If humans did not know how to make cheese, we would not have enjoyed pizza, pasta, and many other dishes today! Cheese is one of the most popular and the oldest known foods to mankind. In fact, there is no proper record of its origins or date of invention! The only factual part we know is that cheese is an accidental discovery that led to the introduction of different types of cheeses that we savor in the modern era.

Whether it is the stringy Mozzarella or the exotic blue cheese, adding a bit of cheese can make any dish taste finger-licking good! Read along to know the history of cheese, the classifications and the many varieties of cheese with pictures.

What is Cheese?

Cheese is made from milk by separating the solid curds from the whey liquid. The process involves adding an acidic substance like lemon juice or rennet to milk to curdle it. Cheesemakers then remove the semi-solid substance from the liquid and send it for further processing. While fresh cheese varieties like paneer use vinegar or lime, harder and aged cheeses use rennet to infuse more flavor-making bacteria.

History of Cheese:

The first known documented case of cheese making dates back to 8000 BCE when milk ‘accidentally’ turned into curd and whey due to its storage in inflated animal organs. Experts opine that the rennet present in the animal’s stomach could have triggered the curdling process. By the 8th Century BCE, cheese was a staple food for ancient Romans and Greeks who had a meticulous process of cheese-making.

Gradually, traditional cheese-making gave way to industrial, mass-produced cheese to cater to the ever-growing demand for this food. Today, more than 1000 different types of cheese are produced across the world, with newer variants and flavors getting added each day.

Classification of Cheeses with Examples:

The categorization of cheeses may happen based on a number of parameters like length of fermentation, texture, source of milk, country of origin etc. The normal way of classification is by the texture, which is the degree of firmness of a cheese.

So, let us now look into the 6 basic categories of cheese, based on the texture:

  • Fresh Cheese:

These cheeses are made by acidification of milk instead of adding rennet. There is no addition of preservatives and neither fermented nor aged. Hence, these cheeses have low shelf-life and are quite soft.

Examples: Mascarpone, Ricotta, Cream Cheese, Paneer etc.

  • Soft Cheese:

Soft cheeses are ripened cheeses with are left to mature for less than a month. The cheese have a soft, satiny texture due to the high moisture content in them. These are unsuitable for cooking and best eaten with bread or crackers. Depending on the characteristics of the rind, soft cheeses come in two varieties – surface-ripened soft cheeses, where the rind is covered with a white mold and interior-ripened soft cheeses, which are matured on the interiors.

Examples: Brie, Munster, Camembert, Coulommiers etc.

  • Semi-Firm Cheese:

These are uncooked cheeses which undergo the pressing process. They have a dense texture with pale yellow color. They have a mild taste and good moisture content, which contributes to the softness.

Examples: Cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack etc

  • Firm Cheese:

These are cooked and pressed cheeses which have a more compact shape and a firm texture. The long aging process adds a sharp flavour to the cheeses, along with ‘eyes’ inside. These cheeses are ideal for snacking or melting on a toast.

Examples: Romano, Emmenthal, Jarlsberg, etc.

  • Hard Cheese:

These cheeses are packed firmly and left to age for months and sometimes even years. Hard cheeses are ideal for grating and have a robust flavour.

Examples: Grana Padano, Parmesan, Pecorino etc.

  • Blue-Veined Cheese:

These cheeses are injected with a type of blue-green mold with the help of long needles. The fermentation process begins on the inside of the cheese and moves outwards, resulting in a sharp, peppery flavour. The cheeses have a crumbled texture with bluish-veins inside the body.

Examples: Gorgonzola, Danish Blue, Stilton, Roquefort etc.

  • Processed Cheese:

These cheeses are re-melted in the factors and combined with different flavours, additives, colors, sweeteners etc. They have a soft and spreadable texture.

Examples: Cheese Spreads

15 Different Types of Cheese with Pictures:

Let us now look into the characteristics of the 15 most popular varieties of cheese:

1. Brie Cheese:

Brie cheese gets its name from a French region called “Brie”, its place of origin. This type of soft-ripened cheese made from cow’s milk with an aging time of 5 to 6 weeks. It has a pale color with a crumbling texture on the inside and a white mold on the rind. The preparation process of Brie involves adding rennet to raw milk and warming it. The solids are then cast into molds and injected with cheese culture. The longer the aging process, the stronger is the flavour! Some Brie varieties are smoked at low temperatures to enhance the flavour.

