The Classic French Cheese More People Should Have in Their Fridge (No, It’s Not Brie or Blue!)
When it comes to French cheeses, most people here in the States will likely say they prefer a warm baked Brie or a bold blue cheese with a sturdy cracker. The more adventurous might even tell you they like a strong camembert. In my experience, though, I’d say not enough people give Comté cheese the love it deserves.
The amazingly nutty, salty, and buttery firm cheese is thoroughly underrated and incredibly flavorful. It deserves a permanent spot on your cheese board and in your recipe rotation. Here’s why.
What Is Comté?
Pronounced “kom-tay,” Comté is arguably one of the most delicious French cheeses that hasn’t gotten its just due in the U.S. — yet. It originates in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, which borders part of Switzerland, and is aged at least four months and up to 18 months (or more). The interior of a wedge is semi-firm and white to yellow in hue. The rind, however, is a light brown shade and, yes, it is edible!
It’s one of several cheeses labeled as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), which means it can only be made in the Franche-Comté region. (Parmigiano-Reggiano is another such cheese.) And despite its low-key status, you’ll find it at several major retailers across the U.S., including Costco, select Kroger locations, Publix, Wegmans, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, and Trader Joe’s.
What’s So Great About Comté?
There are precisely two words that come to mind when I take a bite of a quality Comté: buttery and salty. If you’re into a good, salty, firm Parmesan or nutty Gouda, you will absolutely stan Comté.
One of the most amazing things about Comté is its texture: It feels like a firm cheese, but once you bite into it, it instantly turns super creamy, buttery, and smooth. Plus, it has small holes known as “eyes” on the inside and small crystals that give it a very subtle, but lovely crunch. Fun fact: These crystal-like bits are created from amino acids that form as the cheese ages.
Arguably the best thing about cooking with cheese is the sheer variety that is available to use all throughout the world. In the States, in particular, we can’t get enough of it, and somehow find new ways to use it every day. In fact, some might argue that our collective love for putting cheese on everything is quintessentially American.
Varieties like cheddar, Colby Jack, muenster, Monterey Jack, and Havarti are darlings, not just because they melt super well in, say, a sandwich or pasta dish, but also because they have just the right amount of nutty and salty flavor. Comté is of a very similar ilk, although it’s even more complex. Its texture makes it well-suited to grating, melting, and just simple snacking. Plus, its nutty flavor pairs well with just about any sweet condiment.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Comté?
While Comté is amazing on its own (I enjoy it in sliced form, including the rind), it’s best alongside equally delicious foods and drinks. If I want just a little extra dimension, serving it with crunchy crackers or soft bread works well.
Because it has characteristics of both firm and soft cheeses, you can shred it and add it to pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches, and baked breakfast dishes and it will melty amazingly well. It’s also firm enough to cut into large slices and add to cold sandwiches. Like many cheeses, it pairs well with the flavors of wines and beers. (Fromage from Europe recommends serving Comté with a dry white wine like Chardonnay, a red wine like Beaujolais, or even beer like Double IPA or German Pilsner.)
In places like Paris, there are some additional ways you’ll likely see Comté eaten, too. I’ve seen it with things like quince paste (also known as membrillo), honey, jam or preserves, cornichons, black garlic paste, or even a pâté of your choosing. I’ve even had Comté served with a very small spritz of gin!
Buy: Président Comté Wedge, $12.59 for 7.7 ounces at Instacart
What’s your favorite French cheese? Tell us about it in the comments below.