In the modern world we live in, Cheese is a synonym for Europe and specifically, for certain countries in Europe, including the Netherlands. One of the main highlights for those visiting the Lower Lands is trying out the famous varieties of cheese produced in this country, famous worldwide.
Gouda is the most famous and one of the best varieties of Dutch cheese. Leerdammer, Edam, Maasdammer, Bleu de Graven and Boerenkaas are among the best Dutch cheeses. Cheeses, like wine, have a designation of origin, making the pieces produced in the local villages the best Dutch cheeses in the market.
Gouda is not only a variety of cheese but a small city in the center of the Netherlands. Like this specific type, most of the famous cheeses are not a type of cheese but a variety with several different types of cheeses coming from the same location. If you want to find out more about the best Dutch cheeses and the best place to get them, try them and their differences, keep reading this article.
Top 5 Dutch Cheese
As would go as far as saying there is no bad cheese in the Netherlands. However, when getting cheese, make sure you get local cheese and don’t try to find mozzarella or pecorino here.
Like wines, cheese has a designation of origin and this indicates if the cheese is produced following the same factors, ingredients, and recipe as the original ones. In the case of the Netherlands, cheese has to be done by the locals, with local animals, and so on.
Like most cheese, Dutch cheese takes after the name of the town where it was created and where it has its designation of origin: Gouda is from Gouda, Edam is from Edam, Maasdamer from Maasdam and so on.
Moreover, I would like to add that the Netherlands is one of the oldest producers of dairy products due to the big amount and quality of their cattle. It is not a surprise that due to the quality of the soil and the quality of the milk produced these towns would develop a way of making good use of this milk: CHEESE!
Among the best and most popular ones, we can find these three and two more and in this article, you will find more about their origin, their characteristics, and history:
We will be analyzing the following facts:
- Age: meaning for how long cheese has to age before it can be consumed. There are cheeses that can age for a decade and some for months. The more aged the cheese is, the stronger and sharper the taste.
- Type: we will be referring here to the varieties of this specific type of cheese (for example, flavours and other treatments). Milk is also a very important ingredient to consider.
- Characteristics: Hard or soft, with wholes or not. We will consider de aspect in general.
- Region: wherein the Netherlands do these cheese originate. Of course, they are produced worldwide but if you are a cheese fan and come to the Netherlands, this is the place to eat the specific type of cheese.
|GOUDA||1 month – 1 year||7 on age/ thousands on flavour||Hard or Semi-hard||Gouda, South Holland|
|EDAM||1 month- 10 month||Depends on the milk, coming from cows, goats…||Semi-hard||Edam, North Holland|
|MAASDAMMER||4 weeks||Swiss-style cheese produced in the Netherlands with cow milk.||Semi-hard||Maasdam, South Holland|
|LEERDAMMER||3-12 months||Original, Melting, Light and other varieties of the original||Semi-hard||Leerdam, Province of Utrecht|
|BLEU DE GRAVEN||1-3 months||Rich and Mild Flavour. Also found as Dutch blue cheese or Bleu de Delft||Soft||South Holland|
Gouda is without a doubt the most famous and the favourite Dutch cheese of all times. It is mostly because of the broad variety of this product, the mildness and soft, yet flavourful taste and its age: Gouda cheese goes back to the 12th century and the beginning of the Netherlands as a nation.
What most people don’t know is that Gouda cheese is called like this after the town where it was invented, Gouda, a beautiful village in South Holland, between the cities of Utrecht and Rotterdam.
It is undeniable that being the most produced cheese with a total of over 50% of the cheese production in the Netherlands being only Gouda, that Gouda has to be number one in the list. People may not know much of the Netherlands but they will know Gouda cheese.
In this village, you will be able to find plenty of stores, some of them with a long tradition of gouda production and international sellers. Some of the characteristics of this cheese are:
- Production: Cow milk
- Types of Gouda Cheese: you will be able to find anything you can imagine with gouda cheese. You will find the original one, smoked gouda, tomato gouda, wasabi gouda, black gouda, cumin gouda, paprika gouda, and many more.
