While there’s nothing wrong with noshing on your favorite cheese and a handful or whatever else you’ve got in your refrigerator and cabinet, the practice of pairing cheese with the right food and drink is truly one of life’s most enjoyable culinary pleasures. But we don’t need to convince you of that—you’re here because you love it too.
Whether you are a novice cheese aficionado or an experienced cheesemonger, the ultimate goal of pairing cheese is simple: to create a delicious tasting experience from beginnnig to end. Consider this your cheese pairing cheat sheet for any occasion—from a small spread for an intimate night in with your significant other to a breathtaking board for a major event.
Pairing Cheese Basics
Consider these the closest thing to “rules” to live by when you embark on your cheese pairing adventure.
Choose your cheese first. Stick with 3-5 different cheeses and shoot for a variety of textures, appearances and sharpness of flavors. Play around with firmness, offer up a range of colors from stark white to pale yellow, and give your cheese tasters a journey from mild to sharp.
Match companion and complementary flavors. When you match “like” flavors, you create a harmony of tastes composed of similar weights and tones. Play up the characteristics of the cheese and try to match flavors: mild goes with mild and strong goes strong. Use your sense of smell here, too, and pair nutty flavor notes with one another, or fruitier cheeses with fruits and jams.
Contrast flavors. Opposites attract, just liike similarities do. An example of contrasting flavors you already know is salty and sweet, or sour and savory. Don’t stop at taste, though. We mentioned texture variety in your cheeses, and it’s important here too.
Build a bridge. Introducing a third element to a pairing can bring the drink and cheese or food and cheese together for the perfect trio. For example, a fig spread or sweet honey can bring together a bold spiced cheese with a tart Granny Smith apple slice.
Go where it grows. Whether it’s wine, cheese, fruit, jams, or cured meats, you can rarely go wrong when you choose items that all hail from the same region of the world.
Create an intensity journey. If you’ve ever done a wine or beer tasting, you know what we mean. You start with the easy-drinking reisling, work your way to the dry whites, head into the reds, and finish with the dessert bubbly. Keep that concept of progression in mind when pairing cheese and you’re well on your way to fully cheesing confidently.
What veggies go with cheese?
Use the guidance above to help you choose your vegetable elements, and be sure to make it visually pop with lots of color. Cherry and grape tomatoes always add a burst of flavor and juice to mild, soft cheeses (that’s why we all love it on pizza). Crunchy, mild sweet peppers are a safe bet for most pairings, because they let the cheese flavors really shine.
What fruit goes with cheese?
When pairing cheese and fruit, it’s best to focus more on what doesn’t work than what does. Stay away from more citrus fruits like oranges, limes, and lemons as they tend to overpower cheese and enhance the stronger ones in a way you won’t want. It’s hard to mess up pairing fruit with cheese otherwise! Anything in the berry family, along with apples and pears, are always safe bets.
What wine pairs well with cheese?
Wine and cheese pairing can feel intimidating, to say the least. The good news is, we’ve done all the wine pairing work for you with the articles below:
- How to Host the Best Wine and Cheese Party
- How to Pair Your Cheese and Drink
- 10 Red Wine and Cheese Pairings
- 7 White Wine and Cheese Pairings
Cheese Pairing Chart
Here are some tasty pairing examples for you to refer to when building an immersive, indulgent cheese pairing experience. We’re using cheese texture as the foundation here, but you can play around with what works for you!
|Soft (mascarpone, feta)||Fresh berries, crisp cookies, biscotti, salty or spicy nuts||Champagne, prosecco, sweet white wine, red fruity wine, fruit ales|
|Semi-soft (Fontal, provolone)||Apples, grapes, roasted or grilled vegetables||Chardonnay, merlot, pilsner, blonde ales, ciders|
|Semi-hard (Asiago, gouda)||Nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate||Zinfandel, pinot noir, Syrah, Belgian ales|
|Hard cheese (Romano, Parmesan)||Nuts, honey, olives, salted meats, fresh vegetables||Chianti, pinot noir, Cabernet, heavier ales and stouts|
Don’t want to DIY? Grab one of our cheese flights and download our eBook below to tell you exactly what to pair together and how to display it. Either way, we’ve got you covered.