11 of the World’s Exotic Cheeses
There are a number of cheeses produced in the world that we would refer to as exotic cheese; however, in their place of origin it’s just another meal or delicatessen.
If you’ve had an interesting experience with an exotic cheese, please share with us below, we would love to hear your story.
Have fun reading this! Here are our top 11 exotic cheese choices.
#1 Casu Marzu
Not only is this cheese different, but some may find it a little off-putting…
Casu Marzu ready to be consumed.
Maggots used to make Casu Marzu.
When I was a kid, over 40 years ago, we would go camping on the island of Sardinia, Italy. My dad was an adventurous eater and would always try local foods that were new. I’ll never forget the time we came by a particular cheese farm. The farmer had a bunch of sheep and made his own sheep cheese, which he showed us with much pride. That’s when we realized that the cheese was covered with live maggots.
The farmer explained to us that the maggots were part of the cheese ripening process, and he tried to convince us that these maggots were nutritious. Believe it or not, my dad not only tried a piece of this maggot cheese (including the maggots), but he also loved it and bought an entire wheel. For the rest of our camping trip we had to witness him eating live maggots.
Later I learned that this is a specialty from Sardinia. The cheese is called Casu Marzu, which means spoiled cheese. During the cheese making process the cheese is exposed to a particular cheese fly, which lays its eggs into it. Later, the maggots hatch and turn the cheese into a creamy, very strong tasting specialty.
Since the European Union changed all the food safety laws, this cheese is no longer legally produced. Apparently some maggots are highly resistant to our stomach acidity and can survive, causing possible health issues.
#2 German Mite Cheese or “Milbenkaese”
The German Milbenkaese and the French Mimolette use live mites for the cheese’s aging process. What would be your insect of choice? Maggots or mites?
Mites are smaller, but when you look at them close up, they are still creeping and crawling as they enter your mouth and your stomach.
Milbenkaese and Mimolette are cheeses covered in mites that you ingest live.
German Milbenkaese with live mites.
The German Milbenkaese is covered with rye flour, and a specific mite species is added. The mites live off the rind of the cheese and the rye flour, and their digestive juices ferment the cheese giving it its unique taste and flavour. The mites live on the rind and are consumed with the cheese. The Milbenkaese is aged from 3 to 12 months and has a strong, slightly bitter, lemon like taste. These cheeses are produced legally and imported into North America.
Mimolette and Milbenkaese use two different mite species, but both cheeses have that typical lemon like flavour. The origin of flavour is from the mite’s digestive fluids which contain a flavour component of lemon oil.
#3 Water Buffalo Cheese
There are many cheeses that are made from the milk of other animals besides cows and goats, but they are not as common in North America. Goat and sheep milk cheese used to be an exotic product in the North American market 30 years ago. Today, these cheeses have experienced huge growth and are a solid part of the dairy market.
Water buffalo cheese is actually quite popular. Italy is one of the biggest producers in the world and they’re best known for water buffalo Mozzarella. It’s my favourite. Water buffalo milk is very high in fat and produces an extremely smooth Mozzarella. Typically, it is a fresh, soft Mozzarella used on tomato salad.
Water Buffalo produce a very rich milk and make a creamy tasting cheese.
Buffalo mozzarella makes a perfect cheese for tomato salad.
Other countries who traditionally use water buffalo milk for cheese making are Indonesia, Egypt, Philippines, India, and China.
#4 Yak Cheese
Yaks live in high altitude regions, mainly Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, and Nepal. The yak produces a very high fat and high protein milk. Tibetan nomads live off of large amounts of yak milk for many months of the year, without any access to fruits or vegetables. These nomads show no deficiency in minerals or vitamins, which is directly related to the consumption of yak milk. The milk has high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, calcium, and phosphorus. It also shows high antioxidant activity.
Tibetans make butter and a fermented milk from yaks. Nepal has a commercial yak cheese industry. Some specialty cheese stores do sell yak cheese in North America. This cheese is surprisingly mild and has an incredible aftertaste that resembles the herbs from these mountain pastures. Due to the high fat content, the cheese has a very smooth texture.
Yak milk is very popular in dog chews, called Yak Chews. It is a hard chewy stick, which takes the dog a while to chew up, and it contains the benefits of the yaks milk.
#5 Horse Milk Cheese
Horse milk, also referred to as mare milk, doesn’t contain any casein but it is rich in whey proteins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin C. Mare milk cannot be coagulated with rennet like bovine or goat milk. Horse milk cheese is usually made by heating and adding an acid. Nomads in Central Asia inoculate the milk with a starter culture and let the milk acidify. It is then heated so it curdles and is put into a bag to drain. Horse milk is considered a remedy for skin and digestive problems. The most well known product made from horse milk is Kumis, a fermented milk comparable to Kefir. It is an important part of the diet of the inhabitants of the Central Asian Steppe. Horse milk cheese, or even Kumis, are hard to find in North America.
Horse milk is used in some natural skin care products.
#6 Camel Milk Cheese
The Bedouins of Northern Africa have been milking camels for centuries. The camel milk has components similar to cow milk and health benefits comparable to Yak milk, having high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid. Camel milk is produced commercially and can be found in the western world; it is most popular in Australia and the USA. Camel milk cheese, similar to horse milk cheese, can’t be made with regular rennet and is typically made like a ricotta through heat and acidification. There are a number of locally produced camel milk cheeses in North America.
#7 Reindeer Cheese
Reindeer milk is among the richest milks, containing over 30% in solids, compared to cow milk which has 12%. It is collected in Northern Scandinavia by the indigenous people called Sami.
The reindeer cheese they make is called Renost. It is like cream cheese. Since it is made from raw milk the fat can get rancid very easily and the cheese, which at first is very mild tasting, can develop a very sharp flavour and taste. Reindeer cheese is produced in very small quantities and is not commercially available.
#8 Alpaca Cheese and Llama Cheese
Llamas and alpacas are being milked in the Andes of South America. The animals are not easy to milk, but the milk is very rich and makes tasty cheese. Llama cheese and alpaca cheese are not commercially produced and only available in local markets.
#9 Donkey Cheese
Donkey cheese, or Pule, is a Serbian specialty. It is a pure white crumbly cheese and extremely costly. Donkeys produce very little milk and a very light milk. As a comparison, reindeer milk will yield about 30% cheese, whereas donkey milk only yields about 4% cheese. Donkey milk is unique due to the high vitamin C content, which is up to 60 times higher than in cows milk.
Donkey Cheese, the most expensive cheese in the world.
A pound of Pule costs over 500 dollars and it is the world’s most expensive cheese.
#10 Deer Milk Cheese
Deer milk cheese is a novelty out of New Zealand and has been available commercially now for about 5 years. Deer milk is very high in protein and much higher in minerals than cow, goat, or sheep milk. It is currently only available in New Zealand.
New Zealand deer milk cheese on the shelves.
#11 Human milk cheese
If you look at all the mammals above who produce a milk that can be turned into cheese, why not our own? It’s unlikely that humans are ever going to produce milk for commercial use, but it might be fun for some mothers to experiment with making cheese from their own milk. Human milk cheese has made the news here and there when eccentric chefs have served it in their restaurants.
It will likely never become commercially produced for obvious reasons. From what I’ve heard, ricotta from human milk tastes just like regular ricotta.
Please leave a comment below if you have tried any of the above cheeses, or if you had an interesting experience with an exotic cheese!