Top 20 Most Popular Spanish Cheeses
Spain produces a great variety of unique and high-quality cheeses. Many of them are protected by the designation of origin with their own unique recipe and heritage. As with other foods and beverages in Spain, each region has its own history, elaboration process, and conditions that permit the appearance of unique and differentiated cheeses across the country.
Yes, tasting all of them is a titanic task. Fresh, cured, cow, goat, and sheep cheeses, among others, make up an extensive and delicious list of high-quality cheeses.
In this article, we introduce you to the most popular cheeses in Spain, whose quality seal guarantees a unique flavor. Don’t forget to try some of them on your next trip to Spain!
The first on our list is the prestigious Mahón-Menorca cheese, which has achieved great distinction both nationally and internationally. The cheese, which originates from Menorca in the Balearic Islands, has a Protected Designation of Origin seal.
It is made with raw milk from Menorcan and Friesian cows on the Son Vives farm. The cheese’s maturity will affect its flavor, which can range from mild to intense. During maturation, the cheese is hand rubbed with butter, paprika or oil.
This cheese has a Protected Designation of Origin, and it’s mainly elaborated from Lacha and Carranzana breed sheep in the Basque Country, northern Spain. It is maturated for at least 60 days, and its flavor is intense but equilibrated, with a compact texture.
Winning awards since 2011, Idiazábal cheese has many nuances in the mouth and is an excellent accompaniment to many dishes. If you ever travel to the north, it is a must-try.
Cabrales cheese is another typical delicacy of Spanish gastronomy and comes from the region of Asturias in the north. It is made exclusively from the milk from herds of cows, sheep, and goats that are registered in the Cabrales Protected Designation of Origin.
No preservatives are used, and it is well balanced in terms of fat and proteins. You can smell a hunk of cabrales a mile away. It is acidic and has a wonderful pungent kick that likens it to a strong blue cheese. Not for everyone, but if you like a cheese that will really tickle those nostrils, then go for it. Lots of bars serve it on toast, drizzled with honey. Yum.
We head a bit further northwest, to A Coruña, in Galicia. Galmesano is matured for a minimum of 16 months and is the first cooked and pressed paste cheese in Spain. It is very versatile, so it can accompany a wide variety of dishes, and it has an aromatic character with hints of caramel, herbs, and nuts.
It won two silver medals and one bronze medal at the 32nd World Cheese Awards. Undoubtedly, worth tasting.
5. Queso de Burgos
As its name suggests, this cheese comes from Burgos, in Castilla y León. It is a light, soft cheese originally made with sheep’s milk. Nowadays, it’s made with cow’s milk too.
Its mild flavor and soft texture (think “flan”) make it an awesome addition in salads. Or, for a simple snack, how about some slices of Queso de Burgos drizzled in some extra virgin olive oil and some coarse shards of sea salt? The cheese really makes the oil pop on your tongue. Best of all, it’s really low in fat, so go wild.
6. Torta del Casar
Even if its name doesn’t quite sound like cheese, Torta del Casar is widely known in Spain. It’s elaborated in the Extremadura region and is known for its smooth and creamy texture and tasty and salty flavor.
It’s exclusively made with raw milk from Merina and Entrefina sheep breeds, and maturated for a period between 60 and 90 days. During this process, this semi-hard rind cheese is turned on a daily basis and is sometimes wrapped in bandages to avoid spilling its creamy content.
When one thinks of Spanish cheese, the first that comes to mind is surely Manchego? This flavor-packed classic is made in the region of La Mancha with a minimum maturation period of 30 days, and is made from sheep milk of the Manchega breed.
Flavor-wise, Manchego is robust and acidic. The longer it is cured, the spicier it becomes. You can feel it practically fizz on the tongue (in a good way)! There is so much for the palette here that in restaurants you can simply order a plate of Manchego slices and much away.
When kept out of the fridge, it softens up and acquires a lovely oiliness that simply oozes flavor. It even appears in Don Quixote!
The name of this delicious, soft cheese, is somewhat on the rude side, as tetilla literally means small breast, describing the rounded, pointed shape formed by the funnels in which the milk is left to curdle in the production process.
Internationally recognised, it comes from Galicia, and is made with cow’s milk from the Alpine Brown, Galician Blonde, and Friesian breeds, matured for a minimum of seven days.
Its flavor is on the mild side, somewhat acidic and salty. Slice off a chunk and enjoy its chewy, creamy texture, which blends amazingly with quince jam and walnuts. A true Galician delight.
9. Queso del Roncal
Roncal cheese has a long tradition in the Roncal Valley in Navarra. It was the first cheese to obtain the Protected Designation of Origin in 1981 and is made with local techniques using raw sheep’s milk.
The result is a cured and fatty cheese with a very marked flavor of sheep’s milk that is buttery on the palate. Its rind is hard and rough to the touch and brown or straw-colored. Historically and traditionally made cheese!
Zamorano is made from sheep’s milk of the native Churra and Castilian breeds, with a minimum curing period of 100 days. These cheeses are cylindrical in shape and weigh about 3 kg.
They have been popular in Spanish gastronomy since 1992, when they obtained the Protected Designation of Origin.
