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Did Anyone Say Cheese...

Portuguese cheese is a frequently found on the table, both at homes and in the restaurants of Portugal. Slices of regional cheese and ham are often served together with bread, olives and pates as starters.

Although today there is a huge variety of cheeses and most are made on an industrial scale, traditional cheeses are still quite popular. These are handmade in

queijarias (small cheese shops), also known as rouparias, by

queijeiros e queijeiras


Since the terrain on the continent is not ideal for cattle breeding, the shepherds focused mainly on sheep and goats. Therefore, most continental cheeses are of the sheep, goat or mixed varieties – known as queijos de mistura (mixed cheese). On the island of the Azores, the situation is different: since cows are the most popular livestock, the cheese there is commonly produced from cow’s milk.

Further below, I will talk about some of the most popular traditional cheeses (some awarded) that, although produced on a larger scale, are still produced by hand. For now, I will show what vocabulary appears frequently associated with Portuguese cheese.

Cheesy Vocabulary...

Cheese can be fresco (fresh) or

curado (matured or cured). The longer the cura (ripening) is, the more intense the taste becomes. The cura can also be called maturação (maturation). There are also queijos meia-cura (half aged cheeses).

Cheeses can be

duros (hard, semi-duros (semi-hard), semi-moles (semi-soft) or moles (sof). In the case of soft cheeses, one can speak about their

textura (texture) being cremoso (creamy) or amanteigado (buttery).

There is also the Portuguese cheese called requeijão

whey cheese, which is similar to queijo fresco (fresh cheese) – accompanying salads or served with jams as dessert, but also as a culinary ingredient for cakes, pies and puddings.

A cheese can be served inteiro (whole), fatiado (sliced), ralado (grated), as bolas (balls) and para barrar (to spread). In Portugal, American cheese is known as

queijo fundido (processed cheese).

There are also queijos sem-lactose

(lactose free cheeses), com ervas

(with herbs) and queijos apimentados (spicy cheeses)

The most consumed cheese in Portugal is the queijo flamengo

(Flemish cheese), which is similar to the Edam cheese. This cheese is not a traditional cheese, being produced in an industrial scale. It can be found in a variety of shapes but it’s mostly used sliced and in between slices of bread.

Traditional Cured Portuguese Cheeses...

Queijo da Serra da Estrela:

The Serra da Estrela cheese is the oldest Portuguese cheese and also the most popular, both at home and abroad. As its name indicates, it comes from Serra da Estrela, a mountain range that crosses the districts of Viseu and Guarda.

It is a cured cheese, made exclusively with milk from sheeps of the Serra da Estrela or Churra Mondegueira breed. The thistle flower, another of the ingredients, is also native to the region. Also simply known only as Queijo da Serra, it is a semi-soft or buttery cheese (depending on the maturation), with a white or yellowish color. Its maturation time can last between 30 and 120 days.

Queijo de Azeitão:

The Azeitão cheese is made from sheep’s milk and comes from the region of Azeitão, in the district of Setúbal.

This cheese has a cylindrical shape, thin and yellowish rind, which can also be consumed. The curing time lasts 20 days and it’s usually sold in vegetable paper. With semi-soft and buttery paste, these cheeses are very similar to those of the Serra, since their method of production is the same, with the sheep’s breed and type of soil being the only differences.

Queijo de Serpa:

Serpa cheese is a cured cheese from the Serpa region, in Alentejo. It is produced used sheep milk and its texture is semi-soft and buttery. Its maturing time lasts at least 30 days. It has a strong aroma and spicy flavor.

Queijo de Nisa:

Nisa cheese is a cheese from the town of Nisa, in the Alto Alentejo region. Made from sheep’s milk, it is a semi-hard cheese with a yellowish white color.

Queijo de Cabra Transmontano:

The Transmontano Goat cheese is a cheese from the region of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro – hence the name. It is produced using the milk of goats of the Serrana breed and its maturation can follow two paths: between 60 and 90 days, becoming a semi-hard cheese; between 90 days and 2 years, becoming an old mature cheese, with hard paste. Depending on the maturation, its aroma can be less or stronger and its taste less or more spicy.

Queijo Rabaçal:

Rabaçal cheese is a cured cheese, from the parish of Rabaçal, in the district of Coimbra. It is produced from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk or both (mixture) and it’s a cheese with semi-hard, white or yellowish paste. Of the cheeses presented here, it is the only one that uses the animal origin rennet instead of thistle flower. It is also possible to find this cheese in fresh form (before maturing) or half-matured.

Next time you’re in Portugal, we hope you find a way to enjoy some of these delicious Portuguese cheeses!!!

Be sure to accompany your favorite cheese with a delicious nectar from one of the twelve wine regions in Portugal:

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