Last Updated on September 29, 2020 by Michael Joseph
Gouda is one of the world’s most popular varieties of cheese.
With a delicious taste and some unique nutrition benefits, this traditional cheese has a lot to offer too.
In this guide, we examine the distinctive profile of Gouda, its full nutrition values, potential benefits, and some tasty ways to eat it.
What Is Gouda Cheese?
Gouda is a famous Dutch cheese named after the small town of Gouda in Southern Holland.
The commercial trading of Gouda cheese has taken place in Gouda for hundreds of years, and the first mention of the cheese goes back to the year 1184 (1).
Interestingly, traders still sell Gouda in traditional cheese markets in the town. As shown in the above image, the cheese is still sold to the public in large wheels too.
The actual production of Gouda happens in the broader region of Holland rather than in the town itself.
That said, the name ‘Gouda cheese’ has no protected designation of origin. In other words; anyone living anywhere in the world can produce and sell cheese and call it Gouda.
However, three specific types of Gouda have European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. These three Gouda varieties must be produced within the Netherlands and follow the traditional Gouda recipe.
- Gouda Holland
- Noord-Hollandse Gouda (North Holland Gouda)
Taste and Texture
First of all, Gouda has a texture ranging from semi-hard to hard, and this depends on the age of the cheese.
Traditional varieties of Gouda, such as Bourenkass, tend to use unpasteurized milk, and they often undergo more extended aging (fermentation) times.
Producers grade Gouda cheese based on the length of the aging process, and the table below shows these different gradations (5);
|8-10 weeks||Young matured|
|7-8 months||Extra matured|
|10-12 months||Old cheese|
|1 year and over||Very old cheese|
As Gouda ages, the texture becomes progressively harder, and the cheese develops a strong and flavorful taste. In this regard, ‘young’ gouda will be relatively soft, while ‘very old cheese’ will take on a hard texture.
Gouda may also develop tiny crunchy (and tasty) ‘crystals’ housed within the cheese. This crystallization of the cheese occurs with longer aging times through the development of calcium lactate and tyrosine in the cheese (6).
Some of the more expensive Gouda cheeses may be left to age for as long as 36 months. These particular vintage cheeses have a sharp and robust flavor and an even harder, slightly crumbly texture.
For those who prefer mild cheese, ‘young’ and ‘young matured’ cheeses are the best options. Young Gouda has a mild and slightly sweet flavor, and it is soft and slightly chewy.
Using data from the USDA Food Composition databases, here are the full nutritional values for Gouda cheese per 100 grams (7);
|Saturated Fat||17.61 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||7.75 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0.66 g|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||394 mg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||263 mg|
|Cobalamin (B12)||1.54 mcg||64.2 %|
|Riboflavin (B2)||0.33 mg||25.4 %|
|Vitamin A||165 mcg RAE||18.3 %|
|Pantothenic Acid (B5)||0.34 mg||6.8 %|
|Folate||21.0 mcg||5.3 %|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||0.08 mg||4.7 %|
|Choline||15.40 mcg||2.8 %|
|Vitamin D||20.0 IU||2.5 %|
|Vitamin K1||2.30 mcg||1.9 %|
|Thiamin (B1)||0.03 mg||2.5 %|
|Vitamin E||0.24 mg||1.6 %|
|Niacin (B3)||0.06 mg||0.38 %|
|Calcium||700.0 mg||53.8 %|
|Phosphorus||546.0 mg||43.7 %|
|Sodium||819.0 mg||35.6 %|
|Zinc||3.90 mg||35.5 %|
|Selenium||14.5 mcg||26.4 %|
|Magnesium||29.0 mg||6.9 %|
|Potassium||121.0 mg||2.6 %|
|Copper||0.04 mg||4.4 %|
|Iron||0.24 mg||1.3 %|
|Manganese||0.01 mg||0.4 %|
As the nutrition profile shows, Gouda is primarily a source of fat and protein, and it offers a range of essential nutrients.
It is also worth noting that Gouda cheese is an excellent source of menaquinones (vitamin K2).
Unfortunately, at this time, the USDA Food Composition Databases does not publish the vitamin K2 contents of food.
However, we will look at the vitamin K2 content of Gouda later on in this article.
The nutritional profile of Gouda offers several potential health benefits.
High In Calcium
Firstly, like all dairy products, Gouda cheese is a significant source of calcium.
As shown in the nutritional values, Gouda offers approximately 54% of the daily value for calcium per 100 grams.
Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the formation and metabolism of bone (8).
Furthermore, a recent systematic review published by the Osteoporosis International journal analyzed global calcium intake. This review found that countries with low calcium intake had a greater burden of osteoporosis and low bone mass density (9).
Just one ounce (28 grams) of Gouda cheese offers more than 15% of the recommended calcium intake.
Provides Large Amounts of Vitamin K2 (Menaquinone)
There are two distinct types of vitamin K;
- Vitamin K1 (Phylloquinone)
- Vitamin K2 (Several different varieties of menaquinone)
Vitamin K1 is present in a large variety of plant-based foods, and green vegetables are an especially good source.
On the other hand, we can find vitamin K2 in animal foods and foods that undergo bacterial fermentation such as natto and sauerkraut. Among animal-based foods, aged hard cheese is particularly high in vitamin K2 (10).
