Why Is The Netherlands Famous For Cheese? (Let's Find Out)

March 20, 2023

When people think about the Netherlands, most people immediately think about cheese. After all, the Netherlands is famous for this, and it has been this way for a very long time. Although people consider the country to be famous for cheese, few actually know why the Netherlands is famous for this product.

In order to understand the reasoning behind this, it’s important to know the history of cheese in the Netherlands. This way, it’s easier to understand exactly why cheese is iconic for the Netherlands.

In this article, I would like to tell you more about cheese in the Netherlands, and its history, explain why the country is known for it, and look into the most famous Dutch cheese.

Why is Cheese Iconic For The Netherlands?

When we look at why the Netherlands is so famous for its cheese, we also have to look at why cheese is so iconic for the Netherlands. As some of you may already know, there are a lot of farmers in the Netherlands and many meadows in particular.

The Netherlands is located beneath the sea level for a big part. This makes the soil in this country very fertile but also quite moist. This makes it hard for other crops to grow here, like corn, for example.

However, the conditions of the soil are perfect for grass to grow. This is why there are so many meadows in the Netherlands where you will see plenty of cows.

Cows in the Netherlands

The reason cheese is so iconic for the Netherlands starts with the soil of this country and the grass the cows live and feed on. Thanks to these cows, the Netherlands can produce a lot of cheese yearly. Because the grass is of such great quality, the cheese has a perfect quality as well, which is why the Netherlands is famous for its cheese.

Another reason why cheese is iconic for the Netherlands is that they take the production process very seriously.

There are a lot of rules and regulations in place to ensure that the cheese they produce is of the best quality. This way, there’s a certain standard that every cheese in the Netherlands needs to have in order to be qualified for sale.

In 1913 these rules were even more strict for the producers of cheese. Someone who wanted to make cheese had to have a "rijkskaasmerk.’" This was proof that their cheese was of the best quality and, therefore, fit to be qualified as Dutch cheese. Only after someone had acquired this proof were they able to sell their cheese.

Lastly, the love for cheese was spread quite quickly throughout the Netherlands. This all started in 1491.

The church has always been a big influence in the Netherlands because the country is primarily catholic. The leaders of the church told the people in 1491 that they were allowed to eat cheese during the fasting period, which is why it got such a popularity boost at once.

The cheese of the Netherlands stayed popular throughout the Golden Age. De consistency of the Dutch cheese ensured the product was easier to preserve so that salesmen could export and sell it in other countries.

This export has continued throughout the years and has grown to the point that the Netherlands exports about 800.000.000 kilos of cheese annually!

The History of Cheese in The Netherlands

To understand why the Netherlands is so famous for its cheese, it’s essential to understand the history of cheese in the Netherlands.

Cheese has been around for a very long time in the Netherlands, and although we know cheese has been made and eaten in the Netherlands for centuries, we don’t know exactly when cheese was first made in the Netherlands.

Cheese has been made in the Netherlands for as long as anyone can remember. Archeologists tried to find out when people in the Netherlands started making cheese, and during their search, they found tools that were used to make cheese. These tools date back as far as 800 b.c.

Ever since the Dutch started making cheese, it has been exceptionally popular in Dutch culture. Even during the Middle Ages, people wanted to have as much cheese as possible.

This is because the popular food actually served as a currency for a while. During this time, the people of the Netherlands actually had to trade cheese in order to buy other items, like clothing or food.

Cheese has also been sold on the market for a long time now. The first time people were able to get cheese on the local markets was in 1266. The city of Haarlem had the first marketplace that offered visitors a cheese stand to get some of the best cheese in the country!

Later, cheese was also sold on the market in Leiden in 1303, the markets in Oudewater in 1326, and of course, in Alkmaar in 1365, as seen below.

Alkmaar cheese market

These were the first places where people could get cheese on the market. You could negotiate the price using the Dutch "handjeklap" during that time. This means they made a deal based on their trust in each other, and one would do something for the other in return for the cheese.

Even after all this time, you can still get some of the classical cheese in the Netherlands. In Alkmaar, for example, you can get your cheese in a classical time capsule.

Did you know that cheeses aren’t actually named after the place where they were made but rather after the place they were sold at? Like Gouda cheese, for example. This wasn’t made in Gouda but was always sold on the markets here.

What is The Most Famous Dutch Cheese?

The Netherlands is famous for many different kinds of cheese, but what is the most famous Dutch cheese? I have made a small list of some of the most popular cheeses.

Gouda cheese:

The most famous Dutch cheese is definitely the Gouda cheese! Not only is it the most known, but it’s also eaten the most. This cheese has been sold in the Netherlands for centuries. It can only be named Gouda cheese if the producer has followed a specific recipe.

Gouda cheese can also only be manufactured in the Netherlands and tastes amazing with a glass of wine or just on a piece of bread!

Edammer cheese:

Edammer cheese is almost as famous as the Dutch cheese markets! These little cheeses are perfectly round and always weigh exactly 1.7 kilos.

The outside of the cheese is red and made from paraffin. The big advantage of Edammer cheese is that it doesn’t go bad as other cheeses and even gets a better taste over time!

One of the other reasons why this cheese is so popular is because it’s perfect for taking with you on a trip, for example.

Edam cheese

Old Amsterdam:

Old Amsterdam is another one of the most famous Dutch cheeses that tastes amazing! The name is protected by Westland Cheesespecialties.

Although the cheese has ‘Amsterdam’ in the name, it’s not produced in this city or even nearby. The company wants to create a certain feeling for the consumers of this cheese, which is why they have created this image. Old Amsterdam gets sold all around the world by now!

Is Cheese From The Netherlands Actually Good?

Now that we know more about Dutch cheese and why it’s so famous, it’s also important to consider whether the cheese is actually good.

As one of the locals from the Netherlands, I can say that cheese from the Netherlands is so famous for very good reasons!

The cheese is truly unique compared to cheese from other countries, as the taste is completely different. Furthermore, Dutch cheese is a large part of the Dutch culture since most of the population eats it during breakfast or lunch (or both).

If you love cheese, you should definitely try Dutch cheese at least once in your lifetime. Luckily, there are plenty of different cheeses to choose from, so you’ll be sure to find a kind of cheese that you really like!


The reason the Netherlands is so famous for its cheese is mostly because of the great care they take of their grass, cows, and the regulations for the manufacturing of cheese.

This and other historical influences have made Dutch cheese so popular both in and outside the Netherlands. If you like cheese, you should try Dutch cheese at least once because you certainly won’t be disappointed!

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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