There is no other food more well-known and treasured than a pizza. Pizza has always been the common person’s meal, originating as street food for the working class in 18th century Naples.
Pizza became a mainstream staple in America at the turn of the 20th century with the influx of Italian immigrants who sold pizzas from their home kitchens.
Today, pizza has diversified into many forms. You can get multi-layered, deep-dish pizza in Chicago, square-shaped pan pizzas in Detroit, and giant thin-crust pizza by the slice in New York.
Some historians argue that pizza existed in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, its inhabitants dining daily on simple flatbreads with oil and spices. However, a pizza isn’t just seasoned bread.
The key difference between flatbread and pizza is cheese. Pizza makers today use many different kinds of cheese to create elaborate pies.
Best Cheese for Pizza
I’ve compiled a list of the best cheeses for pizza for you to explore to inspire your next pizza order.
Mozzarella is the original pizza cheese and remains a mainstay in any pizza kitchen.
Like pizza itself, mozzarella originated in Naples from buffalo milk curds. Mozzarella cheeses come in many varieties, and they can come from cow, sheep, goat, or buffalo milk.
Many Italian restaurants and pizzerias make mozzarella from scratch in-house, and most pizzas include mozzarella as the foundation for their cheese blends.
In my opinion, it’s the best cheese for pizza because of its mild flavor and perfect melting capacity.
Mozzarella is firm enough to support the weight of pizza toppings while also providing that perfect melt. If I had to pick only one cheese to use on a pizza, it would be mozzarella.
Parmesan cheese refers to a group of hard cows’ milk cheeses that you generally buy pre-grated to sprinkle over pizzas or to combine with softer cheeses in a blend.
Parmesan cheese is more of an American phenomenon, used to provide customers with a cheaper option that imitates the taste of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Unlike its Italian counterpart, Parmesan cheese is aged for under one year, thus more efficiently produced.
Parmesan cheese is widely available, and it’s usually a staple condiment found in a shaker alongside crushed red pepper at any pizzeria.
I love its sharp, salty flavor and delicate graininess that gives all ingredients that last essential boost of flavor.
Named for the British village from which it originated, cheddar cheese is a medium-hard cows’ milk cheese with a distinctly sharp flavor.
It is the most widely used type of cheese in the UK and second only to mozzarella in the US, according to the USDA.
Cheddar can be white, off-white, or bright orange and ranges in sharpness. Like mozzarella, cheddar cheese melts well.
It’s a popular additive to cheese blends, from grilled cheese to quesadillas to pizzas. Cheddar is also a popular cheese for mac and cheese.
I love sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and smoked gouda blend on an artisanal pizza topped with a sweet ingredient like sliced pear or green apple.
Meaning “sheep cheese from Rome” in Italian, Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty sheep’s milk cheese sold in large rounds or hefty chunks to be grated or ground over pasta, pizza, Tuscan bean dishes, or vegetables.
Italians are serious about their food, claiming standard criteria for Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano like aging and ingredients.
Consequently, many Roman cheese variations in the States aren’t authentic Pecorino Romano.
Pecorino Romano is like Parmesan in that it’s a salty additive. That said, I’ve noticed a difference in flavor due to the sheep’s milk.
As a result, Pecorino has an earthier flavor that I love to grate over a mushroom pizza.
The cheese flavor spectrum ranges from mild to sharp, and I’d place provolone right in the middle.
Provolone is an Italian, medium-hard cows-milk cheese that has a distinct yet mildly sweet flavor.
Cheesemakers can intensify the flavor by aging provolone for longer periods, so if you want mild provolone, you can ask for young provolone.
Provolone is especially popular in the states as a sandwich or baked pasta ingredient. If you’ve ever ordered a muffuletta, you’ve undoubtedly eaten provolone.
Provolone melts beautifully, making it a great option for pizza. You could even use it instead of mozzarella as the foundational pizza cheese, but I would highly recommend dusting it with a hefty helping of Parmesan.
Ricotta is the product of a “waste not, want not” culinary approach. It’s made with the leftover whey from other cheese-making processes.
Consequently, it’s one of the most diverse cheeses, coming from buffalo, cow, goat, or sheep’s milk.
