Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

A Delicious Look At São Jorge Cheese – Azores Travel


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Amalie Hundley



Embarking on a food travel adventure allows us to explore the unique flavors and culinary traditions of different regions. If you’re a cheese lover, one destination that should be at the top of your list is the beautiful Azores islands. Nestled in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores archipelago is home to a variety of mouthwatering local delicacies, and one standout is São Jorge cheese.


São Jorge cheese is a true gem of the Azores, known for its rich, tangy flavor and distinctive marbling. It holds a special place in the hearts of the Azorean people, as it represents their cultural heritage and longstanding tradition of cheese making. Every bite of this cheese transports you to the rugged landscapes and lush green pastures of the Azores.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and production process of São Jorge cheese, explore its unique characteristics, and discover the delightful culinary wonders it has to offer. So fasten your seatbelts and get ready for an appetizing journey through the world of São Jorge cheese!


History of São Jorge Cheese

The origins of São Jorge cheese date back centuries, making it one of the oldest cheese varieties in Portugal. The cheese is named after the island of São Jorge in the Azores, where it has been produced for generations.


The cheese-making tradition of São Jorge can be traced back to the 15th century when the first settlers arrived on the island. These early settlers brought with them the knowledge and techniques of cheese making, which they adapted to the unique landscape and climate of São Jorge. The lush pastures and volcanic soil of the island proved to be ideal for dairy farming and cheese production.


Over the years, São Jorge cheese became an integral part of the Azorean culture, with each family having their own closely guarded recipe and methods of cheese making. The cheese was initially produced for personal consumption and as a way to preserve excess milk. However, as its popularity grew, it began to be traded and exported to mainland Portugal and beyond.


In 1986, São Jorge cheese was granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union, recognizing its unique heritage and qualities. This designation ensures that the cheese can only be produced in a specific geographical area using traditional methods and specific ingredients.


Today, São Jorge cheese is not only a beloved staple of Azorean cuisine but also a symbol of the island’s cultural identity. It has become an important economic driver for the region, attracting tourists from all over the world who come to taste and learn about this delicious cheese.


Production Process of São Jorge Cheese

The production of São Jorge cheese is a meticulous and time-honored process that has been passed down through generations. It begins with the careful selection of milk from cows that freely roam and graze on the lush pastures of São Jorge island.


Once the milk is collected, it is heated and natural rennet is added to cause coagulation. The curd that forms is then cut into small pieces and stirred to release the whey. This mixture is heated again and transferred to molds lined with traditional reed mats, where the excess whey is drained off.


After the cheese is removed from the molds, it is salted and left to rest for a period of time, typically several months. During this aging process, the cheese develops its distinct flavor and rich texture. The wheels of São Jorge cheese are regularly turned and brushed to ensure proper maturation.


One of the defining features of São Jorge cheese is its marbling, which is achieved through a unique technique called “veining”. As the cheese ages, it develops naturally occurring blue veins that crisscross throughout the paste. This gives the cheese its characteristic appearance and enhances its flavor.


To attain the PDO status, São Jorge cheese must adhere to strict production regulations, ensuring that it is made using traditional methods and only specific ingredients sourced from the Azores. This careful attention to detail ensures that every wheel of São Jorge cheese is of the highest quality and maintains the authentic taste that has made it famous.


The production process of São Jorge cheese is not only a labor of love but also a reflection of the Azorean people’s deep connection to their land and traditions. It is this dedication to preserving the heritage of São Jorge cheese that makes it an exceptional culinary delight.


Characteristics of São Jorge Cheese

São Jorge cheese is renowned for its distinct characteristics that set it apart from other cheese varieties. From its taste to its texture, every aspect of this cheese contributes to its exceptional reputation.


First and foremost, São Jorge cheese boasts a bold and tangy flavor profile. The long aging process allows the cheese to develop intense savory and slightly spicy notes. Its flavor is often described as complex and robust, with hints of butterscotch and nuts.


The texture of São Jorge cheese is another notable trait. It has a smooth and firm paste, which becomes more crumbly as it ages. The natural veining throughout the cheese gives it a marbled appearance and adds a subtle creaminess to the texture.


