It’s not a secret that a smattering of tangy goat cheese can resuscitate even the dullest, most uninspired salad—not to mention a boring frittata or a lackluster quiche. Also known as chèvre, fresh, unripened goat cheese has enough zing to perk up almost any dish, and it can be lovely by itself, too, with crisp, raw veggies or on a piece of crusty artisanal bread.
To help us navigate the maze of goat cheese brands out there, we conducted a blind tasting of nine widely available ones, both domestic and imported. Some of the cheeses we tasted were surprisingly assertive, with a strong gamey quality that panelists found somewhat objectionable. With the exception of a few adventurous tasters, our panel tended to gravitate toward the milder cheeses that had a cleaner, more balanced flavor.
While the goat cheeses pictured here are our top five picks, we also tasted the following brands (in alphabetical order): Couturier Soignon, Montrachet, President, and Redwood Hill Farm.
Ile de France, $3.99 (4 oz.)
The only imported cheese in our top five list, Ile de France epitomizes our panelists’ ideal goat cheese: fresh and mildly tangy with a discernible goat-milk flavor and a firm but creamy mouth-feel. We found this cheese to have a lot of character without being too assertive or excessively gamey.
Goat cheeses are numbered in order of preference; prices will vary.
$3.99 (4 oz.)
There’s no question that this goat cheese had an appealing texture. Almost everyone on the panel described it as very creamy and smooth. The flavor, too, was pleasantly mild and rich with an adequate level of acidity and a satisfying goat-milk presence.
3. Cypress Grove Chèvre
$4.99 (5 oz.)
Although it was among the more aggressive-tasting of the bunch, we liked this tart, zippy cheese with its slightly nutty undertone. It was rich and goaty, but not overwhelmingly gamey, as were the other assertive cheeses we tasted. Overall, tasters found it pleasingly creamy if a bit dense.
4. Vermont Butter & Cheese
$3.99 (4 oz.)
On the mild side of the spectrum, this Vermont Chèvre earned a respectable fourth position with its clean, no-frills flavor and subdued personality. A good acidity level and a medium tang gave it a bit of character, and its melt-in-your-mouth texture was appealing.
5. Laura Chenel
$5.99 (8 oz.)
This cheese had our panel divided. Some tasters found it brightly tangy, pleasantly herbaceous, and goaty. Others thought it was a bit bland with only a slight hint of goat. The texture failed to impress our panelists across the board. The words “chalky” and “gritty” appeared repeatedly.