23 Different Types of Cheese, Explained

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Kaye Published: October 29, 2021 Modified: November 10, 2021
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Learning about the different types of cheese is the best way to start your foray into its vast and wonderful world. But before everything else, what is cheese? By definition, it’s a dairy product derived from milk curds. Although it’s not clear how it was first invented, the earliest evidence suggests that it has been around since 1200 BCE.

You might be wondering: how is cheese made and what is it made of? Milk, salt, cultures, and rennet or animal enzymes are the main ingredients of cheese dairy. Lactic acid is produced in the process, solidifying the liquid into curds for pressing. Apart from that, cheesemakers may use different ingredients and employ a range of techniques in the cheese-making process. As a result, the end products may have differences in protein, fat, and moisture content, as well as in the total amount of calories. They can vary in terms of appearance, texture, and overall flavor as well. So, it’s no wonder that there are 1,800 different types of cheese in the world!  

So now you know that not all cheeses are created equal. But how do you decide which is the best cheese? Fortunately, we have this list of types of cheese where we break down the most popular names according to their core characteristics. You can refer to this cheese chart for a quick summary, or feel free to dive directly below to learn more about them.

Overview of different types of cheese


Types Of Fresh Cheese

By definition, fresh cheese is different from regular cheese because it doesn’t go through the standard aging process or the equivalent artificial processing. Most cheeses under this category are soft, crumbly, and best consumed almost immediately. Check out the most popular kinds below.

Fresh Mozzarella

Mozzarella cheese slices with red cherry tomatoes on a wooden board

Country of Origin: Italy
Milk Source: Buffalo, cow, or a mixture of cow and goat’s milk
Aging: None

We’re starting this list of cheeses strong with this popular Italian cheese traditionally made using the special pasta filata technique. This process involves heating, spinning, and forming the white curds of buffalo milk to form the cheese. Though some cheese makers use either cow’s milk alone, or with a portion of goat’s milk to produce other types of mozzarella cheese.

Thanks to this method, the product achieves a distinctly smooth and uniform shape and color. All in all, fresh mozzarella is creamy, stretchy, and good-melting with mildly tangy tasting notes. It’s among the best types of cheese for pizza, salads, and even pasta dishes.

Cream Cheese

Person spreading cream cheese on a halved bagel

Country of Origin: United States of America
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: None

Is cream cheese actually cheese? Well, it passes as one based on FDA standards! Originating from New York, this dairy product mainly consists of milk and cream. It isn’t aged like traditional kinds of cheese, so it doesn’t have a funky quality. Overall, it has a mild tangy flavor, uniform white color, and a soft consistency at room temperature.

This ingredient is commonly used in baking desserts similar to this ube cheesecake recipe. And nowadays, there are also types of cream cheese marketed as sweet or savory variants for pasta and more.

Cottage Cheese

Plate of cottage cheese, with a drizzle of olive oil on top

Country of Origin: United States of America
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: None

Cottage cheese stands out from all other types of cheese because of its unique curd-like appearance. Its creamy and crumbly texture, coupled with a delicately salty and tart flavor makes this cow’s milk product a delicious add-on for a range of food items. Have it in sweet fruit bowls, as well as savory dishes. Also, this ingredient is one of the best cheeses to incorporate into a low-fat diet.

Feta Cheese

Feta cheese block with olive oil on a silver plate

Country of Origin: Greece
Milk Source: Sheep, or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk
Aging: Three months

A block of crumbly feta preserved in olive oil is probably among the most recognizable white cheese types out there. It can either be made from sheep or goat’s milk, but the former is more traditional. After aging for at least three months, this sheep milk cheese acquires its signature sour and briny flavor. Use it on salads, pasta, and soups.

Queso Fresco

Queso fresco on granite

FoodBev Photos | Flickr

Country of Origin: Spain
Milk Source: Cow, or a mixture of cow and goat’s milk
Aging: A few days

Although queso fresco is one of the different kinds of cheese often used in Mexican recipes like these tasty quesabirria tacos, its origin country is believed to be Spain. It’s similar to feta cheese in terms of appearance and taste since it’s also white and crumbly with a supple blend of sour and salt. The cheese milk used to make this can either come from cows or goats, and it’s aged only for a few days tops.


Types Of Blue Cheese

Blue cheeses are produced with the help of a special mold called Penicillium — this is responsible for the green and/or blue marblings on these fancy cheeses. Though they have an infamous reputation for their pungent odor, blue cheeses offer a unique experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. Here are some of the most popular blue-veined cheese types to try:

Gorgonzola

Slice of gorgonzola cheese

Country of Origin: Italy
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Three to four months

You can easily identify this Italian cow’s cheese with its crumbly pale body that’s adorned with streaks of green and blue mold. It tastes and smells as bold as it looks since it’s pungent yet creamy with a full-bodied salty and earthy flavor. On the whole, it’s a good cheese wine since it can stand up to bolder red wine types like pinot noir. Gorgonzola is also an ideal option for dessert cheeses.

