Nut and Cheese Pairings for Party Success
Cheese and nuts pair perfectly at a wine-tasting party. Learn how to pair nuts and cheeses—and wines—for the best combinations of flavors and textures.
Welcome to the exciting food pairing experience where the worlds of nuts and cheese collide in a harmonious symphony of flavors and textures. Whether you’re a seasoned food enthusiast or a curious novice, this foodie party promises to tantalize your taste buds and elevate your appreciation for the magical interplay between the rich, creamy notes of cheese and the crunchy, nutty nuances of various nuts, showcasing the versatility and complexity of these extraordinary foods. So, grab a glass of wine, immerse yourself in the convivial atmosphere, and embark on a nut & cheese snacking adventure that will leave you craving for more.
You make your way through the cheese and charcuterie boards, sipping merrily along as you munch. The wine is perfectly matched to each cheese, either coaxing out complementary notes or providing contrasting counterpoints that stimulate the palate. But as you savor the velvety smoothness or crumbly sharpness of each sample, you can’t help but feel that something’s missing. Maybe you could use a little crunch.
Nuts and cheese are natural allies in any setting, and particularly at a wine and cheese tasting. When pairing any two foods—as in the wine and cheese scenario above—you’re looking for one of two things: complement or contrast. Pairing nuts and cheese can accomplish both.
You’ve certainly seen or heard some cheeses described as “nutty” in flavor—or tasted it for yourself. That quality makes these cheeses a perfect complement to nuts…a pairing that can be made even more intense by toasting those nuts. Of course, sometimes there is such a thing as too much. For instance, if you’re eating very salty nuts with a salty cheese like feta, it can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure your complementary flavors aren’t combining to make something overpowering.
Sometimes it’s easier to complement through contrast. Sweet complements salty, as anyone who’s ever eaten chocolate-covered pretzels knows. There is any number of pleasing combinations involving sour (acidic), sweet, salty, bitter, and umami—that mysterious savory flavor caused by glutamates that’s so prevalent in Asian cuisines as well as in cheese. Other flavor attributes come into play as well, like smoky or pungent. And don’t forget about contrasting textures; a crunchy accent can liven up an otherwise bland, creamy backdrop.
Nuts and Cheese Pairings
As we mentioned earlier, nuts have a natural affinity for cheese. When it comes to finding the perfect accompaniment for cheese, certain nuts (and wines, too, but we’ll get to that) stand out as the ideal partners, enhancing the flavors and textures in delightful ways. Let us introduce you to the crème de la crème of nut pairings. Prepare to elevate your cheese-tasting experience as we delve into the world of these extraordinary nuts, perfectly crafted to ignite your palate and elevate your appreciation for cheese.
Any discussion of pairing nuts with cheese should start with pecans. Their natural sweetness and rich, buttery flavor is the perfect foil for the saltiness of cheese—nearly any cheese.
Pecans complement the smooth and slightly sweet flavor of Gouda cheese. The creamy texture of Gouda, combined with the crunch of pecans, creates a delightful contrast that enhances the overall experience. The bold and pungent flavor of Blue cheese pairs remarkably well with the sweet and nutty taste of pecans. The creamy and crumbly texture of blue cheese complements the crunchy texture of pecans, resulting in a dynamic and flavorful combination.
Finally, try pecans with Brie, especially when you have spiced or honey-roasted pecans. Brie is especially fantastic with sweet condiments such as honey or a spicy-sweet pepper jelly applied just before the sprinkling of nuts.
Walnuts have a rich and slightly bitter flavor profile, making them a versatile nut to pair with various types of cheese. This earthy, less oily nut is excellent with aged Cheddar. Aged Cheddar cheese, with its sharp and complex flavor, pairs very well with walnuts. The nutty notes of the walnuts complement the intense and savory taste of the cheddar, resulting in a satisfying combination of flavors.
It’s also a tantalizing match for sheep, goat, or mixed-milk cheeses. The creamy and tangy qualities of these cheeses harmonize exceptionally well with the mild bitterness of walnuts. The creamy and slightly acidic goat cheese provides a perfect backdrop for the nutty flavors of walnuts.
And if you like things pungent, walnuts are incredible with Blue cheese, especially Gorgonzola, a type of Italian blue cheese, that offers a creamy and pungent profile. The cheese’s robust flavor and crumbly texture complement the rich and slightly bitter taste of walnuts, resulting in a delightful combination. Blue cheese and walnut pairing go to another level when they’re drizzled with honey.
