Cheese gift ideas

headshot of Jeremy Snyder
Jeremy Snyder

Published Feb. 11, 2021

I always feel a bit intimidated when buying a gift for someone who’s deeply into a hobby or interest.  I worry that they already have whatever I’m considering, they have such particular tastes or needs that they won’t appreciate what I get, or anything that is for a specialized interest will be too expensive.

Fortunately, none of these concerns apply to the world of artisan cheese.  In fact, it's easy to pick a gift that will be appreciated by a cheese lover (to be called a "turophile" henceforth because it feels silly to write "lover" 15 times in a blog post). As we'll discuss below, it's really easy to buy cheese that you're friend is likely to enjoy. If you'd prefer to give a non-food gift, many or most cheese accoutrements are nice-to-haves that are not required for enjoying cheese, so it’s likely that your friend hasn’t already bought many of the items we'll discuss below. Speaking as both a cheese educator and a cheese lover, I would appreciate receiving any of the gift ideas below.

While part of the enjoyment of artisan cheese is the pleasure of eating it, a bigger part, however, is enjoying it with friends. So, no matter what gift you give, it’ll be better if you use it as a chance to eat some really good cheese together.


Price range: artisan cheese is usually $20 to $40 per pound

If you know someone who loves cheese, and you give them a hunk (or three) of good cheese, then it’s likely that they’ll love your gift. Pretty simple! Added bonuses: your friend will have instant gratification and you will be right there to share.

Even if you don't know much about cheese, it's really easy to give as a gift because:

  • Even if you don't know much about cheese, your local cheesemonger will be happy to help you pick some out.
  • There's been a boom in high quality artisan cheeses recently, and there is no way that your friend has tried them all, so there's little worry that you're giving them something that they're tired of.
  • Really high quality cheese— the best of the best— is surprisingly affordable, especially compared to other fine or specialty foods.
  • Most turophiles appreciate a wide range of cheeses, so it's likely your friend will enjoy anything you give.

To show your friend how much you care about them, put in the extra effort to find out the type of cheese they like the most. You can ask your friend about their favorite family of cheese or a few of their favorite cheeses. Also ask about their favorite milk (cow, goat, or sheep). Armed with this knowledge, any cheesemonger will be able to make some suggestions for cheeses to give as a gift.

Here’s a list of the cheese families with examples of each.

Bloomy rind.
Felt-like rind subfamily includes Brie and Camembert.
Wrinkly-rind subfamily includes Selles-sur-Cher, Saint-Maure, and Valencay.
Tomme de Savoie, Raclette, and Manchego
Washed curd
Gouda, Edam, Havarti
Milled curd
Cheddar, Chesire, and Cantal
Pasta filata
Burrata, Mozzarella, Provolone, Caciocavallo
Cooked-pressed.The Alpine subfamily includes Comté, Beaufort, Emmental, and Gruyère.
The Grana subfamily includes Parmigiano Reggiano, Granda Padano, and Pecorino
Washed rind
Epoisses and Vacherin Mont-D'Or
Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton
It’s better to get a few smaller pieces of different cheeses than a big piece of one cheese because all turophiles like to try different cheeses.

If the cheesemonger gives you a taste of the cheese that you’re getting, don’t worry if it’s too pungent. Turophiles tend to develop a taste for stronger cheeses over time. Hopefully you’ll come to enjoy the most intense blue and washed rind cheeses too someday.

If you can’t give cheese to your friend in person, consider mail order. Janet Fletcher provides a list of artisan cheese sold online.

Other well known online cheese retailers are Murray’s Cheese and iGourmet.

Gift certificate

Price range: $30 to $60 will be sufficient for one to a few pieces of good quality cheese. $100 or more will keep your turophile coming back to the shop for a couple of visits.

If you aren’t able to give actual cheese, then a gift certificate to the local cheese shop can be the next best thing. If your friend lives in an area with multiple cheese shops, find out which one is their favorite.

If that doesn’t work out, online retailers offer gift cards as well.

Monthly subscription

Price range: most subscriptions are $40 to $60 per month.

A turophile would be fortunate to have a friend generous enough to subscribe them to a monthly cheese club. You typically pay ahead for 3 to 12 months, and your friend will get a few half-pound pieces with each shipment.

If you'd prefer to give a non-food gift, many or most cheese accoutrements are nice-to-haves that are not required for enjoying cheese, so it’s likely that your friend hasn’t already splurged on many of the items we'll discuss below. 


