The cheese-lover’s guide to Denmark: 10 of the best Danish cheeses
With its temperate climate and rich, fertile pastureland, the conditions in Denmark are perfect for dairy — which is probably why there are so many mouth-watering types of Danish cheese to try!
From semi-soft Danish cheese to Danish blue cheese and every cheese in-between, the Nordic people sure know how to make them. The traditions go way back, as far as the Vikings, who were known to make their own basic style of rennet cheese.
Of course, things have developed a lot since then, with cheesemaking really taking off in the last few decades and each cheese is deliciously different.
Fun fact: on average, Danish people eat roughly 15 kilograms of cheese every year. Not a bad effort, eh? While everyone has their favourites, there are 10 Danish cheeses* that you simply have to try:
*Warning: reading this article may cause food envy and in serious cases, can result in readers eating an entire wheel of cheese.
1. Danish white cheese/Danish feta cheese
Known to some as Danish feta and to others as Danish white cheese, this is a great Nordic alternative to the original Greek feta.
It’s milder and creamier than the well-known Greek original and uses cow’s milk (as opposed to goat or sheep’s milk, which is used in Greek feta). Unlike the traditional methods used in Greece, Danish white cheese is produced using ultrafiltration, a process that gives it that smoother texture.
Because it’s not so crumbly, it’s easy to cut and cube as needed.
It goes great in salads, but it’s also quite tasty if you grill it. Some people also find that added ingredients, for example: garlic, spices and herbs, complement the flavour of this cheese well.
2. Danish blue cheese/Danablu
This Danish blue cheese (also known as Danablu) falls into the semi-soft variety and packs a punch in smell and flavour. It’s got a creamy texture with just the right amount of crumble, and is generally described as being slightly bitter and salty.
It’s as enchanting to look at as it is to taste, with blue veins running throughout its white interior. So it’s not hard to miss if you’re looking for it on a Danish cheese platter!
Danish blue cheese is often compared to the French Roquefort, but be mindful that it’s definitely milder in taste. Also, unlike Roquefort, which is made from sheep’s milk, Danish blue is made from cow’s milk.
This cheese is quite the national treasure. In fact, it’s one of only a handful of Danish cheeses that have a PGI (protected geographical indication) status, meaning it can only be made in Denmark to specific Danish standards.
You can enjoy it on bread or crackers, with fruit as a dessert, or pair it with a Cabernet if you’re feeling cheeky.
3. Maribo cheese
Named for the town of Maribo on the island of Lolland in south Denmark, this semi-hard cheese is often compared to Dutch Gouda.
Although the cheese itself is quite firm and dry with small irregularly spaced holes, it is creamy and tastes quite tangy — the longer it cures, the stronger it tastes.
Sometimes caraway seeds are added to the recipe for extra seasoning.
4. Havarti cheese
If you have a sensitive palate, Havarti is a safe choice for sure. With its beautifully creamy texture and mild buttery flavour, this is a particularly versatile cheese that can be used on sandwiches, in salads, with crackers, and alongside wine.
Its Danish origins can be traced back to the 1800s. The story goes that cheesemaker, Hanne Nielsen, travelled Europe learning different techniques and skills, and then invented a new type named after her Danish farm in Havarthigaard.
The original recipe has slightly morphed since then into the Havarti cheese we know and love today.
Despite its long history, Havarti was only recently awarded PGI (protected geographical indication) status, meaning it can now only be made in Denmark with Danish milk.
You’ll find some versions of Havarti are infused with other ingredients, like dill, garlic and caraway. They’re great if you enjoy the mild Havarti flavour, but also enjoy a slight herby twist on the recipe.
5. Danbo cheese
This Danish mature cheese is popularly eaten with breakfast or as a snack in households all around the country, making it quite the staple in the Danish diet.
Danbo is made from pasteurised cow’s milk, is aged between 12 and 52 weeks, and uses the smear-ripened method. The delicious result is a semi-soft cheese that is mild but a bit acidulous in flavour — the taste and smell get stronger as it ages.