For those seeking a contrasting crunch, the almond reigns supreme, with its toasty and nutty character that complements both milder and aged cheeses. This popular snack nut is perfect with any Swiss cheese, which is why they appear together in some cheese spreads. Almonds are also great with harder aged cheese, especially Cheddar. Cheddar cheese, with its sharp and tangy profile, pairs wonderfully with almonds. The robust flavor of cheddar enhances the natural nuttiness of almonds, creating a bold and satisfying combination. Sprinkle almonds with smoked paprika for extra color and kick.
Or, toast slivered almonds and serve with Brie. The creamy and mild flavor of Brie cheese acts as a wonderful canvas for the crunch and subtle sweetness of almonds. The soft and buttery texture of Brie complements the almonds, creating an elegant and satisfying combination.
If you’re serving cashews, be sure to get Blue cheese for your cheese platter. Their creamy, buttery, and slightly sweet taste is perfect with blue cheese, and they make for a delectable pairing. The smooth and creamy texture of cashews provides a delightful contrast to the bold and tangy flavors of blue cheese. The rich and slightly sweet notes of cashews complement the intense and savory characteristics of blue cheese, creating a harmonious combination that is both indulgent and satisfying. The buttery nature of cashews helps to mellow out the pungency of blue cheese, while the cheese’s distinct sharpness adds depth to the nutty flavor of the cashews.
Another excellent choice is to pair cashews with a creamy and mild cheese such as Brie or Camembert. The richness of the cashews beautifully complements the smooth and velvety texture of these soft cheeses. Or, pair them with a nutty and semi-hard cheese like Gouda or Gruyère. The nuttiness of the cashews enhances the deep flavors and nutty undertones of these cheeses, creating a harmonious and indulgent experience. Finally, for those who enjoy a touch of contrasting flavors, pairing cashews with a tangy and slightly salty cheese like feta or goat cheese can create a delightful balance.
The versatile and ever-popular pistachio, with its vibrant color and rich flavor, brings a delightful contrast to both fresh and sharp cheeses. There may not be a better match for pistachios than a good Parmesan. The salty and sharp profile of Parmesan cheese complements the rich and buttery taste of pistachios. Parmesan’s robust flavor adds depth to the nuttiness of pistachios, resulting in a flavorful and savory combination.
…but don’t stop there. Pistachios are excellent with chèvre and super-creamy soft cheeses. The creamy and tangy qualities of feta cheese provide a lovely contrast to the rich and slightly sweet taste of pistachios. The crumbly texture of feta complements the crunch of pistachios.
Pairing Nuts with Wine
Okay, you’ve got the right nuts paired with the right cheeses. Now what do you serve them with? Let’s find the right wines for those same nuts…in the same order.
Just as the pecan goes with nearly any cheese, its favorite wine happens to be the one that pairs with the most foods: pinot noir. It’s the lightest of reds, low in tannins, and remember how we said it goes well with the earthiness of Brie? There’s a winning combination.
These favorites among snack nuts work and play especially well with sparkling wines: prosecco, cava, champagne, and the like. And remember to consider the cheese you’re serving. As noted above, almonds are great with Swiss…which in turn is ideal with gewürztraminer or riesling. And since almonds also love aged Cheddar, don’t be afraid to break out that big dry red, mineral sauvignon blanc, or fortified Sherry or Port.
Walnuts also love aged Cheddar, so you could put out the same wine(s) you would if you were serving a sharp Cheddar with almonds: dry red (like cabernet sauvignon) or a robust Madeira, Sherry or Port. In fact, since blue cheese is also perfect with those same wines—and with walnuts—you could make a fantastic spread with blue cheese and sharp Cheddar, cabernet sauvignon and Port (or Madeira or sherry), and walnuts.
Sparkling wines are just the thing to cut through the buttery richness of cashews. However, as noted above, cashews are perfect with blue cheese (are you detecting a pattern here?)…so if you don’t feel like breaking out the bubbly, serve the same wines we mentioned for blue cheese, and just add cashews.
Pistachios pair well with light, zesty, summery wines, especially whites. As luck would have it, so do the goat cheeses that taste great with pistachios. Ditto for Parmesan, which also loves big, dry reds.
Roasted or candied nuts of all kinds love rich red wines…and there is almost nothing better on earth than candied nuts with blue cheese. Spiced nuts, on the other hand, are best with riesling or sparkling whites, as they can clash with big tannic reds.
Perfect Nut, Cheese & Wine Pairings
If you don’t have time to experiment, we’ve used the above guidelines to put together some easy pairings of nuts and cheese with wine that will be a home run every time:
- Almonds, Baby Swiss, riesling
- Cashews, blue cheese, sparkling moscato
- Pecans, Brie, pinot noir
- Pistachios, Parmesan, rosé
- Honey-roasted nuts, blue cheese, Port
For your wine-tasting party, WisconsinCheeseman.com has a great selection of cheese and nuts.