These Countries Produce the Best Cheese in the World
Cheese is beloved around the world. The popular dairy product is a staple in just about every cuisine — whether melted atop a pizza, grilled into a sandwich, simmered with spices in a paneer-based curry or on its own as the perfect finish to a multi-course meal. The culinary world would be seriously lacking without access to cheese, and that’s why so many countries have included it in their exports.
While cheese can come in various forms — hard to soft, smoked, aged or even covered in mold — every country has a signature style. Here, we’ve put together a list of the countries that produce the most cheese, which oftentimes translates to the best cheese in the world.
Though some are obvious, others might inspire you to expand your travel search to experience the world’s best cheese.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 154,088 metric tons
Euromonitor International reported that Czech cheese consumers are turning to fresh cheeses —especially soft cheese, which they see as healthier — in recent years. The popularity of Italian cuisine adds to the continued consumption of mozzarella specifically.
* All production numbers come from NationMasterfor 2019, the most recent year available, based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Czechia's Signature Cheese Style
Of course, local Czech cheeses account for much of the country’s production.
Jihoceska Zlata Niva is a blue cheese made in the South Bohemia region that’s especially popular. Olomoucke tvaruzky is a more unique golden-colored sour curd cheese that’s slightly chewy in consistency and pairs well with a baguette.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 160,074 metric tons
Belgium has grown exponentially in cheese production over the past 10 years. In 2008, the Western European country produced roughly 66,000 metric tons of cheese — an amount that has more than doubled since then.
Belgium's Signature Cheese Style
Between beer, frites, chocolate and waffles, Belgium has proven itself talented when it comes to decadent, indulgent eats — and that goes for its cheese production as well. It should come as no surprise that France’s closest neighbor is producing some of Europe’s most delicious cheeses.
Dating all the way back to the Middle Ages, Belgian cheese production ranges from Abbaye de Chimay, a semi-hard cheese from Namur, all the way down to Limburger, a well-loved soft cheese from the Limburg province.
27. South Sudan
Amount of Cheese Produced: 161,272 metric tons
Most people wouldn't expect to see South Sudan on this list. After all, the country isn't necessarily known for its cheese production. But it's common for people in the rural areas of South Sudan to make cheese for themselves. And there are cheese factories within the country that manage to operate despite the ongoing conflict.
South Sudan's Signature Cheese Style
Because of its climate, South Sudan does better with soft, fresh cheese than with hard styles. Gibna bayda, a white cheese, is the country's most popular type of cheese. People normally consume it fresh and often make it themselves. But it can also be aged for months and stored.
Goat cheese is also quite popular since goats are less expensive than cows to buy and maintain. Since South Sudan is not yet a major exporter of cheese, the chances of trying any of its products abroad are slim.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 170,158 metric tons
Mexico’s cheese production has increased significantly since 2012, with an average year-over-year growth of about 6 percent. Soft white Fresco cheese is produced most widely.
Mexico's Signature Cheese Style
Cheese was first introduced to this part of the world by the Spanish, who brought dairy animals and cheesemaking techniques to pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. While European cheeses are still popular here, Mexican cheese has taken a form of its own.
Typically made from cows’ milk, there are between 20 and 40 different varieties of cheese made here, with Oaxaca and panela being some of the most popular. Both are white cheeses that make an excellent addition to tacos, enchiladas, and other traditional food.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 186,487 metric tons
China has seen a significant increase in cheese production, almost doubling in the past 50 years. Much of it has to do with the fact that Chinese people are consuming cheese at higher rates than before.
China's Signature Cheese Style
It's surprising to see China in here since you rarely see cheese in traditional Chinese food. But cheese is very much a part of Mongolian and Tibetan cuisines. In fact, Aaruul is a local Mongolian staple that is curdled and then pressed into a cake shape to make a solid cheese.
That said, the increase in Chinese cheese consumption and, therefore, production is mainly due to the introduction of Western cuisines like pizza and paninis.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 198,252 metric tons
Ukraine’s cheese production started to decrease significantly in the 1990s, but that changed at the turn of the century, with a whopping 56.72 percent growth in production in 2001. That’s likely due to a trend that took off in the 2000s that really emphasized an appreciation of everything local, including cheese.
However, Russia's invasion of the country in 2022 has affected production for all industries. These numbers don't reflect the war's impact on cheese.
Ukraine's Signature Cheese Style
Ukrainian cheese is unique in its bitterness. Apparently, it's because the animals that produce dairy here are mainly fed hay.
