Havarti Cheese: The Danish Delight

Havarti Cheese

Born in Denmark and perfected in Wisconsin, Havarti cheese is smooth, buttery, and deserving of a place on your cheese platter.

Anyone who has hosted a cheese tasting—or just put out a variety for guests to enjoy with other snacks—knows that you can’t please everyone. The Cheddar is too sharp, the Brie looks moldy, the blue is too…blue. But there’s one cheese that virtually everyone likes. It’s mild enough that the kids will go wild for it, yet interesting enough to satisfy any cheese geek. It also adds a little geographic variety to your cheese tray, as it’s likely to be the only representative of Denmark. Welcome to Havarti.

Havarti Cheese

What Is Havarti Cheese?

Havarti is a semi-soft cow’s-milk cheese created in the mid-1800s by Hanne Nielsen, a Danish woman who traveled around Europe to learn cheesemaking techniques. Upon returning to her farm in Denmark, she experimented with washing her curds in fresh spring water before pressing them into cheese molds and draining them. This resulted in a soft, creamy new cheese that she named after her farm, Havarthigaard, located just north of Copenhagen in Øverød.

Within a few years, Nielsen was sending her butter and cheese to the Danish king and queen; the rest she would sell in her shop in Copenhagen. There are two types of Havarti: the original (made with whole pasteurized cow’s milk), and flødehavarti (“cream Havarti”), which has cream added to bring the butterfat up to what the French would call a “double crème” (think Brie).

Danish cheesemakers brought the style to Wisconsin, where a number of creameries craft award-winning versions. In fact, it is notable that, in the 2015 United States Championship Cheese Contest, the top 5 Havarti entries were made by cheesemakers from Green County, Wisconsin. Here in America, the original Havarti is far more popular and easier to find than the cream version.

What Does Havarti Cheese Taste Like?

Havarti is smooth, with no rind, and creamy to pale yellow in color, with very small and irregular “eyes”. It has a buttery aroma, and the stronger varieties can be sharper and nuttier, on the order of Swiss cheese. The taste is buttery and slightly acidic, inhabiting sort of a middle ground between Muenster cheese, Monterey Jack, and Butterkäse (“butter cheese”).

Because Havarti’s smooth flavor, like that of Monterey Jack, is sort of a blank canvas inviting experimentation, it is often found flavored with dill and other herbs, horseradish, hot peppers, or caraway seeds.

Havarti Cheese Recipes

Just as it accommodates spices and other flavors, Havarti’s creamy-smooth, tangy flavor complements a wide variety of foods. You can shred it on a pizza instead of—or in addition to—mozzarella. It melts beautifully over burgers and in casseroles, and is fabulous in a Havarti grilled cheese. Its buttery richness is even perfect with fruits and in desserts. There’s simply no shortage of Havarti cheese recipes.

Wine and Other Pairings

Havarti is the perfect addition to a wine and cheese party. Slice it and serve it on a platter with apples, dried fruits, grapes and pears. Whole-grain or whole-wheat breads or crackers are perfect, as are butter crackers and water crackers. If you’re serving it with other cheeses, be sure to mix it up with an aged Cheddar, a goat or mixed-milk cheese, and some other contrasting flavors. Adding Butterkäse or Muenster to the mix would be bland and repetitive.

Wine:

Havarti loves a good red wine like Beaujolais, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot, and can stand up to the high alcohol of a red zinfandel. White wine lovers will enjoy it equally well with a sauvignon blanc, a riesling, or a buttery chardonnay to complement its buttery flavor.

Beer:

Havarti cheese is perfect with the entire spectrum of beers, from a lighter pilsner or weiss to a saison or sour ale to a hefty stout.

Next time you’re serving friends cheese with your favorite beverages, invite this gregarious Dane who loves to make friends. Serve a fine award-winning Wisconsin Havarti.

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10 Responses to Havarti Cheese: The Danish Delight

  1. Kathryn Muich January 17, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    I love this cheese but hate the packaging by Ktetschmar Premium Deli Cheese. Had to cut to open then use another bag to store. Is there an easier method?

    • hoffman January 18, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

      Thank you for your comment! Our Havarti Cheese from Wisconsin Cheeseman is packaged here in Wisconsin. Kretschmar is not affiliated with The Wisconsin Cheeseman.

    • Ralph Elliott October 23, 2017 at 3:16 am #

      Try a rubber band and a ziplock bag … And an attitude of gratitude. 🙂

  2. RStott April 24, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

    Tried this cheese from our local supermarket about a year ago and absolutely loved it’s buttery but deep flavor. Very enjoyable. As a young cheese is it semi-soft, but just tried an aged version this week and loved it as well – significantly different, but related taste profile to the young cheese, it is firmer as an aged cheese. Still some buttery tones, but with a cheddar-like (but not overwhelming) tang as well. I really enjoy both styles.

  3. George Stevens June 9, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    I compare Havarti cheese to Cracker Barrel, which is the standard I use. Most do not measure up. They lack the tang of Cracker Barrel Havarti. Others are so bland that I do not feel they have any flavor at all,

    Some seem to have no holes or a few holes but nowhere near the Cracker Barrel std I use. Do you have one that measures up?

    Sargento failed. Based on general description I would also rule out all Creamy Havarti. Please let me know how your Havarti measures up/

    • severson June 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

      I would have to say ours will at the very least measure up to what’s sold at Cracker Barrel. In the last two U.S. Cheese Championships, the top 5 Havartis have come from Green County, Wisconsin, where we get ours. We work with some of the top Master Cheesemakers in Wisconsin.

  4. JOSEPH GESSLER August 11, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

    Many Years back I bought what they called”Havarti Sharp” I really enjoyed it but have never found it again. Is it still available?

    • Jeff August 13, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

      We don’t sell it and I’ve never heard of it, but there could certainly be some aged Havarti out there.

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