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Popular varieties and types of cheeses in Israel

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Last Updated on November 1, 2021

Popular varieties and types of locally manufactured cheeses in Israel. A handy cheese guide with Hebrew names and transliterations.

popular varieties and types of Israel cheese

Israel is well known for its soft white cheese and dairy products. From inexpensive to pricey, you’ll find a wide selection of local and imported cheeses on supermarket shelves.  Fromageries – specialized cheese shops, have popped up all over Israel; in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, from Sarona to Mahane Yehuda and beyond.

Cow-, goat- and sheep-milk are all used to make soft cheeses.  Both sheep- and goat-milk cheese have a strong distinctive flavor.  Cow milk cheeses are produced throughout the year, but goat- and sheep-milk cheeses are seasonal.

Soft cheeses have a high moisture content.  Some white cheeses are pressed to expel the whey and others are left to ripen naturally. Molds and bacteria that spread during the ripening process contribute to the flavor and uniqueness of the cheese.

Over the years large Israeli dairies like Tnuva, Strauss, and Tara  have developed some fabulous (and some less-fabulous) varieties and types of cheeses.  Smaller family owned and boutique dairies like Gad, Zuriel, Barkanit are also competing for a slice of the cheese market.

It is a Jewish tradition to eat dairy products on Shavuot (The Festival of Weeks) so we are sharing some cheesy info about local varieties and types of cheese that every Israeli shopper should know and can use in their recipes.

Brinza Cheese / Gvinat Brinza – גבינת ברינזה

Brinza not Breezer! An Arab semi-hard white cheese derived from cow’s milk. Can be used in cooking.  Around 15% fat content

Bulgarian Cheese / Gvinat Bulgarit –  גבינת בולגרית

A white cheese, similar to Feta but saltier.  Popular in Israel, this cheese originates in the Balkan countries.  From 5% – 28% fat content.  Great in salads or where any Feta type cheese is called for.  Nice on pizza too.  Expect to pay around 80NIS/kg for prepacked Bulgarian cheese.

Canaan Cheese / Gvinat Kna’an –  גבינת כנען

Canaan cheese is a white cheese with a 5% fat content.  A salt-free cheese.  Great for baking and even in cheese-cakes.  Expect to pay around 45 – 50 shekels/kilo

Cottage Cheese / Gvinat Kotteg’ – גבינת קוטג

Emek Cheese / Gvinat Emek – גבינת עמק

Emek is a hard, light-yellow cheese popular in Israel. The recipe hasn’t changed since 1942. It takes 1.5 cups of milk to produce a 28gr slice of cheese.  Made from cows’ milk it usually has a 28% fat content.  Sliced in a sandwich, melted in a toasted cheese {Heb: Tost} it can also be used on pizza, in pashtidot, (crustless quiche), soufflés and cheese sauces.  It has a mild flavor but does not quite measure up to Edam, Sweetmilk or Cheddar cheeses. Expect to pay between 40 -80 shekels/kilo depending on the fat content. 5 percent and 9% are most expensive.

Galil – A Blue Cheese Variety / Gvinat Galil Rokfor – גבינת גליל רוקפור

Tnuva’s brand name for their Roquefort style blue cheese is Galil.  Each dairy has its own name like Roq-Kfar, Bar-Kfar or Kachol Lavan.  Blue cheese goes well with thick crusted country-style bread, grapes, apples and walnuts. Sweet dessert wines are often drunk as accompaniments to blue cheeses; some enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon with their blue cheese.  Add it to creamy salad dressings.  If you are not put off by the distinct smell, you will discover a strong, salty flavor.  Made from sheep’s or goats’ milk. 100 NIS – 140 NIS per kilo is the average price for this type of cheese.

Gilboa Cheese / Gvinat Gilboa – גבינת גילבוע

Similar to Emek, Gilboa has a 22% fat content, Gilboa is a hard yellow cheese. Just like Emek it can be used in recipes that call for Edam, Sweetmilk or Cheddar. Price range is between 45 NIS – 65 NIS per kilo

Labaneh – לבנה

A soft white cream cheese popular in the  Middle-East. Labaneh starts off as a yogurt which has been strained to give it a firmer consistency. It is derived from goat, sheep or cow’s milk.  Often served in balls with olive oil, zaatar and pita. Between 9 – 30% fat content.  Expect to pay between 30 NIS per kg and around 100 NIS per kg for balls made from buffalo milk.

Soft-white, Creamed Cheese  / Gvina Levana –  גבינה לבנה

From 3% fat content and upwards, white, creamed cheese is made by all the large dairies.  250 gr tubs are the usual size, but it can also be bought in 500 and 750 gram tubs.  These larger sizes are great for your Shavuot cheese cake. You can substitute white creamed cheese for recipes that call for sour cream and plain yogurt.

Symphonia and Napoleon have higher fat contents, often flavored with garlic, onions, dill etc.  they are similar to the American Philadelphia cheese.

Tal HaEmek Cheese / Gvinat Tal HaEmek – גבינת טל העמק

With large holes, the Tal HaEmek cheese is easily recognizable – it’s Israel’s version of the Swiss Ementhaaler cheese. It has a sharp flavor. Tal HaEmek has around a 30% fat content. Expect to pay anywhere between 40 – 90 shekels/kilo

Tsfatit Cheese / Gvina Tsfatit – גבינת צפתית

Tzfatit cheese is a semi-hard, salty white cheese with a rubbery consistency. It was first produced in 1840 originally from sheep’s milk by the HaMeiri dairy in the holy city of Tzfat (hence the name) in Northern Israel and is still produced there by descendants of the original cheese makers.  It is made from cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk.  Price point – around 80 shekels/kilo. Use it lasagna, pashtidot, boerekas or any recipe that calls for white cheese. Delicious on a sandwich with tapenade and sun dried tomatoes.

There are many ways to enjoy your cheese and aside from the fat content cheese contains the goodness of a number of essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B12.

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