From Mild to Strong: How to Select the Best Blue Cheese


Who Likes Blue Cheese?

There's no doubt about it: Blue cheese—also known as "bleu cheese"—is not for everyone. With its bold, sharp, and tangy flavor, this cheese may be an acquired taste for a discriminating palate.

I grew up eating blue cheese, always Roquefort, as it was my grandmother's favorite. Some of my fondest memories were the "cheese and crackers hour" as I described it (the grown-ups referred to it as the “wine and cheese” hour). Sometime around 5:00 p.m., Grandma would set out an assortment of cheeses, from the bold (for the older generation) to the mild (for the youngsters). My cousins and siblings would be digging into cheddar or Swiss while I was heaping mounds of Roquefort on top of the Carr crackers.

As a youngster, I thought all blue cheese was called “Roquefort.” We even had Roquefort salad dressing, by golly. It wasn't until my teens that I learned there is a wide variety of blue cheeses and they're not all made in France.

Roquefort cheese... YUM!
Roquefort cheese... YUM!

What Makes Bleu Cheese “Blue”?

I'm relatively certain if my grandmother taught me why this cheese is blue, it would have ended my love affair quite abruptly. Fortunately, she kept that a secret from me, and it was something I came to learn on my own when I was old enough to handle it.

People theorize blue cheese was a serendipitous discovery, and stories abound as to how this coveted food came into being. A popular legend has it that a young shepherd, caring for his sheep in the hills of Roquefort, France, spotted a beautiful maiden far off in the distance while having his lunch. He hastily turned his sheep over to the care of his dog dashed to the closest cave to leave his lunch of bread and ewe's milk curds in a safe, cool place. He ran as quickly as he could to chase after this fair lass. He searched tirelessly for days but alas, he could not find her. Exhausted, despondent, and starving, he returned to the caves where he'd placed his lunch. He was taken aback when he saw his bread and cheese had grown quite moldy. However, hunger overtook the shepherd, and he ate his old, moldy lunch anyway. He was pleasantly surprised by the delicious flavor! And so it's said this was the birth of Roquefort cheese.

Whether you choose to believe this legend or not, blue cheese is ancient. At the start, cheeses were aged in caves, and if just the right conditions existed, certain strains of a mold called Penicillium grew. As is evident by the name, this mold is a cousin to the penicillin antibiotic we're all familiar with. The cheese is given its characteristic appearance by the streaks of the Penicillium culture. The cultures are injected either into the curds or into the formed cheese: Penicillium won't grow properly unless it has oxygen, so the cheese is pierced with pins and air is intentionally blown into it, giving it that desirable crumb-like texture.

My Top Picks for Blue Cheese: How They're Made

My list contains blue cheeses that are popular, readily available, and sure to please a variety of tastes.

Danish Blue Cheese
Danish Blue Cheese

Danish Blue (Danablu)

This cheese was created in the early 20th century by a Danish cheese maker by the name of Marius Boel. This was his attempt to mimic the ever-popular Roquefort cheese in terms of appearance, flavor, texture, and taste.

Danish Blue is a semi-soft, creamy cheese made from cow's milk. Compared to the powerful flavor of a Roquefort, this is considered a mild blue cheese. It's commonly sold in wedges, drums, or blocks. The needling process takes place in the curd phase, and Penicillium Roqueforti is inserted evenly into the deep channels. Traditionally, the cheese is aged in a cave or another dark, damp environment for 8 to 12 weeks.

Gorgonzola Blue Cheese
Gorgonzola Blue Cheese


As the name may suggest, gorgonzola is an Italian cheese made from either goat's or unskimmed cow's milk or a combination of the two. The texture of gorgonzola varies from soft and crumbly to firm. This cheese has been around since the Middle Ages, but it wasn't until the 11th century that it started getting infused with Penicillin glaucum and thereby gained the distinction as a blue cheese. Gorgonzola is a small Italian city just outside of Milan. This cheese is now made in the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont and infused with lactic acid bacteria as well as the traditional Penicillin glaucum. Recently, the use of Penicillium roqueforti has become widespread.

Gorgonzola is made by first warming the milk with the lactic acid bacteria along with the mold spores so that it separates into curds. These curds are then injected further with the mold and channels are created with rods to encourage mold spore germination, giving it that ideal bluish-green veining. This cheese is aged a low temperatures for various lengths of time (usually between 3 to 4 months), depending upon the desired consistency of the cheese. The longer the cheese is aged, the firmer it will be.

Maytag Blue Cheese
Maytag Blue Cheese


Hey, go figure... there's an American cheese on my list! This cheese gets its name from the farm where it's produced, Maytag Dairy Farms, located just outside of Newton, Iowa, the former home of the famous multi-billion dollar appliance corporation, Maytag. In 1941, the grandsons of Maytag's founder began to make cheese. They wanted to make cheese that was comparable to the almighty Roquefort.

The Maytag cheese process was discovered and patented by two Iowa State University microbiologists. The process begins by separating the cream from the milk, homogenizing it, and adding it back to the original milk that's been skimmed. Precise temperatures are used for this delicate process. The milk is then ripened for a time before rennet is added. Rennet is enzymes that coagulate milk and separate the curds from the whey. The resulting product is heated, Penicillium is added, the rounds of cheese are hand-formed, and off it goes to age in highly specialized and controlled caves that combine cool temperatures with high humidity. To this day, they only use fresh Iowa farm milk.

Stilton Blue Cheese
Stilton Blue Cheese


Stilton is an English cheese that is sometimes referred to as the “King of Cheeses,” although I'm sure some of the other blue cheeses on my list would beg to differ! Stilton has a protected origin designation, meaning any cheese labeled as "Stilton" must meet a particular set of standards. All protected origin cheeses are monitored by independent government agencies that perform random quality checks. To be a Stilton cheese means it must be made in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, or Derbyshire in England, where only seven dairies are licensed to make it. Pretty hoity toity, huh?

Stilton is always cylindrically-shaped and never pressed. It has its own unique crust and the blue veins radiate out from the center in a very distinctive pattern. Stilton is made from pasteurized milk mixed with rennet and, of course, Penicillium roqueforti for the mold. Curds form in huge vats, which are removed and set out to drain overnight. After this draining process, the curds are further cut to drain out any remaining whey, salted, and put in their cylindrical molds. The molds are never pressed, but rather rotated regularly as the cheese ripens. This results in a loose texture for optimal mold culture germination. The blue veins are created by piercing the cheese with stainless steel needles all the way to the core. The whole process takes approximately 9 weeks.

Roquefort Cheese
Roquefort Cheese

How do you govern a nation that has 246 varieties of cheese?

— Charles de Gaulle


Of course, the number of cheeses produced in France has grown significantly since Charles de Gaulle's infamous complaint!

Finally, we've arrived at the almighty, revered Roquefort. Like Stilton, it has a protected designation of origin. All Roquefort is made from the milk of the Lacaune, Manech, and Basco Bearnaise sheep. Only cheese aged in the Combalou caves in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may be labeled "Roquefort." Penicillium roqueforti can only be found in these same caves.

Within 48 hours of milking, the rennet is added to the ewe's milk. It's then heated and placed into large vats, where it's allowed to ferment into curds. The curds are then carefully cut into cubes, drained, and salted. It then remains at the dairy for a few days until it's transferred to the caves. Just before entering the caves, the cheese is thoroughly pierced to encourage fungal growth. The soon-to-be blue cheese is then left in the caves for a few weeks to allow the spore growth. The loaves are then wrapped and aged for another 3 to 10 months.

Creamy, crumbly blue cheeses, like this Danish Blue, will have the strongest flavors.
Creamy, crumbly blue cheeses, like this Danish Blue, will have the strongest flavors.

How to Select Blue Cheese

There are people who avoid blue cheese because of its reputation for having a very pungent odor and distinctively strong flavor. However, not all blue cheeses are alike: Some are surprisingly mild. As a general rule, the soft and creamy blue cheeses have less of the strong punch the firmer cheeses have. The crumbly cheeses will be the strongest and the hard cheeses are somewhere in the middle. From the list above, here are some appropriate classifications for your discerning palate:

Mildest Blue Cheeses

Gorgonzola and Danish Blue will have the mildest flavors.

Moderately Strong Blue Cheeses

Stilton, a hard cheese, takes second place here in terms of pungent flavor. Just so you know, the rind is edible, but not particularly tasty to some individuals.

Strongest Blue Cheeses

The creamy, crumbly blue cheeses are going to be the strongest. Roquefort is definitely the winner in the strong blue cheese category. It has a distinctive bite and aroma no matter how you slice it. This may not be appropriate for the novice blue cheese consumer, unless, of course, you're me! Maytag is crumbly and literally melts in your mouth. It takes second place on my list due to its spicy bite and tangy flavor.

How to Ensure Your Blue Cheese is Fresh

Test with your nose:

  • Avoid cheese that's developed a lot of white mold on the rind: This can be an indication of improper handling.
  • Let your nose be your guide! Soft cheese has a meaty smell to it, and should never have an ammonia smell.
  • The creamy and crumbly types of cheese have an almost herbal smell: Some say they smell a bit like grass. They will have a pungent odor, but again, if they smell like ammonia, steer clear.
  • A firm blue cheese will have a nutty or smoky smell and should never have a strong, gamey odor.