Knife set

Price range: $20 to $30 for a typical set
Here’s the thing with cheese knives: you don’t really need them. When I’m eating cheese with my family, we use table knives for soft cheeses and steak knives for hard cheeses. We take out our cheese knives when we have guests over.

…Which is exactly why they make great gifts! They’re a splurge for the typical turophile, and it’s helpful to have extra cheese knives when you’re throwing a party (because each cheese needs its own knife so flavors don’t get mixed). Also, cheese knife sets are surprisingly affordable, with sets of four to seven types of knives typically selling for $20 to $30. Despite the price, these sets look quite nice with stainless steel, wood, or marble handles. Of course, you can spend more for cheese knives; a set of three WÜSTHOF cheese knives or a single Global cheese knife sells for about $90.

There are a variety of types of cheese knives, each with their own particular purpose, which is why sets are popular. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what each type of knife is used for. (For example, may of the product illustrations on Amazon show or describe knives being used with the wrong type of cheese.) Two of the better guides I’ve found are from the WebstaurantStore and Domestikated Life blog.

Other tools

Two cheese cutting tools are usually not included in sets.

One is the cheese harp or wire cutter, which is used for cleanly cutting very soft to medium-soft cheeses. (Though cheese shops use commercial versions to cut most cheeses.)

The other is a cheese plane, which cuts thin slices from the top of medium-hard to hard cheeses.

These two tools are not set out on cheese boards for guests to use as frequently as knives are because they can be confusing for some guests and they often require touching the block of cheese, which is not a sanitary practice at a party.

However, they can still be useful to the turophile when preparing cheese to serve on a cheese plate (on which slices of cheese are arranged on individual plates before serving), or when preparing cheese as an ingredient in a recipe.


Price range: typically boards are $20 to $60, but some decorative ones can be much more

Cheese boards make great gifts.

First, I feel like I can never have enough cheese boards. When I’m serving multiple cheeses, I like to keep them separated from one another, either spread out on one larger board or on multiple smaller boards. The benefits of doing this are that you can more easily keep each cheese grouped with its pairing(s), knife, and label. (This runs counter to the current trend of serving cheese on heaped grazing tables, which I hope proves itself to be a quickly passing fad.)

Second, cheese boards are like knives in that they’re not strictly necessary, so it’s hard to justify buying a really nice one for yourself, but you always appreciate it when someone gives one to you.

Third, cheese boards can get knife nicks in them (even marble ones), so they need to be replaced after a certain amount of use.


The main choice in selecting a cheese board is the material. The most common are wood, marble, and slate.

Wood boards are appropriate for any type of cheese. They should be made of a species of wood that is non-porous and won’t absorb the flavors of cheese . Appropriate types of wood for a cheese board include olive wood, birch, American cherry, and hard maple. Avoid porous woods such as walnut and mahogany and woods that pick up cheese flavors like oak and softwoods (e.g. fir, cedar, pine, and larch). Cheese boards should not have a lacquer or varnish finish for food safety reasons. Wood boards need to be maintained with special oils, so consider giving a bottle of cutting board oil along with the board.

Marble boards can be easier to clean and maintain than wood boards. Also, they have a lot of thermal mass, which can be useful when serving cheese on a hot day by putting the board in the fridge to cool down ahead of time. (The cheese should be warmed to room temperature before serving, though.) A downside to marble is that it will dull the blades of sharp knives, which is especially a problem when cutting through hard cheeses. Marble is porous, which means that it can absorb odors from cheese, so consider a food-safe sealer made for marble or granite countertops.

Like marble, slate boards are easy to clean. A benefit of slate is that you can write on it with soapstone chalk to label each cheese. (Don't use regular chalkboard chalk.) Like marble, it will dull the edge of sharp knives, especially when cutting hard cheeses.

Avoid glass boards, at least for hard cheeses, because the sound of the knife hitting the board will bring even the most swinging party to a halt.


It’s helpful to have a range of sizes on hand to select from in order to find the right size board to match the number and sizes of the cheeses being served. If your friend has a typical size board, consider giving a small or large one.

Cooking Equipment

Fondue pot

Price range: fondue pots range in price from $40 to $100.

Fondue may be five or so decades past it’s peak popularity, but it’s still fun to make once in a while during the winter.

Fondue is interesting to me for a few reasons.

