7 of the best Portuguese cheeses

Portugal is home to an abundance of cheeses from north to south, including the Azores, all different in taste and texture, one must be on your favorites list. To help you in this arduous task, The news from Portugal has compiled seven fantastic cheeses produced in Portugal that you must try.

1. Cabra Transmontano cheese – Braganza

According to the Portuguese body that regulates agricultural products and rural development, Direçao-Geral de Agricultura e Desenvoluimento Rural, states that Cabra Transmontano PDO cheese is made from the Serrana breed of goat’s milk. “It’s a ripened cheese, with an extra hard rind and a uniform white color.” It is described as having an “intense and pleasant aroma, with a hint of spice”. What makes this cheese particularly special is that its production method is artisanal, which means that nothing has changed since its creation. The organization also cites that “goat cheese has played an important role in the economy of the Bragança region for many years, and many local families raise animals and produce cheese as their main source of income”.

2. Serra da Estrela Cheese – Serra da Estrela

I’m sure many will have heard of the internationally renowned cheese and one of the oldest Portuguese cheeses. Yes, that’s right, Serra da Estrela cheese is considered the star of Portuguese cheeses and it might just have been the first Portuguese cheese you ever tried. This popular cheese is semi-soft and made from the milk of Bordaleira Serra da Estrela and Churra Mondegueira breeds of sheep. Serra da Estrela cheese has a creamy, soft interior, with a sweet but slightly sour flavor, and is perfect for spreading on bread.

3. Rabacal Cheese – Coimbra

Rabacal cheese comes from Coimbra and is a semi-hard cheese that is made from a combination of sheep’s milk (two-thirds) and goat’s milk (one-third). Rabacal has a dry yellowish rind and a soft white paste and it definitely has a special flavor, and it is an acquired taste because it is a strong cheese, which is cited as being due to the fact that “sheep and goats from Coimbra the region graze abundantly on a local species of thyme called ‘Santa Maria’ which grows in abundance.”

4. Saloio Regional Cheese – North of Lisbon

Saloio regional cheese comes from Ponte do Rol, located north of Lisbon. Saloio Regional is an unsalted sheep’s milk cheese with a soft texture and a slightly acidic aroma. “It is traditionally served in an authentic cylindrical mold in which the cheese is prepared. Interestingly, “the name saloio refers to a person who lives in rural areas, possibly referring to the production area of ​​this interesting cheese”.

5. Azeitão cheese – Palmela, Sesimbra, Setúbal

Azeitão DOP cheese is obtained from raw sheep’s milk and its production covers Palmela, Sesimbra and Setúbal. It is a ripened cheese, with a semi-firm and creamy paste, white or slightly yellowish in color. In terms of particular characteristics, “it has a spicy, both sour and salty flavor that is influenced by the quality of the pasture quality as well as the variety of thistle flower”. In terms of history, “Azeitão DOP cheese began to be produced in the 19th century thanks to Gaspar Henriques de Paiva, a native of Beira Baixa. He had the initiative to raise sheep in Azeitão in his region, and thus produced cheeses characteristic of the Serra da Estrela.

6. Serpa cheese – Beja

Serpa cheese is produced in the district of Beja and is a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese that is cited as similar to Pecorino. Instead of animal rennet, Serpa is curdled using an extract from a species of thistle that grows in the Alentejo countryside. The Serpa rind is thin and malleable, while the cheese paste is semi-soft and yellowish-white in color.

Serpa is the most famous traditional Alentejano cheese, and its strong flavor is a fundamental part of the region’s cultural heritage. It is perfect for any occasion and makes a great appetizer or snack when served with fresh bread and a glass of wine. It is also used in many local baked dishes, such as pork chops with cooked ham and Serpa cheese.

seven. São Jorge cheese – Azores

Produced on the island of São Jorge in the Azores archipelago, São Jorge cheese is “made from the milk of free-grazing island cattle using traditional processing methods, which means it has always been a cheese wheel-shaped with a firm texture for hundreds of years. .” It’s a favorite of mine and I definitely left it last for that reason. I highly recommend this cheese as I find it differs greatly from the other cheeses mentioned.

It tastes cleaner and definitely has a less strong flavor than other Portuguese cheeses because it is made with cow’s milk. Although it tastes cleaner, São Jorge cheese still manages to have a unique flavor, which includes a slight spice. At home we frequently use this cheese to make a delicious pasta sauce and have found it to be the perfect cheese for that. I can only imagine it would be divine to make a fondue with.

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