Is Portuguese cheese good? If yes, which are the best? Where can I try?
Let us guide you through the variety of cheeses we produce in this beautiful country.
Our Top 5 Portuguese Cheese
Let us start from the beginning: depending on the country’s regions, cheese production varies and each of the products is different in the way it tastes and in the way it looks (and, therefore, the form it is produced). Get to know the best types of cheese in Portugal.
1. Queijo da Serra da Estrela
Right in the centre of Portugal is Serra da Estrela, which names the highest mountain range in the country. To pair with its greatness is Serra da Estrela’s cheese, a very peculiar one – extremely moist and creamy on the inside. This cheese is also very smelly but once you taste it you will forgive the rest.
There are people who eat it by spoon, so you can understand how creamy it is. Made from sheep’s milk, this Portuguese cheese is said to be Portugal’s most characteristic cheese. Truth or not, it is the oldest indeed since its production began in the 12th century.
We’ve also written an article about Portuguese Traditions. Some of them might surprise you.
2. Queijo de Azeitão
Also made from sheep’s milk is Queijo de Azeitão, a creamy cheese (not as creamy as the first one) that is open at the top and not in the middle, as the other ones. Azeitão refers to the region in which this cheese is produced, which belongs to Setúbal (in Lisbon).
This is a strong-taste cheese with a thin bark on the outside. Before being sold, it passes through a period of cure, in which all the flavours start to gain form 20 days prior to the selling.
Looks delicious, no?
3. Queijo da Ilha
Another great Portuguese cheese comes directly from the islands, more specifically from the Azores. It is produced in São Jorge island and also known as Queijo São Jorge. This one is so appreciated that the production can go up to 1800 tons per year.
This “island cheese” is much more consistent and completely made from cows’ milk. Amongst with Queijo da Serra da Estrela, this cheese is also seen as one of the most characteristics of Portugal.
It might also be useful to see our guide to visit Azores.
4. Queijo Transmontano
Made in the North of Portugal, in the regions of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Queijo Transmontano is made from goat milk. However, we are not talking about all the goats, since this cheese has to be specifically made from a particular goat breed: the Serrana one.
Queijo Transmontano has a soft texture and needs 60 to 120 days until it reaches its best flavour. It goes really well with thin toasts, jam and white wine.
5. Queijo de Évora
This Portuguese cheese is made in Évora, Alentejo, located more in the south centre of Portugal. Queijo de Évora is made from sheep’s milk and has a more yellow colour than most cheese types. Unlike other cheeses, Queijo de Évora has a slightly spicy taste.
Alternative but good Portuguese cheese
Pairing with the Top 5…
We had to make an ultimate top 5 of the best Portuguese cheese, but there are some others we need to name for their unique taste:
- Queijo de Nisa: another cheese made in Alentejo, from sheep’s milk;
- Queijo do Pico: from Ilha do Pico, in the Azores, comes this delicious cheese made exclusively from cows’ milk;
- Queijo do Rabaçal: this cheese is produced in Coimbra from mixing goat and sheep milk;
- Queijo de Serpa: also from Alentejo, a cheese made from sheep milk.
You might useful to know how’s it like to live in Alentejo.
Portuguese Cheese Regions
By now, you should have probably noticed what are the strong regions regarding cheese production. Nevertheless, we are naming the 4 strongest ones from where most types of cheese come from.
Portuguese cheese from Serra da Estrela
This region, in the centre of Portugal, has 40 cheese certified shops and 210 milk producers. In 2017, the production flew up to 195 tons of cheese, with estimated revenues of €3,5 million.
See also, the best food you can find in the centre of Portugal.
Cheese from Azores
The Azores is very well-known for its milk, butter and cheese production. In 2017, the island beat a record number in terms of milk production, with 611 million litres produced (in 2016, the production reached 603 million litres). With these impressive numbers, it is easily understood why this region is one of the best-producing cheese.
Cheese from Trás-os-Montes
In Trás-os-Montes, Queijo Transmontano is very popular and is actually served in restaurants all over the country. Every year, 140 tons of cheese are produced – impressive numbers, don’t you think?
Cheese from Alentejo
Alentejo is such a nice region for cheese production that it actually holds an annual fair to sell and present their cheese types to the population and other visitors.
Cheese Terms in Portugal
Cheese is such a “thing” in Portugal that there are certain words that describe the way they are produced, the ingredients used and the characteristics that best describe them (in terms of texture and taste).
Some of the most important terms are the ones that follow.
DOP means “Protected Designation of Origin”. In other words, this seal (stamped in cheeses) certifies that a region is legitimate and legally authorized to produce the cheese of the region. Therefore, the cheeses that have this seal are authorized to be named with the name of the region.
“Queijo Curado or Seco”
As in “cured”, “curado” means the way that the cheese matures. It often needs a source of heat to be “curado”, which normally is the sun (or the fire’s heat, in some cases), that dries the cheese, which is why it is also named “seco” – that means “dry” in Portuguese.
You can’t leave Portuguese without tasting cheese and Wine. See the best Portuguese Wine.
This term refers to cheeses with a creamy texture, that do not have a hard texture.
Queijo com Casca
Cheese barks are essential for its flavour. Some are soft, others are hard and easily identify the type of cheese you’re about to open.
Queijo em Barra
This is the main way cheeses arrive at places such as supermarkets and cafes, for example. Imagine a cheese in the form of a bar in need of being cut (to sell by weight or to serve in a sandwich, for example) and you’ll get what Queijo em Barra means.
Where to buy Portuguese cheese?
If you are visiting a city in Portugal, you will easily find a store selling cheese.
Common stores that where you can find portuguese cheese are:
- Pingo Doce;
- Mini Preço;
See the complete list of the best supermarkets in Portugal.
If the region is typical for cheese production than you will certainly find a shop selling its “crown jewel”. There are, however, online shops in which you can buy cheese. The list below will help you choose:
Cheese & tapas restaurants in Porto and Lisbon.
If going to the supermarket and choosing all by yourself is not an option, alternatively, you can just go to a restaurant to taste Portuguese cheese.
My advice is to find a “tapas restaurant” (modern & fancy) or a local “tasca” (traditional Portuguese restaurant).
- Restaurant Tábua Rasa;
- Rua Tapas and Music Bar, also in Porto;
- Tapa Bucho – in central Lisbon;
- 11 tapas – in central Lisbon.
Cheese truly is one of the best souvenirs you can bring from Portugal, if you liked this article? Subscribe to our newsletter to know more about Portuguese food and other things to do while in Portugal.
Proudly from Porto, Portugal. I love everything about Communication and that is why I have a degree in Communication Sciences, with a specialisation in Journalism. I later took a Masters in Multimedia, so I can say that, today, I can communicate through a various number of forms. I am all about love and passion, in everything I do. I believe everyone has a special talent and is destined to do specific things. I believe in people, most of all, and strongly defend team work in any area - we can go much further when we go together. Alone, we achieve nothing.