Of course, some of us are more smell-impaired than others, so you will also want to use visual cues.

Visual test:

  • If you find the cheese is growing different colors of mold, its texture is changing, or it's just looking different from how it did when you originally got it, then it's best to throw it away.

How Long Does Blue Cheese Keep?

The softer blue cheeses should be eaten within a week after opening. The harder cheeses last longer, more like 2-3 weeks. Of course, there's always the “best if used before” dates on the package.

How to Properly Store Your Blue Cheese

Any firm blue cheese, like Stilton, should be first wrapped in wax paper, then sealed in an airtight plastic bag and placed in your refrigerator's cheese drawer. All other non-firm blue cheeses should simply be placed in an airtight plastic container with a few holes poked into the lid to avoid excessive moisture. Place these in your fridge's cheese drawer.

Blue cheeses are best enjoyed at room temperature, so allow them to sit for a while before serving.

Where to Buy Quality Blue Cheese

Some farmer's markets have an excellent selection of blue cheeses. Gourmet food stores and specialty stores also have a wide assortment. One advantage of buying cheese in person is the opportunity to sample before you buy. Of course, the largest selection available is the blue cheese that's sold online. Many dairies have their own websites, Maytag Dairy Farms is a great example.


It's advised that you avoid eating blue cheese if you are allergic to penicillin.

It's ill-advised to consume any unpasteurized foods during pregnancy as they may lead to a foodborne illness.

What do you think?

What do you look for in a blue cheese?

  • The bluer, smellier, and stronger, the better!
  • I like my cheese on the milder side.
  • Mild or pungent, creamy or crumbly, I like it all.
See results without voting

Comments 76 comments

Jalal Aslam Ali 2 months ago

I make my own blue cheeses - Shropshire Blue, Gorgonzola Dolce, Stilton, Roquefort.

I have to have about an ounce of blue every morning for breakfast.

I suspect I have a blue cheese addiction and I can't imagine going without it for more than a couple of days.

Mike Shaw 7 months ago

Bleu des Causses from the Roquefort region made from cow's milk.

Tastier and stronger than Roquefort.

brownieheaven 3 years ago

wow look so delicious .. i wanna try that soon

kevin 4 years ago

thank you for this very informative post, I will be trying these cheeses soon

BigfatreddawgMary 4 years ago

My father sliced a thin piece of fruitcake (the kind you eat in England) and then placed a thin slice of Roquefort on top of it. It would be in the shape of a toast soldier, so not huge. I have loved blue cheese ever since :) I eat all kinds of blue cheese, in fact all kinds of cheese....yum!

NMLady profile image

NMLady 4 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

we looooove cheeses!


nancynurse profile image

nancynurse 4 years ago from Southeast USA

my family loves cheese but I am always at a loss when I go shopping. Thanks so much for the tips. I will be revisiting often!!!

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 5 years ago Author

Too funny, Hyphenbird. I completely understand! I was miserable when I wrote the hub. Enjoy your Stilton!

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I have been miserable ever since I read this Hub. And now I just shelled out $16.00 for a nice block of Stilton and have no regrets. Now I am smiling. Just thought you might like to know. laugh

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 5 years ago Author

Thanks everyone! I missed the day this was chosen hub of the day. I appreciate all the comments and I'm flattered this hub got chosen.

catsimmons profile image

catsimmons 5 years ago from Mission BC Canada

Great hub! Love the pictures :-)

Although I'm from Derbyshire I still like Danish Blue the best. My Dad also loves blue cheese and is allergic to penicillin-luckily he has no reaction to foods.

Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Paige Masters, congratulations on Hub of the Day! I love most kinds of blue cheese my favourite has to be stilton. Being originally from the UK is was almost a "staple" in my family - we especially used to eat a lot of it at Christmastime.

Voted up/interesting


serenityh profile image

serenityh 5 years ago from Morgantown, WV

Very good information. I agree with you that Blue cheese is not for everyone. It's certainly not for me. But I still think that this hub is interesting nonetheless.

cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

I LOVE blue cheese. I've tried many different types and never really knew the difference. I learned a lot from this hub. Thanks for the great tutorial and congrats on your hub of the day!

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 5 years ago

Excellent hub--informative, well-written, well illustrated, and with a bit of humor too. You've set the bar pretty high for the rest of us. Great job!

stacirenae89 profile image

stacirenae89 5 years ago

Great Hub! Very informative. I love cheese and this was excellent advise. Thank you so much.