When it comes to appearance, São Jorge cheese has a distinctive pale yellow color with darker veins. The cheese itself is cylindrical in shape, with a rough, natural rind that helps to preserve its flavor and aroma.


One of the remarkable qualities of São Jorge cheese is its versatility. It can be enjoyed both on its own as a delightful cheeseboard centerpiece or used as a key ingredient in various culinary creations. Its bold flavor profile makes it an excellent pairing with fruit, honey, and even robust red wines.


Another standout feature of São Jorge cheese is its nutritional profile. It is a good source of protein and contains essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium and phosphorus. This makes it not only a flavorful treat but also a nutritious addition to any diet.


Whether you’re a cheese connoisseur or simply someone who appreciates great flavors, São Jorge cheese is a must-try. Its unique characteristics make it a cheese-lover’s delight, showcasing the quality and craftsmanship that goes into each wheel of this Azorean treasure.


Culinary Uses of São Jorge Cheese

São Jorge cheese is a versatile ingredient that can elevate a wide range of culinary creations. Its bold flavor and firm texture make it a perfect choice for both savory and sweet dishes. Let’s explore some of the delicious ways this cheese can be used in the kitchen:


1. Cheeseboards: São Jorge cheese shines when showcased on a cheeseboard. Slice it into thin wedges and pair it with fruits, nuts, and artisan bread for a delightful appetizer or a decadent dessert option.


2. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: Take your grilled cheese sandwich to the next level by using São Jorge cheese. Its robust flavor and meltability make it an ideal choice for creating a gourmet, gooey sandwich experience.


3. Cheese Soups: Add depth and richness to your soups by grating or melting São Jorge cheese. It imparts a creamy texture and a tangy kick, enhancing the overall flavor of soups like potato leek or pumpkin.


4. Pasta Dishes: Grated São Jorge cheese adds a delightful sharpness to pasta dishes. Sprinkle it on top of creamy carbonara or toss it into a homemade tomato sauce for a burst of flavor.


5. Cheesecakes: Yes, you read that right! São Jorge cheese can even be used in desserts. Its creamy and tangy profile brings a unique twist to traditional cheesecake recipes, giving them an extra layer of flavor.


6. Traditional Azorean Recipes: São Jorge cheese is a crucial ingredient in many traditional Azorean dishes. Try “Queijadas da Graciosa,” a cheese tart made with São Jorge cheese, cinnamon, and sugar, or “Biscoitos de Queijo,” savory cheese biscuits that perfectly complement a cup of tea.


7. Cheese Scones or Breads: Incorporate chunks or grated São Jorge cheese into scone or bread dough for a delightful savory twist. The cheese adds a rich and tangy flavor that pairs beautifully with herbs and spices.


These are just a few of the countless ways to enjoy the culinary potential of São Jorge cheese. The only limit is your imagination and creativity. So, go ahead and experiment with this versatile cheese to create delicious and memorable dishes.


Popular Dishes with São Jorge Cheese

São Jorge cheese is no stranger to the culinary world, and it plays a starring role in many beloved dishes. Whether you’re exploring the Azores or preparing meals at home, here are some popular dishes that showcase the incredible flavors of São Jorge cheese:


1. Bolos Lêvedos com Queijo: This traditional Azorean dish combines two local staples – bolos lêvedos (a type of round, fluffy bread) and São Jorge cheese. The bread is cut in half, filled with slices of São Jorge cheese, and then toasted or grilled until the cheese has melted to perfection. It’s a simple yet delicious treat that locals adore.


2. Espetada: A popular Portuguese meat skewer dish, the Azorean version of espetada often includes marinated beef chunks skewered with vegetables like bell peppers and onions. What makes it unique is that São Jorge cheese is melted over the meat skewers as they grill, adding a rich and tangy flavor that takes this dish to a whole new level.


3. Queijo da Vila: This is a classic Azorean dish that showcases the true beauty of São Jorge cheese. Thin slices of the cheese are layered with garlic and herbs, then roasted until the cheese becomes golden and bubbly. It’s served warm, allowing the flavors to meld together and creating a heavenly snack or appetizer.