Additionally, vitamin K2 is much easier for the human body to absorb than vitamin K1, and it has a longer half-life in the body. On this note, peer-reviewed research suggests that K2 may be up to 10x more bioavailable than K1 (11, 12).
While research on vitamin K2 is still in its relative infancy, the compound is thought to be important for cardiovascular and skeletal health. Most notably, research indicates that higher vitamin K2 intake may reduce the risk of arterial calcification, which can lead to heart disease (13, 14).
On the positive side, Gouda cheese is one of the best dietary sources of vitamin K2.
If vitamin K2 is of interest, then Jarlsberg cheese appears to provide the most concentrated source of this nutrient.
How Much Vitamin K2 Does Gouda Provide?
In recently published research on the menaquinone content of cheese, we can see that Gouda provides more vitamin K2 than most other cheese varieties.
Based on the data from this research, the table below shows the vitamin K2 content of various types of cheese (15).
|Type of Cheese||Total Vitamin K2 Content|
|Gouda (aged 4 weeks)||473 mcg|
|Gouda (aged 13 weeks)||656 mcg|
|Gouda (aged 26 weeks)||729 mcg|
As shown, Gouda contains one of the highest concentrations of vitamin K2.
For those who wish to know the precise menaquinone content of Gouda, the breakdown for Gouda aged for six months is as follows (15);
- Menaquinone-4: 208 mcg
- Menaquinone-5: 4.2 mcg
- Menaquinone-6: 4.8 mcg
- Menaquinone-7: 16.2 mcg
- Menaquinone-8: 92.8 mcg
- Menaquinone-9: 403 mcg
- Total vitamin K2: 729 mcg
While not listed in the above study, Gruyère is another great cheese option for vitamin K2.
Contains (Moderate Amounts) of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a wide range of health benefits, and they are thought to be particularly important for cardiovascular health (16).
Unfortunately, most people don’t consume enough of these essential dietary fats. Data shows that US adults have a lower intake than official recommendations (17).
Although seafood is the best source, dairy foods from grass-fed animals, such as Gouda, can offer a reasonable amount of omega-3.
As shown in the nutrition profile data, Gouda offers 390 mcg of omega-3 per 100 grams (7).
While this amount is much lower than oily fish such as salmon, it can still help contribute to total omega-3 intake.
According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, the daily adequate intake level set for omega-3 is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women (18).
Good Source of Pre-formed Vitamin A (Retinol)
Gouda cheese is one of the few food sources of preformed vitamin A, known as retinol.
Although many foods, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are high in provitamin A carotenoids (which can convert to vitamin A), the bioavailability of these foods is relatively poor (19).
Additionally, individuals with specific genetic traits may be inefficient at converting carotenoids into vitamin A (20).
For these reasons, sources of retinol are the most reliable way to boost vitamin A status.
Per 100 grams, Gouda offers 165 micrograms of vitamin A, which is equal to 18.3% of the daily value.
Rich In Protein
Most cheese is just as high in protein as meat or fish, and Gouda provides approximately 25 grams of protein per 100g.
Similar to milk, the protein in cheese is also very high quality, which means it is highly bioavailable, and a complete source of protein.
This “complete” tag means that cheese provides sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids (21).
Unfortunately, all dairy products can have potential drawbacks, and Gouda is no different in this regard.
A large number of people around the world are lactose intolerant.
Lactose intolerance is caused by an inability to break down the sugar (lactose) in milk due to a deficiency in lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that is responsible for the digestion of lactose (22).
When an individual with lactose intolerance consumes lactose-containing foods, it can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and nausea (23).
However, the amount of lactose in Gouda cheese is much lower than other dairy foods like milk.
As a result, it may be possible for some people with lactose intolerance to tolerate Gouda in small amounts (23).
While individuals with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate Gouda, this will not be the case for people with genuine dairy allergies.
Cow’s milk allergy primarily affects young children, and the casein protein in milk is one of the primary allergens (26).
True dairy allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms, which can sometimes be severe.
For more information, there is a guide to the key differences between lactose intolerance and milk allergy here.
How To Eat Gouda
Gouda tastes delicious just by itself. However, if you’re looking for some more creative ways to eat it, then here are some ideas.
First of all, how people use Gouda generally depends on the age of the cheese.
For the younger varieties of Gouda, the mild taste works in all kinds of different dishes and pairs well with many foods.
Here are some ways to use mild Gouda;
- Cheese platters
- Gouda and wine
- Melted on top of various dishes
- With crackers
- With fruit
For stronger, older varieties of Gouda, it is traditionally served alongside alcohol such as strong ales and red wine.
That said, it will also work well as part of a cheese platter and to make sharp and tangy fondue.
For more ideas on how to eat Gouda and some tasty recipes, the following resources are all useful;
- Recipes using gouda as an ingredient (see here)
- 25 of the Best Gouda cheese recipes (see here)
- Wines that go with Gouda (see here)
Overall, there are a lot of positives about Gouda cheese.
The cheese tastes delicious, it pairs well with a wide range of foods, and it has some beneficial nutrition properties too.
For more on cheese, see this guide to the pros and cons of cream cheese.