- Stores: you can visit the city and the stores where they sell the original cheese, all over the centre. For more information about it, read down below!
- Popularity: It is mild, it is traditional and it is great. Some Magazines such as TasteAtlas and Uproxx put Gouda cheese in the top 10 of the best cheeses in the world, alongside the French and Italian cheeses. However, let me tell you that you cannot compare whatever cheese you may have bought at home to what you will find in the town of Gouda.
Edam is a cheese originated in the town of Edam in the province of North Holland. However, this cheese has started being produced all over the country. It is alongside Gouda Cheese one of the most popular and famous Dutch cheeses.
It has a very characteristic rounded shaped and it is covered with red wax that you have to peel in order to eat it. This characteristical appearance makes it easy to identify and family to all of us.
There are different types of Edam in the market even though they all keep their characteristic nutty and salty flavour. Basically, this cheese can be from 1 to 10 month of age:
- The younger the cheese is, the milder the flavour, the softer the texture and the easier to find.
- The aged the cheese, the stronger the flavour, the harder it gets and the harder it is to be found in any regular Dutch supermarket. The flavour sharpens and it becomes a different cheese, still remaining Edam.
Side Note: it doesn’t only have cow milk but a mix of goat milk too, which explains the sharp taste of the cheese.
You can find Edam in the town of Edam, close to Amsterdam and Volendam and you can find it in some of the stores in the capital mentioned down below.
Maasdammer is another Swiss-style Dutch cheese that has the characteristic wholes inside the cheese, the sweet and nutty taste and the semi-hard consistency.
It is one of the latest introduction (at the end of the last century) in the world of Dutch cheeses and yet still is one of the most popular and nicer cheeses. It is worth mentioning that can be sometimes confused with two of the best Dutch cheeses:
On the one hand, like Edam, sometimes this cheese is covered with the red wax around it; on the other hand, like Gouda, the taste is relatively mild and it can be mistaken by this cheese.
Side Note: like most Goudas, we are talking about a purely cow-link-cheese.
Leerdammer is probably one of the most popular Dutch cheeses worldwide because of the big commercialisation of this cheese in Europe, America and some parts of Asia. Basically, it is good cheese, available almost everywhere.
This cheese is only produced in Leerdam, a small city in the province of Utrecht, a town dedicated exclusively to cheese and glass production. Quiet peculiar and definitely worth paying a visit if you are interested in visiting the Dutch countryside.
Some of the things that make it characteristic are:
- It is purely cow milk
- It also has wholes, which remind eaters of Edam and Emmental
- It is a soft cheese, ideal for sandwiches and other dishes, not only for eating it alone
- Sometimes this cheese is sold as Maasdam cheese
Bleu de Graven
It is possibly one of the very few, if not the only, blue cheese originated in the Netherlands. It may not be the most popular or the most famous cheese of this country, yet it is definitely the best blue cheese produced in the Netherlands.
Bleu de Graven is also known as Delft Blue, like the famous Dutch Golden Ages ceramics because of its peculiar blue and white tone, like most blue cheeses.
You will be able to find it in big cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague because it is produced in the province of South Holland. Read more about this peculiar cheese here.
Cheese Markets and Where to Eat it
One of the best ways to get to enjoy Dutch cheeses when you are in the Netherlands is visiting a cheese market, or a cheese store. If you want to know more about these markets and stores, check out my Cheese Lover Guide to Amsterdam: Where to eat and where to buy.
Not everybody has the time or the budget to go around the country trying to reach each and every single one of the small towns where these cheeses are produced, yet you can always find handmade, good quality ones in these places. You will not only be able to find the cheeses from the region but a lot of different Dutch varieties.
I have put together a list of the most popular and worth-visiting markets that all cheese lovers who travel to the Netherlands should visit (or at least visit one of them!):
Gouda Cheese Market
I couldn’t help but start by mentioning the Gouda Cheese Market: this market takes place in the main square in Gouda, a city connected to The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, in the middle of the province of South Holland.
It is easy to get there by train (read more about it here) and you can visit it every Thursday from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm between the months of April and August.
