurant Equipment

Camembert

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Hay, umami, earthy, grassy

Texture: Velvety, thick, squidgy, a bit sticky, bloomy rind

Wine: Cotes du Rhones

Accompaniments: Cantaloupe, pecans, baguette

Restaurant Equipment

Chaource

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Buttery, mild

Texture: A bit drier than other soft cheeses, sturdy, middle can slide out if cut open and left at room temp for a couple hours

Wine: Chablis, Sancerre, or Champagne

Accompaniments: Baguette, fig jam

Restaurant Equipment

Chevre

Type of Milk: Goat

Flavor Notes: Bright, tangy, a little sweet

Texture: Plump, creamy, moist

Wine: Sauvignon Blanc or Spanish Albarino

Accompaniments: Figs, balsamic dressing, peppery greens, whole wheat bread, baguette, beets, almonds, apples

Types of Semi-Soft Cheeses

Treading into the denser, earthier, and the tiniest bit more pungent-tasting, semi-soft cheeses are lightly pressed into molds to create a more rubbery outer texture, but leaving a delicate, custardy, soft center. The tender, orange rind can range anywhere from sticky and thin to coarse and leathery, all the while adding an al dente bite in contrast to the indulgent mouthfeel of the cultured butter-tasting paste. The barely formed rinds are more buttery, sweet, and mild. However, the supple, thicker rinds are usually more dense, pungent, and earthy. These thicker rinds are formed from molds growing on the cheeses that are regularly brushed off with salt water brine, giving a tender dimension to an otherwise solely creamy interior.

Restaurant Equipment

Havarti

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Cultured butter, slightly acidic, and sharp

Texture: Smooth, creamy, elastic

Wine: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir

Accompaniments: Figs, raisins, walnuts, rustic breads

Restaurant Equipment

Muenster

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Mild, sweet, roasted nuts

Texture: Smooth, soft, supple

Beer / Wine: Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Belgian ales, lagers, porters, stouts

Accompaniments: Apples, dried fruits, pears, beef

Restaurant Equipment

Provolone

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Beefy, sharp, nutty, salty undertones

Texture: Smooth, silky, firm

Beer / Wine: Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Lagers

Accompaniments: Carpaccio, toasted bread, dried plums, cherries, olives, roasted red peppers, giardinera

Restaurant Equipment

American

Type of Milk: Blend of cow's milk, milk fats and solids, and whey protein

Flavor Notes: Mild and salty

Texture: Homogenous and creamy

Beer: American-style IPAs

Accompaniments: Crusty breads, bacon, tomatoes, Muenster, Havarti, and Provolone cheese

Restaurant Equipment

Taleggio

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Meaty, tangy, pungent

Texture: Rubbery, pliant

Wine: Saison, Pinot Noir, Rose

Accompaniments: Mustard, honey, chestnuts, polenta

Types of Semi-Firm Cheeses

Just like with humans, aging cheeses develop complexity, deeper character development, and personalities. As cheeses start to make their way to a firmer paste, we find these traits more prevalent than ever. Semi-firm cheeses start to take on more developed notes, ranging anywhere between more floral, more fruity, and even developing an aroma of freshly browned butter. Semi-firm is not meant for grating or spreading, but rather shredding or slicing. Try checking out varietals of these cheeses, such as Cheddar's longhorn, to get to know the different complexities these types can offer!
Restaurant Equipment

Cascaval

Type of Milk: Cow and / or sheep

Flavor Notes: Mildly sharp and salty, hint of olive oil

Texture: Firm

Beer / Wine: Light red wine or brown beer, such as a pilsner

Restaurant Equipment

Cheddar

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Umami, sharp, bold, toasted hazelnuts, whiskey

Texture: A bit crumbly

Beer / Wine: Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, porter, mead, or amber ale

Accompaniments: Cherries, apples, walnuts, cashews, dill crackers

Restaurant Equipment

Edam

Type of Milk: Cow or goat

Flavor Notes: Competing blends of creamy and nutty tones, hint of salt

Texture: Springy and dense

Wine: Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz

Accompaniments: Peaches, apricots, cherries, melons

Restaurant Equipment

Emmental

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Buttery, mildly nutty, slightly sharp, browned butter

Texture: Velvety, dense, smooth

Beer / Wine: Merlot, Riesling, Champagne, Beaujolais, light lager, or stout

Accompaniments: Apples, grapes, peaches, and pears

Restaurant Equipment

Gouda

Type of Milk: Cow or Goat

Flavor Notes: Intense, caramel / butterscotch flavor, browned butter, toffee

Texture: Semi-dry, a bit crunchy, definitive bite

Wine: Cabernet or Shiraz

Accompaniments: Spicy nuts, olives, oat crackers

Restaurant Equipment

Gruyere

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Sweet, slightly salty, complex, slightly earthy, beefy

