Blue Cheese vs. Gorgonzola: What's the Difference?

From salads and sauces to casseroles and burgers, there are few savory dishes where blue cheese is not welcome.

For lovers of flavor-forward cheeses, blue cheese is a must for cheese plates, topping salads, creamy sauces and more. When exploring the cheese case or browsing recipes, you may notice that some blue cheeses are simply labeled "blue cheese" or "bleu cheese," while others are specifically labeled Gorgonzola.

So, are blue cheese and Gorgonzola the exact same thing? The simple answer is that while all Gorgonzola is blue cheese, not all blue cheese is Gorgonzola. Here's everything you need to know.

What Is Blue Cheese?

Blue cheese can be made with milk from sheep, goats or cows. The cheese is inoculated with a Penicillium mold (a different strain of the bacteria than that used to make the antibiotic penicillin), air pockets are introduced for the mold to grow in, and then the cheese is aged—generally for one to six months. As it ages, veins of blue, gray, black, purple or green mold branch throughout the body of the cheese.

While flavors and textures vary based on the type of milk used and other variables, most blue cheeses have a pronounced, sharp, salty flavor and a pungent and minerally aroma that often will be stronger than the actual flavor of the cheese.

Some common blue cheeses are English Stilton, French Roquefort, Danish Danablu, American Maytag and—the cheese we're here to discuss—Italian Gorgonzola. If your cheese is just labeled "blue cheese," it will likely have a crumbly texture and rough appearance, with strong veining of mold throughout.

Blue cheeses pair well with fruit and honey, which balance the intensity, as well as with bright crunchy vegetables, which is why they work so well on salads. They do have a decent melting property, despite their crumbly nature, so they can be a good addition to cheese sauces or even a burger topper.

a photo of blue cheese
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What Is Gorgonzola?

Gorgonzola is an Italian unskimmed cow's-milk cheese that's named after the town of Gorgonzola in the Lombardy region. Gorgonzola is aged for about three to six months under similar conditions as any blue cheese.

It has a much creamier texture and appearance than most other blue cheeses, and often is only lightly marbled with blue-green veining. It has a creamy, rich flavor and tends to have a milder aroma and taste than other blue cheeses, which makes it a good introduction to blue cheeses for the novice.

Types of Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola comes in two varieties: dolce (sweet) and piccante (spicy). Dolce is soft, buttery and creamy, while piccante is firmer, more crumbly and has a stronger flavor. If your recipe calls for crumbles or chunks of blue cheese, piccante Gorgonzola should work well, whereas if you are looking for a meltable, creamy variety, look for dolce.

Can You Substitute Other Blues for Gorgonzola?

A cheese simply labeled "blue" will typically be more intense-tasting, saltier and less creamy than Gorgonzola, but you can usually substitute one for the other in most recipes, and they both work beautifully on cheese boards.

Standard blue cheeses are great for crumbling on salads, or in recipes that will be cooked, like a cheese sauce or fondue. Gorgonzola tends to be used in either raw or gently warmed applications—for example, it might be stirred into a risotto or pasta at the very end so that its milder flavor is not lost in high heat. Gorgonzola is also often creamy enough to be used as a spread on a sandwich or as a dip, while some other blue cheeses are too dry to use this way.

Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing between Gorgonzola and other blue cheeses, the good news is that there are no bad choices! The rich flavor and unique properties of these ancient styles of cheeses are an asset to your dining table, whether you are topping a cracker with a slab of Stilton or folding some Gorgonzola into your polenta. If you are a newbie to the world of blues, seek out a Gorgonzola dolce to start you off, and then explore the rest of the family to find your sweet spot. Chances are, there is a blue for you!

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