The Cheese Lover’s Guide To Havarti Cheese

March 31, 2021

The Cheese Lover’s Guide To Havarti Cheese

If you haven’t heard of havarti, you’re not alone. We like to think of havarti as the quietly charismatic friend that makes good conversation at a party: they’re not a showboat, but they are undeniably charming. This crowd-pleaser of a cheese is buttery, smooth, and just sweet enough to be part of the main course as well as dessert—because what cheese lover doesn’t want cheese with every part of the meal?

Simply put, havarti is a must-try. Read on to learn all about this Danish-derived cheese, some spectacular Wisconsin varieites, and the best drinks to pair with havarti. That’s right: it’s a havarti party.

Cheese history: The story behind havarti

Like most things, havarti was born from a trail-blazing woman. Hanne Nielsen, a Danish farmer, spent the early years of her adult life roaming around Europe learning all about cheesemaking. Inspired by her travels, she set out to create an ultra-creamy, semi-firm cheese, and we’ve been indebted to her ever since.

When Danish immigrants came to the lush rolling hills of Wisconsin, they brought their love of havarti with them. Scandinavian skill, enhanced by the highest-quality Wisconsin milk, led to an American-made havarti that we think would make Hanne proud.

All about havarti cheese

What does havarti cheese taste like?

If you’ve never had havarti, you’re in for a treat. This semi-soft cow’s cheese is creamy, smooth, and supple in texture. With the first bite, you’ll be struck by how buttery and rich it is as well as perfectly mild but never boring.

While we’ll happily gobble up classic havarti all day long, there are plenty of adventurous options when you’re in the mood to mix it up. Wisconsin Cheesemakers have perfected a number of varieties: try a dill-infused havarti for a Mediterranean-inspired bite, or a horseradish havarti that adds aromatic flair to any dish. You can never hav-arti enough!

How is havarti cheese made?

While havarti is made in a process similar to most other cheeses, the flavor and texture of this cheese are in a league all their own. The whole process starts with a set of enzymes known as rennet that is added to fresh Wisconsin milk in order to start the curding process. Cheesemakers separate the curds from the whey, drain the whey, and press the curds into cheese molds.

Then, the cheese is aged anywhere from a few months to a few years. The longer the cheese is aged, the more intensely flavorful it becomes. Similar to swiss cheese, havarti has small “eyes,” or holes, distributed throughout thanks to friendly bacteria in the cheesemaking process.

What’s the difference between havarti and swiss?

While havarti and swiss cheese both have holes, these cheeses differ in flavor and texture. Swiss has a firmer texture and is nuttier—thanks to its longer aging time—with large eyes. Havarti is semi-soft, with a super buttery and creamy flavor. Havarti’s eyes are smaller and more evenly distributed than those  found in swiss. 

Why does havarti cheese have holes?

Cheesemakers add good bacteria during the crafting process, and those bacteria make a happy home in the cheese and release carbon dioxide. These gas bubbles become trapped as the cheese is formed, causing little holes or eyes.

How long is havarti cheese aged?

How long havarti is aged depends on the cheesemaker and the target flavor profile. It’s typically a pretty short aging process—around three months. This ensures the signature creaminess and mild flavor. However, some varieties are aged a year or more. This causes the cheese to develop a firmer texture, slightly saltier taste, and often a distinct nuttiness reminiscent of hazelnuts.

Must-try Wisconsin Havarti Cheeses

Carr Valley Cheese Havarti: For a classic havarti that shines in its simplicity, you can’t do better than Carr Valley’s havarti. This creamy cheese is mild, buttery, and smoother than jazz. Pair with raspberry jam or fresh pears for a decadent duo. 

Roth Cheese Dill Havarti: Roth Cheese infuses their havarti with bright, earthy dill for a subtle, savory twist on a classic. This delicate cheese pairs particularly well with smoked salmon, capers, and radishes making it pretty much required for any weekend brunch.

Decatur Dairy Pepper Havarti: In the mood to spice things up? Try Decatur Dairy’s pepper-filled havarti, with just enough heat and smokiness to balance the natural milkiness of the cheese. Light yet zippy, this melt-in-your-mouth cheese is the perfect addition to any Southwestern dish.

Pairing havarti cheese

What beer goes well with havarti cheese?

With such a light, delicate cheese, we recommend an equally light beer. Pilsner, saison ale, or sour ale all pair well with havarti. For more beer and cheese pairing tips, don’t forget to read our full guide covering all the details!

What wine pairs best with havarti cheese?

For red-wine, try a light-bodied option like Beaujolais or pinot noir. For that summer feeling, pair havarti with a chilled glass of rosé or sauvignon blanc.

What accompaniments should I serve with havarti cheese?

Havarti pairs well with sweeter, fresh fruits like pear, fig, or Honeycrisp apple. If you like pairing cheese with jam or jelly  (who doesn’t?), try havarti with a little raspberry jam or honey. And, of course, don’t forget to include walnuts, crackers, or some crusty bread for some crunch.

If you’re ready to take a deeper look into the world of cheese pairing, we recommend starting with our beginner’s guide to cheese pairing.


Ready for a cheese tasting night featuring havarti? You can get Wisconsin’s finest cheeses and cheese gift baskets delivered right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin Cheese is just a click away.

Craving something else? Choose from our selection of over 400 recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Don’t forget to share your creative cheesy creations with us on Facebook and Instagram.


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