It’s the most wonderful time of the year—cheese season! Our favorite food really shines on holiday tables, whether in the form of a bountiful cheese plate, luscious melted cheese, or a rich, creamy cheesecake.
However you celebrate this winter, holiday cheese recipes should be part of your plan. Here are favorite ways to incorporate artisan cheese into menus for entertaining, whether you’re planning a festive Christmas party or an intimate New Year’s Eve dinner.
How to Make a Holiday Cheese Platter
Photo and board by one our of cheese expert instructors, Kerry Jerred.
Cheese boards, plates, and platters are the ultimate entertaining hack for several reasons: They’re beautiful and colorful. They can be as simple or as ornate as you want them to be. They require no cooking, and you can even do some of the prep in advance.
Making a cheese board for the holidays, of course, is a great excuse to go all-out with your favorite accompaniments and special cheeses.
Hit up our online store for limited-edition seasonal cheeses like silky, dippable Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin. And if you spy a hunk of Oregon-made Rogue River Blue at your local cheese shop, snatch it up: this World Cheese Award-winning wedge is wrapped in grape leaves soaked in pear liqueur to give it an extra-rich, fruity quality that’s perfect for the holidays.
Other favorite wintertime cheeses include long-aged Goudas and Alpine styles like Pleasant Ridge Reserve as well as lush, creamy bloomy rinds like Petite Camembert, Trillium, and Merry Goat Round. A long-aged cheddar like The Stag, a 17-month cheddar made in Wisconsin, or a robust, full-bodied clothbound cheddar like Lucky Linda from Minnesota’s Redhead Creamery, also makes a great addition to a holiday cheese platter.
Once you’ve got your cheeses, accessorize with accompaniments like fresh or dried fruit, preserves, pickles, olives, charcuterie, and honey. For drinks, we like versatile wine pairings like medium-bodied reds and dry whites alongside boards featuring several different styles of cheese. And, of course, the holidays are a great excuse to pop some bottles of bubbly.
When it’s time to serve, break out your very best cheese board and cheese knives to create a stunning presentation for your guests. Don’t have cheese servingware fit for the occasion? Check out the beautiful boards, servers, and knife sets in our online gift shop.
How to Make a Holiday Cheese Ball
If you’re going all out for your holiday party, a simple cheese plate might not feel like enough. In that case, you can amp things up with a creamy, comforting holiday cheese ball.
Cheese balls are so much more than the classic cheddar-and-nut versions you see at the grocery store. While the classics have their place, we like to get creative with the cheeses, toppings, and add-ins, especially for holiday parties.
Try one of our holiday cheese ball recipes, like our Bacon Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball, or our Cheese Ball with Walnuts, Caramelized Onion, Sage, and Pancetta. If you’re craving something on the sweeter side, our Cheese Ball with Fig Jam, Goat Cheese, and Hazelnuts will hit the spot.
You can also freeform your own cheese ball with our basic recipe here. You’ll need a hard, flavorful cheese and a soft, mild cheese, optional add-ins, and something crunchy, fruity, or meaty for a topping—plus bread, crackers, or other carbs to dip, scoop, or spread the finished product.
We love cheese balls because they’re fun, festive, and delicious. But they offer a very practical perk, too: You can make your cheese ball sans toppings in advance and refrigerate or even freeze it to make your holiday party prep even easier.
How to Make Baked Brie for the Holidays
While it’s not quite as simple as a cheese ball, few holiday cheese recipes are more impressive than a wheel of bloomy rind cheese enveloped and baked in pastry till molten on the inside and golden-brown on the outside.
If baking a higher-end artisan cheese seems too decadent, you can try a more widely available supermarket style for baking purposes—since the cheese is getting melted, you have some flexibility in terms of quality. However, we find that the flavor, texture and aroma of hot, melted artisan cheese takes the experience to new heights (and supports small-scale artisans, too!).
You can wrap your wheel or wedge of brie in thawed, pre-made puff pastry or homemade pie crust, with or without additions like a dollop of jam, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, or other tasty ingredients. It’s a versatile format, so don’t be afraid to get creative with add-ins or toppings (just be sure to stick to bake times and temperatures as recommended in recipes).