This is a big market where you will be able to see all different types of cheese, traditional Dutch food, souvenirs and more.
However, visiting Gouda shouldn’t only be to visit this market: either because you cannot make it on a Thursday or you are not travelling during these months, I still recommend you visiting Gouda. It is not only a beautiful town with many 16th century buildings in downtown Gouda but a city with dozens of cheese shops.
You will be able to try out all the cheeses before you buy them, find many stores where you can buy them vacuum closed and also buy tools to cut it and more. The best part: the quality of the cheeses in these stores are also sublimed.
Moreover, every Saturday morning like most Dutch towns you will also find the local market, with fresh food, flowers, souvenirs and more.
Alkmaar Cheese Market
Alkmaar is a city in the north of Amsterdam and also inside North-Holland. We are in front of another April cheese market like the Gouda one, however, it is a Friday market.
Here you will also find the gigantic cheese wheels and local varieties, souvenirs and typical Dutch classics.
Sometimes this market is also held on Tuesday, also from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm, so to check out more dates you can visit their website.
Edam Cheese Market
Edam couldn’t be less than Gouda and here you will also find a local market with not only local Edam cheese but also the best handmade Dutch cheeses.
You will be able to find it during the summer month of July and August, every Wednesday morning from 10:30 am until 12:30 pm. It is a very cute place with a dated setting, of course, cheese, tools and more. Read about it here.
Amsterdam doesn’t really have a proper cheese market but many places where you will be able to find good cheese and experience these Dutch delish without having to travel somewhere else.
There are three different stores that are very common in Amsterdam and all of them offer different kinds of Dutch cheeses, mostly best sellers:
- Old Amsterdam Cheese Store
- Amsterdam Cheese Company
- De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam
If you want to know more about these stores, I recommend you read my article here.
Something I find important to point out at is that 99% of the cheese you may be able to find in these cheese stores, in any street market and in supermarkets, is actually good cheese.
Everybody knows that big cities like Amsterdam are a trap for tourists due to scams, yet in the case of cheeses, it is not really the case, it is actually Dutch cheese, and really good!
Eating Cheese in Amsterdam
Most bars and restaurants will offer a table of cheeses or will have some sort of side dish with cheese, mostly when you are at a pub or out for a beer. This is actually good cheese, so go for it. Some of the places I personally recommend are:
De Brabantse Aap: Spui 30, 1012 XA Amsterdam, opens from 11:00 am until 1:00 am. This is a very Dutch location in the centre of Amsterdam, with an amazing view and ideal to do the typical Dutch “Borrel”
A Borrel is the best way to enjoy some cheese, grab a beer and get some famous Dutch snacks with some snacks: bitterballen with mustard, meatballs, Surinamese fried pastries and, of course, cheese, Old Gouda!
Moreover, another one of my recommendations is visiting the Albert Cuyp Market: opens from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day of the week except Sundays. It is ideal to try some Dutch food, get some cheese, try it out and some more: fresh food, clothing, shoes, flowers and products of all different kinds.
Buying Cheese at the Airport
If you are considering buying cheese at Schiphol before you depart, I would strongly recommend. You will be able to find all the Dutch bestsellers, and mostly, of course, Gouda cheese.
Maybe if you want something more specific, it is good to buy it beforehand, but at the airport, you will be able to find all different types of Gouda and vacuum-closed to make your life and travel easier and better.
Best Brands of Dutch Cheese
Here there is a list of Dutch cheese brands that you will come across if you come to the Netherlands looking for cheese. if you find them, don’t start thinking they won’t be good because they are a known brand. Perhaps they are not just as good as fresh handmade cheese, but it will be 10 times better than any cheese you have tasted before. If you are not able to eat the artisan ones and you get these imported or back home where you live, don’t miss out:
- Old Amsterdam is one of the most popular and commercialised brands that you will find in the Netherlands.
- Leerdamer: the cheese is not only called like this but also the brand that sells it all over the world.
- Milner: from the brand FrieslandCampina, a Dutch company, produced in the Netherlands too.