German beer-making is the gold standard, and we all love bratwurst, Bavarian pretzels, and breaded schnitzel.
A lesser-known culinary tradition lies in German cheesemaking.
Numerous types of delicious German cheese span the gamut from hard to soft and mild to sharp.
Read on to discover all the types of German cheese.
Allgauer Bergkase is a hard, holey cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk.
Allgauer Bergkase gets its name from the Alpine region of Allgau, where the cheese is made during the spring. Locals refer to it as “mountain cheese.”
Allgauer Bergkase undergoes a short four-month aging process. It is mild, nutty, and smooth, with a hard outer rind.
You can buy the freshest Allgauer Bergkase towards the end of summer and the beginning of fall.
Allgauer Bergkase is delicious to eat plain on a cheese board. I like to pair it with a sweet, soft slice of pear or a shmear of fig spread.
Another Alpine-native cows-milk cheese, Cambozola combines the strong blue cheese known as Gorgonzola and a softer, creamier French cheese known as Camembert.
Thus, the name Cambozola is a hybrid of the two kinds of cheese.
A newer cheese to the German cheese-making scene, Cambozola originated in the 1970s and began mass production in the 1980s by the Champignon company, which labeled Cambozola “blue brie.”
You get the same blue veined bacteria inherent in gorgonzola and Roquefort cheese, but a texture that’s creamy and gooey.
If you like strong-tasting cheese, Cambozola will surely become a household staple. It tastes delicious over a crusty baguette with a sprinkle of dried fruit or candied walnuts.
Perhaps the most famous German cheese outside of Germany, Allgauer Emmentaler is the German name for Swiss Cheese.
Allgauer Emmentaler comes from the southern alpine region of Germany, encompassing a handful of districts and towns where it can be made according to German culinary guidelines.
It is a hard, yellow cheese with larger and more plentiful holes than its cousin, Allgauer Berkase.
It has a very distinct flavor, albeit mild and nutty. It is delicious cold and melts easily.
I love placing thin slices atop tomatoes on my bagel, then throwing them under the broiler to melt the cheese.
In case you were wondering, “kase” is German for cheese. Butterkase, translated literally, is butter cheese. The name alone is enough to make my mouth water!
True to its name, Butterkase is named for its buttery taste. It is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that undergoes a short aging process of between three and four weeks.
Butterkase ranges in color from white to orange. It also varies in texture. It can be soft and spreadable or firmer, like buffalo mozzarella.
It melts easily, and its buttery, mild flavor makes for a delicious dinner roll or grilled cheese sandwich topper.
It may be a popular German cheese, but Limburger originated in Belgium, where it’s known as Herve.
Limburger has been in production since the 15th century as a cheese made by monks. It then crossed the border into Germany closer to the 19th century.
Limburger is the classic “stinky cheese,” sharing the same bacteria that causes foot odor in humans. It is a soft, spreadable cow’s milk cheese aged for three months.
German immigrants to the midwestern state of Wisconsin popularized Limburger for a time during the mid-20th century.
You might still find Limburger sandwiches on diner menus. Just be sure to load up on breath mints after you finish!
Quark is closer to yogurt or cottage cheese, in my opinion. It is a cultured cheese made by adding lactic acid to milk and skimming the curdled curds off the top.
In Germany, you can find Quark in fat-free, 20% milkfat, and 40% milkfat, like yogurt or cottage cheese varieties.
At its most basic, Quark is fat-free, with the fattier versions made by adding cream to the curds.
Quark can be firm like feta, a mix of creamy and firm like cottage cheese, or completely creamy like yogurt.
Quark is a popular breakfast cheese or snack, tasting great with fresh berries or a drizzle of honey.
Harzer Käse originates from the Harz, a mountain region just north of the German city Braunschweig.
Herzer Kase is a low-fat or fat-free cheese, Harzer Käse is a sour milk cheese that usually is infused with caraway seeds.
It has a strong smell and flavor and is a popular diet food for low-fat, high-protein dietary restrictions.
Harzer Kase is a hard cheese that usually comes in a small round with a hard rind. It is a golden color and undergoes a short aging process.
Harzer Kase works well with sweeter accompaniments like compote, apple, or pear slices. I often eat it over a slice of rye bread or cracker to bring out the caraway flavor.
Rauchkäse – German Smoked Cheese
Rauchkase is a popular German cheese made by processing Bavarian Emmentaler cheese and then smoking it over spruce or birchwood.
You’ll find it packaged or at cheese shops as a thick, long cylinder with a dark, thin outer rind.
Many cheese shops also have a version of Rauchkase with bits of ham. Smoked cheese is a delicious balance of smokey, sweet, and nutty.
Rauchkase is a fan favorite in Germany. It tastes similar to smoked gouda, which is one of my favorite cheeses.
If you can’t find it with bits of ham, you can always make a delicious ham and cheese panini, cutting off a few circular slices to melt over deli-sliced ham.
Meaning “herder’s cheese” in German, Hirtenkase hails from the Allgau region of the German alps.
Historically, cow herders would lead their herd through the alps and into the Allgau in the fall, where their milk would be used to make Hirtenkase.
Hirtenkase is a hard cow’s milk cheese aged for eight months or more. It is a high-end cheese, likened to Parmigiano-Reggiano or gouda, with a richly savory taste, undertones of sweet caramel, and an earthy smell.
