8 Varieties of Cheese That May Be New to You — and Might Become Your New Favorites
Shopping for cheese is a little like shopping for wine. You might know what varieties you gravitate towards, but with a little more knowledge you’ll know how to choose one you absolutely love. And just like wine, what distinguishes one from another is its terroir. Where the cow’s feed and water are sourced, the way the cheese is crafted, and even the aging process all impact the final texture and flavor of the finished cheese.
Food lovers classify cheeses in many ways (dairy type, age, place of origin), but with an estimated 1,800 varieties of cheese worldwide, choosing cheese can feel intimidating or overwhelming. Don’t worry! Finding a quality cheese retailer — whether it’s a local cheese shop or a dedicated grocery store cheesemonger — can really help you find new-to-you cheeses to love.
Why Choose Wisconsin Cheeses
Long before it was officially a state, Wisconsin cheesemakers were taking advantage of the area’s unique terroir to make delicious cheeses. Fast-forward more than 180 years and you can now find Wisconsin cheeses in 99 percent of grocery stores nationwide. Their cheesemakers hold more awards than any other cheese-making region (Wisconsin is the only region outside of Switzerland where one can become a Master Cheesemaker), so you truly can’t go wrong if a package displays the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese® badge in the cheese case. If you want to learn more about the variety of cheeses made in Wisconsin — and it’s fascinating stuff — head on over to their site.
In the meantime, we’ve sampled lots of cheeses (it’s a tough job) to find some varieties that you absolutely must try, no matter what your current favorites are.
If you love a classic sharp cheddar cheese, try Roth Grand Cru®.
One of Wisconsin’s most decorated cheesemakers (they have over 280 cheesemaking awards), Roth Cheese began making cheese in Switzerland in 1863. This Alpine-style cheese is aged similarly to cheddar (this one for 4 months) and has a semi-soft texture and creamy nutty flavor. It melts beautifully too, making it ideal for grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade mac and cheese, and these Grand Cru Surchoix Cheese Crostini.
If you’re a fan of Swiss cheese, try Widmer’s Cheese Cellars Brick cheese.
Many Wisconsin Cheesemakers use Swiss traditions to make their cheeses, and Brick cheese is one of the oldest of such cheeses. Originating in Wisconsin and named for the bricks used to press the curds, young Brick cheese has a semi-soft texture similar to baby Swiss with a nutty tang. Widmer’s Cheese Cellars makes a great one, pressing their cheese with the original bricks they used over 100 years ago! It’s delicious on a classic ham sandwich and melts perfectly into dips, like that very inviting Detroit-Style Pizza Dip pictured above.
Aged Brick cheeses get funky (this is a good thing) and are a great starter cheese for anyone wanting to try stinky cheese varieties.
Love Colby cheese? There’s nothing else quite like it.
Did you know that Colby cheese was dreamed up right in Colby, Wisconsin? It’s one of several cheeses that has the distinction of being invented in the state, and it really highlights the innovations of Wisconsin’s cheesemakers. While it’s prepared similarly to cheddar cheese, two small tweaks in the process (a cold water rinse and a short aging time) give this semi-soft cheese a sweeter, more lacy and melty texture than cheddar. It’s excellent for baking — fold it into biscuits or pie dough — while its excellent “meltability” makes it a perfect partner in egg dishes. Try it in this easy but showoff-y Sausage and Colby Cheese Omelet Roll.
When you need a versatile cheese, you need burrata.
If you like mozzarella, you’re going to love burrata. This soft cheese begins as mozzarella curds that are then plunged into a warm bath before being stretched out to give it an elastic quality. That gets wrapped around smaller pieces of mozzarella and cream (called stracciatella) so that when you cut it open you get a dual-textured cheese that’s rich, a little sweet, and milky. BelGioioso has been making cheese in Wisconsin since its founder moved there from Italy in 1979. They still use Old World traditions, making hand-formed balls from fresh milk that’s gathered daily from local farmers. The result is a cheese that takes very well to sweet and savory pairings. Try it Caprese-style with tomato and basil; eat it for dessert with berries and chocolate-hazelnut spread; or go for a sweet-savory combo with prosciutto, melon, and honey (pictured above).
If you usually grab gouda cheese, try Red Barn Family Farms’ Cupola.
Cupola cheese is another Wisconsin original! It’s named for the small wooden pinnacles that top traditional Wisconsin barns. Red Barn Family Farms makes this award-winning raw milk–style cheese. Think of Cupola as a cross between Gouda and Parmesan: It’s firm but smooth and has a sweet but nutty flavor. Try it grated, as you would with Parmesan, over pasta or melted over grilled or roasted vegetables.
Fresh mozzarella fans have to try Butterkasë.
While we wouldn’t recommend swapping it for mozzarella in your Caprese salad, Butterkasë is such a creamy, smooth, and lightly flavored cheese that you’ll find enhances many dishes you’d usually use mozzarella for! This German-style cheese is named for its buttery softness — you can even spread it on toasted bread or melt it into buttered noodles. Try this cheese on burgers or pair it with soft baked pretzels and sour pickles.
If you’re not on board with blue cheeses yet, now’s your chance!
Wisconsin cheesemakers know how to sing the blues, with a full spectrum of blue cheese that ranges from creamy to crumbly and mild to super pungent. Blue cheeses ripen from mold activity, which is what imparts that distinctive appearance and unique flavor. There’s a blue for almost any preference, whether you want a soft taste or a statement star for the cheeseboard: like Carr Valley Glacier Penta Creme, a decadent, five-creme blue. It’s divine with sweet accompaniments like fresh grapes and a drizzle of honey.
Can’t get enough cottage cheese? Now you need to know about cheese curds.
Cottage cheese seems to be everywhere right now, but if you want a simple and fun cheese for snacking, the Midwest wants to introduce you to your new favorite: cheese curds. A product of the cheese-making process, these little nuggets of cheese are delightfully squeaky with a milky and salty flavor. Plus, you can batter and fry cheese curds or put them atop French fries. And you should really consider doing that.