Texture: A bit grainy and flaky, dense

Wine: Spanish Sherries or southern France reds

Accompaniments: Broiled on top of onion soups, baked into heartier dishes, sliced pears, lingonberry jam, figs, rosemary, marjoram

Types of Firm Cheeses

Best for grating or thinly slicing, this dry-textured cheese takes away the thick-cut meltability you’d get from fresh to semi-firm varietals, but gives back a potent, deeply savory flavor that is incomparable to any other type of cheese. Therefore, a little bit goes a long way. Often even crunchy due to the moisture loss and small calcium lactate crystals, firm cheese offers a dynamic texture and mouthfeel when sliced thinly and paired with jams, or grated on top of al dente pasta.

Restaurant Equipment

Asiago D'Allevo

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Milky, sharp, intense, piquant, caramely, savory

Texture: Smooth but slightly crumbly, al dente

Wine: Orvieto or Soave

Accompaniments: Figs, grapes, candied pecans, and rustic breads such as sourdough, baguette, or ciabatta 

Restaurant Equipment

Grana Padano

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Full-bodied, savory

Texture: Dense, flaky, rickety, crunchy

Wine: Gavi, Chianti, Barbaresco, Barolo, Lambrusco, Amarone

Accompaniments: Figs, dried fruits, honey, apples, arugula or lacinato kale salads, add the rind into soup

Restaurant Equipment

Manchego

Type of Milk: Sheep

Flavor Notes: Creamy, tangy, semi-sweet, salty after taste, well-developed

Texture: Flaky, grainy, and slightly crystalized

Beer / Wine: Stout, Porter, Sherry, Riesling, Whiskey

Accompaniments: Honey, almonds, marmalade

Restaurant Equipment

Parmesan

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Salty, nutty, spicy, slightly floral

Texture: Dry, crackly, crumbly, rough

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot, or Sangiovese

Accompaniments: Prosciutto, balsamic vinegar, spiced quince, spiced nuts

Restaurant Equipment

Pecorino

Type of Milk: Sheep

Flavor Notes: Aromatic, pungent, soft spices

Texture: Crumbly, firm

Wine: White Burgundy, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Rioja

Accompaniments: Dry-cured meats, walnuts, hearty, winter vegetables, sausages

Types of Blue-Veined Cheeses

The most complex of all the cheeses, blue-veined gives you the best of both worlds: rich and creamy like a soft cheese, yet pungent and perfumed like a firm. How is this possible? Well, blue cheese starts out being made like any other cheese, allowing the cheese maker to control the moisture levels in the aging process. During the aging process, an additional step is taken to introduce the highly desired mold growth throughout the cheese, most commonly using penicillium culture, or lightly packing in the cheese curds to promote oxidation.

“Needling” is also a crucial step to gain more veins in the paste. Needles are pierced throughout the cheese to create more cavities for mold to grow. Blue cheese is then left to age in a dark cave, specifically one dedicated solely to blue cheeses so the bacteria does not interact with other cheeses’ flavor profiles. Blue cheeses can be aged from a few months to a few years, and are extra sharp and salty from the moisture loss and added salt to preserve them for aging.
Restaurant Equipment

Fourme d'Ambert

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Creamy, earthy, smooth, balanced

Texture: Velvety, supple, dense

Wine: Merlot, Port, Riesling

Accompaniments: Baguette, rye bread, raisins, walnuts, hazelnuts, figs, raspberries, cherries

Restaurant Equipment

Gorgonzola

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Competing flavors of buttery and piquant

Texture: Soft yet crumbly

Wine: Zinfandel and Sauternes

Accompaniments: Grapes, honey, pistachios

Restaurant Equipment

Roquefort

Type of Milk: Sheep

Flavor Notes: Pungent, sweet burnt caramel, metallic tang

Texture: Moist, soft, crumbly, cratered

Wine: Riesling, Port, Sherry, or ice wines

Accompaniments: Honey, spiced apples, meat

Restaurant Equipment

Stilton

Type of Milk: Cow

Flavor Notes: Robust, strong, earthy, mushroomy, grassy, peppery

Texture: Creamy, loose crumb

Beer / Wine: Porter, Stout, Sherry, Elderberry, Cabernet Sauvignon

Accompaniments: Honey, pecans, roasted red peppers, meat and fish, nut bread

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