Norwegian brown cheese – What is it?

Goat cheese, brown cheese, gjetost, geitost, brunost, mysost…”a well liked child goes by many names”, as we say in Norwegian.



Ask most Norwegians how it’s made and they’ll say “I have no idea how to make it, but I love to eat it!”. Same goes for me. I’ve been eating brunost (brown cheese..it’s what I call it) for as long as I can remember.

Brunost (brown cheese) to the left - Gjeitost (Goat cheese to the right)

Brunost (brown cheese) to the left – Gjeitost (Goat cheese to the right)

What is a brown cheese?

First to clarify, why do I and many call it brown cheese, and not goat cheese/gjetost? The answers are simple: because there is not always just goat milk in it, sometimes cow milk is used, and also “goat cheese” is a pretty wide term. However, when we talk about a Norwegian goat cheese (gjetost), we usually refer to the kind that is made of 100% whey from goat milk. Read more about how the cheese is made below…

With a big craft made brown cheese

With a big craft made brown cheese

How is brown cheese or gjetost made?

As stated above, brown cheese is per definition not a cheese. A real cheese is made from the milk product you are left with after the whey is separated out. The brown cheese is made from the whey, a waste product when you make (white)cheese. So what is a brown cheese then? I’ll get to that now.

The traditional way to make brown cheese was by using 100% goat milk. Goat milk gives it a much stronger flavor, more intense and more rich than cows milk. Some (like me) would say it makes it taste better. Cows milk is cheaper and more plentiful though, so to make a cheaper cheese and larger quantities it makes sense to use whey from cows milk. A lot of people also prefer a milder brown cheese, for instance what is also called mysost (whey cheese). This one often consists of 100% cows milk, and has a lighter brown color and a sometimes sweeter and milder flavor.

What does brown cheese taste like?

Many foreigners that have not had it before, naturally will expect a cheese flavor, but will be surprised, sometimes pleasantly sometimes not, that it does not taste like a cheese. It has more of a sweet flavor, due to the milk sugar in the whey being caramelized. Almost half of the dry part of a brown cheese is milk sugar. Yes, it’s a calorie bomb.

Norwegian Waffle with brown cheese

Norwegian Waffle with brown cheese

How to eat brown cheese?

The most common way is on top of a slice of bread (toasted bread can work very well). The second most common is on a Norwegian waffle, usually with a thin layer of butter under. Kids especially like to combine it with different types of jam, and it works excellent as topping on/in a pancake/crepe combined with blueberry jam. A third way is to add it to a stew or a gravy. The cheese will give it a richer flavor, and add a subtle hint of sweetness that many seem to appreciate. Also, you can just slice yourself some pieces and nibble on it.

Buying brown cheese

Can one get this cheese outside of Norway? Being a very specific food for the Norwegian cuisine, it can be a challenge to find it in other countries. Your best bet would be in Sweden and Denmark. But it is also sold in various stores in North America, usually through the Ski Queen type, which is produced by the Norwegian company Tine. You can find the brown cheese on Amazon:

Link: Find brown cheese on Amazon

If you are curious to know more about this cheese, check out the article how to make brown cheese , where I explain the process and visit a Norwegian brown cheese maker.

For further reading I recommend an article from the NY Times called “An Ode to Norwegian Brown Cheese”.

Good luck finding brown cheese in your part of the world!


Brown Cheese & Slicers

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  1. I learned something new! Never heard of brown cheese and am intrigued. I live in the US. I will be on the hunt now for this brown cheese! Thank you 😊

  2. Hello, Pål! I saw a short video that you created about how brown cheese is made and I was intrigued when you said the whey is carmelized. I instantly thought of how much tastier browned butter is than regular butter and decided to find some brown cheese. A shop in my neighbourhood just began selling it so yesterday, I bought a block of Ski Queen. IT’S SO DELICIOUS!! It’s truly like nothing else I’ve ever eaten. it tastes a bit like caramel, the kind you might coat an apple with, but also like a mild cheese. It’s perfect on its own but best on bread spread with salted butter. Thank you for introducing me to this treat!

    Greer in Canada

    1. Hei Greer! I’m so glad I could help you discover brown cheese 🙂 haha it’s my mission to get people to discover this iconic Norwegian food. Same as you my favorite way is to eat it on bread with some butter. But it also works well on waffles 😛 It can also be used in a brown gravy to add some richness. Thanks for checking out my website. Btw. I’m going to Edmonton for Christmas this year. It’s where my girlfriend is from 🙂

  3. Hei Hei! Jeg fant Ski Queen brunost i MAINE!! Jeg er så glad. Datteren min og jeg prøvde den med a sourdough-rye crisp cracker and raspberry jam. Vi har ikke lefse 🙁 Det smaker så godt! It was sweet and caramelly at first, then you get a hint of a goat cheese flavor. I have never tasted anything like it for sure. Thank you for introducing us to this iconic treat. I felt like I was in Norway "in spirit"!
    Amy van Meteren

    1. Veldig bra! Kult at du kunne finne brunost der du bor 🙂 En veldig vanlig måte å spise brunost er på en brødskive eller på et knekkebrød med litt smør på.. Open faced sandwich 😉


      1. Dear Pål!
        I live in California, but spent 2 years in Norway as a child. Brown cheese, Ski Queen , is a staple in my house… well for me anyway, as I’m the only one who eats it now. I begged and begged my grocery store to order it for me and after bothering them, for a couple of years, they did! So I go to IKEA to get Finnish Knekkebrød and eat it almost everyday for lunch.
        Now, if only I could buy polse!

        1. Hei Joy! Tusen takk, thanks a lot for your comment. haha I’m glad to hear you can find some brown cheese over there. It’s my number one comfort food, and the first thing I eat whenever I return back from traveling abroad. Good luck on finding some pølse!

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