British Cheese Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

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Along with producing Cheddar, one of the world's best-known British Cheeses, Great Britain produces 700 different types of cheese. British Cheese has long been associated with farmhouse craftsmanship, slow aging, and intense, developing flavors. While most British Cheese is made of cow's milk, there are a few sheep and goat's milk cheeses from Britain that have become popular among connoisseurs, including Berkswell, Spenwood, and Lord of the Hundreds.

British Cheese Makers are famous for innovating exciting new blended cheeses. Blended cheeses, sometimes just called "flavored cheeses," are British Cheeses blended with other flavorings to make them more interesting. Cotswold (Double Gloucester with Onions and Chives) is a typical British blended cheese. Other notable examples are White Stilton blended with candied fruits, English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions and exotics like Sticky Toffee cheese and Cheddar with Thai Curry.

The most famous British Cheese is West County Farmhouse Cheddar, followed closely by the second most famous British Cheese - Blue Stilton. Both of these, along with several lesser known types - enjoy PDO (protected name) status in the EU and Great Britain. Under law, a PDO British Cheese can only be made in a prescribed way, from certain ingredients and only in a designated geographic area. PDO protection helps ensure that a British Cheese like Cheddar or Blue Stilton sticks to the original recipe and continues time tested cheesemaking traditions.

Whatever your tastes, there's sure to be a British Cheese to your liking!

Types of British Cheese
British cheeses range from the mild and delicate to sharp and tangy. Below are just a few of the most popular cheese styles:

  • Caerphilly: Originally from Wales, most Caerphilly production has moved to England. A simple white cheese with a chalky texture when aged or a creamy texture when young.
  • Cheddar: Cheddar cheeses were originally made in the southwestern England shires of Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset; however, today they are manufactured in quite a number of countries. Fully cured, Cheddar is a hard, natural cheese. The rind, if any, may be artificial (wax) or bandage-wrapped. When waxed, the color of the wax used for coating does not indicate a level of quality. Normally, the color of British Cheddar cheese itself ranges from white to pale yellow. Some Cheddars however have a colorant added, giving the cheese a yellow-orange color. British Cheddar cheese is most always made from cow's milk and has a slightly crumbly texture if properly cured. Cheddar develops a sharper taste the longer it matures. The important thing in purchasing Cheddar is to consider the age of this classic British Cheese. Of course, the older it is, the more it will cost. The EU and Great Britain recognize West Country Farmhouse Cheddar as a PDO (name protected) British cheese.
  • Cheshire: One of the oldest British Cheeses, allegedly invented during the 12th century. Cheshire is firm in texture and a bit more crumbly than Cheddar. Cheshire is rich, mellow and slightly salty with an excellent aftertaste, its flavor sharpens as it ages.
  • Double Gloucester: A natural hard British Cheese, Double Gloucester has a mild and rich flavor with a smooth texture and a creamy yellow color. This British Cheese is excellent with fruit and beer.
  • Lancashire: A white British Cheese with a firm chalky texture. It has a mild flavor with hints of egg yolk. A PDO also exists for Traditional Lancashire if it is made exclusively in the Preston area from local pasteurized milk.
  • Red Leicester: An all-natural, hard-textured British Cheese, Red Leicester has a rich yet mild flavor with a flaky texture and a deep orange color. This British Cheese is excellent with fruit and beer.
  • Blue Stilton: Historically referred to as "The King Of British Cheeses," Blue Stilton is a blue-mold British Cheese with a rich and mellow flavor and a piquant aftertaste. It has narrow blue-green veins and a wrinkled rind that is not edible. Stilton is milder than Roquefort or Gorgonzola and is equally excellent for crumbling over salads or as a dessert cheese, famously served with a Port Wine. A PDO designation exists for Blue Stilton, stating that this classic British Cheese can only be made in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire from locally produced pasteurized milk. Interestingly, a legal battle took place over this PDO as the town of Stilton, located outside the legally designated production area, is prohibited by law from making its namesake cheese.
  • Wensleydale: In older days, this British Cheese was traditionally blue because the curd for Wensleydale is lightly pressed, allowing ambient mold to penetrate. Blue Wensleydale is still available today under the name Jervaulx Blue (named after an Abbey of the same name). The more popular Wensleydale of our time is a white, crumbly cheese, with a fine curd and minimal texturing and a high moisture content. White Wensleydale, typically produced in Yorkshire, is usually eaten young, at about a month old.
British Cheese Recipes:
Britain has come up with a range of popular British Cheese recipes, including everything from soups and salads to entrees and desserts. Some of the classics include: Blue Stilton and Watercress Soup, Welsh Rarebit, Blue Cheese and Cabbage Salad, Wensleydale-Stuffed Baked Apples, and Cheddar Cheese Tarts. To browse our Recipe Forum, click here.

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