Pairing Nut Butter and Cheese | culture: the word on cheese
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Pairing Nut Butter and Cheese

A selection of nut butters on a white plate

Seasoned, salted, or simply toasted, nuts are a classic addition to any cheese plate—but why stop there? A smear of rich, flavorful nut butter paired with cheese makes one deliciously decadent bite.

But not all wedges or wheels play nice with the spreads. “I would recommend avoiding blues or anything too funky,” advises Julia Hallman, cheesemonger and buyer at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Mass. Instead, choose varieties that feature lactic tang (fresh chèvre), pronounced sharpness (classic cheddar), or nuanced nuttiness (young manchego). These cheeses bring out the best qualities in nut butter: sweet, creamy, and even savory notes.

Hallman considers texture, too. Work it to your advantage—pair a chunkier almond butter with a crystallized aged gouda for complementary consistencies, she says.

For added textural contrast, serve cheese and nut butter with apple or pear slices. The fruit also imparts a subtle acidity that keeps the combination from becoming too heavy—think of a delicate melody weaving through a dense two-part harmony. An update on the traditional PB&J formula deserves a standing ovation: bright fruit, rich cheese, and earthy nuts in perfect symphonic balance.

Peanut Butters

Fans of the most common nut butter around, rejoice: Your favorite nostalgic treat is all grown up. While some brands fall on the sweet side of the taste spectrum, many others eschew added sugar, focusing instead on pure peanut flavor. “A slice of cheddar with a pronounced bite helps to break through the rich mouthfeel of peanut butter,” explains Will Sissle, a cheesemonger at the new Whole Foods Market in Boston’s South End. “Kind of [like] how some people add a slice of cheddar on top of apple pie.”

Sartori SarVecchio Parmesan

Smucker’s Creamy Natural Peanut Butter

Ford Farm Seaside Cheddar

Koeze Cream-Nut Peanut Butter
Beehive Cheese Co. Promontory

Peanut Butter Boy Super Smooth

Cashew Butters

Meaty, savory cashew butter is a break from the norm. A dry, velvety texture and bold umami notes make it a fantastic match with complex, earthy cheeses.

Emmentaler AOP

Jif Crunchy Cashew Butter

Appenzeller Käserei Tufertsch

MaraNatha Roasted Cashew Butter
Comté AOC

Woodstock Farms Cashew Butter

Almond Butters

Sweeter, milkier, and more delicate than other nuts, Marcona almonds have long been paired with nutty cheeses like manchego, drawing out toasty flavors of caramel, butterscotch, and even coconut. Certain almond butters can also impart a subtle floral perfume, which pairs nicely with lightly fruity or herbal cheese varieties.

Roth GranQueso

Once Again Creamy Almond Butter
Manchego PDO

Barney Butter Smooth
Ossau-Iraty AOC

Maisie Jane’s Crunchy Almond Butter

Walnut Butters

Perhaps the most decadent of all, walnut butter has a slightly tannic quality that helps to temper its intense, buttery softness. Paired with rustic or tangy goat’s milk cheese, it’s a combination much greater than the sum of its parts.

Cypress Grove Chevre Lamb Chopper

Artisana Organic Walnut Butter
Vermont Creamery Fresh Goat Cheese

Fastachi Walnut Butter
Westfield Farm Capri

Jack’s Almond Walnut Butter

Chocolate Nut Butters

For a pairing that’s all about sweetness, look to nut butters laced with cocoa. Tried-and-true hazelnut-chocolate spreads such as Nutella and other chocolatenut combos stand up against even the boldest iterations of aged gouda and Edam. Together they conjure bourbon-spiked bread pudding, salted caramel, or sticky pecan pie.

Beemster Extra Aged

Mimolette AOC

Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter
Roomano Pradera

Rawmio Hazelnut Crunch

Spiced Nut Butters

Ready to take your pairing prowess to the next level? A variety of nut butters featuring the piquant notes of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves make a playful bite alongside especially fruity and creamy cheeses.

Drunken Goat DOP

Peanut Butter & Co. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl
Caseificio Dell’Alta Langa La Tur

Big Spoon Roasters Chai Spice Nut Butter
La Casera Robiola di Capra in Foglie di Fico

Jem Raw Cinnamon Red Maca Almond Butter

Photographer Evi Abeler

Evi Abeler is a food and still life photographer based in New York City. She helps art directors, cookbook authors and designers to communicate the love, passion and thought that goes into every project and creates modern, yet classic images. Her clients in advertising, publishing, hospitality and retail include Food & Wine Magazine (which named her Digital Food Award Winner), Harper Collins Publishing and Whole Foods Markets.

Stylist Laura Knoop

Laura Knoop is a New York City-based food stylist with a studio in Harlem.