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Photo Credit: Queso La Vasco Navarra S.A.
  • Made from unpasteurized sheep's milk

  • Country of origin: Spain

  • Region: Basque Country

  • Type: hard, artisan

  • Texture: compact, oily, open and supple

  • Rind: natural

  • Colour: pale yellow

  • Flavour: buttery, nutty, smokey

  • Aroma: aromatic, smokey, sweet

  • Vegetarian: no

  • Producers: Quesos la Vasco Navarra S.A.

  • Synonyms: Queso Idiazabal la Vasco Navarra, Idiazabalgo gazta

  • Alternative spellings: Idiazabel

Idiazabal (also known as Idiazabel / Queso Idiazabal La Vasco Navarra) is a traditional, farmhouse, hard cheese made from raw milk of Latxa or Carranza sheep in the Basque and Navarra regions of northern Spain. Named after the village of Idiazabal, the cheese received Spanish D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) in 1987. 

In summer, the sheep migrate to higher pastures to graze on the blossoming, new grass. During this time, the artisanal cheese makers milk the sheep, make the cheese and leave it in the rafters to mature for a minimum ripening of 2 months. At the end of summer when the cheese makers return back to the lowlands with their sheep, the cheese has ripened and is ready for sale.

Idiazabal is produced in the shape of a cylinder, with a smooth and hard natural rind that is pale yellow to amber in colour. The cheese has a compact texture, with a few pinprick holes. It is dry, but not crumbly, and feels pleasantly oily in the mouth. The rind carries the marks of the wooden moulds in which it was drained. The characteristic, smoky flavour is the result of the cheeses having been stored near the fireplaces. There were no chimneys in the simple mountain huts, so the cheeses absorbed the sweet, aromatic smoke. The taste of the cheese is reminiscent of burnt caramel and bacon. It pairs well with red wine and cider.

PDO Idiazabal smoked cheese has won a Super Gold medal at the 2014 World Cheese Awards. It is declared as one of the world's 62 best cheeses. It is also available in natural flavour. 

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Top photos from Twitter

Nov 26, 2014
Idiazabal cheese with home made apple cream accompanied with red wine. Delicious! #basquegastronomy
Nov 20, 2014
Idiazabal cheese in flan form with Catalonian vermouth? Killer. At new La Taberna. @zuzunapa
Nov 02, 2014
Idiazabal (etiqueta negra) #cheese by a small producer who won the people's award at the Artzai Gazta competition.
Oct 11, 2014
Cod with burger with idiazabal cheese, pigs cheek and plenty of good beer. @donostiasc @TheKingandCo
Oct 10, 2014
Shaved mushrooms with brown butter vinaigrette, Idiazabal cheese and pine nuts @SeaContainers
Oct 06, 2014
Idiazabal Reserva “Erraizabal Zumitz” -Basque sheep’s cheese, quince paste, walnuts from our @LRF_2014 Sidreria menu.
Sep 09, 2014
@plainspaddock You need to eat milk-fed lamb to keep Idiazabal cheese production viable. Thanks @ArzakRestaurant
Aug 30, 2014
Another wonderful gift of #Idiazabal cheese from @NieveMikel . Basque Country produce great with #membrillo
Aug 26, 2014
Dry croissant of red fruits and idiazabal cheese ice cream at Azurmendi in Basque Country, Spain
Aug 25, 2014
Tartare of Iberico, idiazabal cheese and lime at ni neu (Mugaritz's casual eatery) in San Sebastian
Aug 14, 2014
@bravas_tapas version 1.0 of our idiazabal cheese and black truffle baskets...soon to be stuffed with yumminess.
Aug 13, 2014
A tasty first course: Serrano Ham, Idiazabal Cheese & Tomato Jam Toast