  • Country of Origin – Brie, France
  • Texture – Soft-Ripened
  • Flavour Strength – Mellowy and slightly nutty
  • Best Served as – Whole cheese, slightly melted on crackers and nuts
  • Total Calories – 334
  • Total Fat – 28gms (per 100gms serving)

2. Mozzarella Cheese:

Mozzarella is one of the most popular types of soft cheese in the world. This buffalo milk cheese variety has its origins in Italy and is usually white. Depending on the animal’s diet, the cheese can turn slightly yellow in color, which doesn’t affect the quality of flavor. For optimal freshness, you must store high-moisture Mozzarella in brine (for up to one week). Vaccum-sealed, low-moisture cheese has a higher shelf life of up to 6 months. Upon melting, Mozzarella gets stringy and stretchy, making it ideal for dishes like pizza, lasagna.

  • Country of Origin – Italy
  • Texture – Semi-Soft
  • Flavour Strength – Bland with a slightly sour taste
  • Best Served as – Raw, Melted, Grilled and Cooked
  • Total Calories – 280
  • Total Fat – 17gms (per 100gms serving)

3. Cheddar Cheese:

Cheddar Cheese is a type of hard cheese with a sharp and pungent taste due to the presence of peptides (proteins). The color can range from off-white to orange, depending on the addition of colorings. This cheese is made by adding rennet to cow’s milk and separating the solids. The next step, called “Cheddaring,” involves kneading the curds with salt and then cutting, turning and stacking the blocks. Length of fermentation determines the color and flavour of cheddar, which can typically fall between 6 months to 2 years.

  • Country of Origin – Somerset, United Kingdom
  • Texture – Very Hard
  • Flavour Strength – Sharp, Pungent
  • Best Served as – Grated, Melted or Raw
  • Total Calories – 420
  • Total Fat – 33 gms (per 100gms serving)

4. Emmental Cheese:

Popularly known as “Swiss Cheese”, Emmental cheese is a type of soft yellowish cheese with holes. These holes are a result of carbon dioxide gas bubbles produced by bacteria in the cheese. In modern times, the size and number of holes determine the quality of the cheese. Pure-breed Emmental cheese-making involved the use of only natural ingredients with no room for preservatives. There are three sub-types of Emmental, based on the age profiles – Classic (aged 4 months), Reserve (aged 8 months) and Premier Cru (aged 14 months+). The longer the aging, the higher is the price!

  • Country of Origin – Emmental, Switzerland
  • Texture – Medium Hard
  • Flavour Strength – Mild, Savoury
  • Best Served as – Cheese platter with fruits, Melted
  • Total Calories – 380
  • Total Fat – 28 gms (per 100gms serving)

5. Gouda Cheese:

Gouda cheese has its origins in the city of Gouda, Netherlands and is one of the oldest and the most popular types of cheese in the world. It is a semi-hard to hard cheese made from sweet, full-fat cow milk. Interestingly, Gouda refers to the preparation process rather than the actual name of the cheese. The curds are “washed” to bring in sweetness and a mild fruity flavour. The more the length of fermentation, the more fruitness the cheese gets. The rind of Gouda Cheese can come in many color on orange, red etc., depending on the amount of coloring agent present in it.

  • Country of Origin – Gouda, Netherlands
  • Texture – Semi-Hard to Hard
  • Flavour Strength – Mild to Strong Sweet, Fruity and Nutty
  • Best Served as – Cheese Fruit or paired with wine
  • Total Calories – 350 Calories
  • Total Fat – 27 gms (per 100gms serving)

6. Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan):

Parmesan, the common name for Parmigiano-Reggiano, is one of the most popular Italian cheeses. It has a salty, fruity and nutty taste which adds an exceptional flavour to any dish. Parmesan is made from skim cow milk by adding rennet and breaking down the curds into smaller pieces. These grains are compacted and placed in molds, leaving them to submerge in brine tanks for about 20 days. Parmesan is a type of hard cheese with a minimum aging time being 12 months and a maximum being 2-3 years.

