Whether it’s a beautiful baked Brie drizzled with honey or Camembert oozing its way out of a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s likely you’ve encountered a number of soft cheeses in your lifetime. They’re known for their creamy, velvety textures that melt easily thanks to a moisture level of more than 50 percent and a butterfat content higher than 20 percent.
But before you seek out your next show-stopping table, dessert, or even snacking cheese, it’s helpful to know what to look for first. Are you searching for a sweet and nutty option, or do you prefer a tangier, more buttery flavor? Dive right into this European cheese guide and let us help you discover your perfect soft cheese.
Perhaps the most common of the soft cheeses, Brie is a soft, creamy cheese with a mellow flavor and rich aroma. It features a thin rind of white mold that’s been aged for at least four weeks. The versatility of Brie makes it just as good on bread and crackers as it is mixed into an omelet. We particularly love baking this cheese and finishing it off with a drizzle of honey and some pistachios.
Looking for an ultra-creamy cheese for your next cheese plate? Pick up some Brillat-Savarin. The luscious triple-cream cheese spreads smoothly onto crusty bread or crisp crackers, and its buttery, mild flavor makes it great for serving with fresh fruit for a light dessert. You can also use it as a decadent topping to baked potatoes. A glass of Champagne or a tart and tangy Saison beer are ideal accompaniments.
Sweet and milky is the name of the flavor game for this soft cheese. Brocciu can be made from goat or sheep’s milk and is considered a national food on the island of Corsica. Similar to Italian ricotta, this cheese can be used in soups, omelets, and even pastries.
With its soft, buttery texture and notes of wild mushrooms, Camembert melts perfectly into grilled cheese sandwiches and even macaroni and cheese. The earthy flavors pair well with light, fruity reds or cider, but we often enjoy it with an ice-cold glass of blackberry sour.
Chabichou du Poitou, PDO
Notably sold in a cylindrical shape, Chabichou du Poitou is characterized by its rich, dense center and overall white appearance. The smooth goat’s milk cheese features a sweet, delicate taste with notes of lemon zest. For a light summertime dessert, pair this slightly salty cheese with a dry white wine.
This soft, creamy, and somewhat earthy cheese originates from the French province of Champagne. Its pale yellow interior and white, flowery rind have a notably nutty flavor, with a bit of saltiness to it as well. When served with semi-dry white wine or Champagne, Chaource makes an excellent appetizer.
Coulommiers is known for its supple, creamy texture and delicate, nutty flavor that intensifies with age. Though similar to Brie in shape and texture, the soft-ripened cheese is both smaller and thicker. Apples, pears, and fresh berries are perfect alongside Coulommiers, as is Chardonnay, Amber Ale, or a Pilsner.
Délice de Bourgogne
Salty, sweet, and tart throughout, Délice de Bourgogne is a classic triple-cream cheese that’s as decadent as you can get, thanks to its high butterfat content. The rich whipped butter-like center is surrounded by a creamier paste offering a combination of flavors that bring to mind both the tanginess of sour cream and the sweetness of cream. The longer you let it sit out of the fridge, the easier it will be to glide a cracker or a slice of bread right through its fluffy interior.
Don’t be fooled by the strong aroma and dark orange color of this cheese—Époisses has a mild flavor with a distinctly salty taste. Its rich, smooth, and silky texture makes it easy to scoop and spread on bread, and it’ll melt easily when thrown in a tart or gratin. For a balanced midday snack, serve with apples and ham.
Also known as Chevreton de Macon, this artisanal cheese can be made either from goat’s milk or a combination of goat and cow’s milk, depending on the season. It features a slightly herbal flavor and aroma and becomes harder and saltier as it matures. Look for a Beaujolais or a wheat beer to serve next to Mâconnais.
Made from cow’s milk and cream, Saint-Félicien is an incredibly soft and creamy type of cheese. Its mildly nutty and buttery flavors are suitable to most palates and delicious smeared across bread, though we’re partial to baking and serving it as a dip.
Similar to Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Selles-Sur-Cher is covered in a rind made from ash and salt that gives it a bluish-gray appearance. The robust cheese offers a nutty, milky, and tangy flavor with hints of hay from Cher Valley, and its texture is quite elastic. Pour yourself a dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc, to go with this pick.
Legend has it that Valençay used to be a pyramid-shaped cheese until Napoleon axed the tip off after a facing defeat in Egypt. Enveloped by a rind made of salted ashes, the cheese is smooth and dense with a clean, bright, mildly lemony flavor. Dry white wines like Sauvignon Blanc are an excellent match for Valençay.