Here at Cheese Grotto, we pair just about everything with cheese, from classics like charcuterie, wine, and beer to nonalcoholic options like tea and kombucha. While the accompaniments we pair with cheese are often meaty or acidic to offset cheese’s rich texture, we can play with sweet treats, too—including honey, chocolate, and even hot chocolate.
In the U.S., we often think of hot chocolate as a sweet drink that goes with other sweet foods like cookies and candy canes, but it pairs beautifully with savory flavor profiles like cheese, too. Here are our tips for exploring the world of hot chocolate and cheese pairings.
Pair hot chocolates and cheeses of similar intensities.
This is the number one rule of cheese pairing—the guiding principle that will set you up for success whether you’re matching cheese with food or drink, including nonalcoholic beverages.
Matching intensities ensures that the cheese won’t overpower the drinking chocolate you’re pairing it with and vice versa. If you have a sweet, lightly flavored hot chocolate, avoid pairing it with the most pungent wheel in your cheese drawer. Match that lighter drinking chocolate with a milder, less intense cheese like a young Alpine or a creamy chèvre.
Conversely, a deep, dark, unsweetened drinking chocolate, or a Mexican-style hot chocolate spiked with spices, will overpower those mild cheeses. Pair it with a deeply flavored aged cheese like Gouda, a salty blue, or, for funkier chocolates, a luscious washed rind like Green Dirt Farm’s luscious, fruity Ruby.
Look to a Colombian hot chocolate and cheese for inspiration.
A Colombian food tradition features hot chocolate and cheese not just paired together but combined in a single delicious experience. In the South American country, hot chocolate is made with packaged tablets of unsweetened dark chocolate (although adding sugar, American-style, is becoming more common).
Here’s where things get cheesy: the addition of melty white cheese, typically queso compasigna, a rustic farmer’s cheese. If you can’t find this cheese in your area, look for a mild, meltable cheese like buffalo mozzarella, Chihuahua, or queso Oaxaca that will melt in the hot liquid without falling apart. Sip the chocolate and eat the stretchy molten cheese with a spoon.
Even if you’re not making traditional Colombian hot chocolate with cheese, you can look at mild-tasting cheeses with a pleasant saltiness and supple texture to pair with fine drinking chocolate or your favorite homemade hot chocolate. The salt balances the sweetness and bitterness of the chocolate without clashing—and you can always dunk a slice in your cup to take it to the next level.
Pair the same cheeses with hot chocolate as you would with craft chocolate on a cheese board.
It stands to reason that the same styles of cheese that go well with high-quality chocolate in its solid form would pair well with the sippable version.
When seeking pairings for hot chocolate, look to the same styles you’d choose for a similar bar chocolate, truffle, or bonbon. A wide variety of cheeses pair well with chocolate, but there are some go-to types you might try first.
At the milder end of the spectrum, soft, tangy fresh cheeses make a refreshing foil against rich milk chocolate, while lush, buttery bloomy rinds like Petite Camembert pair well with dark, not-too-sweet varieties. Nutty Alpine-styles like Pleasant Ridge Reserve go well with hot chocolate that has a toasty, nutty profile, while caramel-y aged Gouda offers savory and sweet against dark chocolate’s bittersweet flavors.
Finally, salty, creamy blue cheeses are a go-to pairing with chocolate, and the same goes for drinking chocolate. Choose a milder “dessert blue” like Tulip Tree’s Chicory to offset sweet, milky hot chocolate. A punchy, full-flavored option like Bayley Hazen Blue will offset bittersweet or unsweetened drinking chocolate, balancing its tannins and highlighting any sweetness that may be present.
Have you ever tried hot chocolate and cheese together? What are your favorite varieties to pair? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and let us know!