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Spanish Cheese – Quick Guide

Are you looking for some advice on Spanish cheese? Do you want to buy some decadent cheese for someone but aren’t sure where to begin? We’ll offer you a run-down of Spanish cheeses that is sure to help!

Farmers cheeses in city market
Farmers cheeses in city market

First off, are you worried about food safety? There is no need to be! This is because there are many food safety regulations in Spain that guarantee that the cheese you buy is safe for consumption. So you don’t need to worry if you are purchasing cheese that is being sold in a flea market by a local shepherd. It is probably as fresh as can be, but also safe to eat as well. 

Basically, every region of Spain has at least one kind of distinctive cheese. Probably the best way to learn about the cheese that is produced in the area you are staying, is by asking for a tabla de quesos or cheese board at a bar or restaurant. They can be a bit expensive, but they usually offer a good variety of cheeses. 

Cheese made from sheep’s milk

This is probably the most common kind of cheese in Spain. 

Cheese made from sheep´s milk is the most common

Even if you don’t know anything about Spanish cheese, we’re sure you have heard about Queso Manchego. Yes, the name arises because it’s made in La Mancha. This region is quite expansive and the climate is quite dry, so manchega sheep live happily there, producing the best milk to make this delicious cheese. 

However, there are many more breeds of sheep in Spain that can be taken into consideration when we talk about cheese. For instance the Latxa, whose milk is used in Euskadi and Navarra to make Idiazábal and Roncal cheeses. We also need to mention the Churra breed of sheep, originally from Castilla y León, used to make great kinds of cheese all around this region. 

Cheese made from goat’s milk

Not only can we find great cheese made from sheep’s milk, but from goat’s milk as well. They are a bit stronger, but definitely worth trying. In Canarias, for instance, we find Majorero cheese. Or if you’re travelling somewhere close to the Sierra de Grazalema, we’d strongly recommend that you try the Payoyo cheese. 

Cheese made from cow’s milk

If you’re around Galicia, Asturias or Cantabria, you have probably noticed lot of cows in the region. Using their milk, farmers have managed for centuries to obtain delicious, soft and creamy cheeses. Queso de Tetilla would be a great example, as well as Afuega´l Pitu, typically from Asturias

Another example can be found in Cantabria, where you can find the famous Queso Pasiego. Don’t get confused between Queso Pasiego (“cheese” in Spanish) and Quesada Pasiega, which is actually not a kind of cheese. They are made with the same kind of milk, but the queso is a cheese, while quesada is a kind of sweet cake (and delicious as well, but we’re talking about cheese here). 

A bit further from there are the Baleares islands, where there’s another famous cheese made with cow’s milk – a bit spicier than the previous two – called Queso de Mahón. 

Other kinds of cheese

We have already mentioned that you should try the Queso de Tetilla and Afuega´l Pitu; however, the most celebrated cheese in Asturias is probably the Cabrales: made with a mixture of milk, very strong and pungent – but you only live once, after all☺ 

And last but not the least, we can find some cheeses made from vegetable rennet. That would be the case of the pungent-but delicious Torta del Casar from Extremadura, made from sheep’s milk and rennet that comes from a plant known as planta cuajo. The same combination produces the Torta de la Serena and the Torta Zamorana.

Another way of classifying the different types of cheese would be the differences in the aging process. The longer they take to age, the more intense the flavor.

Slices of Spanish cheese
Slices of traditional Spanish cheese

These are the various categories:

Queso fresco & queso blanco (fresh and white cheese): These don’t need to be aged. Some examples are the Mató cheese, very typical in Cataluña and Baleares, or Queso de Burgos. 

Queso tiernos (soft cheese): They are aged between 10 and 45 days.

Queso semicurado (semi-cured cheese): They are aged between 45 days and 3 months.

Queso curado (cured cheese): They are aged between 3 and 7 months.

Queso viejo (old cheese): They are aged between 7 months and a year.

Queso añejo (very old cheese): They take over a year to age.

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