Roquefort

Slice of roquefort Cheese

Country of Origin: France
Milk Source: Sheep
Aging: Three to five months

Roquefort is gorgonzola’s sharper and tangier cousin from the south of France. This type of cheese is made of sheep’s milk that’s been left to age for three to five months. To identify it, check if it has a moist and crumbly cheese body that’s spattered with streaks of blue mold. And here’s a tip from us: make a sauce out of this dairy product and serve a fancy Steak Roquefort!


Types Of Soft Cheese

Nothing beats having a gooey and soft white cheese to balance out your grazing board. As the name of this umbrella term implies, soft cheese pertains to types that you can easily cut into. Soft cheeses often have a shorter aging period, leaving behind a moisture content of 50 to 65 percent. They also commonly have tart and creamy flavor profiles. Check out this brief soft cheese list, and take your pick of soft ripened cheese for your next party.

Brie Cheese

Sliced brie cheese on a wooden board

Country of Origin: France
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Five to six weeks

Brie is a soft and mild cow milk cheese that originates from northern France. After being left to age for five to six weeks, this round cheese develops a skin of edible white mold that encases the pale-colored gooey and buttery cream inside. It’s also good for cooking and baking, as well as for a fabulous charcuterie board.

Camembert

Sliced camembert cheese on a wooden board

Country of Origin: France
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Four weeks

As quite similar types of French cheese, brie and camembert are often confused for one another. Though in essence, the latter is different since it’s made using warmed cow’s milk that’s aged for a shorter four-week period. This creamy cheese also has a white rind, but with a more yellowish interior compared to brie. Try it out on garlic bread, and it’ll impart notes of earthy, nutty, grassy, and fruity goodness to your dish.

Chevre

Leaf-wrapped chevre cheeses in a wooden board

Ms. Glaze | Flickr

Country of Origin: France
Milk Source: Goat
Aging: Four weeks or longer

Apart from cow or sheep cheese, there are also different types of goat cheese — like the chevre from central France. This particular type involves aging goat milk for at least four weeks, producing a soft and buttery white cheese in the process. Those that are aged longer tend to be more crumbly and tangy.


Types Of Semi-Soft Cheese

A semi-soft cheese is relatively easy to cut into, but not as runny and gooey as soft cheeses. These cheese types often have a moisture content of around 44 to 49 percent. The cheeses under this category can have varying milk sources, so discover which types to try below.

Gouda

Sliced wheels of gouda cheese on a wooden surface

Country of Origin: Netherlands
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: One to 36 months

Gouda is a good-melting yellow cheese from the Netherlands. It has a rich flavor that’s often likened to caramel. Made from cow’s milk, this cheese can be aged anywhere between one to 36 months. There are also cured cheese varieties of this product, aged for an average of four to nine months. Take your pick, and use it to make everything, most especially fondue!

READ ALSO: 12 Best Fondue Pot Sets To Get In 2021

American Cheese

American cheese slice on a burger

Country of Origin: United States of America
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: 60 days

Though also available in large blocks, this is the generic cheese square that you’d often find in supermarkets. In general, an American cheese block consists of milk, fats, and whey concentrate that are processed instead of aged like the rest. Some varieties are naturally pale, while others are seasoned with natural dye from annatto seeds to produce a brighter yellow hue. Despite being on the cheaper end of the cheese spectrum, it offers a distinctly rich and salty flavor that you can’t really compare to other popular types of cheese. This is perfect for a Philly cheesesteak recipe and other all-American favorites.

Muenster Cheese

Sliced muenster cheese

Norm Wright | Flickr

Country of Origin: French
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Five to seven weeks

Muenster is a French white cheese with a fantastic mild buttery flavor. It’s made from cow’s milk that’s been aged naturally between five to seven weeks. This cheese type also has a washed rind that’s made of paprika, so the exterior of the cheese has a red-orange color. A good-melting smooth cheese such as this one is ideal for savory dishes like pizza and burgers.

Havarti

Slice of havarti cheese

Amanda Nicole | Flickr

Country of Origin: Denmark
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Three months

Havarti is a Danish cow’s milk cheese that offers a distinctly buttery and slightly tart taste combo. This is typically aged for three months, afterward achieving a smooth pale yellow appearance. And although it’s technically not a type of Swiss cheese, havarti is peppered with small and irregular holes throughout. Its texture is creamy and perfect for melting in this sirloin burger recipe.


Types Of Semi-Hard Cheese

Semi-hard cheeses are those that have a moisture content of anywhere between 36 to 43 percent. Discover the different cheeses to try in this section.