One of the country's most popular cheeses is the Fromages d’Elise, which ripens at about 16 months of age and is particularly rich and spicy.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 207,298 metric tons
As with Mexico, Europeans brought cheese products to Venezuela. Despite an ongoing economic and social crisis, the country still manages to produce an impressive amount of cheese. Much of it is kept for national consumption, though some is exported to markets with a large number of Venezuelan immigrants, like Miami, Florida.
Venezuela's Signature Cheese Style
Today, cheese is an integral part of Venezuelan traditional food. Dishes like arepas rellenas, tequeños (cheese sticks) and cachapas are stuffed or topped with different types of cheese.
Though international styles like mozzarella and gouda are popular, Venezuela also has over 30 artisanal cheeses, including queso guayanes and queso de mano.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 211,539 metric tons
The homeland of fondue and raclette, Switzerland has always relied on cheese. Before industrialization, the Alpine country relied heavily on farming and shepherding. The Swiss have been making cheese since the prehistoric Iron Age, with the standard type being what would now resemble a sort of cottage cheese
Switzerland's Signature Cheese Style
Swiss cheese may be a generic name for a household American cheese resembling Switzerland’s Emmental cheese. But cheesemaking in the European country runs much deeper than the perforated cheese for which it’s so well known. (Note to Americans: It’s just called “cheese” here.)
While cheese production in Switzerland has focused mainly on Emmental, there is also Gruyere, with fondue being the most well-loved method of cheese consumption. Widely considered a Swiss national dish, fondue usually combines Emmental, Gruyere and a creamy Vacherin fribourgeois.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 213,040 metric tons
According to the Greece National Report, the country produces about 608,002 metric tons of dairy products yearly, with about 41,360 tons of cheese (including feta and graviera) being exported.
Greece's Signature Cheese Style
The most popular Greek cheese to make it across the pond is feta, by a long shot. But, while it's delicious, Greece has a cheesemaking tradition that extends far beyond the salty table cheese.
Greece’s second most-popular cheese is graviera. Like Feta, it touts a blend of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk, but can be sliced and served on a charcuterie board or grated into salad for a punch of sweet and slightly nutty flavor.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 214,071 metric tons
The top three producers of cheese in Belarus include Savushkin Product as well as the Byarozauski and Turauski plants, which produce almost a third (31.3 percent) of the country’s cheese.
Belarus' Signature Cheese Style
Belarusian cuisine is known for its rich vegetable and dairy products. Considered to be Europe’s biggest emerging cheesemaker, Belarus has one of the world's highest rates of milk production per capita.
Before the war, the small country exported more than 94 percent of its cheeses to neighboring Russia. But the country is proud of its products, hosting a variety of cheese-related festivities in Minsk and Grodno, including the Cheese Olympics, the Cheese Dance and even a Cheese King.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 242,233 metric tons
Cheese is so popular in Turkey that locals eat it as a main course at breakfast. Of course, the meat and cheese dishes, as well as cheese appetizers, only add to its popularity.
Turkey's Signature Cheese Style
Turkey is particularly known for its fresh white cheeses known as beyaz peynir (similar to feta).
Another popular cheese is fresh kashar, a smooth cheese made from cow’s milk, used in sandwiches and pizzas. And then there’s aged kashar, one of the country’s richest. It resembles Italy’s Romano cheese and is ideal for grating and adding flavor to popular Turkish dishes.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 258,912 metric tons
Cheese is Austria’s most important dairy export, with total yearly exportation increasing year over year. Like Switzerland, the Alpine country has historically depended on dairy products from cows, sheep and goats.
Austria's Signature Cheese Style
Manufactured mainly in monasteries or small alpine dairy farms, Austria’s small-batch cheeses reign supreme in terms of unique flavors and craftsmanship.
The country’s crown jewels include vorarlberger bergkäse, a raw cow’s milk cheese, and tiroler graukäse, a pungent cow’s milk curd cheese made in the Tyrolean Alp valleys.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 265,992 metric tons
Ireland’s about 18,000 dairy farmers are to thank for its more than 265,000 metric tons of cheese produced each year, according to the Irish Farmers Association.
Ireland's Signature Cheese Style
While Ireland is known for its scenic coastlines and centuries-old pubs, Irish cheesemakers have been quietly making a name for themselves as far back as the 17th century.
Some unique Irish cheeses include a mild Cahill’s cheddar marbled with porter or stout and Dubliner Cheese, a sweet, granular cheese from County Cork.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 319,118 metric tons
Western countries don't know much about Iranian cheese, but the country exported over $4.12 million worth of the product in 2021. Its main recipients were other Middle Eastern countries, like Azerbaijan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Cheese and other dairy products have been an important part of the area's diet for thousands of years.
