Norwegian Brown Cheese

Brunost cheese: Everything you wanted to know about Norwegian brown cheese

When researching for a visit or move to Norway, it’s almost impossible to not encounter Norwegian brown cheese at some point. Known as brunost, the cheese is incredibly popular locally — and it’s also gained significant traction in other countries. 

While it’s technically cheese, brunost has a distinct taste that’s difficult to describe if you haven’t already tried it. It’s surprisingly versatile and the perfect companion for a quick breakfast, your Sunday hike, or as a little break from exploring Norway’s stunning nature and picturesque cities. 

What *actually* is brown cheese, then? How did brunost even become a thing, and what does it taste like? Keep reading if you’ve asked yourself any of those questions; we’ll answer each in this article. 

Norwegian Brown Cheese

What is brown cheese? 

Brown Norwegian cheese is one of the most popular dairy products in Norway, and it’s also eaten in other parts of Scandinavia — albeit not on the same level. 

If you want to make brown cheese from scratch, you will typically use whey and milk from cows and goats. Cream is also used in some instances. In addition to brunost, you might have heard of the cheese referred to as myseost or geitost. 

How did this local classic begin, then? We’ll have to travel back to the 19th century for the more modern version. Back then, Norway wasn’t the wealthy nation you see today — and people had to get even more creative to ensure survival. 

Anne Hov came up with the idea to mix whey and milk and make brown cheese in the 1860s, and later, it expanded from Gudbrandsdalen — the area Hov was born — to Oslo and beyond. When marketed to the capital, the cheese was known as Gudbrandsdalsost. 

It’s possible that variations of brown cheese existed long before Hov turned it into the national powerhouse it is today. On a piece of pottery, archaeologists found cheese residue in Jutland from around 650 BCE in 2016 — and many believe it was something similar to the modern Norwegian brown cheese. 

What does brown cheese taste like?

When you first taste brown cheese, you’ll probably form a very quick opinion about whether you like it. To say that the food is polarizing is an understatement. If you’re used to cheddar and similar kinds of cheese, it won’t taste like anything you’ve had before. 

Brown Norwegian cheese has a caramelized taste like sweet goat’s cheese. If you’ve tried Dulche de Leche before, think of something similar to that — but more solid. It’s sometimes called Norwegian caramel cheese — and similar names — because of its taste. 

When you eat Norwegian brown cheese, you’ll notice that the texture differs from other cheeses. It’s a lot smoother and will typically melt in your mouth as you consume it. 

Norwegian Brown Cheese

Types of brown cheese

You will typically find brown cheese in a couple of different forms. In the subsections below, you’ll learn a little more about each of the main ones. 

Solid cheese 

The standard brown cheese you’ll see in supermarkets is solid in nature, usually wrapped in dark red packaging. However, it’s pretty easy to cut through — and it melts quite fast if you leave it outside the fridge for an extended period. 

Brunost lasts quite a long time after opening; you can keep it in the fridge for roughly one month before it begins to go bad. Of course, it’s wise to cover it in protective packaging.

Brunost cheese spread 

These days, you can get many forms of cheese in a spread format. And if you want to try Norwegian brown cheese in non-solid form, you’re in luck. In addition to the solid version, many grocery stores in Norway sell a spreadable version. 

The two don’t differ greatly in terms of taste, but the texture is a little firmer than you’ll find with cream cheeses like Philadelphia. You can use the brunost cream cheese on crispbread, along with in various other situations. 

Cow’s milk 

Fløytemysost is the cow’s milk version of Norwegian brown cheese. Compared to the standard brunost that you’ll see in the dark red packaging, fløytemysost is a lighter shade of brown. 

If you want to try the cow’s milk version of brown cheese, you can search for the orange packaging in Norwegian supermarkets. It’s often in the same area as the main type of brunost; the cheese doesn’t have as strong of a taste as its counterpart. 

Is brown cheese tasty? 

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Many people try brunost and instantly fall in love, putting it on almost everything they can think of. On the flip side, you will bump into as many people who are utterly repulsed by its taste; it’s something you can’t just “like”. 

Of course, it’ll also depend on how you first try it. If you have Norwegian brown cheese on its own, you’re only getting one side of the story. So, you should consider giving it a go in various situations — and we’ll talk more about those in the following section. 

One word of caution: if you fall in love with brown Norwegian cheese, you will probably go through the first packet quite swiftly. It’s quite high in saturated fats, so you should keep that in mind and try to avoid going overboard too often.

Norwegian Brown Cheese

Ways to eat Norwegian brunost 

When you cut Norwegian brown cheese, we’ve said that you can use a knife. But if you ask a native Norwegian, you might get met with scorn if you try that. 

If you go to anyone’s house in Norway, you’ll probably notice a cheese slicer; you should probably use this if you want to fit in with the locals. It’s quite easy to make slopes out of the cheese, so you might need a little practice. 

With that said, here are a number of ways you can eat brunost. Note: not all are traditional ways to try it in Norway, but they are — for the most part — combinations we’ve tried ourselves. For those we’ve not tried, other people elsewhere in the world have. 