Cheddar Cheese

Slice of cheddar cheese with red cherry tomatoes, lettuce, basil leaves, and whole black peppercorns

Country of Origin: England
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Two months or longer

Cheddar is a popular cheese from England, and it’s among the most recognizable kinds of yellow cheese out there. From cubed cheese, cheese curds, to cold pack varieties, different types of cheddar cheese are available. And like American cheese, its color can range from pale yellow to bright orange, so a lot of people tend to confuse the two. However, the main difference is that cheddar is made from cow’s milk and aged naturally. It’s quite firm, with a sharp and earthy flavor that’s perfect for mac and cheese!

READ ALSO: 12 Best Cheese Grater For Cheese Loves This 2021

Gruyere Cheese

Slices of gruyere cheese on a plate

Country of Origin: Switzerland
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Three to six months

Gruyere is often considered as one of the best cheeses in the world to date. This is a type of washed-rind Swiss cheese made from whole cow’s milk that’s been aged between three to six months. It has a pale yellow color with a few small holes. And despite being a semi-hard cheese, its texture is quite creamy.

READ ALSO: What Is Gruyere Cheese And How to Use It

Monterey Jack

Monterey Jack Cheese

Like_The_Grand_Canyon | Flickr

Country of Origin: United States of America
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Three to six weeks

This is a type of cheese that’s native to the Monterey country of California. It’s made using cow’s milk and aged between three to six weeks. Its unique production process results in a pale yellow product that boasts a mild buttery flavor and delicate sweetness—perfect for making grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s often used in combination with other varieties of cheese, such as Colby to make the popular white and yellow cheese called Colby Jack.

Manchego

Slice of manchego cheese

Michael F. Weinberg | Flickr

Country of Origin: Spain
Milk Source: Sheep
Aging: Two weeks to a year

Manchego is a Spanish cheese that’s made from sheep’s milk that’s aged between two weeks to a full year. It comes in different hues from white to yellowish, and it has a firm crumbly body. Its taste is rich, zesty, and salty with varying degrees of sharpness. Regardless of the type you have, you can use it to spruce up your empanadas recipe.

Emmental

Sliced emmental cheese wheels

Coxinelis | Wikimedia Commons

Country of Origin: Switzerland
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Two to eight months

Emmental or emmentaler is among the most popular types of Swiss cheese. Its unmistakable pale yellow color and a plethora of large “eyes” set it apart from the other types of cheeses with holes. Made from cow’s milk and aged for two to eight months, this cheese is quite hard at room temperature. Nonetheless, it melts well when subjected to heat. Coupled with a delicious display of buttery and fruity flavor, this mild cheese is delicious in Cuban sandwich recipes.


Types Of Hard Cheese

Technically speaking, these hard cheeses have 32 percent moisture left after an extensive aging period. Due to their crumbly and gritty nature, hard cheeses are often best for melting or grating on top of food. Explore this hard cheese list to learn your options.

Parmesan Cheese

Slice of parmesan cheese with grated bits

Country of Origin: Italy
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: 12 months or longer

One of the most popular cheeses on this list is parmesan. It’s also among the most common types of cheese that you’d find in supermarkets. Essentially, parmesan is a more accessible version of the Italian hard cheese called Parmigiano-Reggiano. Made of skim milk and aged for at least a year, it achieves a nutty taste and pale gritty body, perfect for grating on top of this Italian sausage pasta.

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano slice with grated bits and a metal grater on a plate

Country of Origin: Italy
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: 12 to 40 months

Think of these following cheeses as the more authentic types of parmesan cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano, in particular, is an Italian cheese type that’s exclusively produced in select areas of the said country. With an aging period of 12 to 40 months, you’ll find that this cheese is available at different ages. Younger types offer a tangy and fruity taste, with a crumbly and delicate texture. They develop a more complex flavor, and they get firmer and grittier with age. Use it for garnishing or melt it into dishes.

Pecorino Romano

Sliced Pecorino Romano

Country of Origin: Italy
Milk Source: Sheep
Aging: Five months of longer

Pecorino Romano is one of the many types of Italian cheese on this list. This sheep milk cheese has a relatively shorter aging period of at least five months. So compared to other hard cow’s milk cheeses with longer aging periods, pecorino has a crumblier texture. The color of its body may range from white to pale yellow, with a tough natural rind. Explore this buttery and spicy cheese type on this roasted cauliflower dish.

Grana Padano

Grana padano truckle

Country of Origin: Italy
Milk Source: Cow
Aging: Nine months or longer

Grana Padano traces its roots back to northern Italy. It consists of cow’s milk, with an aging period of at least nine months. As with other hard cheeses on this list, this pale yellow cheese type has a crumbly and grainy texture. We recommend this variant if you want a grating or melting cheese that isn’t overpowering, as the Grana Padano has a delicately buttery and slightly nutty flavor.

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Kaye

Kaye is a writer and a recent oat milk convert. With a background in Language Studies, she has founded a deep appreciation of cultures, traditions, and the power of words. In her spare time, she enjoys testing some of the trendiest and most accessible recipes on the internet.

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