Iran's Signature Cheese Style
While there are many different styles to try, Lighvan cheese is perhaps Iraq's favorite cheese. It comes from the country's northwest.
The sour cheese is made with sheep milk and is usually served with bread.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 338,417 metric tons
When you think of Spain, what comes to mind? Rich red wine? Jamon Iberico? Manchego? Spanish cheesemaking dates back hundreds of years, and although the country’s selection of dairy is not as widely known as its neighbors to the North, the country touts more than 150 different variations of cheese.
Spain's Signature Cheese Style
Spanish tapas and charcuterie boards are one of the country’s most well-loved culinary traditions — and for good reason.
The ever-popular Manchego is aged between 60 days and two years, and comes from sheep’s milk. While it’s a semi-hard cheese, it has quite a buttery taste and texture. Spain’s lesser-known blue cheeses in Northern Spain and the smoky hard cheeses of the Canary Islands are also the perfect way to start or end a meal.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 338,738 metric tons
According to Dairy Australia, cheese makes up the most significant amount of the Australian dairy industry. The country exports about half of its cheese, worth approximately $691 million (987 million Australian dollars).
Australia's Signature Cheese Style
Unlike its European cheesemaking counterparts, dairy cows didn’t arrive in Australia until 1788, when two bulls and four cows journeyed from England all the way Down Under. The dairy industry experienced its boom in the early 1900s, when Australia produced enough cheese to export to England.
Today, Australian cheeses (like those in nearby New Zealand) mainly consist of specialty European-style cheeses.
13. New Zealand
Amount of Cheese Produced: 390,529 metric tons
Dairy products, in general, are one of New Zealand's main exports, with cheese being a major commodity. The highly rural society famously has more sheeps than people, which helps explain its affinity to cheese.
New Zealand's Signature Cheese Style
New Zealand’s cheese industry is booming — from the multi-award-winning aged Edam to creamy blues like Kapiti Kikorangi and Smoked Gouda.
There may not be too many native New Zealand cheeses, but a strong European influence has resulted in some seriously good cheeses coming from here.
12. United Kingdom
Amount of Cheese Produced: 410,000 metric tons
British cheesemaking is said to have begun in pre-Roman times more than 2,000 years ago — with the earliest types being what we would recognize today as Cheshire and Lancashire cheeses. However, cheesemaking in the U.K. was essentially halted during the world wars.
The United Kingdom's Signature Cheese Style
Luckily, cheese production picked back up in the late 1970s, when Patrick Rance wrote “The Great British Cheese Book,” which single handedly started what’s known as the Cheesemaking Renaissance.
Today, there are a total of six cheeses thought to be quintessentially British: Farmhouse Cheddars, Caerphilly, Double Gloucester and Stilton, as well as those early Cheshire and Lancashire varieties.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 443,473 metric tons
Cheese is a large part of the Argentine diet, with over 90 percent of the country’s cheese production consumed domestically. Soft cheeses such as cremoso, Saint Paulin and mozzarella make up about half of the market.
Argentina's Signature Cheese Style
A lot of Argentina’s signature cheeses come from Italian influence. In fact, the country’s Reggianito was invented by Italian immigrants who wanted something similar to Parmigiano Reggiano.
And then there’s Provoleta, which is similar to Italian Provolone. But in Argentina, this delicious cheese is typically served melted as an appetizer before some famous Argentinian asado.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 464,434 metric tons
Despite being small in size, Denmark produces a considerable amount of cheese — from well-loved Havarti to lesser-known mycella, which is basically a Danish version of Gorgonzola.
Denmark's Signature Cheese Style
While some of Denmark’s popular cheeses are contemporary and unique, most of the cheeses you’ll find here sport delicious nods to neighboring France, Italy and Switzerland.
Take Danablu, for instance, a semi-soft blue cheese that pairs well with nuts, fruits and honey. And then there’s Saga, a blue cheese and brie combo that’s typically aged for 60 days and is as delicious as it sounds.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 606,326 metric tons
As you might guess, Canada’s cheese expertise comes from its French roots. Samuel de Champlain brought cows from Normandy in the early 1600s. And the country now produces more than 1,000 varieties.
Canada's Signature Cheese Style
Canadians tend to like firm cheese (as opposed to soft or hard cheese), with cheddar and mozzarella being the most widely produced.