Check out our recipes for Mt. Tam Baked in Puff Pastry with Cranberry Preserves and Thyme—just be sure to give your puff enough time to thaw out fully before you put everything together. Can’t find premade puff pastry where you are? We also have a recipe for Baked Camembert with Raspberry Jam in Homemade Pie Crust that will be just as tasty and impressive to your guests.
How to Make Cheese Fondue for the Holidays
Maybe your holiday party is more of a sit-down dinner than a graze-and-mingle affair—but you still want cheese to be the centerpiece. That’s the ideal occasion to serve fondue.
This Swiss tradition centers around a pot of hot, molten cheese that you and your guests can use to dunk bread, boiled potatoes, fresh or roasted veggies, or fresh fruit. While Alpine cheeses like Gruyère and Emmental are traditional, you can make fondue with varieties like Gouda, cheddar, Jack, or Fontina.
Typically, you want to combine a hard, deeply flavored cheese that doesn’t melt that well with a younger, milder one that does to get the right combination of flavor and stretch. The addition of a splash of white wine or lemon juice and a sprinkling of cornstarch helps keep the cheese smooth and molten.
Note that you do need some special equipment to serve fondue—a fondue set typically comes with a heavy-bottomed pot, candles or a Sterno-style burner to keep things hot, and long-handled forks for dipping. If you love melted cheese and hosting friends for meals, it’s worth it to get one for your kitchen. After the holidays, it’ll keep you eating warm and cozy all winter long.
How to Serve Raclette at Your Holiday Party
Fondue isn’t the only Swiss cheese tradition that’s great for holiday menus. Raclette—in which guests melt slices of smooth, funky washed-rind Alpine cheese under a burner, then pour them over goodies like bread or potatoes—is less well known but no less delicious. Plus, the guests serve themselves at their own pace, making your hosting duties a little lighter.
Raclette also requires special equipment. While restaurants and ski chalets will often melt half or quarter-wheels of cheese in front of a roaring fireplace or mounted on an electric melter, most households opt for a raclette grill, sometimes called a partyclette.
This plug-in machine typically features eight slots into which guests can load their own nonstick paddles with slices of cheese like St. Anthony from Redhead Creamery, then melt them at their leisure under a central heating element. Some models also include a cooking surface on top where you can grill veggies, little sausages, or other nibbles. You can also find small-scale, candle-powered raclette grills that are made for melting cheese for two.
Once you’ve got your cheese and your gear, pick up traditional accompaniments like artisan bread or baguettes, roasted baby potatoes and other veggies, cornichons, and whole-grain mustard. A bottle of dry white wine and a brightly dressed green salad round out the meal.
Don’t want to invest in a raclette grill? We’ve got an oven-baked raclette dinner recipe that combines the process into an easy, one-pan meal your guests will love.
How to Make a Holiday Cheesecake
No holiday celebration would be complete without dessert. A rich, creamy cheesecake is the perfect way to end a festive winter meal.
You can make a classic holiday cheesecake recipe—think New York style with cream cheese, graham cracker crust—or get creative with a fluffy Japanese cheesecake or molten-centered Basque cheesecake, but the possibilities are endless.
Our favorite cheesecakes incorporate the enticing profiles of American artisan cheeses set off with ingredients like seasonal fruits and herbs. For a memorable end to any holiday meal, try our recipe for Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheesecake. It features a crisp almond-walnut florentine crust beneath a lush, punchy blend of cream cheese and blue cheese. The whole thing is topped with decadent pears simmered in wine.
For a brighter dessert, check out our Honey Mascarpone Cheesecake with Strawberries and an Almond Crust. This berry-forward recipe is a nod to the springtime we’re all looking forward to in the depths of winter.
A blend of cream cheese and fluffy mascarpone keeps the filling featherlight.If you can’t find or don’t want to use out-of-season fresh strawberries, you can make the sauce with frozen strawberries instead and garnish the cakes with toasted slivered almonds instead.
You can also swap in your favorite fruit preserves in place of the strawberry sauce altogether. Rhubarb, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, peach, sour cherry, pear—the crust and filling in this recipe are so versatile that the possibilities are endless.
What are your favorite holiday cheese recipes to make parties merry and bright? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and let us know!