The Best Types of Cheese for Homemade Pizza

published Feb 29, 2024
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Two hands reaching in and pulling two slices of pizza from the sheet pan.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Kelli Foster

When making a pizza at home, we typically reach for mozzarella cheese. It tastes great and its superior stretchability and browning properties are backed by science! Why deviate? It has a tangy, creamy flavor, without being overly bold, which can be an advantage when you’ve got a lot of other flavors from sauce and toppings going on. Also, it’s traditional — some would argue a pizza isn’t even a pizza without mozzarella cheese.

But what if your supermarket is out of mozzarella? What if you want to make a pizza and use whatever cheese you have on hand? Or maybe you just want to mix it up? No matter the motivation, we’ve narrowed down the best cheeses to use for pizza.

Quick Overview

What Is the Best Cheese for Pizza?

Low-moisture mozzarella is our choice for a classic, dependable pizza. It’s meltable with a mild but creamy flavor, and its lack of moisture is perfect for avoiding soggy pies. Good options to blend with mozzarella are Parmesan, cheddar, and provolone.

Tips for Selecting the Best Cheese for Pizza

  • Choose young cheeses. Mozzarella, provolone, or Monterey Jack have great meltability. Add aged cheeses like Parmesan or aged cheddar for extra umami and depth of flavor.
  • Shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated with additives, usually cellulose, potato starch, or cornstarch, which helps prevent the shreds from clumping as well as preservatives to keep it fresh and prevent mold from forming. The unfortunate side effect of these additives is that they can change the way the cheese tastes and melts. (All of that said, pre-shredded cheese can be a great time-saver, so if you’re not up for busting out a box grater or food processor it works in a pinch.)


Mozzarella is the GOAT for a reason. Well for a few reasons, actually. It’s super meltable and stretchable, it browns well (but not too well, which could lead to burned cheese), and its flavor is creamy, yet mild. All of which makes it perfect for a classic pie. However, there are a few different kinds of mozzarella on offer in the typical dairy aisle — from low-moisture and fresh, to whole milk and part-skim. So, which one is best for pizza?

  • Low-moisture mozzarella: This is what you’ll find on pizza in many restaurants and pizzerias. We love this cheese for pizza. It’s saltier and denser than fresh mozzarella, and it has a much longer shelf-life. It has a low water content and releases little to no moisture when it melts, which means you’re less likely to wind up with a soggy pizza. While you can use either whole milk or part-skim, whole milk has a higher fat content, which means it melts and browns slightly better than part-skim.
  • Fresh mozzarella: This cheese has not gone through the additional drying process that low-moisture mozzarella goes through. As a result, it has a softer texture and a much higher water content. This extra water is shed by the cheese in the oven, which can cause a soggy crust if you’re not careful. When using fresh mozzarella for pizza (especially if it was packaged in water) be sure to dry it thoroughly by patting it as dry as possible and then ideally leaving it to further air dry on paper towels for 10 to 20 minutes. The more moisture you can remove before you bake the pizza, the better.

Parmesan Cheese

Hard and aged cheeses will generally not melt or stretch as well as younger, softer ones. That said, adding a little bit of a harder cheese (like Parmesan) can give your pizza a little boost of umami while a softer cheese does the super-melty-pizza-cheese lifting. Grate Parmesan over the mozzarella before baking or onto the pizza after baking, just before serving.

Provolone Cheese

Provolone is a semi-hard cheese that is sold in both aged and younger varieties. For maximum stretchability and a milder flavor, opt for a younger cheese. If you’re looking for a sharper flavor, use an aged version. Use a younger cheese on its own or blend either variety with mozzarella for a flavor boost on your next pie.

Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta is a fresh cheese made by adding acid to milk or whey, which then forms soft curds. It’s creamy and spoonable, although not exactly meltable. It has a very mild flavor and high water content. It’s great on a white pizza that doesn’t have tomato sauce, as it adds even more moisture to the party. Or add it to pizza in dollops. It also pairs well with mozzarella for a topping that’s got both creaminess and melty cheese.

Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese might not make the best choice for the only cheese on your pizza. Its fats and solids can separate when exposed to the high temperatures required when baking a pizza. However, it can be a great addition to a blend of multiple cheeses for a pie with extra depth of flavor.  As mentioned above, aged cheeses do not melt as well as younger ones, so avoid sharp varieties and look for a “mild” or “medium” cheddar for pizza.

Monterey Jack Cheese

This creamy, soft cheese melts very well and is a great option for pizza blends. It also browns nicely and makes a great crispy edge on a pan pizza. You can even try pepper Jack to add some extra spice to your pie.