4. Queijadas de São Jorge: These cheese tarts are a delicious and iconic Azorean dessert. Made with a tender pastry crust and filled with a mixture of São Jorge cheese, sugar, and eggs, these little tarts offer a sweet yet tangy taste that delights the senses. They’re often enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea.


5. Sopa de Queijo: As comforting as it gets, Sopa de Queijo is a traditional Azorean cheese soup that highlights the rich flavors of São Jorge cheese. This hearty soup combines potatoes, onions, garlic, and other vegetables, simmered in a flavorful broth and finished with grated São Jorge cheese. It’s the perfect dish to warm you up on a chilly day.


These are just a few examples of the many ways São Jorge cheese is celebrated in the Azores and beyond. Its unique taste and versatility make it a beloved ingredient in both traditional and modern culinary creations. So, whether you’re indulging in local specialties or experimenting in your own kitchen, São Jorge cheese is sure to take your dishes to new heights of flavor and satisfaction.


Where to Try São Jorge Cheese in the Azores

If you’re visiting the stunning Azores islands, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to savor the delectable São Jorge cheese. Here are some of the best places to sample this local treasure:


1. Local Farms: One of the most authentic ways to experience São Jorge cheese is by visiting the local farms where it is produced. Many farms in São Jorge island offer guided tours that take you through the cheese-making process, allowing you to witness firsthand the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into creating this cheese. You can also taste freshly made cheese and purchase some to take home.


2. Farmers’ Markets: The bustling farmers’ markets in the Azores are a haven for food enthusiasts. São Jorge cheese is a common sight at these markets, where you can find a wide variety of artisanal cheeses from different local producers. Talk to the cheese vendors, learn about their unique production methods, and treat yourself to a selection of São Jorge cheese to enjoy during your stay.


3. Local Restaurants: Many restaurants and eateries across the Azores feature São Jorge cheese as an ingredient in their dishes. From traditional Azorean dishes to modern twists, chefs take advantage of the robust flavors of this cheese to create mouthwatering culinary experiences. Be sure to check out the menus and ask for dishes that highlight São Jorge cheese for a truly authentic and delicious meal.


4. Cheese Shops: Specialized cheese shops are a treasure trove for cheese enthusiasts. These shops curate a wide range of cheese varieties, including São Jorge cheese. Here, you can taste different ages and variations of São Jorge cheese, learning about the subtle differences in flavor and texture. The knowledgeable staff can provide expert advice and help you find the perfect cheese to suit your preferences.


5. Cheese Festivals: If you’re visiting during the right season, be sure to attend one of the many cheese festivals held in the Azores. These events celebrate the local cheese-making tradition and provide an opportunity to taste an abundance of São Jorge cheese. You can enjoy cheese tastings, watch cheese-making demonstrations, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of these lively festivals.


The Azores is a paradise for cheese lovers, and São Jorge cheese is a true gem of the region. Whether you’re exploring farms, restaurants, markets, or festivals, there are countless opportunities to indulge in the flavors and traditions of this remarkable cheese. So, make sure to include São Jorge cheese tastings and experiences in your Azores itinerary for an unforgettable food travel adventure.



São Jorge cheese is a true culinary treasure that adds a burst of flavor and cultural richness to the Azores. Its long history, unique production process, and distinct characteristics make it a must-try for cheese enthusiasts and food travelers alike.


From the lush pastures of São Jorge Island to the local farms, markets, and restaurants, there are abundant opportunities to taste and experience São Jorge cheese throughout the Azores. Whether you’re enjoying it on a cheeseboard, incorporating it into savory dishes, or savoring it in traditional Azorean recipes, the bold and tangy flavors of this cheese are sure to leave a lasting impression.


The Azores offers a truly immersive experience for cheese lovers, allowing you to learn about the cheese-making tradition, meet local producers, and indulge in the finest São Jorge cheese. Each bite tells a story of heritage, passion, and craftsmanship.


So, whether you’re planning a trip to the Azores or simply looking to explore new flavors, make sure to seek out São Jorge cheese. Embrace the opportunity to taste the essence of the Azores and discover why this cheese holds a special place in the hearts and palates of both locals and visitors alike.


Get ready for a delicious adventure where every bite of São Jorge cheese transports you to the captivating landscapes and rich culinary traditions of the Azores!