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10 Most Popular Cheeses Originated in the Netherlands

10 Most Popular Cheeses Originated in the Netherlands - Cheese Origin

The Netherlands, a country of windmills, tulips, and bicycles, is also renowned for its rich tradition of cheese-making. With an array of diverse flavors and textures, Dutch cheeses are a culinary journey waiting to be embarked upon.

From the world-famous Gouda to the tangy Geitenkaas, these cheeses reflect a centuries-old heritage of artisanal craftsmanship. Here’s an introduction to the ten most popular cheeses that originated in the Netherlands, each with its own unique taste profile and history.

CheeseShort DescriptionTasting Profile
GoudaA semi-hard cheese known for its rich, unique flavor and smooth texture.Sweet and fruity with a creamy, rich flavor.
EdamA semi-hard cheese, known for its round shape and slightly salty, nutty flavor.Mild, slightly salty and nutty, with a smooth texture.
MaasdamSemi-hard cheese with large holes, often used as a substitute for Swiss Emmental cheese.Sweet and nutty with a creamy texture.
LeerdammerSimilar to Maasdam, a semi-hard Dutch cheese with large holes.Creamy with a subtly sweet, nutty taste.
Beemster ClassicA hard cheese traditionally made from cow’s milk grazed on sea-clay soil in polders.Deep flavors with a creamy texture and slight sweetness.
Noord-Hollandse GoudaA variant of Gouda cheese made specifically in the province of North Holland.Richer flavor compared to regular Gouda due to local grazing conditions.
BoerenkaasTraditional handcrafted cheese made from raw cow, goat, or sheep milk.Unique flavor depending on the farm it comes from, typically robust and full-bodied.
Prima DonnaDutch cheese known for its sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of caramel.Sweet and nutty with caramel undertones, perfect for grating.
Leidse kaas (Leyden Cheese)Semi-hard, cumin-spiced cheese originated from the city of Leiden.Unique flavor due to cumin seeds, tangy and spicy.
GeitenkaasThe Dutch word for goat cheese, often made in the Gouda style.Can range from mild and creamy to sharp and hard, depending on its age.

1. Gouda

Gouda
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Sweet and fruity with a creamy, rich flavor.
  • Texture: Semi-hard, smooth, and creamy.
  • Food Pairing: Fruits like apples and pears, crusty bread, and dark chocolate.
  • Wine Pairing: Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Read in-depth guide

Gouda is one of the most renowned cheeses worldwide, originating from the Dutch city of the same name. This semi-hard cheese is typically made from cow’s milk and is celebrated for its unique flavor and smooth texture. Gouda’s taste profile varies with age – younger Gouda cheeses are mild, soft, and almost sweet, making them perfect for sandwiches or crackers.

As it ages, it develops a more dense, springy texture with an aromatic and caramel-like flavor. It’s also known for its excellent melting properties, making it a versatile choice in cooking. With a history tracing back to the 13th century, Gouda holds a firm place in the world of traditional Dutch cheeses.

2. Edam

Edam
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Mild, slightly salty, and nutty.
  • Texture: Semi-hard, smooth, and slightly elastic.
  • Food Pairing: Fresh fruits, crackers, or in sandwiches.
  • Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir or dry white wines like Chardonnay.
  • Read in-depth guide

Edam is a classic Dutch cheese, named after the town of Edam in the Netherlands. It’s globally recognized for its distinctive round shape and red or yellow wax coating. Made from partially skimmed cow’s milk, Edam is a semi-hard cheese that boasts a mild, slightly salty, and nutty flavor.

Young Edam cheese is soft and smooth, while aged Edam becomes firmer and develops a more robust flavor. This cheese is incredibly versatile, perfect for slicing on crackers, melting into sauces, or pairing with fruits and wine. Its low-fat content and easy storage make it a popular choice worldwide.