Princessa profile image

Princessa 5 years ago from France

I love Roquefort, whether it is on crackers, a fresh baguette, a salad dressing, a pasta sauce or as a filling for dates and figs... yummy!!!

The Bleu d'Auvergne is rather good as well, less strong but milder; for spreading Le bleu de Bresse is also very tasty.

applecsmith profile image

applecsmith 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Congrats on being the Hub of the Day! Very well deserved. This is a fabulous article filled with detailed information on the subject. Makes me want to go out and buy some blue cheese.

Thanks for sharing - voted up!

J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Congratulations for being selected for the Hub of the Day!

This is an awesome Hub that is well researched and perfectly executed. I learned a lot here and have to admit that I love Blue Cheese. I never realized that there were so many different kinds! Great job. Voting up and sharing!


Elizabeth Hong profile image

Elizabeth Hong 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thank you for the wonderful post.

bluebird profile image

bluebird 5 years ago

That reminds me, I need to buy some blue cheese!

J Burgraff profile image

J Burgraff 5 years ago

I love blue cheese, and loved your hub on it. If you ever have an opportunity to have Rogue River Valley blue cheese (Oregon), I suggest you try it. It's out of this world.

NMLady profile image

NMLady 5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

My mouth is watering.

Two interesting things...

First, Our daughter-in-law is from Indonesia and she thinks that eating cheese is gross. They don't eat cheese much there!

Second, we were purchasing some blue cheese from the deli case and the young lady cutting it told us that 'this cheese is spoiled' LOL

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

YUM! My mouth is watering. I love blue/bleu cheese. I am going to pick some up today. You did a great job withthis Hub. And again I say YUM.

andrewwilliams63 profile image

andrewwilliams63 5 years ago

Great hub, Stilton and Gorgonzola all the way!

Ben 5 years ago

My grandpa always has cheese in a glass covered dish at room temperature. He always has an assortment of cheeses, including bleu. Good hub.

Roman Savorec 5 years ago

Interesting hub. To be fair though, you really can't compare Roquefort to any other "blue cheese". Roquefort stands alone, it is in a league apart and should not be thrown in to this blue cheese grouping. All other varieties of blue cheese, although some as you point out can be relatively good, are but pale imitations of Roquefort.

PETER LUMETTA profile image


All my life I loved Blue Cheese, now I know why. Very good HUB great descriptions, Thanks, Peter

chamilj profile image

chamilj 5 years ago from Sri Lanka

Interesting. Sadly I didn't these Blue Cheese at any of Supper Market in my country.

original010 profile image

original010 5 years ago from Egypt

very nice information, I also like blue cheese and when I was young thought that all are named Roquefort.

maruthirp profile image

maruthirp 6 years ago from Hyderabad

Hi Paige! I never used blue cheese. I dont know how tasty will it be. But your post has brougth so much of taste to blue cheese really. Great tasty hub.

Mindwrencher 6 years ago

Great article. I like the chunky bleu cheese dressings and have been known to add extra. The cheese by itself is a bit strong for me, but I still love it. Thanks for the research and history that went into your article. Very readable, concise, informative, interesting, practical and refreshing. Think I'll visit the kitchen.

ptosis profile image

ptosis 6 years ago from Arizona

I like Gorgonzola the best, it's tastes better and it's cheaper.

Mix it in with the extra Chunky Blue Cheese fancy salad dressing to make it extra ono.

devsir profile image

devsir 6 years ago from Earth

Great writing. It is packed well with information about blue chees. The title is appropriate.

coolmompublishing profile image

coolmompublishing 6 years ago from Georgia

I just wanted to let you know that I am extremely allergic to the whole penicillin family, but I am able to eat blue cheese. I've never eaten terribly huge quantities, but I had it spread on crackers as a snack or appetizer. My guess is that the pharmaceuticall prepared penicillin causes the allergic reaction.

Great read! Very informative. I am a huge fan of cheese, and I'll definitely be sending people to this hub.

Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 6 years ago

very informative and well written. Do write more !

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Congratulations on your winning Week 1 of the hubalicious contest. I love blue cheese in all its forms. Very informative hub.