  • Country of Origin – Lombardy, Italy
  • Texture –Hard
  • Flavour Strength – Mild to Robust Salty, Fruity and Nutty
  • Best Served as – Grated over pasta and soups
  • Total Calories – 431 Calories
  • Total Fat – 29 gms (per 100gms serving)

7. Feta Cheese:

Feta cheese is a type of soft, white cheese made from sheep or goat milk. It is quite crumbly in texture and has a salty taste. The preparation process of Feta involves the addition to rennet to milk and draining the whey in a cloth. The curds are dry-salted and left to age in a brine solution. Feta is usually sold as large blocks or as sealed packages with brine solution. Due to the high water content, Feta has a low-fat percentage, but on the flip side contains high amounts of sodium.

  • Country of Origin – Greece
  • Texture – Soft
  • Flavour Strength – Mild to Sharp (depending on variety)
  • Best Served as – Crumbled over salads, cooked or grilled
  • Total Calories – 264 Calories
  • Total Fat – 21 gms (per 100gms serving)

8. Mascarpone Cheese:

Mascarpone Cheese is a creamy type of white cheese which is a staple ingredient in many desserts. The cheese has a sweet taste with a silky texture due to its high-fat content. The preparation process involves adding acid to cream (instead of milk) to separate the solids. The curds undergo low-temperature cooking to get a creamy and buttery consistency. Since it is a fresh cheese, Mascarpone has a low shelf life of just a week. The cheese works well for both sweet and savoury dishes like cheesecakes, pasta etc.

  • Country of Origin – Italy
  • Texture – Very Creamy
  • Flavour Strength – Sweet and Mild
  • Best Served as – Bread Spread, Baking, Frosting, Soup Thickener
  • Total Calories – 442 Calories
  • Total Fat – 47 gms (per 100gms serving)

9. Blue Cheese:

Blue cheese is one of the most stinkiest cheeses in the world! Despite its odorous, pungent taste, blue cheese is quite expensive and prized by cheese connoisseurs. The smell comes from the addition of bacteria like Brevibacterium Linens, which are also responsible for causing stinky feet in humans. The unique aspect of this type of cheese is the presence of blue veins which form due to Penicillium mold.
Among the 5 varieties of blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Roquefort are quite popular!

  • Country of Origin – France
  • Texture – Soft and Creamy
  • Flavour Strength – Stinky, Sharp or Pungent
  • Best Served as – Raw, Spread or Melted
  • Total Calories – 442 Calories
  • Total Fat – 47 gms (per 100gms serving)

10. Cottage Cheese:

Cottage Cheese is a type of fresh cheese which has a soft, crumbly texture. The main difference between traditional cottage cheese and paneer is the pressing process. Cottage cheese retains loose curds and has a grainy appearance. Due to its low-calorie profile, Cottage cheese falls into the “healthy” cheese category and quite popular with weight watchers. The cheese doesn’t undergo any aging process and has a mild sour taste to it. It is also a safe cheese for pregnant and lactating women.

  • Country of Origin – Europe
  • Texture – Soft and Crumbly
  • Flavour Strength – Mild, Sour
  • Best Served as – Substitute for cream, mayo or melted on toast
  • Total Calories – 98 Calories
  • Total Fat – 4.3 gms (per 100gms serving)

11. Ricotta Cheese:

Ricotta is a type of soft to semi-soft cheese which has its origins in Italy. The literal meaning of Ricotta is “recooked”. Cheesemakers use the leftover whey by adding some whole milk, heating it and coagulating with some acid. The curds turn more solid and creamy, almost to a spreadable consistency. There are two variants of Ricotta cheese- Fresh and Aged. The flavour depends on techniques like smoking, salting, baking or additional fermentation. Ricotta cheese works well for making cheesecakes, cookies and stuffed pasta.

