What Is Trappist Cheese?

A Guide to Buying, Using, and Storing Trappist Cheese

Trappist cheese

Puamelia / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0​

Trappist cheese is a category of cow's milk cheese that is traditionally made by monks in monasteries. Depending on its location of origin, Trappist cheese can range from semisoft to semihard, and its flavor can range from mild to pungent, with a chalky, creamy, firm, and grainy texture.

Fast Facts

• Source: Cow's milk
Origin: Belgium, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, and United States
Color: Golden yellow
Rind: Edible, washed

What Is Trappist Cheese?

Trappist cheese, also known as monastic or monk cheese, can be found in cultures where monks live or did live at one time. The cheese is traditionally produced by monasteries to nourish the monks and to be sold as a source of income. Cheese factories now produce much of the Trappist-style cheese on the market.

Trappist cheese is said to have originated in 18th-century France with the Roman Catholic monks of the Notre Dame de Port du Salut abbey. The recipe found its way to Hungary through the Bosnian monastery of Mariastern, and then to other parts of Europe and the United States. The original French recipe is still manufactured in France under the names of Port Salut or Saint-Paulin.

Some types of Trappist cheese, such as Port Salut, are commonly available in supermarkets and cheese shops at a reasonable price, while other versions, such as Danish Esrom, are often available in well-stocked markets and specialty shops.

How Is Trappist Cheese Made?

Trappist cheese is made from pasteurized or raw cow's milk and typically aged for one month, during which time the rind is washed or rubbed with brine or alcohol. Nowadays, the cheese is often commercially produced. Originally, the flavor of Trappist cheese was pungent as a result of the affinage or brine washing, although commercially produced brands today are often more mild and bland.

Trappist cheese is pale yellow with small holes and comes in different shapes depending on its origin. For example, Port Salut is produced in 9-inch rounds, and Danish Esrom is produced in rectangular blocks. Some Trappist cheeses are encased in wax or paraffin rinds.

Types of Trappist Cheese

Trappist cheese has many names and varieties in Europe and North America. Trappist- or monastery-style cheeses are made around the world. In addition to Saint-Paulin and Port Salut, there are other popular Trappist cheeses.

Chaumes is a French soft rind cheese with a bright orange rind. The interior is smooth and rubbery, with a nutty, creamy flavor.

Esrom is known as Danish Port-Salut. Esrom is pungent and rich, and its flavor grows in strength with age. It has pale yellow irregular holes and a supple texture.

Maroilles is a French monastic cheese with a very strong aroma and flavor. It's square-shaped, and the rind is covered with a brownish yellow mold. The interior is soft and sliceable.

Oka is a Canadian full-flavored, washed-rind cheese made in Quebec. It has a French heritage and was brought to Canada by Benedictine monks. It's commercially produced today under license from the monastery, where it's aged for two months in the monastery's cellar, which is located next to the cheese plant.

Père Joseph is a Belgian cheese named after François Leclerc du Tremblay, who was also known as Père Joseph (Father Joseph). He was an advisor to Cardinal Richelieu in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The cheese is encased in a brown paraffin rind, and its interior is light yellow and creamy in texture with small, irregular holes.

Pont l'Eveque is a French cheese from the Normandy region, with a square shape. The rind has a strong aroma, and the interior is supple, sweet, and mildly earthy, with a few holes.


Any semihard melting cheese with a buttery, mild, and slightly piquant flavor is a good substitute for Trappist cheese. Dutch Edam, American Monterey Jack, and Danish Havarti are good contenders.


Trappist cheese is a perfect addition to a cheese platter, accompanied by fruit, bread, and crackers. It's a good addition to any recipe requiring a melting cheese. It can also be added to sandwiches, and it pairs well with beer and red wines.


To store in the refrigerator, wrap the cheese in waxed or parchment paper and place it in a zip-close bag or a plastic container. This will allow a limited amount of airflow without permeating the refrigerator with cheese smell. If any mold forms, thoroughly cut around it, taking care not to touch the mold with your knife. Trappist cheese is best eaten within two days of opening. It can also be frozen for up to three months with minimal effect on flavor and texture. To freeze, tightly wrap hand-sized blocks in plastic and store in zip-close bags, with all of the air compressed, for up to three months. Allow the cheese to defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using it.

Trappist Cheese Recipes

Any semihard melting cheese can be substituted in the following recipes.
Fifty Dollar Rib-Eye Burger
Czech Fried Cheese
Turkey Cordon Bleu
Chicken With Havarti Cheese Sauce