I personally taste-tested a variety of gouda cheese substitutes to find the best one for every occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitutes for gouda cheese are other semi-hard, well-melting, slightly nutty cheeses like Havarti, gruyere, edam, and Emmental. For an easy-to-find and budget-friendly option, go for mild cheddar. You can also use smoked gouda.
I made small batches of mac and cheese to put several different gouda substitutes to the test.
Gouda cheese has a mild, slightly sweet and creamy flavor with hints of nuttiness. It’s a moist cheese with a springy texture that melts well. These properties make it really versatile in the kitchen and it’s a popular choice for sandwiches, cheese boards, and sauces.
Note: You can also get aged gouda, which has a stronger more complex flavor. It’s nutty with caramel undertones. The cheeses also becomes hard and crumbly. But mature gouda is less common than young gouda, so I’ve focused on young gouda here.
Here are the substitutes I tested and the verdicts:
|Edam||Lower fat content||8/10|
|Swiss Emmental||Melts exceptionally well||8/10|
|Havarti||Buttery and slightly sweet||9/10|
|Cheddar||The mild variety||8/10|
|Muenster||If you’re USA-based||7/10|
|Cashew cheese||Vegan alternative||7/10|
|Smoked gouda||Smokey, earthy flavor||6/10|
Gruyere is rich and creamy, with the same nutty undertones as gouda. It’s also slightly more salty than gouda, so it’s a good option if you prefer a savory edge.
Texture-wise, gruyère is denser than gouda, but don’t let that deter you, it still melts like a champ. If you’ve ever had French onion soup or a savory gratin, you’ve probably already tasted gruyère because it’s a staple in these dishes.
It tasted great in my mac and cheese and then I used some of the leftovers to elevate my morning eggs. Yum!
Pro tip: French comte is another cheese that’s very similar to Gruyere, and so will also work as a substitute for gouda, but it’s not as commonly found.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with gruyère.
Edam is another stellar stand-in for gouda, especially if you’re a fan of mild cheeses. It has a more subtle, but equally enjoyable flavor that’s lightly salty and nutty. Edam also has a lower fat content than gouda, which means it’s not quite as creamy when you melt it. You’ll often see it used when a lighter alternative is needed.
The biggest difference between the two cheeses is probably appearance! Edam is coated in a characteristic red wax. The wax isn’t edible, so remember to peel it off before indulging!
Psst… the reason Edam is lower in fat is because it’s made with part-skimmed milk whereas gouda is made from whole milk.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with edam.
Swiss Emmental is famous for its holey appearance. The holes are also called “eyes” and are created by gas bubbles that form during fermentation. Both types of cheese have nutty notes, but what makes Emmental stand out as a substitute is how well it melts.
Just like gouda, it will melt into a smooth and buttery puddle of deliciousness and this makes it a classic choice for things like fondues and grilled cheese.
I thought Emmental was slightly more sharp and tangy than gouda, with a touch more complexity. But if you weren’t focusing on the flavor you wouldn’t notice too much difference.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with Swiss Emmental.
Havarti is a Danish cheese that has a buttery aroma and a slightly sweet taste. This, along with its creamy body and semi-soft texture, means that it’s often compared to young gouda.
Havarti is usually sold sliced, which makes it a convenient ingredient for sandwiches, but this is less ideal if you want to grate it. A bonus of havarti is that it comes in different flavors, for example, jalapeno, dill, or caraway flavor. This means you’ll never get bored of havarti!
Psst… Havarti cheese is named after the creator’s farm, “Havartigaard”.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with havarti cheese.
Cheddar is budget-friendly and you might already have some in your fridge. If you do, you’re in luck because it’s a decent substitute for gouda – as long as it’s mild cheddar!
It doesn’t have the familiar nutty notes of gouda, but it does have a light tang and creaminess that will round out the flavors of your dish. Younger cheddars also melt pretty well, although I do find them slightly more oily than gouda (because of the higher fat content).
Avoid using mature cheddar to replace gouda because the flavor will be a lot sharper and older cheeses don’t melt as well. America’s Test Kitchen goes through the science behind this if you want to know more.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with mild cheddar.
Muenster is the American version of the French Munster (so you can skip this suggestion if you’re not in the USA) and has a milder, less deep flavor than gouda. Because of the mild flavor, this cheese has mass appeal and is very easy to find.
Like the other substitutes on this list, Muenster melts like a dream, making it an incredibly versatile choice because you can use it in all the same ways as gouda. It mixed seamlessly into my mac and cheese and it’s also great in burgers or for melting on top of dishes.
Muenster is known for its distinct orange rind, thanks to the addition of annatto. This rind, which is completely edible, will add a nice pop of color to your food. But if you don’t want the extra color, simply take the rind off.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with Muenster.
If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to gouda cheese meet your new best friend: cashew cheese.
The magic of nutritional yeast gives this ‘cheese’ a cheesy flavor, and the same nutty notes as gouda. Okay, the flavor isn’t exactly the same, but it’s definitely close enough to satisfy your cravings.
And the best part? You can make it from scratch with The Full Helping’s recipe. It’s straightforward and there’s no cooking involved. All you have to do is soak the cashews and then throw everything in a food processor. This is great because vegan cheese from the grocery store can be really expensive.
How to substitute: Replace gouda in a 1:1 ratio with cashew cheese.
As well as young and aged gouda, you can also get smoked gouda. Smoked gouda is young gouda that’s been infused with a smoky flavor that’s both earthy and robust, and complements the creamy characteristics of the cheese.
The smoky flavor can range from subtle to very intense depending on how the cheese was smoked, and how long for.
The process of infusing the cheese alters the flavor. but nothing else. The cheese still melts really well and you don’t need to make any recipe adjustments when you’re using it. I loved it in my mac and cheese because it gave it that BBQ-party vibe.
How to substitute: Replace regular gouda in a 1:1 ratio with smoked gouda.
Other substitutes to consider
The above options are my top picks for gouda substitutes because they’re sold in mainstream grocery stores. But here are some more niche options you can find in specialty cheese shops:
- Boerenkaas: This is also called Dutch farmer’s cheese and has the same rich, nutty flavor of gouda with subtle grassy notes. It’s traditionally made of unpasteurized milk, although most cheese shops that sell this let the cheese age before selling in compliance with the FDA regulations.
- Leyden cheese: This is a lower-fat version of gouda that’s studded with cumin seeds. It’s perfect if you’re looking for something unique.
- Samsoe: This is a Danish cheese with a milder, slightly sweeter flavor than gouda, but it carries the same nutty notes.
- Butterkäse (Butter Cheese): This is a German cheese known for its buttery flavor and soft, creamy texture. It has a mild taste and melts well, making it very similar to young gouda.
Avoid using tofu
I came across a few websites that suggested using tofu as a substitute for gouda cheese, but I don’t recommend it. Tofu has no flavor and left me with a bland mac and cheese. Stick with cashew cheese for a vegan option.
Best Gouda Cheese Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 30 grams smoked gouda
- 30 grams gruyere
- 30 grams edam
- 30 grams swiss emmental
- 30 grams monterey jack
- 30 grams muenster
- 30 grams cashew cheese
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen Gouda substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.