Hirtkenkase is popular in cheeseboards in wine bars. I like eating it atop thick brown, whole-grain German bread to bring out the earthy aroma.
Huttenkase is cottage cheese. “Hutten” means hut or cottage, and Huttenkase began appearing in tubs in German supermarkets in the 1960s.
Huttenkase is a curdled milk cheese that’s low-fat, high-protein, and delightfully tangy.
My favorite part is the texture, with a creaminess that cedes to the perfectly chewy, melt-in-your-mouth little curds.
Cottage cheese had been a popular breakfast food since the early 19th century in the U.S., so Germany was late in popularizing it.
My favorite way to eat cottage cheese is with pineapple. The zesty, tangy, and sweet pineapple accentuates the tanginess and creaminess of cottage cheese perfectly.
Also known as Tilsit Cheese, Holsteiner Tilsiter is the proprietary brand name of Tilsit cheese sold in Germany.
Named for the town of Tilsit in the former 19th-century German province of East Prussia, Tilsiter is the result of immigrating Swiss and Russian cheesemakers to Germany.
It’s made by a process known as smear-ripening, in which cheese gets a brine or yeast treatment to instill distinct flavors.
Holsteiner Tilsiter is a semi-hard cheese with a yellow rind and a textured interior laden with small holes and cracks.
It is aged at least two months and offers a versatile texture and flavor that tastes great solid and melted.
I like to eat it cubed in a salad with a tangy vinaigrette.
True to its name, Bavaria Blu is a blue cheese from the Bavarian Alps made from pasteurized Alpine cow’s milk.
It is a newer blue cheese variety, introduced in 1972 by the famed cheese producer Bergader.
It is as creamy and soft as brie, with the classic blue veins instilling a sharp, pungent flavor.
To me, it’s hard to tell the difference between Bavaria Blu and Cambozola. It is a popular cheeseboard dish to pair with a strong red or white wine.
You could also malt it atop hot dishes like a Neapolitan pizza. I like it on a cracker with sweet fruit jellies like fig or mango.
Handkäse – German Hand Cheese
A specialty of Frankfurt, Handkase, or German Hand Cheese, is another curdled, sour milk cheese.
Cheesemakers originally molded this cheese by hand, hence the source of its name.
Handkase is a low-fat cheese sold in uneven rounds that look almost like small russet potatoes.
The cheese is on the firmer side of soft and is often rolled in caraway seeds and served with raw onions.
Handkase has an intense aroma and flavor and a golden yellow color. You’ll find it as an appetizer at restaurants in Frankfurt and the surrounding towns.
Between the pungent cheese and raw onions, I’d say Handkase is an acquired taste.
Another of Germany’s most popular cheeses, Romadur is a Belgian-born cheese that is a toned-down take on Limburg cheese. It is much milder in taste and smell, but
I’d still consider Romadur a stinky cheese.
Romadur is a semi-soft, light yellow to light orange cow’s milk cheese sold in small squares or rectangles.
It is easily spreadable, with a much creamier texture than Lindburg. It has a pleasant tangy aftertaste that pairs well with thick, crusty bread and a hoppy German beer.
Also, its fermentation process eliminates lactose, making it a lactose-intolerance-friendly dairy product.
Hessischer Handkase is German Hand Cheese from the region of Hesse, which encompasses Frankfurt and Rheinhessen.
It is a sour milk cheese with low fat and high protein content that used to be hand-formed.
The traditional way to enjoy Hessischer Handkase is in a dish called Hessen Handkase mit Musik, in which small rounds of handkase get a sprinkle of caraway seeds and are then marinated in oil and vinegar with diced onions.
Marinated onions and the tangy vinegar give a sweet and tangy flavor to this highly pungent cheese.
Germans had a sense of humor when they called this dish Handkase mit Musik, referring to the musical notes of flatulence that occur after eating cheese and onions.
Another Bavarian blue cheese from the famed Bergader cheese producer, Bergader Edelpilz is the German version of Roquefort.
It has been a favorite for cheese connoisseurs since its inception in 1927, reaching worldwide markets in the 1970s.
The trademark recipe remains the same, using the highest quality milk from the Bavarian alps and traditional bacterial cultures that create the deep blue veins.
Bergader Edelpilz is super rich and creamy, with a pungent smell and aftertaste that works well in sauces, salads, and spread over crackers.
I like to mix it into a cream sauce for some extra-fancy potatoes au gratin.
The cheese receives a coating of white mold, similar to Camembert production. The cheese is flavored with whole caraway seeds.
It is soft, with a thin rind that looks like brie or Camembert, with an equally savory and mild taste. The main difference is the presence of caraway seeds.
If you let it age for longer, you’ll get a more intense flavor. Germans eat Altenburger Ziegenkase with brown, whole-grain bread and pickled vegetables.
- Allgäuer Bergkäse
- Allgäuer Emmentaler
- Harzer Käse
- Rauchkäse – German Smoked Cheese
- Holsteiner Tilsiter
- Bavaria Blu
- Handkäse – German Hand Cheese
- Hessischer Handkäse
- Bergader Edelpilz
- Altenburger Ziegenkäse
German cheeses encompass a broad range of hard, semi-hard, and soft cheeses with exciting histories.
Whether you like stinky, pungent cheese or mild, smoked cheese, my list of German cheeses will satisfy all texture and flavor preferences.
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