  • Country of Origin – Italy
  • Texture – Soft to Semi-Soft (Depending on aging)
  • Flavour Strength – Mild to Sharp
  • Best Served as – Beaten, Sauce Thickener and Firm baked
  • Total Calories – 174 Calories
  • Total Fat – 13 gms (per 100gms serving)

12. Camembert:

Camembert is a type of soft, surface-ripened cheese. The preparation process of this cheese involves adding mesophilic bacteria in addition to rennet to coagulate the milk. The curds then go into Camembert molds and turned every few hours to drain out the whey. Once the cheese solidifies, the surface gets a good spray of mold Penicillium Camemberti to attain a white mold on the outside. In terms of taste, Camembert is sour, with the flavour being on the sharper side.

  • Country of Origin – France
  • Texture – Soft-Ripened
  • Flavour Strength – Sharp
  • Best Served as – Slices on crackers and bread
  • Total Calories – 299 Calories
  • Total Fat – 24 gms (per 100gms serving)

13. Pecorino Romano:

Pecorino Romano is a type of hard cheese with origins in Italy, and the literal translation of the name is “sheep cheese of Rome”. Texture and appearance-wise, Pecorino shares a lot of resemblance of Parmesan. However, it is quite sharp, salty and tangy compared to Parmesan which is on the milder side. Pecorino is a little expensive due to the use of sheep’s milk instead of cows and a process that allows only all-natural ingredients. The aging window of Pecorino can range between 5 to 8 months.

  • Country of Origin – Italy
  • Texture – Hard
  • Flavour Strength – Sharp
  • Best Served as – Grated on soups, pasta, salads
  • Total Calories – 393 Calories
  • Total Fat – 32 gms (per 100gms serving)

14. Havarti Cheese:

Havarti is a type of semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a slightly sweet and buttery taste with holes on the inside resembling swiss cheese. Havarti is sold in the form of blocks or as pre-cut square slices, making it an ideal cheese variety for cold sandwiches. Modern Havarti cheese comes with the addition of many flavouring agents like basil, chilli, garlic and even fruits like berries. It tastes best in the natural, raw form without the need for any cooking process.

  • Country of Origin – Denmark
  • Texture – Semi-Soft
  • Flavour Strength – Mild acidic
  • Best Served as – Slices in Sandwiches or as is
  • Total Calories – 371 Calories
  • Total Fat – 30 gms (per 100gms serving)

15. Monterey Jack Cheese:

Monterey Jack is a popular American cheese variety known for its sweet and mild flavour. The cheese gets the name from its inventor, Monterey Jack. Also known as Jack’s Cheese, Monterey comes in three variants- Dry Jack, Pepper Jack and Blend Cheese. Dry Jack is an aged variety with a hard texture, while Pepper jack is flavored with peppers, chilli and herbs. Blend cheese combines Monterey with Colby to create a marbled effect of white and yellow hues.

  • Country of Origin – America
  • Texture – Semi-Hard
  • Flavour Strength – Mild and Sweet
  • Best Served as – Slices or with crackers
  • Total Calories – 373 Calories
  • Total Fat – 30 gms (per 100gms serving)

Interesting Facts About Cheese:

Here are some fun facts about Cheese:

  1. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) received a big wheel of Cheddar Cheese as a wedding gift, indicating how precious cheese was in those times.
  2. In America, some cheese varieties like Brie de Meux, Epoisses, Mimolette etc., are put in the list of “illegal cheeses” due to the high levels of bacteria in it.
  3. “Turophile” is a term given to people who love cheese.
  4. The 4th of July is declared as the National Cheese Day in the United States.
  5. Denmark is the largest consumer of Cheese in the world, with 28.1 kgs per person.
  6. A Serbian cheese called Pule is one of the most expensive cheeses in the world, which is made with Donkey milk.

Those are some of the most popular types of cheeses in the world. Next time when you go to a superstore, try to sample some of these varieties and see which one you love the best. If you have any special ways to relish these exotic cheeses, do let us know! We’ll try too!

DISCLAIMER: The information published in this article is purely for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice on the subject.

About Keerthi

Keerthi is a freelance content writer with over 5 years of professional writing experience and holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature from EFLU, Hyderabad. Though she comes from a technology background, her zeal for writing motivated her to pursue a career in the content industry. Keerthi is well-versed with writing SEO-friendly copies, along with taking part in content strategy and research in trending topics of a variety of niches. She is a mom of two and thoroughly enjoys the balancing act of work and home!
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