The Different Types of Cheese Every Foodie Should Know

Cheese is a tasty treat that is incredibly versatile. There are so many different cheeses to choose from, and so many different ways to enjoy them.

a few different types of cheese on a board

There are hundreds of different cheese varieties across the globe. Traditionally made from cow’s milk, cheese can be made from the milk of other mammals, too. There are different types of milk used for making cheese.

Sheep and goat cheeses are very popular, but you can also find cheese made from the milk of buffalo, camels, reindeer, and even yaks.

Cheese can also be differentiated by its hardness, from soft to hard cheeses and even fresh cheeses that are usually softer and have shorter shelf lives.

Learn about different categories of cheese and then check out some of the most popular types of cheese below.

Hard Cheese

The clue is in the name of this type of cheese. Hard cheese is firm, and is most often savory in flavor. These types of cheese include parmesan and manchego. 

piece of parmesan cheese on a wooden board
piece of parmesan cheese on a wooden board

Hard cheese is made by separating and draining away most of the whey from the source milk. Once cheesemakers have the curd, this is then pressed. The pressed curd is then either waxed, or brined to create a hard rind – the outer part of the cheese.

The rind isn’t always edible, so it’s important you check this before you eat your hard cheese, as you may need to cut it away. It can, however, add some great flavor to sauces, soups, and stews.

Once the cheese has been waxed or had the rind developed, it is then left to mature. This typically takes between 2 and 36 months depending on the cheese. It can even take much longer than this depending on the variety of cheese!

Hard cheeses are left to age because this helps to refine the flavor. It makes them even tastier, grainier in texture, and less creamy.

Hard cheese tends to be crumbly, dry, and great for grating over your hot dishes to add more flavor.

Some of the most popular hard cheeses include parmesan, manchego, pecorino Romano, gruyere, emmental.

Semi-Hard Cheese

Semi-hard cheese isn’t as firm as hard cheese, and they don’t take as long to mature, either. Semi-hard cheeses are among some of the most popular cheeses around the world, including cheddar, Jarlsberg, and gouda.

block of cheddar cheese grated on a table
block of cheddar cheese grated

These cheeses tend to deliver the perfect blend of aridity and moisture which work to give you savory and tangy flavors. 

Semi-hard cheeses have a firm, slightly springy texture in comparison to hard cheeses. It tends to be quite dense in consistency. This cheese is made by pressing curds until they form a solid, squeezing out any remaining whey.

Semi-hard cheese is then taken from their molds. Some of these cheeses such as Jarlsberg then receive a coating of wax, which removes the need for brine.

Semi-hard cheeses typically are matured for between 1 and 6 months, however, it tends to vary depending on the variety of cheese.

Seeing as semi-hard cheeses take less than a year to mature, they tend to be milder in flavor than some of the hard cheeses we’ve mentioned above. Some popular semi-hard cheeses include cheddar, Jarlsberg, Colby, and Comté.

These types of cheeses have fantastic melting properties, and tend to spread evenly once grated. It’s also much easier to slice this cheese as it doesn’t have a crumbly texture.

Soft Cheese

Soft cheese refers to a large group of cheeses with a soft, creamy texture and a mild, tangy flavor.

brie cheese on a wooden board with walnuts
brie cheese

Brie, Camembert, goat cheese, and feta are a few well-known varieties of soft cheeses. These cheeses are often created with rennet-coagulated milk that has been drained afterward, giving them a high moisture content and a spreadable texture.

Soft cheeses are frequently eaten as a creamy salad dressing or as a spread on crackers or bread. They are commonly used in cooking as well, giving sauces, soups, and quiches a rich, creamy flavor.

Soft cheeses are best appreciated fresh and should be consumed within a few days of opening due to their fragile texture.

Semi-Soft Cheese

Semi-soft cheese is a category of cheese with a firmness and texture that falls somewhere between soft and hard cheese.

fontina semi soft cheese on fork

Examples of semi-soft cheeses include Gouda, Havarti, and Fontina. These cheeses are typically made from cow’s milk and have a mild, nutty flavor and a smooth, creamy texture.

Semi-soft cheeses are versatile in the kitchen and can be used in a variety of dishes, from grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese to cheeseboards and charcuterie platters.