Gamoneu cheese of Asturian origin, in northern Spain, and with a Protected Designation of Origin, is made with raw milk from cows, goats, and sheep, or with mixtures of two of them.
The milk used for its creation comes from the Friesian, Parda Alpina, and Asturiana de los Valles cattle breeds; from the Lacha, Carranzana, and Milschalfe sheep breeds; and from the Murciano-Granadina, Saanen, Picos de Europa and Pirenaica goat breeds. It can also be made from the milk of crossbred animals. The flavor of this cheese is buttery in the mouth with a slightly spicy touch.
12. Afuega’l pitu
Afuega’l pitu, also of Asturian origin and with Protected Designation of Origin, is one of the most popular and oldest cheeses in the region. It can be a fresh or maturated cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk, white or reddish-orange in color if paprika is added.
It is said that the origin of its name, which means “to choke the throat,” comes from the compact and firm texture that increases with the maturation of this cheese. Its flavor has lactic and acidic notes with hints of yeast and a pleasant spicy sensation.
This cheese was awarded the Gold prize at the World Cheese Award in 2009 and 2014. It is made with milk from the Tudanca, Pardo-Alpine, Friesian cattle breeds, the Lacha sheep breed, and the Picos de Europa and Pirenaica goat breeds. It is a blue cheese with a very intense flavor and a two-month-long curing process.
14. Arzúa Ulloa
Although the best-known Galician cheese outside the region is Tetilla, Arzúa Ulloa is better known in the northwest. It is prepared with raw or pasteurized cow’s milk from the Rubia Gallega, Friesian, and Pardo Alpina breeds or crosses between them.
You can find three varieties: cured, farmhouse, and soft paste. The latter has a creamy texture inside, elastic and tender, with a mouthwatering smell of fresh milk. It has a flavor close to butter, although with lower acidity and a small salt point. This cheese combines with many products because of its mild flavor and ease of eating. It is ideal for trying raw accompanied by sweet products, such as quince jelly. If you visit Galicia, do not hesitate to try it!
15. San Simón Da Costa
Here we are in Galicia again, with another high-quality cheese! San Simón Da Costa, or, simply, San Simón, looks like a straight-up cousin of tetilla; same shape, same texture. But when it hits the tongue, you’ll find that the two are quite different.
While tetilla is a mellow fellow, San Simón offers an incredible smokiness that really satisfies, and sets it apart in a crowded arena! This wonderful flavor is thanks to the wood-smoking process, using local birch wood. The milk here comes from the Rubia Gallega, Pardo-Alpina, and Friesian breeds. What could be better on a cold autumn evening than a slice of creamy, smoky San Simón and some dates or figs? Simple and delicious.
16. Quesucos de Liébana
Quesucos de Liébana are cheeses made from cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk in the Liébana Valley, in Cantabria, northern Spain. The cow’s milk used for its production comes from Tudanca, Friesian, and Parda Alpina breeds. The goat’s milk comes from the Picos de Europa and Pyrenean goat, and the sheep’s milk comes from the Lacha breed.
It is a semi-hard cheese with a rough and irregular rind. Its paste has a slightly yellowish color and is brownish in the smoked ones. Its flavor is mild and a little sweet.
Payoyo cheese comes from Cadiz, Andalusia, southern Spain. It has won several national and international awards, qualifying several times in the World Cheese Awards.
This cheese is made from the milk of the Payoya goat and the Merina sheep of Sierra de Grazalema. Therefore, it is also known as Grazalema cheese. Among the varieties of this delicacy, you can find fresh, semi-cured, larded, rosemary, bran, or paprika. Do not forget to try it if you travel to Andalusia!
18. Queixo do Cebreiro
Queixo do Cebreiro has a long history that goes back as far as the Catholic Monarchs, Charles III and Isabella of Portugal. In the 17th century, it was the fourth most expensive cheese in the world. Although it was only made for self-consumption in recent decades, it began to be marketed with the Denomination of Quality Galician Product in 1991.
The cheese is shaped like a mushroom or chef’s hat and is made from cow’s milk from the Rubia Gallega, Pardo Alpina, and Friesian breeds raised in the area. It is entirely natural and contains no preservatives or additives.
Majorero cheese comes from the Canary Islands and is made from Majorera goat’s milk. It is produced in the six municipalities of the island of Fuerteventura. Its Denomination of Origin has been recognized since 1996, and it was the first goat cheese to be protected in Spain.
In some cases, up to 15% of Canarian sheep’s milk can also be added when it is cured. It has a mild flavor when it is fresh and a more robust and spicier flavor if it is cured. It is perfect for dessert or to accompany a delicious sweet.
20. Nata de Cantabria
A famous Spanish cheese made in the northern region of Spain: Nata de Cantabria, formerly known as Queso de Cantabria. It is made from unpasteurized milk from Friesian cows with a usual ripening time from 14 days to 2 months. Its flavor is mild and buttery, with a creamy and firm texture.
It is used to cook a wide variety of dishes and has had a Protected Designation of Origin since 1985. Its history is ancient. The first mention of this cheese appeared in 962 when it was common to use cheese as a substitute for currency. Gastronomy, history, and culture, all in one, as it is common to see in Spain.