With its creamy texture and strong flavour, this Portuguese cheese isn’t for everyone and may only appeal to certain palates. As its name suggests, it is produced in Azeitão in the municipality of Setúbal and is made from sheep’s milk. The perfect accompaniment to a favourite bread or toast, it is available in the main supermarkets, or in its home region,Azeitão, 30 minutes from Lisbon. The cheese is vegetarian-friendly – it is produced with thistle flower instead of animal rennet.
Serra da Estrela Cheese
Famous for its pungent aroma and a buttery texture, Serra da Estrela sheep’s cheese is widely known as the ‘King’ of Portuguese cheeses.
Part of its personality is the way it is served. It is too creamy to be cut with a knife in the traditional way. Instead, a circular shape is cut from the top of the cheese, and its softly runny centre is enjoyed in spoonfuls, or by dipping in your favourite crusty bread.
Serra da Estrela Curd
If you’re a fan of Italian ricotta, then Serra da Estrela PDO curd may be the perfect choice for you. This particular Portuguese cheese is produced by precipitation or coagulation, a process in which heat is used, making the final product is ideal for spreading due to its soft and delicate texture. This creamy white dough-like cheese is slightly granulated, but also smooth and uniform and is another typical product of the famous Serra da Estrela. Enjoy it by itself to fully taste its flavour, or combined with honey, pumpkin jam, pieces of walnut, hazelnut or almond… the list goes on!
Transmontano Goat’s Cheese
In the northwest of Portugal, we recommend trying Transmontano goat’s cheese, a very hard, cured, salted cheese which is prepared with goat’s milk. Despite its deep yellow colour, you will also find red transmontano cheeses, painted with chili to intensify their flavour. The pride of the Trás-os-Montes region, this delicacy can be discovered all over the country – in local shops, delicatessens and even supermarkets. Try it with bread, in a salad or as a starter: it is perfect every time.
Less dense than Trás-os-Montes goats cheese and typical of the capital of the Alentejo, this cheese is semi-hard and yellowish in colour, produced with raw sheep’s milk which is from the regional Merina Branca breed. If you visit the Alentejo region of Portugal and are a fan of salty and slightly spicy cheeses, make sure to order a good mature Évora cheese. However, if you prefer milder flavours, opt for the fresh or less mature version and enjoy its delicate but nevertheless intense flavour.
Also in Portugal’s Alentejo region, and produced with Merina Branca sheep’s milk, is another famous cheese, Nisa, a semi-hard cheese with a characteristic yellow colour that is a favourite with vegetarians who opt for the widely available varieties produced with vegetable rennet. Made in local dairies that maintain traditional production methods, this cheese with its citrus flavour is best enjoyed with toast, or crackers or in a sandwich (we love it with soughdough bread.
Produced in a village of the same name, near Coimbra, Rabaçal cheese is on the most-famous list. This white cheese is a hard, mature cheese that is hand produced from a mixture of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. When you try it, look out for its characteristic taste due to the Santa Maria grass, a variety of natural thyme that is abundant in the local area and is used to feed the sheep and goats that supply the milk for the production of this cheese.
São Jorge Cheese
São Jorge cheese is made from cow’s milk and is a mature cheese which is generally hard and has a yellowish colour. This is obtained after a period of about 60 days during which the cheese is left to mature. Its production began around 500 years ago on the island of São Jorge in the Azores and over the centuries the production process has hardly changed. The quality of the island’s vegetation makes a big difference, something which is reflected in the quality of the milk and in the cheese with its unique, slightly spicy taste. If you visit the Azores, this is the perfect souvenir and can be bought in local delis across the island.