They also pair well with fruits, nuts, and crackers, making them a popular choice for snacking and entertaining. Semi-soft cheeses can be enjoyed at room temperature or melted in hot dishes.

Fresh Cheese

Fresh cheese is the name for cheeses which have been made using fresh curds that haven’t been aged or pressed. These are some of the most common cheeses to use in cooking, and make an excellent substitute for cream.

Homemade Organic Mozzarella Cheese with Tomato and Basil
Homemade Organic Mozzarella Cheese with Tomato and Basil

These types of cheese have a mild, savory flavor compared to other harder cheeses, and make great compliments to a variety of dishes.

Seeing as these cheeses haven’t been aged, they don’t come with rinds. If the cheese is grainy in texture it tends to be referred to as cottage cheese. If the cheese is smooth and creamy, it’s referred to as cream cheese. Of all cream cheeses, mascarpone is the richest and creamiest.

There is a vast variety of fresh cheeses available for you to choose from, and all come with such great variations in flavor and texture.

Some of the most popular fresh cheeses include cream cheese, feta, mozzarella, burrata, cottage cheese, ricotta, and mascarpone.

Blue Cheese

Blue mold cheese, also known as blue cheese, is a favorite snack for many. This particular type of cheese uses a different manufacturing process, as it needs the addition of mold cultures to create that legendary blue mold interior. 

Gorgonzola cheese with ciabatta bread on rustic wooden cutting board
Gorgonzola cheese with ciabatta bread on rustic wooden cutting board

The origin of blue cheese is rumored to have been back in the 7th century. It is said that a shepherd left his bread and cheese lunch inside a cave near the village of Roquefort, France.

When he remembered to return for it, he discovered the cheese had become infested with the mold growing inside the cave, known as Penicillium roqueforti. This natural mold has been refined, and is now used for nearly all blue cheeses across the globe.

Blue cheese is made by adding the mold culture to the cheese milk. Oxygen needs to reach the inside of the cheese in order for it to turn blue. Cheesemakers achieve this by piercing the cheese with skewers or thin needles.

The craved blue mold will then mature inside the air tunnels, and will develop in flavor as it ages. Typically, mold-containing cheese tends to mature between 3 to 6 months. Blue cheeses mature from the inside out.

Some of the most popular blue mold cheese include Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Danish blue, and Maytag cheese.

Most Popular Types of Cheese

Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella is another classic Italian cheese, and it’s highly popular as a pizza topping.

mozzarella cheese and tomatoes

This cheese is traditionally made in southern Italy from Italian buffalo’s milk. Fresh mozzarella tends to be white in color, but can vary depending on the animal’s diet.

Because of its high moisture content, fresh mozzarella is traditionally served the day after it’s been made. Some low moisture mozzarella is sold in stores and can be kept for up to 6 months. Mozzarella is also a great addition to various salads.


Brie is perhaps one of the most loved white mold cheeses produced across the world. This cheese originates from France, and is made using cow’s milk.

brie cheese

Brie is named after the French region where it originated from. Unlike many other kinds of cheese, you can actually eat the rind of your brie.

Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese is a kind of cheese that was first produced in Switzerland.

swiss cheese

It has a pale yellow hue, a mild, nutty flavor, and a distinctive appearance with holes or “eyes” throughout the cheese.

Swiss cheese is frequently combined with meats and other savory elements and used in sandwiches, fondue, and other meals.

Gorgonzola Cheese

Another famous Italian cheese, gorgonzola is a creamy, blue-veined cheese made from whole unpasteurized cow’s milk.

gorgonzola cheese

It originates from a small town near Milan, and is now made by more than 80 producers worldwide, including in America.

Gorgonzola cheese is injected with a sharp, spicy greenish-blue mold which helps to create a flavor contrast to the creaminess of the cheese.

Cheddar Cheese

Hands down one of the most popular cheeses to use in a variety of recipes, cheddar cheese originates from Cheddar, England.

cheddar cheese

The little village of Cheddar in Somerset is close to some deep caves, which the cheesemakers found perfect for maturing the cheese.

Cheddar is now enjoyed across the world, and can vary in flavor depending on various factors including milk origin and type of rennet used.

