A Guide to Cheese & Condiments For Summer Meals

Use them on burgers, dogs, and everything in between.

May 27, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

That Cheese Plate is a column by Marissa Mullen—cookbook author, photographer, and Food52's Resident Cheese Plater. With Marissa's expertise in all things cheddar, comté, and crudité—plus tips for how to make it all look extra special, using stuff you probably have on hand—we'll be crafting our own cheesy masterpieces without a hitch.

I consider both cheese and condiments to be essential when it comes to elevating a summer spread. Whether I’m making a cheese plate or a more formal meal, I always try to make sure sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami notes are present in the cheeses and condiments I put out: together, they make for a party on the taste buds. Try these 5 cheese and condiment pairings for a future summer cheese board, sandwich, or hot-off-the-grill dish.

1. Taleggio & Grainy Mustard

Photo by Marissa Mullen

Taleggio is a wash-rind cow’s milk cheese from Italy, notable for its creamy texture, orange exterior, and pungent aroma. