13 Types Of Cheese For The Perfect Holiday Cheese Board

Oh, the holidays. They're full of cozy snow days by the fire, heartfelt gifts, quality time with family, and cheese — lots of cheese. Foodies like us tend to make most special occasions about food, jumping at the chance to bring extravagant, on-theme recipes to life. This is especially true when it comes to the holiday season. Before we shop for gifts or string up our tinsel, we're plotting menus, browsing recipes, and reading through lists of cheese recommendations.

Can you blame us, though? How could we call ourselves foodies if we served unoriginal, pre-packaged cheese boards on Christmas, of all days? Where would the integrity be if we neglected to take advantage of signature winter flavors to curate a one-of-a-kind cornucopia of flavors for our Hanukkah aperitifs? An in-season, well-thought-out cheese board makes an impressive starter for holiday parties and it's a delicious opportunity to try an array of unique flavors.

We'll never use the phrase "too many," but there are a lot of different artisanal cheeses out there. So, to ensure we've selected the best for the season, we've consulted with a few experts. Hailing from Northern California to Vermont to New York, these cheese gurus have provided their unparalleled insight to provide us with this season's best cheeses for a masterfully-curated cheese board that really will bring joy to the world — or at least to your tastebuds.

Foggy Morning by Nicasio Valley Cheese

Our first consultant is none other than Mark Todd, or as known by many in the culinary industry, the Cheese Dude. Frequently quoted and trusted as a consultant for the United States Dairy Export Council, numerous cheese-centric organizations, and many foodie publications, Todd has been teaching chefs around the globe about cheese for decades.

The first cheese Todd recommends is a fromage blanc-style cheese that hails from Nicasio Valley in Northern California. The soft, tangy cheese made by Nicasio Valley Cheese has a delicate body that can be spoonable or spreadable, according to Todd. He admires its "lactic tartness that just screams for a sweet drizzle," asserting that it'll pair wonderfully with date molasses and a good, crusty ciabatta. It's great for holiday parties thanks to its versatility and elegance, and Todd suggests enjoying it between sips of lighter intensity beers with citrusy notes or crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from Sonoma County or the Loire Valley, for a divine combination of classic tart citrus character with lovely melon and stone fruit flavors alongside the rich cheese.

The Foggy Morning cheese comes in two variations: plain (The Cheese Dude's favorite) and a basil and garlic flavor. The un-herbed version is suggested for holiday boards to make for more diverse pairings. Made with fresh cow's milk, this fromage blanc-style cheese has earned national recognition. Toast up some fresh ciabatta and prep your board!

Quinta by Point Reyes

While perusing your local market's cheese section, you may have noticed some cheeses are wrapped in a tough outer bark. According to Todd, this bark wrapping helps the cheese to hold its shape while ripening and adds extra flavor. His next recommendation is Point Reyes' Quinta, a Brie-like "beautifully unique take on the classic French cheese L'Edel de Cléron from the Jura Mountains." Its distinctiveness comes from being wrapped in a spruce cambium bark that Todd says is infused with flavor from California Bay Laurel leaves, which are also embedded throughout the cheese's Candidum mold surface — another firmer outer layer used to ripen the cheese. He loves that these leaves add to the cheese's complex, earthy, and deeply umami aromas and flavors.

This silky, soft cow's milk cheese is soft-ripened and spoonable, making it ideal for a cheese board. A cheese with a one-of-a-kind combination of earthy and vanilla cream flavors, the Quinta pairs with crunchy crackers and mild fruits like grapes. Todd also notes that it'll go well with funky-flavored French pale ales and rich, earthy burgundy or pinot noir wines.

Grazin' Girl Gorgonzola by Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery

A great cheese board should contain a selection of soft, semi-soft, hard, crumbly, and blue cheeses. This will provide a variety of textures, of course, but also some very distinct flavors. "Distinct" is certainly a word we'd use to describe the taste of blue cheeses, which come in numerous varieties and are distinguished by their characteristically-colorful streaks of mold.

If you typically shy away from blue cheese due to its sometimes overly-pungent flavor, you might like what Todd calls his "number one blue," the Grazin' Girl Gorgonzola made in Sonoma. Todd loves that it's subtle and earthy, as opposed to sharp and piquant, with a fudge-like texture and umami intensity that he considers "off the scale."

Thanks to its milder flavor, it makes an ideal inclusion on holiday party cheese boards. Made of raw milk with a natural rind, this cheese is creamier than other more crumbly gorgonzola-style cheeses, so it'll spread beautifully on crackers or bread. As for pairings, Todd declares that "the best thing to pair this cheese with is another bite." However, swallows of a malty beer or sweet wine between nibbles of this cheese should also delight your palate.

