Do you know your hard cheeses from your soft cheeses? Hard cheese is known for its flavor depth, dense texture and savory taste, often with a firm, granular texture. It's made by pressing the curd after most of the whey is separated and drained, and it typically has a hard rind from being brined or is waxed. Explore the list of cheeses that fall in the hard category to help you make selections for your next party or cheese tray.
1. Asiago Hard Cheese
This Italian-style cheese may remind you of Parmesan with its sharp, distinct flavor and a bit of sweetness, especially when it's fresher. It's often used in a similar way, grated over your food. Asiago cheese is a light-yellow color and is made with cow's milk. As it ages, Asiago loses sweetness and takes on a sharper, tangier, more savory taste.
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2. Gruyere Cheese
You'll notice this salty cheese has an earthy, nutty flavor when you bite into it. Gruyere has a full-bodied flavor when made the traditional way, in part due to the traditional raw milk used in the recipe. It typically ages for at least five months but often much longer. Granular and crystallized protein deposits add to the distinct texture of Gruyere cheese, which is dense and slightly crumbly.
3. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the authentic version of the very popular Parmesan cheese. To legally use the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the cheese has to come from a specific Italian region and meet specific standards. This hard cheese is often freshly grated over pasta or added to soups.
Parmigiana-Reggiano undergoes aging for at least 12 months to develop the signature flavor. As the cheese ages, it goes from a firm texture to a granular, crystallized texture. When you taste this type of cheese, you'll notice a sharp, complex, full-bodied flavor with rich nuttiness.
4. Manchego Cheese
The traditional sheep's milk in Manchego cheese adds richness and creaminess, but you can find versions of the cheese made with cow's milk. You'll note hints of sweet fruit and spice flavors along with the warm nuttiness of Manchego. This cheese works well on a cheese plate alongside nuts, crusty bread and other favorites.
5. Pecorino Romano Cheese
Authentic Pecorino Romano cheese comes from a specific Italian region. This dry, crumbly, salty cheese is good on its own or on your favorite pasta dish. It may remind you of Parmesan, but this cheese has a sharper, tangier flavor, and it's often saltier than Parmesan. The dense cheese has a flaky, grainy texture to it.
6. Gorgonzola Cheese
Gorgonzola is firm and crumbly with a salty flavor. Blue veining through the Gorgonzola adds to the flavor and gives it an appealing presentation on a cheese tray or on pizza and pasta. This cow's milk cheese sometimes gets called blue cheese, but you'll notice its flavor is generally milder than other varieties in the blue cheese category.
7. Cotija Cheese
This Mexican hard cheese has a crumbly, dense texture and a salty flavor. White in color, Cotija is traditionally made from raw cow's milk. This cheese is typically grated or sprinkled over food since it doesn't melt. Fresh Cotija takes on an appearance similar to feta, with the cheese getting harder and more crumbly as it ages.
8. Emmental Cheese
Hailing from Switzerland, Emmental cheese is easy to spot because of the large holes in it. The texture of this yellow cheese is smooth, and it has a hint of sweetness, sharpness and nuttiness. It's often used in fondue along with other cheeses.
9. Gouda Cheese
Gouda has a pungent aroma and a creamy, full-bodied flavor with a nutty, sweet, caramel-like taste. Gouda takes on a sharper flavor as it ages and moves from a semi-soft young cheese to a firmer aged cheese. This popular Dutch cheese is smooth and has a dense, springy texture. It's traditionally made with cow's milk and can be either pasteurized or unpasteurized.