Most Popular Hungarian Cheeses
Hungarian food is amazing, full of wonderful flavors and aromas. When thinking of Hungarian cuisine, cheese may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are many delicious kinds of cheeses produced locally.
Let’s see round-up some of the most famous cheeses that Hungary has to offer.
1. Pálpusztai Sajt: Pálpusztai Cheese
Interestingly enough, it is not named after Pálpuszta, a farm in Vas County near Pálmajor, which is named after the cheese. The cheese has actually nothing to do with it. The founder of this soft cow’s milk cheese is Pál Heller, who simply named it after himself.
But how will you know if you have some Pálpusztai cheese in your fridge? Well, open it and take a deep breath… you will know immediately because it has a really strong odor. The pungent smell is combined with a piquant and creamy taste. It’s a great choice for a hearty breakfast.
2. Noszolyi Sajt: Noszolyi Cheese
In the mid-1800s, architect János Schilling bought an estate in Noszoly (now part of Romania – i.e. Năsal, Cluj County). Today we don’t know whether he or his son started cheese making, but, certainly, cheese was made in the cellars of the estate during the time of his son Otto Schilling in the 19th century.
The cheese made a name for itself throughout Transylvania, winning a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris.
The famous noszolyi cheese was originally made from sheep’s milk, but nowadays cow’s milk is used. Just like Pálpuszai cheese, this one has a characteristically strong, piquant, slightly ammoniacal flavor.
Editor’s Note: Noszolyi cheese or Năsal cheese is a popular cheese in Romania as well.
3. Túró – Túró Rudi: Curd or Cottage Cheese
Hungarian túró is a fresh, soft curd cheese, similar to farmer’s cheese or quark. Túró is the main ingredient in several classic Hungarian dishes, both savory and sweet. My favorite dish is túrós csusza: túró is mixed with pasta and topped with diced bacon and sour cream.
But the most popular and unique Hungaricum made with túró is Túró Rudi (“Rudi” can both refer to “rod” or a shortening of Rudolf), a dark chocolate bar filled with lightly sweetened Hungarian túró. The packaging has had the famous red dots on it since the very beginning.
If you are a Hungarian living abroad, the lack of Túró Rudi is the worst kind of homesickness.
4. Ilmiczi Sajt: Ilmiczi Cheese
The original name of Ilmici cheese was Moson county cheese. It was developed by Imre Ujhelyi, who wanted to satisfy the needs of consumers who prefer softer cheeses.
Ilmici or Ilmiczi is a full fat, semi-hard cheese with small holes and a thin yellowish-brown rind. It is crumbly, but easy to cut and grate. You should try it with crispy white bread, strong oniony dishes, and red wines.
Gomolya is a very common and popular cheese in Hungary made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. The name gomolya comes from the Hungarian word gömbölyű, which means round shaped. It has been made for centuries by shepherds in the Alföld (the Great Plain) and Transylvania.
Gomolya is a fresh cheese because it is neither fermented nor matured. The good thing about gomolya is that it can be made quickly and easily at home, without any complex equipment using only fresh, fatty milk and rennet.
The fresh cheese can be flavored and shaped in many different ways. You can add sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, seeds or even soaked dried fruit for a less salty version.
6. Mackó Sajt: Medve Cheese
The big mystery every Hungarian ponders is why is a cheese that is shaped like a triangle and comes in a round box called a cube cheese? The answer lies in the past; this cheese was originally produced in a square shape, hence the name “cube cheese”.
But where does the name “bear cheese” come from? The answer is very simple: the first cream cheese came to Hungary in the early 1900s from the Canton of Bern, Switzerland. And Bern happens to have a bear as its heraldic animal, therefore this animal appears on every box of Medve sajt.
This cream cheese is used in many different ways: you can deep fry it or make cheese balls from it, and even we use it to make a cheesecake. Some websites offer hundreds of recipes based on Medve sajt, but believe me, this cheese is fantastic even eaten by itself. It is worth tasting it as a typical Hungarian specialty.
7. Pannónia Sajt: Pannónia Cheese
Among the cheeses with holes, Pannonia is the Hungarian market leader, the Hungarian version of Swiss Emmenthal. Its special, slightly piquant aroma and harmonic taste are due to the long process of maturation. The high mineral content is guaranteed by the 11 liters of milk used for making one kilo of cheese.
This cow’s milk semi-hard cheese has a bitter-sweet taste resembling walnuts and is produced in Repcelak in northwest Hungary by the French-owned Pannontej. This cheese goes well with the creamy texture of barrel-aged full-bodied white wines: zöldvertelini, juhfark, chardonnay or furmint.
8. Óvári Sajt: Óvári Cheese
Imre Ujhelyi experimented with the first óvari cheeses in the early 1900s. He learned to make the popular Tilsit cheese in Germany and used this knowledge to develop other cheeses.
Tilsit cheese is made without pressing and is colored yellow, whereas óvari cheese is made by pressing without coloring. This cheese is universally loved on bread, added to salads or used in baking. Light white and red wines both go with it.
Urda is a truly fresh product made from whey and is still really popular in Transylvania. The original recipe is a mixture of leftover whey and fresh farmhouse milk (UHT milk is not suitable). The acidic medium (the whey) causes the milk to curdle. Some recipes use vinegar for the acidic medium. This is the Urda.
You can eat it in many ways, either on its own with toast, or as a base for desserts such as cheesecake (in Transylvania, pancakes with this cheese are still popular) or grilled with homemade jams. It is also excellent with cold starters.
10. Kecskesajt: Goat’s Cheese
In 2019 in the town of Etyek in Fejér County, the Goat Cheese Manufactory received a Super Gold Award for their Etyeki Hófehér (Etyek Snow White), which is made from goat’s milk and matured with white noble.
This also shows that Hungarian cheeses and goat’s cheese have a deserved place on the world cheese map. Hungarian goat’s cheese is perfect for coastal snacks, salads, and sandwiches. It can be flavored in almost any way, including with more savory spices and temptingly sweet dried fruits.
11. Lajta Sajt: Lajta Cheese
Lajta cheese was one of the newest Hungarian cheeses before the Second World War, which became very popular in both the domestic and foreign markets in a short time.
The cheese was developed by István Egyed in Mosonmagyaróvár in the late 1930s under the direction of Imre Takó and with the collaboration of the Dairy Experimental Institute.
It is popular with a wide range of consumers due to its slightly piquant flavor and good chewiness, but also its mouth-watering texture (due to the higher fat content). It is rectangular and usually comes wrapped in gold foil.
12. Karaván Sajt: Karaván Cheese
Karaván is a semi-hard Hungarian smoked cheese made from cow’s milk. The production of Karavan cheese is based on decades of tradition, which is why the cheese is still smoked with real beech wood and no artificial ingredients.
Karaván is the most popular cheese in Hungary and is usually eaten raw as it doesn’t melt well.
13. Krémtúró: Sweet Cream Cheese
Krémtúró is not a usual Hungarian dairy product. I think the best translation for it would be sweet cream cheese. It has a history dating back to the late 1960s. The general manager of the state-owned Hajdú County Dairy Company tasted a sweet cottage cheese cream abroad and found it delicious.
In Debrecen (Hungarian city), they developed this product based on its model: sweet cottage cheese mixed with raisins and vanilla. This is how the sweet cottage cheese cream was born, which they called Krémtúró. It is now available in a wide variety of flavors: banana, strawberry, biscuit and even poppy seed.
Related: Most Popular Hungarian Desserts