There are a few different versions of Danbo with different names (e.g. Lillebror, Gamle Ole and Riberhus) that have slightly different flavours. Some are milder, while others are stronger in flavour.
One in particular that includes caraway seeds in the recipe is popularly known as ‘King Christian’ cheese — named after a monarch that reigned in the late 19th century.
There’s no doubt that this Danish cheese is well-loved by its people and in 2017 it was awarded PGI (protected geographical indication) status by the EU.
6. Molbo cheese
This semi-hard Danish cheese comes from the hilly peninsulas of Mols in Denmark.
Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk, it has a delicate flavour with mild hints of salt. You’ll know it by its usual red wax coating, which when opened reveals a firm pale-yellow cheese with holes.
It used to be known to some as Danish Edam, because of the similarities in look and taste to the original Dutch Edam.
7. Esrom cheese
Esrom is a semi-soft to hard cheese that tastes mild and sweet when it’s young and gets more bold in flavour as it ages. It’s covered with small holes and has a supple texture that makes it easy to slice.
As the story goes, this Danish cheese got its name from the Esrom monastery where it is believed to have first been made by Cistercian monks in the 12th century. The recipe was later lost for hundreds of years before being rediscovered in 1937 at the state research dairy in Hillerød.
With such a fascinating origin story, there’s no surprise that it holds PGI (protected geographical indication) status, ensuring it can only be made in Denmark with Danish milk.
Esrom is known for its strong smell. In fact, some consider it up there with some of the world’s smelliest cheeses. This is probably exacerbated by the traditional smear-ripening method used in its production.
But if you’re a true cheese-lover, you’ll know this only makes the flavour better!
8. Samsø cheese
Named after the island of Samsø from whence it came, this Danish cheese is described by many as the national cheese of Denmark — although interestingly its origins have Swiss influence.
According to legend, sometime back in the 1870s the King of Denmark had Swiss cheesemakers come to Scandinavia to share their skills and knowledge. Samsø cheese was the delicious result.
Accordingly, it’s got a Swiss style about it, but is milder than a lot of Swiss cheeses.
Appearance-wise, it’s distinct by just a few large holes and some people compare the flavour to a cheddar, with a slightly sweeter taste.
9. Mycella Danish blue cheese
This semi-soft Danish cheese is sweeter than you might expect, considering it’s a blue cheese, with a slightly salty accent. Some say the name comes from ‘Penicillium Mycelium’, which is the blue mould used in its production.
Mycella calls the Danish island of Bornholm home and is an artisanal cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk from the island’s very own dairy co-operative. The cheese spends about four months ageing in the caves under the creamery.
Taste-wise, it’s said to be similar to Italian Gorgonzola, with some even nicknaming it the Danish Gorgonzola, although it’s sweeter in flavour.
Mycella is a great choice of cheese for salads, on pizza, or alongside strawberries for a dessert.
10. Fynbo cheese
Once known as Danish Gouda, this semi-hard cheese has a fairly mild taste with flavours of buckwheat. It’s named after the island of Fyn in Denmark where it originated and where it is still produced to this day.
Fynbo is made with pasteurised cow’s milk and animal rennet. Ageing takes several months, with its flavour improving as it matures.
Fynbo is a bit harder to get your hands on outside of Denmark. While it is exported, you may need to visit a gourmet cheese shop to find it. You’ll know it by its round shape and red packaging.
Happy cheese-tasting on your travels!
In case you’re wondering, the Danish word for cheese is “Ost” so feel free to slip that into your vocabulary when you’re swanning about Denmark sampling cheeseboards.
And if cheese is just one of your many foodie passions, you might also be interested in checking out the Food Festival in Aarhus (Denmark’s second-largest city).
It’s an annual event that’s all about Nordic food culture, with workshops, tastings and lectures that will open up your eyes and your taste buds.
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