You’ve probably seen some variation of marinated cheese at the grocery store. It’s typically a soft, fresh cheese like mozzarella, goat cheese or feta, drenched in olive oil, herbs and spices and it is quite tasty. It’s delicious spread on crackers and bread, with crisp, fresh veggies or as a salad or sandwich topper. We’ve even put it on pizza and flatbread and have been known to spoon it directly into our mouths.
And as is usually the case, the homemade stuff is even better than what you’ll find at the market. With that in mind, we’ve put together a simple, step-by-step guide to teach you how to make marinated cheese at home.
1. Choose Your Cheese.
You really want a softer, fresh cheese that will benefit from adding flavorings. Aged, harder cheeses do not work well for this nor do really pungent, robust cheeses. We recommend sticking with a log of fresh goat cheese, a block of good quality feta or fresh mozzarella of any size or shape.
2. Pick Your Flavor Profile and Your Olive Oil
You can really get creative with flavors here. You may have some rarely used spices or an abundance of leftover fresh herbs you want to use up. Think about seeds like mustard, cumin, coriander and fennel. Spicy elements like chile flakes and peppercorns. Or more exotic flavors like lavender, star anise or cardamom pods. Any fresh or dried herbs work nicely as well. Consider adding garlic cloves or citrus peel for even more complexity.
When selecting the olive oil, you may want to go with a robust, peppery extra virgin olive oil and add lots of fresh herbs and some lemon peel. Or you can try a flavored olive oil like our Fresh Garlic or Meyer Lemon…or both! You’ll need enough olive oil to completely cover your cheese, usually a cup or two.
3. Choose the marinating method: quick or slow.
If you want to eat the cheese as soon as possible, you’ll want to go with the quick method that involves using heat to release all the flavor from your aromatics. Place everything in a small pot and pour olive oil over top. Note: If you’re using fresh herbs that are delicate like basil, chive and cilantro, add these after you’ve heated the oil. Dried herbs and heartier herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano can be heated with olive oil. Again, you’ll need enough to cover your chosen cheese, so at least a cup or more. Warm the pot over very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until you can really smell all of the aromatics and spices you’ve added.
Slice the cheese into rounds or pieces so that more surface area soaks in the oil’s flavor and place them in a container you can seal. We like mason jars but any container with a lid will do. Let the oil cool for a bit before you pour it over the cheese so it doesn’t melt. Pour the oil over the cheese and top with any fresh herbs, if using.
If you have the time and want to skip the heating step, you can simply put your cheese, sliced into rounds or pieces in a container and scatter the aromatics and spices over it. Pour the olive oil on top, cover it and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
4. Wait…or don’t.
If you’ve chosen the quick method, you can serve the cheese right away or let it sit in the fridge to develop even more flavor. If you’ve been storing the cheese in the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature before serving so that the flavors will be more pronounced. Keep any leftovers in the oil in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Our Favorite Flavor Combinations
- EVOO + Smashed Garlic + Peppercorns + Citrus Peel + Rosemary
- Organic Meyer Lemon Olive Oil + Herbes de Provence
- Blood Orange Olive Oil + Cumin & Coriander Seeds + Oregano
- Fresh Garlic Olive Oil + Chile Flakes + Tarragon
- Jalapeno Olive Oil + Lime Peel + Cilantro
- Fresh Basil Olive Oil + Dill + Mint + Chive
And don’t toss the extra oil—there’s rich flavor in there. Toss it with pasta, use it to sauté vegetables, or whisk it into a salad dressing.