Special Select Dry Monterey Jack by Vella Cheese Company

When we think of holiday recipes, a distinct array of warm flavors come to mind, and this next cheese recommendation seems to encapsulate all of them. Proclaimed "one of the greatest American original cheeses anywhere" by the Cheese Dude himself, this dry Monterey Jack cheese is aged for up to two years to develop nutty, fruity flavors. According to Todd, it's moist enough to deliver rich, buttery aromas as well, so this might be the ideal firm cheese for your holiday cheese board.

The hard cheese's natural rind is rubbed with baker's chocolate and black pepper, which Todd says works to protect the cheese as it ages — and though the rind is edible, it doesn't necessarily flavor the actual cheese. Todd characterizes it as a sweet buttery cheese that'll go well with late harvest white wines like Sauternes. Complement its sweet nuttiness with apricots, apples, or berries.

Strawberry Spritz Fresh Goat Cheese by Vermont Creamery

While we strive to include a solid variety of textures, we always love to have an excellent fruit-infused cheese on our cheese boards for good measure. Thanks to their tangy, often pungent flavors, goat cheeses are commonly fruit-infused, making for an ideal savory-sweet balance.

The famed Vermont Creamery's Kara Young recommended a slew of impressive, not-your-everyday cheeses to us, and the creamery's Strawberry Spritz goat cheese couldn't be more perfect for the holiday season. This creamy cheese, Young notes, encapsulates "the timeless pairing of champagne and strawberries," making it wonderfully elegant yet versatile. She suggests pairing it, of course, with a crisp champagne or even a sparkling rosè for a positively polished combination of light sweetness and buttery, earthy flavors.

While this pink-hued goat cheese log will make a pretty addition to your curated cheese board, you might even consider including it on your holiday party dessert board as well. Young says that smeared atop some shortbread with slices of fresh strawberry, this cheese completes an ideal after-dinner delight.

Honey Truffle Goat Cheese by Vermont Creamery

It doesn't matter what we're eating — if the word "truffle" is involved, we simply can't resist. These irresistible treasures enhance nearly anything they're eaten with, providing a distinctly rich, earthy flavor that's almost too complex to describe. Most truffle variations are quite hard to track down, making them highly sought-after and pretty expensive.

If you can find a cheese infused with truffles, however, you've got a real treasure on your hands. This silky, honey-laced goat cheese is made with farm-fresh goat's milk and features flecks of real truffle, according to Young of the Vermont Creamery. Goat cheeses are great for cheese boards because they generally pair well with both sweet and savory bites, and this goat cheese in particular is, itself, a harmonious balance between savory and sweet.

"Pair this cheese with a deeply rich whole grain or sprouted grain bread," Young says. And be sure to top the whole thing off with a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts for the ultimate experience of richly aromatic, earthy flavors — perfectly comforting for the holidays. Say cheers to this cheese with a dry cider or white wine to round out the flavor profile.

St. Albans by Vermont Creamery

This next cheese was described to us as a "mini fondue for two," and perhaps that's all you need to know. Vermont Creamery's St. Albans is a unique cheese that will wow the guests at your holiday party — it's a silky-textured, deeply flavored cheese with "plenty of pungent power," per the New York Times.

This cow's milk cheese is aged with geotrichum candidum, which is a type of mold used to help ripen cheeses; it's what gives your everyday Brie its soft, white outer layer (via New England Cheesemaking Supply Company). This soft round of cheese comes packaged in a ceramic rock, which also doubles as a perfect baking vessel.

Cheese boards that include a strong variety of flavors and textures are great, but cheese boards that include baked cheeses are something to celebrate. Young suggests smearing a tart cherry, apricot, or ginger-laced jam atop the cheese's rind, covering the whole thing with some puff pastry, and baking it in the oven for up to five minutes at 325 degrees F. "What emerges," Young says, "is a richly fragrant individual fondue and appetizer that calls for minimal effort and maximum wow factor." Low-effort, high-reward recipes are the best holiday gifts around.

For an even lower effort (yet still supremely satisfying) option, Young says that potato chips or slices of tart Granny Smith apples are great dippers for this luscious cheese. A hoppy, fruity IPA makes a lovely liquid complement.

Gouda with Truffle by Artikaas

What's a cheese board without a good Gouda? Smooth, subtly sweet Gouda is a surefire crowd-pleaser, especially when you throw in some truffles. Certified as a Cheese Professional by the American Cheese Society, Adrianne Mingea of Artikaas shares an unmissable Gouda that'll take center stage on your holiday cheese board.

Goudas are generally luxuriously smooth with a bit of nuttiness and a tangy sweetness. The truffle-infused Gouda from Artikaas is the pinnacle of what a great Gouda should be, with a deeply satisfying nutty, earthy flavor from the truffles. Mingea says that this cheese is made from raw milk produced in Flevoland, a region in Holland known for its bountiful farmlands. "The beauty of this Gouda," Minega tells us, "is that the true terroir shines through in both appearance and flavor," adding a touch of refinement to cheese boards and an umami-rich, silky texture to any dish it's used in.

Grab your Gouda knife and enjoy this robustly-flavored cheese on crackers or baguettes with a good drizzle of honey for a perfectly divine salty-sweet bite.