With Norwegian waffles 

The ultimate way to eat brown cheese is with Norwegian waffles. If you’ve tried the Belgian and American variations, Norwegian waffles are somewhere in the middle. Brunost is a go-to topping for many people in Norway, and it’s delicious, to say the least. 

In addition to the cheese, many Norwegians add jam and cream to their waffle toppings before consuming. Making these is an excellent way to enjoy a relaxed Sunday morning. 

If you want to try Norwegian waffles for yourself, you’ll find plenty of establishments in Norway. One of the most popular is Haralds Vaffel in Oslo, which is in the city’s trendy Grünnerløkka district. 

With general waffles and pancakes 

If you don’t want to make Norwegian waffles, you can always have brown cheese with standard waffles. We’d say that it might be a little too heavy to try with Belgian waffles, but perhaps not if you’re able to have huge dollops of chocolate with your waffles usually. 

You can also try brunost with crepes if that’s your preference. Like the Norwegian version, pair your creation with jam and cream for the ultimate weekend breakfast or post-dinner treat. 

With crispbread and crackers 

Crispbreads are extremely popular in Scandinavia, and Norway is no exception. You’ll find various types of crispbread products in supermarkets, and the majority of them pair pretty well with a slice or two of brown cheese.

You can eat your brunost without anything other than the crispbread, but adding jam is also a viable option. We’d probably skip the cream on this occasion, though, as that would be messy and not overly tasty in equal measure. 

On top of pizza, of course 

When you think of cheeses on pizza, what springs to mind? Mozzarella would probably be one of the first. But in some parts of the world, Norwegian brown cheese on pizza has taken off — much to the bemusement of even many native Norwegians. 

Brunost has, peculiarly, made its way to South Korea. Some restaurants in the country have begun using it as a topping on their pizza, and the locals have shown a huge appreciation for it. 

If you’re not visiting South Korea anytime soon, you might want to give it a go at home. Head down to your local supermarket for the base and see if you can find brunost anywhere near you. 

On its own 

We’ve mentioned a couple of extravagant recommendations so far, but one of the best ways to enjoy Norwegian brown cheese is to simply try it on its own. Doing so will allow you to fully appreciate its flavors without having loads of other distractions going on. 

No huge process is necessary for this one; cut the slice of cheese and put it in your mouth. If you want, you can add a little jam to the top for an extra sweet touch. 

For breakfast 

Many people in the Nordic countries have cheese with their breakfast, but you won’t often see brunost included as part of that. Nonetheless, you can switch things up a bit; if you visit a Norwegian hotel, you might find that the breakfast buffet includes brunost alongside ordinary cheese. 

Cut a couple of slices to have with your breakfast platter; you can try it on crispbreads or on their own, and it might even form the finishing touches to your regular toast.

With rye bread 

Rye bread is popular in all of the Nordic countries, and Norway is no exception. Truth be told, brunost probably isn’t the best combination for ordinary white bread — so if you want to go a little more local, consider having it with rye bread instead. 

Brunost cheese’s simultaneously sweet and sour taste can complement the rye bread pretty well, and you don’t really need anything extra to go with it. Warm up the rye bread for an extra delicious treat. 

As ice cream

Yes, really — believe it or not, you can make ice cream from Norwegian brown cheese. We personally haven’t tried this, but TINE — the company that controls most brunost production and distribution — has a recipe that takes little time to make

You’ll also find ideas for using brunost to make pavlova, fondue, apple pie, and much more. Why not try making one recipe a week and figure out the best combination for you? 

Where to buy Norwegian brown cheese

If you’ve read this far, you might be licking your lips at the opportunity to try Norwegian brown cheese for yourself. So, where can you buy this local delicacy? Let’s find out. 

Norwegian supermarkets 

If you visit Norway, you will have no problems whatsoever finding brunost. Almost every major supermarket chain sells the product, and your best bet is to go to one of the country’s many REMA 1000 stores. 

If you’re buying brunost to take home with you, remember to refrigerate it until the time of departure. You’ll also need to make sure that you’re allowed to bring dairy products and whatnot through customs; do your research beforehand. 

At a café or restaurant 

Many cafés and restaurants will serve brown cheese as part of a dish, such as Norwegian waffles. However, you probably won’t get far if you ask for it at a standard restaurant where these kinds of options aren’t given. 

Can you buy brown cheese outside of Norway? 

If you’re wondering about your chances of getting brunost outside of Norway, the good news is that you can. The bad news, however, is that it’s sometimes difficult to find. 

Netto stores in Denmark often sell brunost in the cheese section, so — if you’re planning a broader trip in Scandinavia — that’s probably your best option. 

Further afield, you can purchase the product in the UK; your best choice is to visit Scandinavian Kitchen in London or order online. 

Some grocery stores in the US also sell brown cheese, and — as we saw earlier — it’s popular in South Korea as well. 

Norwegian brown cheese is a must-try food for all Scandiphiles 

Brown cheese is one of the best Norwegian foods you can try, and it will certainly divide opinions. Some love it, while others think the food is disgusting. Either way, it’s a great thing to tick off your bucket list. 

You can try Norwegian brown cheese in several ways, ranging from conventional to bizarre. But it’s only one of many interesting facts about Norway, so why not check out some more here?

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