But the country also has specialty cheeses such as cream cheese, cottage cheese and Parmesan.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 626,603 metric tons
Cheese has been consumed in Egypt since ancient Roman times. The product was so important that it's been found in the tombs of pharaohs. Egyptians both produced their own cheeses and imported from places like modern-day Greece and Rome.
Modern Egyptian cheese is mostly used for national consumption, with people in rural areas often making their own products.
Egypt's Signature Cheese Style
As in other Arab countries, cheese is regularly served with breakfast in Egypt. It is also consumed as an appetizer and in several dishes and desserts (like fiteer).
You'll find different styles of cheese, like the soft white domiati or the salty and fermented mish.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 738,967 metric tons
The history of cheesemaking in Poland dates back to 5500 B.C. when a cheese resembling what we now call mozzarella was produced in Kujawy.
Poland's Signature Cheese Style
Poland has coined more than 600 cheese varieties cheese, many of which are protected by European Union law as regional products.
Popular Polish cheeses include quark, similar to Canadian curd cheese and commonly used as pierogi filling, and oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 745,103 metric tons
When Western dairy products were embargoed in Russia in 2014, the country saw a boom in local cheese production. Some are so delicious that they’ve won the gold prize at the World Cheese Awards (yes, of course, it’s a thing).
Russia's Signature Cheese Style
One award-winning cheese is the peshernyi hard cheese, created by a self-taught cheesemaker, who’s a prime example of Russia’s artisan cheese boom.
Another popular cheese is rossiysky, which is affordable and widely available. And then there’s kostromskoy, created about 150 years ago to resemble Dutch cheese at a more affordable price.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 931,137 metric tons
The Netherlands has steadily grown its cheese production in the past 10 years, and data from Statista suggests that the country is well on its way to producing more than 1.1 million metric tons by 2025.
The Netherlands' Signature Cheese Style
The history of cheesemaking in the Netherlands stretches back more than 1,600 years, so it should come as no surprise that it is one of the leading cheese exporters in Europe. Because of the country’s geography, Dutch cheeses — including goat and sheep — are some of Europe's most pure and natural.
Gouda is one of the most widely produced cheeses in the Netherlands, accounting for around 50 percent of the country’s cheese production. Cheese historians theorize that gouda dates back to the end of the 12th century, making it one of the oldest cheeses in the world that is still in production.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 1.13 million metric tons
Italian cheese has recently surpassed American cheese as the most beloved cheese in the U.S. — and for one very good reason: pizza.
Italy's Signature Cheese Style
It’s difficult to think of Italy without having cheese come to mind.
While mozzarella and provolone tend to be the most popular Italian cheeses, typically used on pizza and in paninis, you can’t forget about other Italian staples like Parmigiano Reggiano and asiago, both of which go perfectly with pasta dishes or on their own in a charcuterie board.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 1.68 million metric tons
France produces 1,000 different variations of cheese, resulting in, yes, 1.68 million metric tons a year — also roughly 125 pounds of cheese produced per second. Holy cheese!
France's Signature Cheese Style
France and cheese go together like peas and carrots. After all, the country touts some of the best cheeses in the world — from creamy brie and camembert, to firm and flavorful mimolette and Beaufort.
While just about every region of France has its own particular cheeses, the most popular regions include Normandy, the birthplace of Camembert, and Calais, where the best mimolette is found.
Amount of Cheese Produced: 2.34 million metric tons
While Germany happens to be the second-largest cheese producer in the world, the country actually exports about half of its total cheese products.
Germany's Signature Cheese Style
Germany has a longstanding tradition of cheesemaking, largely due to its varying landscapes.
The majority of German cheeses are produced in the state of Bavaria, which astonishingly has 600 types of cheeses, ranging from more famous ones like Muenster and Allgäuer Emmentaler (a German-style Swiss) to quark, a curdled milk product that’s comparable to ricotta.
1. United States
Amount of Cheese Produced: 6.32 million metric tons
Believe it or not, the king of cheese production is the U.S., producing a whopping 6.32 million metric tons in 2019. About a quarter of America’s total cheese production comes from Wisconsin, with California and Idaho following behind.
The United States' Signature Cheese Style
Modern “American” cheese is, for the most part, considered processed and made from cheddar or similar cheeses. It’s available in brick form or pressed into familiar, individually wrapped cheese singles. But the cheese made in America has surpassed its Kraft single days.
American cheesemongers have started producing more artisanal cheeses that sport European-sounding names, like Swiss and Muenster. In fact, processed cheese is really starting to see a major decline in this part of the world, following the trend of emphasizing local, small-batch goods.