It ranges in flavor from salty to the height of milky creaminess and in texture from hard and crumbly to thick and creamy. It is delicious in all its forms and a special treat that dresses up any ordinary pizza.
Ricotta is my favorite cheese for pizza, and I always request dollops of soft ricotta on any pizza order.
It’s such an indulgent texture and its creaminess mixes well with other cheeses, sauces, veggies, and meats.
While you might not be able to tell the difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano, leave that opinion out of any conversation with a cheese connoisseur or native Italian!
It would be like asserting that imitation bacon tastes as good as the real thing.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard cow’s milk cheese with high salt content and sharp flavor. Unlike Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano must be aged for at least a year.
That said, it’s commonly aged for 1.5-2.5 years for an even stronger, almost caramelized flavor.
It’s always sold whole to be grated tableside over your pizza. You might want to give it the old Pepsi Challenge to see if you can tell the difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Goat cheese, as its name implies, is a cheese made from goat’s milk. It can be hard, crumbly, or thick and creamy but it has an overpowering gamey, earthy flavor in all its forms.
Goat cheese is a healthier option than cow’s milk cheese even though it tastes just as decadent and creamy.
You’ll find it most prevalent in Greek cooking crumbled over Greek salads or in savory phyllo pastries.
Like ricotta, Goat cheese doesn’t melt well. It retains its form, adding an interesting texture and complex flavor profile to your pizza.
I love it on Greek pizzas with sliced tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onions, roasted red peppers, and meatballs.
When you think of “stinky cheese,” Gorgonzola will probably come to mind!
Originating in Milan, Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese made by adding a specific bacteria culture to cow’s milk.
Thus, Gorgonzola has the characteristic bluish-green veins and accompanying strong flavor inherent in “moldy” cheeses.
It’s an acquired taste and a popular delicacy that pairs wonderfully with other cheeses and dairy products, fruit, and red meat.
If Gorgonzola is one of the four kinds of cheese that make up a Neapolitan Quattro Formagi pizza, I’m all in! I also enjoy drizzling honey over a gorgonzola pizza to complement its flavor.
Gouda is the ultimate experience in smokey, sweet cheese. It’s a semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk that originated in Holland in the 12th century.
It’s usually a golden orange color and varies in flavor intensity depending on how long its aging process is.
Gouda, like cheddar, has a high-fat content that makes it the perfect melting cheese. Its savory-sweet flavor pairs well with tangy and spicy sauces like barbecue sauce.
I think the best use of gouda on a pizza would be in a blend with cheddar and mozzarella with a barbecue sauce base topped with barbecued chicken or pulled pork, jalapenos, and red onions.
Gouda also makes a great grilled cheese!
A classic cheese board and fondue favorite, gruyere is a Swiss cheese that encompasses all the flavor and textural bases.
It’s made with full-fat cows’ milk that’s aged for a minimum of 6 months.
It is equal parts sweet, salty, and nutty. Plus, its full-fat composition adds a decadent creaminess that melts in your mouth, if not over your pizza.
Gruyere is a fancy cheese, so you can expect a higher price tag, whether you’re buying it at the store or requesting it on your pizza order.
I enjoy eating it on a thin-crust pizza with a spread of fig preserves and topped with arugula.
I’ll finish my list of the best cheese for pizza with the most unique and luxurious cheeses.
Burrata is the cream of the crop of Italian cheese-making, using various processes to create a multi-faceted masterpiece.
Burrata starts with cow or buffalo milk mozzarella and adds cream, resulting in a firm, stretchy outer layer that cedes to a luscious and creamy center. It’s kind of like the lava cake of cheeses.
It is a special treat to eat by itself. However, when I get it sliced into rounds over a wood-fired Margherita pizza, I experience culinary perfection!
Best Cheeses for Pizza
- Pecorino Romano
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Goat Cheese
Pizzas come in many forms and use many different ingredients from every culinary culture around the world. That said, one ingredient remains constant, and that is cheese.
Cheese offers an entire spectrum of flavors and textures to add an essential foundation for the world’s favorite food. My list of the best cheeses for pizza shows that you can utilize a broad spectrum of cheeses to melt, blend, or grate over your favorite pizza ingredients.
This page may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we'll earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.