There is no firm answer on how many types of cheese there are in France – some say about 300, others over 1,000! But one thing is for certain: Cheese is extremely important to the people of France. In fact, over 95% of French people eat cheese regularly. A full 40% eat it every day, which goes some way to explaining how the French consume 26 kg of cheese every year. Read on to learn about the different types of French cheeses you can find, along with information on the most famous cheese regions in France.
- Different kinds of French cheeses
- What are the famous cheese regions of France?
- What is the most popular cheese in France?
- Which countries produce the most cheese?
- Let’s eat all the cheese
Different kinds of French cheeses
French cheeses are often named after the town or region where they’re made. Some cheeses have been awarded the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation, which means the ingredients and the expertise to make it are tied to a specific region, and only cheeses made in a traditional way or from that specific place can use the name. There are 63 AOC designated French cheeses today.
You can categorize French cheeses by how they are made:
This is a cheese which is pressed into a large mold while it’s made, and you buy pieces of it from the cheesemonger, rather than a whole round. Popular types of pressed cheese include Comté and the softer Reblochon.
These are the typical oozy cheeses you buy with a soft rind, like Brie or Camembert.
Cheeses that are shot through with different types of mold, giving it a blue-veined appearance. The most famous is Roquefort, aged in caves in southern France.
You can also define a French cheese by which milk it is produced from:
Most pressed cheeses are made from cow’s milk.
Goat’s milk cheese can be served so soft it can easily spread, in a creamy log rolled in herbs or nuts, or an aged variety that is quite hard.
Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk, as is the Basque cheese Ossau-Iraty.
It is also common to specify whether a cheese was made by a farm or dairy, or by large industrial means. But fear not – you will find a huge variety of all types of cheeses in nearly every supermarket in France!
What are the famous cheese regions of France?
Every area of France has its own regional cheese varieties, but some are more well-known outside of the country.
Among the most popular is Burgundy, where you can travel to take in some beautiful views and châteaux, sample their gorgeous wines, and eat Époisses de Bourgogne and Boucheron at their source. You can also nip over to Franche-Comté, just to the east, and try the Gruyère de Comté or the Vacherin. Then visit the cute villages up in Normandy and Brittany to eat incredible seafood, as well as Camembert de Normandie and Brillat-Savarin.
France has so many cheeses, you could spend years visiting every region to taste them all.
What is the most popular cheese in France?
In 2018, the most consumed cheese by the French was Emmental, from Switzerland! There is quite a bit of Emmental produced in France as well, to be fair. But a close second was the creamy Camembert. Raclette is also a popular choice. This is the name of both the type of cheese and a dish, originally Swiss but enjoyed particularly in the regions neighboring Switzerland. Raclette cheese is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese and traditionally part of the wheel of cheese is cut open, and melted with a heat source. The now soft, melty cheese is scraped onto a plate and eaten with boiled potatoes, bread, and pickles. However, at home, many people have a raclette grill with little pans to hold a slice of the cheese while it is melted by heating elements directly above the pan.
Which countries produce the most cheese?
It must be France, right? Actually no, Germany and the United States produce more cheese. Though, France comes in at number three. Italy, another favorite cheese producer, is number four.
When it comes to consumption, the rankings look the same: The US consumes the most cheese, with Germany and France coming in second and third, respectively. In 2019, the people of the Czech Republic consumed an impressive 64kg of cheese per person, while Germans managed to eat 37kg per person. The French consumed approximately 25kg per person. More Raclette is clearly needed!
Let’s eat all the cheese
Each region of France has their own special cheeses, from the tiniest farmhouse cheese only available at the local market to the huge producers of Roquefort and Camembert. Could you eat every type of French cheese? It might take you over a year if you ate a different one every day. Better learn as many French recipes as you can!
Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favourite activity, along with sewing, cooking, and weaving. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.