Sampling the local cheeses has to be one of the best things about travelling. Here’s our guide to the best cheese in Spain.
Who doesn’t like cheese? It’s such a versatile food that can be eaten on its own, with fruit or even made into a delicious dessert. When most people think of cheese, they think about stuff from Switzerland, France, and possibly even the UK.
But, did you know that Spain is home to some of the world’s most delicious cheeses? It’s true, and there are so many different varieties to choose from! If you’re planning on visiting Spain, then you need to immerse yourself in their rich culinary scene. As such, what better place to start than with cheese?!
Bearing that in mind, here are the best Spanish cheeses that you absolutely must try:
You can’t talk about Spanish cheese without discussing Manchego. This is probably the only one you’ve heard of before, largely thanks to its presence in a lot of UK supermarkets. But, nothing beats fresh Manchego cheese in Spain! It comes from a place in the country called La Mancha, which is basically a region in the centre of Spain. There are Manchego sheep that supply the milk needed for this cheese, with many saying that the same type of sheep has been used for centuries!
It’s often semi-cured, providing a very smooth texture. There’s a bit of saltiness to it, but this just adds to the very delicate flavour. It’s the type of cheese the Spanish will regularly serve on its own as part of a cheese board. But, you typically find it diced up in little cubes as part of an olive tapas dish, or even served with nuts. If you’re looking for a wine pairing to go with Manchego, then Spaniards always opt for a delicious red.
Interestingly, you can also get cured Manchego that takes on more of a crystalised look and texture. Here, the flavour changes slightly into something a little bit spicier. This isn’t how the cheese is commonly eaten outside of Spain, but it’s well worth trying a cured version during your trip!
Make your way to Menorca, and you’ll stumble upon a local cheese called Mahon.
This is an artisanal cheese – which instantly makes it sound impressive – that’s made from raw cow’s milk. Strangely, it’s pretty much the only cheese in the south of Spain that’s made entirely from cow’s milk. So, it’s instantly a little bit unique!
Of course, Menorca is an island, which means it’s surrounded by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. What’s this got to do with cheese? Well, the close proximity of the sea to the local cattle means their milk picks up wafts of saltwater that blow in the wind. Therefore, Mahon cheese has a distinctive flavour that’s a little bit salty like the sea. It’s a cheese that’s matured from anywhere between 21 days and 8 months. The more it’s cured, the more intense the taste will be.
As for eating it, well, it can be used in so many different Spanish dishes. Chefs in restaurants regularly use it in pasta dishes because it melts well and has a very delicious and creamy flavour. But, it’s not uncommon to get this on its own, typically with a dusting of black pepper to complement the natural saltiness.
Torta Del Casar
The next stop on our cheesy tour of Spain is the city of Caceres. This is found in the South-West of Spain, very close to Portugal. Torta Del Casar is made entirely from sheep’s milk, and it’s matured for at least two months – but often longer. It’s a very famous cheese in Spain, mainly thanks to the unique way you eat it, and the very distinct smell it gives off. Many say the scent is down to the use of local flowers in the production process.
Visually, it looks very similar to a sort of cake-like object. This is reflected in the name; Torta roughly translates to a small cake. Now, you’re not going to eat this like any of the previous cheeses on this list. It can’t really be cut into slices because of how soft it is. It’s one of the most luxuriously creamy cheeses you’ll ever encounter, which means there’s only one way you can eat it…
Cut off the hard top, and you’ve got a pot full of delightfully indulgent creamy cheese to tuck into. Spaniards will use knives to spread this on toast or crackers, while some will just dip things straight into it. If you really want to show your love for Torta Del Casar, get a spoon and eat it like a cheese pudding!
We’ll end things with a blue cheese that’s unlike any other in the entirety of Spain. It’s made in the Asturias Region of Spain, which is off to the north. There are two interesting caveats with this cheese. Firstly, it’s matured for months in mountainous caves that are full of penicillin. This is what gives the cheese the blue mould that makes it so very distinctive. Secondly, it’s a cheese that’s often made from mixing goat, sheep, and cow’s milk together.
Tastewise, it’s strong – which you expect from any blue cheese. The mould gives it a nice bit of spice that really brings out the natural salty flavours of the cheese. It’s got a strong smell to it as well, but you’re always going to get that from a cheese that’s been matured for months!
How do you eat this particular cheese? Well, hardcore locals like to slice it up and munch on this spicy cheese with a glass of red wine. But, it works particularly well with a bit of sweetness in the form of chutney or some fruit.
The main thing to realise is that Spain is home to some absolutely glorious cheeses. As we’ve tried to show in this blog, they come in many different varieties as well. You can eat these cheeses in many ways, and they work well as part of an overall dish or as a snack on their own. If you’re thinking about going to Spain this year, then make it your mission to try all of the cheese noted in this guide.