  • It was an obscure dish in Switzerland for centuries until is was popularized through a conspiracy by a Swiss cheese cartel (really).
  • While us cheese snobs like to look down on nacho cheese sauce, it’s closely related to fondue because they’re both melted cheese emulsions. When you melt cheese, the fats in the cheese will naturally separate and form a layer of oil, but adding an emulsifier keeps the oil mixed into the liquid. In fondue, the emulsifier is tartaric acid from white wine and citric acid from lemon. In nacho cheese sauce, the emulsifier is usually sodium phosphate.
  • It tastes good.

There are two types of fondue pots: electric and the traditional type that burns gel fuel.  Make sure that the pot includes fondue forks. Round out the gift with some Alpine cheeses like Comté, Beaufort, Emmental, and Gruyère so you can make fondue together.

Raclette heater

Price range: tabletop Raclette grills are $30 to $100. A traditional Raclette heater costs $200 to $800.

Raclette is an Alpine cheese that is melted with a heater and then scraped onto vegetables like potatoes and pickled cucumbers, artichokes, and onions

Commercial Raclette heaters are designed to melt one face of a a quarter or half wheel of cheese. This is overkill for home entertainers, because the commercial heaters cost $200 to $800 and half a wheel of Raclette is way too much for a family to eat. However, your turophile might enjoy using an electric tabletop Raclette grill. Single-servings of cheese are melted in non-stick pans in the grill and the vegetables are heated on top.

Give your friend some Raclette and pickled vegetables along with the grill and you’ll be ready to try it together.

A cheese class

Price range: $30 to $150 per person

Take a class with your friend. Many cheese shops offer classes that run for about an hour to an hour and a half. The cheesemonger will lead tastings through a number of cheeses that the shop carries (typically between 5 and 10) along with drink pairings.

If your friend wants to explore a wider range of topics in a little more depth, I will be launching an online interactive Introduction to Artisan Cheese course on this website in 2021. The course will cover:

  • how to taste cheese
  • understanding different cheeses based on their family, milk, aging, and other factors
  • serving cheese
  • pairing with drink and accompaniments
  • cooking with cheese
  • buying and storing cheese
  • cheese and health
  • trying cheese making

The course includes short video lessons, curated links and additional reading for further information on each topic, guided cheese tastings and other activities to try at home, flash cards, quizzes, downloadable PDF lesson summaries, and a Q&A section to talk to me and other students about each lesson.

If you want to know when the course will be available for purchase as a gift, please enter your email.



Price range: subscriptions are $30 per year for 6 issues.

Culture Magazine covers the latest trends in the world of cheese, profiles of cheese makers, recipes, and more. Highly recommended.


Price range: $30 to $40 for hardcover.

Here are some of my favorites. Pick one based on your friend’s interest.

For an overview of the world of cheese: Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman and David Gibbons.
This is a very thorough and enjoyable introduction to the world of cheese, with beautiful photographs.

For a very readable reference book: The Oxford Companion to Cheese, edited by Catherine Donnelly. This essential, 888-page book has 855 alphabetical entries on all aspects of cheese. Full disclosure: I was one of the 325 contributors to this book.

To learn about the history of cheese: Cheese and Culture by Paul S. Kindstedt. This is one of my favorites. It covers the discovery of cheese, the development of all the major families of cheese over the millennia, and the interplay between cheese and culture.

For a cookbook on how to cook with cheese every which way: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith. Seventy-five recipes to cook with all types of cheese.

For the technically-minded turophile: American Farmstead Cheese by Paul Kindstet. Although this book is marketed as a cheese making book (the subtitle is “The Complete Guide to Making and Selling Artisan Cheeses”), it’s actually the most approachable book on the science of cheesemaking that I’ve seen.


Price range: $50 for prints, $600 for original oil paintings

Mike Geno’s artwork captures both the beauty and the essential character of each of the cheeses that he paints. I was fortunate to see his artwork in person at an American Cheese Society Conference, and they are even more beautiful than the scans appear on his website. Mike has over 350 paintings of cheese on his website.


Price range: about $22

When we talk about "gift ideas for turophiles," really what we mean is “gift ideas for turophiles after they already have a cheese hat.” The cheese hat is so essential to the turophile’s wardrobe that the New York City Maître Fromager labor union has a clause in their contract that they are allowed to wear theirs in the back of house (but not in view of diners). The baseball hat goes with jeans for casual Fridays, while the top hat looks sharp at weddings and other formal occasions.