What is Havarti Cheese?

Havarti is a semi-soft Danish cow's milk cheese known for its buttery flavor and creamy texture. Originally developed in the 1860s by Hanne Nielsen, havarti has become popular worldwide, particularly in the United States.

What is Havarti Cheese

Havarti cheese originated in Denmark in the 1860s, created by a pioneering woman named Hanne Nielsen. After traveling across Europe to learn cheesemaking techniques, Nielsen returned to her farm, Havarthigaard, in North Zealand where she experimented with new recipes.

By washing the curds in fresh spring water before pressing, Nielsen developed a new semi-soft cheese that was creamier than traditional Danish cheeses. She named her new creation "havarti" after her farm.

Within years, havarti became popular and Nielsen was supplying the royal Danish family as well as selling it in shops in Copenhagen. The cheese was originally called "Danish Tilsit" referencing the German town where a similar cheese was first developed.

In the 1950s, the name was officially changed to havarti to honor Nielsen's original recipe. While production was centered in Denmark for years, today havarti is made around the world, including by many cheesemakers in the United States.

How Havarti Cheese is Made

While production methods can vary slightly, havarti is made using a simple process similar to many other semi-soft cheeses. Here are the basic steps:

  • Pasteurized cow's milk is coagulated by adding rennet. This causes the milk proteins to form solid curds that can be separated from the liquid whey.
  • The curds are cut into small pieces then drained to remove excess whey. This helps concentrate the curds and removes liquid.
  • The curd pieces are pressed into molds. Pressure is applied which forms the curds into a solid mass.
  • The cheese wheels are brined. They soak in a saltwater solution which flavors and preserves the cheese.
  • Aging takes place for a minimum of 3 months. This allows flavor and texture to develop. Havarti's rindless, semi-soft texture is a result of the gentle curd handling and light pressing.
  • For "cream havarti" milk is enriched with cream. This increases the fat and moisture content, creating an even creamier texture.

The key to havarti's signature tangy, buttery flavor is the use of fresh, quality milk and washing of the curds. Most havarti is made using vegetarian rennet as well.

Tasting Notes and Flavors

Havarti has a smooth, supple texture and ivory to pale yellow color. It has a signature buttery aroma and taste that is mild yet slightly tangy, with a hint of acidity. Since it has a relatively high moisture content, havarti has a softer, more pliable texture than many firm cheeses.

When aged longer, havarti becomes firmer with intensified nutty flavors and saltiness. The cheese also develops small holes or "eyes" from CO2 released during aging. These characteristics are signs of a well-aged havarti.

While traditional havarti has a simple creamy flavor, today flavored varieties are popular as well. Common flavors include dill, garlic, herbs, caraway seeds, peppers, and horseradish. These add aromatic nuance without overpowering the base cheese.

Key Takeaway: Havarti is known for its supple, buttery texture and tangy yet mild flavor. Longer aging produces a firmer style with enhanced nuttiness and saltiness.

Uses for Havarti Cheese

With its creamy texture that melts smoothly, havarti is a versatile cheese for cooking, snacking, and serving at parties. Here are some of the most popular ways to enjoy havarti cheese:

  • Sandwiches and burgers - Slices of havarti work well in both cold and grilled sandwiches. It also melts nicely over hamburgers.
  • Pizza - Havarti makes a delicious pizza cheese since it melts evenly without oil separation.
  • Quiche and tarts - The subtle flavor pairs nicely with eggs, vegetables or meat in savory baked quiches or tarts.
  • Macaroni and cheese - For a creamy comfort food dish, havarti and cheddar make a perfect cheesy sauce.
  • Snacking - On cheese boards, havarti stands up well with fruits, nuts, crackers and wine or beer.
  • Fondue - Blend with other cheeses like gruyere and emmentaler for a smooth, melty cheese fondue.
  • Quesadillas - Quesadillas filled with savory havarti and foods like chicken or peppers make an easy meal.
  • Omelets - Havarti's mild tang complements most omelet fillings from veggies to breakfast meats.
  • Potatoes - Top baked potatoes with slices of havarti and broil until melted for cheesy spuds.