3. Maasdam

Maasdam
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Sweet and nutty.
  • Texture: Semi-hard, creamy, with large holes.
  • Food Pairing: Apples, pears, and fresh baguette.
  • Wine Pairing: Light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir or white wines like Riesling.
  • Read in-depth guide

Maasdam is a traditional Dutch cheese that mirrors the style of Swiss Emmental. It’s made from cow’s milk and is known for its distinctive ‘eyes’ or holes that speckle the cheese. Aged for at least four weeks, Maasdam ripens faster than other cheeses, developing a creamy, supple texture beneath its waxed rind.

This semi-hard cheese is celebrated for its sweet, buttery, and slightly nutty flavor profile, with some even detecting subtle fruity notes. Created in the 1980s as a local alternative to the Swiss original, Maasdam has since gained global popularity. It’s a high-fat cheese, rich in protein, calcium, and vitamins, making it a nutritious choice. Maasdam is versatile in culinary uses, perfect for salads, sandwiches, and especially ideal for melting.

4. Leerdammer

Leerdammer
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Subtly sweet and nutty.
  • Texture: Semi-hard, creamy, with large holes.
  • Food Pairing: Rye bread, pickles, and cured meats.
  • Wine Pairing: Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Read in-depth guide

Leerdammer is a semi-hard Dutch cheese celebrated for its signature holes and creamy white texture. Made from pasteurized cow’s milk, it undergoes an aging process of 3 to 12 months. This unique cheese offers a mild, sweet, and nutty flavor, making it a cross between Gouda, Edam, and Swiss Emmental cheeses.

First developed by Cees Boterkooper in 1914 at a small farm in Schoonrewoerd, Leerdammer has since grown in popularity. It’s a versatile cheese, excellent for sandwiches, complementing fruits, or simply enjoyed on its own. Besides its delightful taste, Leerdammer is also naturally high in calcium and protein, contributing to its nutritional value.

5. Beemster Classic

Beemster Classic
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk grazed on sea-clay soil in polders.
  • Taste: Deep flavors with a slight sweetness.
  • Texture: Hard, creamy.
  • Food Pairing: Dark chocolate, dried fruits, and hearty bread.
  • Wine Pairing: Full-bodied red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Beemster Classic is a highly esteemed Dutch cheese, aged 18 months to allow for a gradual development of complex flavors. This cheese originates from the celebrated region of North Holland, specifically the Beemster area, known for its rich and creamy dairy. It’s a semi-firm cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk, with a flavor profile that strikes a balance between Gouda and Parmesan, while offering a smooth, creamy texture.

The cheese is handcrafted by master cheesemakers following traditional, time-tested recipes, resulting in a product of premium quality. With its full-bodied and unique taste, Beemster Classic is regarded as a classic Dutch cheese not only in Holland but also internationally.

6. Noord-Hollandse Gouda

Noord-Hollandse Gouda
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Richer and more robust than regular Gouda due to local grazing conditions.
  • Texture: Semi-hard, smooth, and creamy.
  • Food Pairing: Fresh fruits, hearty breads, nuts, and dark chocolate.
  • Wine Pairing: Full-bodied red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Noord-Hollandse Gouda is a premium Dutch cheese, renowned for its delicate yet rich flavor. Crafted in the pastoral region of North Holland, it’s a testament to traditional Dutch cheese-making expertise. This Gouda variety is made from the milk of cows grazing on lush, mineral-rich pastures, resulting in a creamier and softer texture than other Gouda cheeses.

It boasts a firm, golden rind with a smooth, yellow interior that has a slightly sweet, nutty taste. Noord-Hollandse Gouda, with its balanced flavors and exceptional quality, is a true gem in the world of Dutch cheeses.

7. Boerenkaas

Boerenkaas
  • Milk Type: Raw cow, goat, or sheep milk
  • Taste: Robust and full-bodied unique flavor that varies from farm to farm.
  • Texture: Can range from semi-soft to hard depending on the aging process.
  • Food Pairing: Fresh fruits, crusty bread, and cured meats.
  • Wine Pairing: Full-bodied red wines or rich white wines like Chardonnay.
  • Read in-depth guide

Boerenkaas, also known as “farmer’s cheese”, is a traditional Dutch cheese that is handcrafted mainly from raw milk. The milk used can come from different animals including cows, goats, sheep, or buffalo, contributing to the unique taste of each batch. Boerenkaas is a semi-hard cheese and is similar in texture to Gouda, but it distinguishes itself with a balanced, toasty, and nutty flavor profile.

This cheese is made on small farms, using time-honored methods, which make it a rare find outside of the Netherlands. The cheese is often matured on the farm, further enhancing its distinctive and authentic taste.

8. Prima Donna

Prima Donna Cheese
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Sweet and nutty with caramel undertones.
  • Texture: Hard, ideal for grating.
  • Food Pairing: Pasta, salads, fresh fruits, and nuts.
  • Wine Pairing: Medium-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir or white wines like Riesling.

Prima Donna Cheese is a Dutch delight that skillfully combines the traditional flavor of Dutch Gouda with the subtle richness of Italian Parmesan. It’s a firm and slightly oily cheese, aged like fine wine until it reaches its peak of flavor. The maturation process doesn’t follow a set timeline, but rather depends on achieving the perfect balance of taste and texture.

This results in a cheese that is softer than Parmesan yet harder than Gruyere, offering a unique combination of textures. Prima Donna comes in different varieties, including maturo which is ripe and strong, and forte which is extra spicy. With its sharp edges and slightly salty finish, Prima Donna captures the essence of both Dutch and Italian cheese-making traditions.

9. Leidse kaas (Leyden Cheese)

Leidse kaas (Leyden Cheese)
  • Milk Type: Cow’s milk
  • Taste: Tangy and spicy due to cumin seeds.
  • Texture: Semi-hard, crumbly.
  • Food Pairing: Rye bread, pickles, and cured meats.
  • Wine Pairing: Aromatic white wines like Gew├╝rztraminer or light-bodied red wines like Beaujolais.

Leidse kaas, or Leyden Cheese, is a semi-hard Dutch cheese known for its distinct flavor infusion of cumin and caraway seeds. Produced from cow’s milk, it’s available in both factory-produced and traditional farm-made varieties. The cheese is made on flat wheels and is a vibrant yellow in color.

A variant of this cheese, the Boeren-Leidse met sleutels, even holds a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. With a firm texture and unique spiced taste, Leidse kaas is not just a cheese, but a culinary tale from the Netherlands. It is one of the four protected cheeses in the country, alongside Edam, Gouda, and Kanterkaas, reflecting its cultural significance and cherished heritage.

10. Geitenkaas

Geitenkaas
  • Milk Type: Goat’s milk
  • Taste: Depending on age, it can range from mild and creamy to sharp and hard.
  • Texture: Semi-hard to hard, depending on age.
  • Food Pairing: Fresh fruits, crusty bread, and salads.
  • Wine Pairing: Crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir.

Geitenkaas, directly translated to “Goat Cheese,” is a beloved Dutch cheese made from the milk of goats. It comes in a variety of forms, from soft and creamy fresh cheeses to hard, aged varieties. Known for its distinctive tangy flavor and smooth texture, Geitenkaas can be enjoyed in numerous ways – it’s delightful on a cracker, melted in a sandwich, or crumbled on salads.

The cheese is typically white in color and can range from mild to sharp in flavor depending on its age. Its popularity in the Netherlands has led to a rise in artisanal production, with many small farms creating their own unique versions of this classic cheese.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the world of Dutch cheeses is a vibrant tapestry of flavors, textures, and culinary traditions. These ten cheeses, each with its unique character and heritage, truly embody the rich culture and craftsmanship of the Netherlands.

Whether you’re a fan of the creamy smoothness of Gouda, the tangy bite of Geitenkaas, or the robust flavor of Edam, there’s a Dutch cheese that’s sure to captivate your palate. So, embark on this Dutch cheese journey, savoring each variety, and discover why the Netherlands is held in such high esteem in the world of cheese-making.

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