Parmesan With Cheddar Notes by The Cheese Guy

Brent Delman — better known as head honcho at The Cheese Guy — is a long-time cheesemonger who's perfected his craft over the span of several decades. He's recommended a lovely array of cheeses to us, the first of which is a unique blend of classic Parmesan and cheddar.

We've mentioned that a balanced cheese board should always include a hard cheese, and Parmesan is usually the go-to to fill that spot. For the holidays, however, we like to spruce things up a bit to make the entire experience special, and that's where this Parmesan comes in. Delman's Parmesan with cheddar is a unique blend of creaminess, nutty, savory, and sweet flavors with a wonderful crystal crunch.

The handcrafted, small-batch cheese goes through an aging process for over four years, allowing the cheese crystals (called tyrosine crystals, according to Delman) to develop naturally. The result is a cheese with a pleasing texture and a signature salty parmesan taste with beautiful, creamy notes of cheddar. Delman says this cheese will pair great with a rich red wine like cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, or pinot noir. Eat it with a bold dark chocolate, crushed pecans, or dried cranberries.

Cranberry Cheddar by The Cheese Guy

When we think of traditional holiday flavors, cranberry always comes to mind. You'll see cranberries in various forms on holiday dinner tables, whether in fancy cocktails or in the famous form of cranberry sauce. Bring that signature holiday flavor to your cheese board with an irresistible, cranberry-studded cheddar.

Cheddar is usually a cheese board staple since it's versatile, mild, and generally enjoyed by everyone. The Cheese Guy cheesemonger Delman notes that his cranberry cheddar is an unpasteurized cheese made through a "labor-intensive and lengthy process," which starts with unpasteurized milk from cows in the Green Mountains of Vermont. He explains that the cheese is formed into a block and aged for over 60 days before getting milled into smaller pieces to be combined with cranberries, re-shaped, and aged for a few more months.

With a distinctly yellow cheddar hue and bright pops of cranberry red, this cheese will make an aesthetically-pleasing addition to holiday boards. Delman says that this savory, crumbly, semi-firm cheddar and its sweet, tart cranberry notes make it a wonderful dessert cheese served atop ginger crackers.

Smoky Gouda by The Cheese Guy

There's Gouda, and then there's its suave, sophisticated cousin, smoked Gouda. Thanks to the smoking process, smoked Goudas typically have a more full-bodied nutty flavor with an incredibly buttery texture. Delman's smoked Gouda uses a unique recipe, starting with fresh milk from small Amish dairy farms and including sprinkles of smoked sea salt from a natural hardwood smoking process. Aged three to four months, The Cheese Guy's smoky Gouda is all-natural, and it shows.

Delman says that this lightly smoked, buttery, sweet cheese is nutty and soft, making it an ideal option for your holiday fondue. He suggests combining it with dry white wine, dijon mustard, garlic clove, a sprinkle of cornstarch, and some salt and pepper for an explosion of refined flavor. Dip baguettes or pears into its melty goodness, or serve it on your cheese board with some good, rustic crackers and a dry, crisp pilsner for the ultimate in elegant holiday snacking.

Organic Fresh Ricotta by The Cheese Guy

It's not every day that you find ricotta on a cheese board, but we wish it were. A light and fluffy whipped ricotta is great for cheese board snacking because it's got a nice, neutral flavor that everyone knows and loves. Plus, it can be used for dipping or spreading and works for both sweet and savory accompaniments.

Brent Delman of The Cheese Guy recommends their organic fresh ricotta cheese, which he tells us is finely whipped and made with just three simple ingredients: milk, vinegar, and salt. He notes that it's made with organic-certified whole milk from small dairy farms.

This ricotta is the perfect, fresh-tasting, airy cheese that goes well with just about anything, including sweet berries and honey or crudité-style veggies and rustic crackers. If you've got leftovers, Delman suggests using this cheese in holiday recipes like lemon-ricotta dessert bars, Italian cheesecake, or stuffed shells.

Vermont Bloom Brie by The Cheese Guy

When it comes to holidays and cheese boards, you can never go wrong with a great Brie. You'll be hard-pressed to find a cheese lover who doesn't go crazy over a quality Brie, and The Cheese Guy's Vermont Bloom Brie just might make your head explode. Delman explains that this is a farmstead cheese, meaning that it's made on the same Vermont farm from which the milk that makes it is produced. That is to say that this is an impressive, fresh-tasting cheese.

Delman says that this mini wheel of Brie is similar to cheeses from the Champagne region of Northern France, with a soft-ripened, edible rind he calls "bloomy, with a nice salty bite." As for the interior, he notes that this decadent, buttery, and delicate cheese contains a subtly mushroomy aroma and is made with double crème, pasteurized cow's milk. 

Slice this decadent wheel into wedges for your cheese board with crusty bread, plain crackers, and sweets like pears, grapes, candied walnuts, or strawberry jam.