Put together a simple and delicious Spanish cheese plate at home to impress guests or simply enjoy yourself. Read on for lots of tips!
If you are ever out for a Spanish meal, or want to create one at home, and don’t know what to have, a good place to start is a Spanish cheese plate (also see more on what are tapas). Or maybe I should say a cheese and meat plate, as to me I would always choose some of both.
In Spain, you can normally choose one or the other, or both, and you may or may not get some additions to the plate. At home, of course, you can choose what you like so let me walk you though some of your delicious options.
I’m sharing this today for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this makes a great, easy appetizer or lunch at any time of year, but particularly if you are looking for something with little effort over the summer. It would also be good to start or round off a dinner party.
Secondly, today’s Sunday Supper theme is meals for dad, being father’s day, and for me I have many memories of enjoying lots of different cheeses and meats with my parents for lunch, particularly on their balcony in Southern Spain. My dad is a big fan of trying a little of everything!
An introduction to Spanish cheeses
There are a few things to know about Spanish cheeses. First, cheese can be made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or a blend. In fact cow’s milk is probably the least used, unlike other countries. The other thing is there are three main kinds – fresco (fresh), semi-curado (part aged, usually under 3 months) and curado (aged).
Finding many Spanish cheeses outside Spain can be challenging – you can get a number in the UK these days but not many in the US. Ones to look out for if you can, though are:
- Manchego – undoubtedly the most famous, an aged cheese although you can also get semi-curado versions. These days it is well exported so fairly easy to source. It has a lovely depth of flavor, made with sheep’s milk.
- Mahon – comes in fresh to aged versions, it’s one of the few cow’s milk cheeses with a distinctive orange rind. It’s from Menorca where it picks up a slight saltiness from the sea air.
- Cabrales – one of the few blue cheeses, wrapped in vine leaves and aged in caves in the Picos de Europa mountains. Great on top of white wine marinated steak.
- ‘Tetilla‘ – yes that does translate to what you might think, it’s a strangely-shaped cow’s milk cheese from Galicia but with a lovely creamy texture and mild flavor.
- Murcia al vino – a goat’s cheese tinted red on the outside from being washed in red wine during aging.
Most cheese plates have some Manchego and one or two other cheeses – here I’ve used a goat’s cheese called Garrotxa that I was able to find locally.
I don’t think Spanish food would be quite the same if it weren’t for it’s beloved pork, and the cured meats are for me some of the best. You’re kind of ‘basic’ cured ham is jamon serrano, as I have here.
But if you want to go a little more special hunt down some jamon iberico. It is a slightly darker color, almost a deep red, and comes from the Iberian black pig. The most special of all is jamon iberico de bellota where it’s not only from Iberian pigs, but ones fed on acorns. Believe me, the stuff melts in your mouth. Whichever you have, cut it really thin (or buy pre-cut).
You’ll always have various more salami-type meats alongside the ham, usually including chorizo (above right). It’s tinted a slighly orange color from paprika which also gives it a great flavor. Other common Spanish cured meats are lomo (pork loin) and regional salamis like Catalunya’s fuet. Add in what you can find.
On the side: other additions to a cheese plate
In Spain you’ll not typically get much on the side apart from bread, either plain or pan con tomate. However sometimes you’ll get some membrillo – quince jelly/paste – and olives are often on the table anyway.
Sometimes they’ll serve marcona almonds, the first almonds I ever actually liked and still my favorite (try and you’ll see why). My dad also likes some white anchovies, another common tapas dish.
A Spanish cheese plate is a typical way to start a meal of tapas or just to nibble on as you are enjoying a drink. Red wine is probably the most common accompaniment, but you might also choose cava or a sherry. You could of course also go for a sangria, like my white sangria or cava sangria. Whatever you enjoy it with, just be sure to enjoy it, just as I know my dad would.
A Spanish cheese plate, with or without cured meats as well, is a great way to start a meal or for a light lunch.
- 2 or more chunks of Spanish cheeses eg Manchego Cabrales, Mahon
- A few slices of jamon serrano/jamon iberico
- a few slices of chorizo
- a few slices other cured meats/salami
- marcona almonds
- a few slices pan con tomate see link above or bread eg French loaf
- olives eg manzanilla
- a few slices membrillo quince jelly/paste
Thinly slice the cheese and meats, if not already sliced.
Arrange the slices around a plate, with the almonds, bread, olives and membrillo on the side.
Adjust quantities to the number of people/course you are serving.
Try these other easy tapas dishes to make a meal:
See all the other dishes for Dad being shared today:
Sides Dad Will Love
- Best Dark and Stormy by Cricket’s Confections
- Spanish Cheese Plate by Caroline’s Cooking (you’re here!)
Mains for the Main Man
- Blue Cheese Bacon Burger with Crispy Onions Strings by Confessions of a Cooking Diva
- Chicken Fajita Burgers by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Chili Cheese Omelet by Food Lust People Love
- Chinese Chicken Salad by Pies and Plots
- Cider Braised Pork Belly Tacos by Gourmet Everyday
- Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches by Soulfully Made
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Pesto by Cooking Chat
- Korean BBQ Steak Bowls by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Out of a Can Chili by Bottom Left of the Mitten
- Pork Chops With Brandied Cherries by Mysavoryspoon
Dad’s Favorite Desserts
- Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Brownies by Desserts Required
- Chocolate Tofu Cupcakes by NinjaBaker.com
- Devil’s Food Strawberry Shortcake by The Freshman Cook
- Simple Fudgy Brownies by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Snickery Springform Cookie by What Smells So Good?
The Best Recipes You Need Now for Father’s Day by Sunday Supper Movement