With so many serving possibilities, it's no wonder havarti cheese has become a kitchen staple for cheese lovers around the world.

Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Havarti is a good source of protein and calcium, providing 8 grams of protein and 20% of the daily calcium per ounce (28 grams). Part of its high moisture content comes from milkfat which gives it a buttery flavor.

Regular havarti is moderate in fat at about 20-24 grams per ounce depending on whether part-skim or whole milk is used. However, some creamy havarti styles or "double cream" can have up to 30 grams of fat per ounce or more.

Since havarti is a fresh cheese, its nutrient content is similar to milk. Along with protein and calcium, it provides vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and phosphorus.

Studies suggest cheeses like havarti may have probiotics and anti-inflammatory properties as well. These are linked to benefits like lower blood pressure, improved digestive health, and better immune function.

Overall, when enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, havarti can be a tasty way to get essential nutrients naturally found in dairy.

Key Takeaway: Havarti provides protein, calcium, vitamins, and healthy fats. Some research indicates fresh cheeses like havarti may also have anti-inflammatory and probiotic effects.

Popular Brands and Where to Buy

Havarti is widely available in most grocery stores or specialty cheese shops. Popular national brands include Castello and Kretschmar, however you may also find local havarti varieties made regionally. Cheese shops and gourmet grocers will offer a wider selection as well.

To get the most authentic flavor, look for havarti made in Wisconsin on the label. This has become the leading producer of havarti in the United States. You can also order havarti and other Wisconsin artisan cheeses online through retailers that specialize in regional dairy products.

When selecting havarti, choose a style based on your preferences:

  • Mild young havarti for a delicate, softer cheese.
  • Aged havarti for a sharper, crumbly texture and nuttier flavor.
  • Flavored havarti like dill or pepper for more spice and aroma.
  • Organic havarti if you prefer cheeses from organic dairy farms.

With its adaptable flavor and creamy melt-ability, it's easy to see why havarti has become a customer favorite on cheese trays and in recipes across the globe. The next time you're planning a cheese tasting party or need a smooth sandwich cheese, be sure to include some havarti.


What's the difference between Havarti and Swiss cheese?

While both are known for their holes or "eyes", Swiss is firmer in texture with larger eyes and a more pronounced nutty flavor. Havarti is creamier and more pliable with small irregular eyes and a buttery taste.

Is Havarti good for melting?

Yes, Havarti melts exceptionally smoothly. Its high moisture content allows it to melt into an easy flowing sauce or creamy melted layer without separating or becoming greasy.

How do you serve Havarti cheese?

Havarti is delicious served on a cheese board with fruits, nuts, and crackers. It also enhances sandwiches, pizzas, fondue, baked dishes, potatoes, and more. For serving, remove havarti from refrigeration about 30 minutes before to let it soften.

What beverages pair well with Havarti?

Because of its versatility, havarti pairs nicely with a variety of wines, beers, ciders, and cold brew coffees. Light-bodied red wines like pinot noir and Beaujolais are complimentary choices. For beers, wheat beers, pilsners, or pale ales work well.

Is Havarti better than mozzarella?

It's difficult to say one is better since they have different characteristics. Mozzarella has its characteristic fresh milky flavor and exceptional melting properties. Havarti is more buttery with a tangy note and also melts smoothly. Which is preferable comes down to personal taste preferences.


Thanks to the creativity of its original inventor Hanne Nielsen, Havarti cheese has developed into a beloved semi-soft cheese appreciated for its creamy texture and adaptable flavor.

Despite its Danish roots, today havarti is crafted by artisan cheesemakers worldwide who've made it a staple for cheese plates, recipes, and sandwiches everywhere.

From its refreshing acidity to oxidative nuttiness when aged, havarti offers smooth melty goodness for cheese lovers of all levels. Served alongside a crisp white wine or hearty ale, award-winning havarti is sure to become your new go-to cheese.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions