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Cheese Varieties, Explained

Do you know a Gruyere from a Gorgonzola? We've got you covered with this explanation of major cheese types.

There are so many amazing varieties of cheese to choose from. Here is a run-down of the basic categories, including some of their main qualities and uses.

Soft/Fresh Cheeses

Mild, rich, and creamy, soft/fresh cheeses such as mascarpone, ricotta, goat and feta are great for using as a spread. Pair them with sweet treats, such as honey and maple syrup, for a delicious contrast to these salty cheeses.

Soft-Ripened Cheeses

Soft-ripened cheeses are snowy white and delicious at room temperature or served warm out of the oven. These cheeses, including Brie and Camembert, have an earthy, creamy flavor that pairs well with melons and berries as well as sun-dried tomatoes.

Blue-Veined Cheeses

Blue and Gorgonzola, two well-loved blue-veined cheeses, are known for their crumbly texture and distinct flavor. Sweet and nutty accompaniments such as fruit and almonds, and spices such as ginger help balance the saltiness of these cheeses.

Semi-Soft Cheeses

Semi-soft cheeses are a smorgasbord of flavor, ranging from mild and buttery to earthy and pungent. Favorites such as fontina, Havarti, Muenster and Monterey Jack pair well with roasted vegetables such as mushrooms and asparagus as well as sweets like poached fruit and candied hazelnuts.

Hispanic-Style Cheeses

Hispanic-style cheeses such as asadero and queso quesadilla are rapidly gaining in popularity. Their creamy texture and tangy flavor go well with sweet as well as savory delights such as spicy salsas and olives.

Semi-Hard Cheeses

With a wide variety of flavor profiles, semi-hard cheeses are often a favorite. Cheddar is rich and nutty, making it perfectly suited for foods such as fruits, including cranberries and apples. Swiss and Gruyère, two favorite Alpine-style cheeses, taste delicious with spicy pestos. Cheeses such as Gouda and Edam are smooth and buttery, making them suited for the flavors of spicy peppers.

Hard Cheeses

Hard cheeses such as Asiago, Parmesan and Romano are best matched with foods that pack intense flavor. Grilled vegetables, tangy vinegars and cured meats all bring out the sweet, nutty and buttery flavors of these cheeses.