Parmesan Cheese

One of the most popular hard cheeses around the world is parmesan.

parmesan cheese

The original parmesan is known as Parmigiano Reggiano, and originated in Italy.

Parmesan is made from cow’s milk and tends to be sold at varying stages of the maturation process. It can take anything between 14 months up to 2 years to create the perfect parmesan cheese.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese created from cow’s milk curds. It has a moderate, slightly acidic flavor and a creamy, slightly gritty texture.

cottage cheese in a bowl

As a snack, cottage cheese is frequently consumed alone or combined with fruit. It is also frequently used in dishes as a low-fat alternative to ricotta or other creamy cheeses.

Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and protein as well.

Goat Cheese

Goat cheese, sometimes referred to as chèvre, is a kind of cheese manufactured from goat’s milk. It has a delicate, crumbly texture and a distinctly acidic, somewhat sour flavor.

goat cheese

Goat cheese comes in a variety of shapes, including crumbled cheese, aged cheese with a harder structure, and soft, fresh cheese logs.

Salads, sandwiches, pasta, and pizza are all common recipes that use goat cheese. Its acidic flavor makes it a versatile element in the kitchen because it goes well with both savory and sweet dishes.

American Cheese

A sort of processed cheese known as “American cheese” is created by combining cheese, milk, and other additives such emulsifiers and stabilizers.

It frequently appears in sandwiches, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and other foods that call for melted cheese because of its mild flavor and smooth, creamy texture.

American cheese is a major ingredient in many fast-food restaurants and is frequently available in grocery store pre-packaged slices. Due to its highly processed nature and additives, it is a contentious cheese.


The semi-hard cheese known as gouda first appeared in the Netherlands. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a nutty, somewhat sweet flavor and an orange rind.

gouda for grilled cheese

Gouda is frequently aged for varied lengths of time, which can change how it tastes and feels.

It goes well with fruits, nuts, and wine and is a popular cheese for sandwiches, cooking, and snacking. Moreover, it is a good source of protein and calcium.


Feta cheese is a soft, crumbly cheese that originated in Greece. It is made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk, and has a salty, tangy flavor.

feta cheese

Feta cheese is commonly used in Greek cuisine, and is a popular ingredient in salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes. It can also be served on its own with olives and other accompaniments.

Feta cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, and is lower in fat and calories than many other types of cheese.

Colby Jack

Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses are combined to create Colby Jack cheese, a semi-hard cheese.

colby jack cheese

This cow’s milk cheese has a mild flavor and a smooth, creamy texture with a Colby cheese-induced undertone that is slightly sweet.

In sandwiches, burgers, and other foods that call for melted cheese, Colby Jack cheese is frequently utilized. It also goes great with wine, fruit, and crackers.

How is cheese made?

In order to make cheese, milk is curdled with an acid or enzyme, such as rennet, resulting in the separation of the milk into curds and whey.

The surplus moisture is subsequently removed by heating, cutting, and draining the curds. The curds may be squeezed, shaped, salted, and aged depending on the type of cheese to develop its flavor and texture.

Many cheeses with distinctive flavors and qualities can be produced using various milk kinds, cultures, and aging processes.

What is pasta filata?

Pasta filata is a technique used in cheesemaking to create stretchy cheese.

The curds are heated and stretched, which aligns the proteins and creates the cheese’s distinctive texture. Examples of pasta filata cheeses include mozzarella, provolone, and string cheese.

These cheeses are often used in Italian cuisine, particularly in pizzas and other dishes where melted cheese is desired. Pasta filata cheeses are also a popular snack and are available in a variety of forms and flavors.

What are cheese curds?

Cheese curds are little, fresh cheese cubes created from milk that has curdled. They have a rubbery, squeaky texture and a moderate, slightly acidic flavor.

Cheese curds are sometimes served deep-fried or covered in gravy. They can be added as a garnish to salads, pizza, and other cuisines. They are also a crucial component of various varieties of poutine.

What’s Your Favorite Cheese?

So there you have it! While there are hundreds of different cheese varieties around the world, they can all be roughly sorted into the above categories.

This should help you to find your next favorite cheese, or help you work your way through all the fine cheeses that dairies around the globe have to offer.

Have you got a favorite cheese? Let us know all about it in the comments below!

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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