Cattleprod Media profile image

Cattleprod Media 6 years ago from Johannesburg

Hmmmm.... now my mouth is watering. Great hub. Thanks.

lilfaerie profile image

lilfaerie 6 years ago from Hemet, CA

I love blue cheese! Excellent info thanks! I had no idea that is was dangerous to eat it if you are allergic to penicillin, although so far I have had no trouble. :)

ladylux profile image

ladylux 6 years ago

Mmmmm.... bleu cheese!

gazzan profile image

gazzan 6 years ago from Italy

woow great post

Frances_30s profile image

Frances_30s 6 years ago from Texas

Blue Cheese has always been a favorite of mine. This was a fun and informative hub to read!

aquaneel 6 years ago

what an excellent hub!??

rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

what an excellent hub! so through and informative, very well written. I also love the way you laid it out. very nice on the eyes and easy to read. thanks for sharing! and a big congrats on your win!! well deserved. :)

Purple Perl profile image

Purple Perl 6 years ago from Bangalore,India

Thanks for a very informative hub. Will definitely try some blue cheese.

And Congrats,Paige! Your very first hub and I am your fan! :)

febriedethan profile image

febriedethan 6 years ago from Indonesia

This is very informative hub about blue cheese, I learn a lot, thank you!!

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

A great hub, really well written! I'd like to report a breakthrough in the world of blue cheese. St.Agur, which is kind of roquefortesque brought out a spreadable version, but even this is superceded by the new green-foil wrapped Boursin influenced design. It's blue cheese on another level! Try it with pumpkin seed oatcakes.

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

It took me a while to develop a taste for blue cheese, but now I love it - especially with fruit!

charanjeet kaur profile image

charanjeet kaur 6 years ago from Delhi

Man this is indeed lots of information for me to process. Lol. You have here is one comprehensive hub, I only new cheese as cheese and you opened by an entire new world of blue cheese to me. Never tried any of the blue cheese you mentioned. Will surely look out for them next time I hit the grocery. Congrats and Well deserved.

Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 6 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

Well done! Lots of great information and easy to read!

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 6 years ago Author

Thanks, all. I appreciate the support.

Marty Chefman profile image

Marty Chefman 6 years ago

Zis is a vunderful 'ub! A vorthy vinner of ze first veek of ze 'ubbalicious competition!

esatchel profile image

esatchel 6 years ago from Kentucky

Excellent hub! I love all the blues! Congrats on the win.

Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Congrats,on your win! I love forward to reading more of work. :)

Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia

Congratulations on your win. Now it is time to do a happy dance :)

cosette 6 years ago

congratulations Paige! an excellent hub and you deserved it :)

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

Congrats and well-deserved.

judydianne profile image

judydianne 6 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

A great hub, deserving of the win!

Angela Harris profile image

Angela Harris 6 years ago from Around the USA

Wow, what a great hub. No surprise you won! Of the blue cheeses on your list, my favorites are Maytag and Gorgonzola. I know, they're totally different, but that's what my taste buds tell me!

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Congrats on the win!

Twenty One Days 6 years ago

well done on the win!

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 6 years ago

Wow very informative and well-written. Congrats! :)

Betty Reid profile image

Betty Reid 6 years ago from Texas

Congratulations on winning a contest with one of your first hubs! Impressive!

barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 6 years ago from Queensland Australia

well done posted to my blog !

Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Good hub on blue cheese; gotta have it on a good salad. Congrats on being selected as one of this week's "Best Hub" nominees. Good luck to you! :)

thomas clarke 6 years ago

great hub very well put together well researched well done.

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

Very informative hub. I love blue cheese too and now with more knowledge, thanks to you, it makes eating blue cheese more enlightening. Thanks.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago

Blue cheese is wonderful. I had a gorgonzola pasta in Italy that was out of this world! Very informative hub, it was a pleasure to read.

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 6 years ago Author

Thank, Veronica! It must be a drag to be allergic to penicillin, but I'm sure there are ways around it. I'd stay clear of blue cheese then. It is good, super filling and loaded with fat, too!!!

Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia

Who knew blue cheese had such a history! I appreciate the fact that you warned those who are allergic to pennicillin (which I happen to be) to avoid eating this yummy sounding delicacy.

I loved the details you put to this hub - Great job!

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 6 years ago Author

Ha ha, glad to set you straight! Whoda thunk there was so much to know about blue cheese! Thanks for the visit.

darkside profile image

darkside 6 years ago from Australia

Before reading this hub the only thing I thought I knew about blue cheese is that it was blue.

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 6 years ago Author

Thanks, cosette! Definitely try these kinds of blue cheese, they are delicious! Thanks for the comment and read.

cosette 6 years ago

wow, this is a very comprehensive (and lovely) hub! good job. i will have to try some.

Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 6 years ago Author

Thanks so much, lizmoss! I love and adore it, too. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

lizmoss71 profile image

lizmoss71 6 years ago from Orpington, UK

What a very informative hub! I love blue cheese, especially stilton and found this a great read.

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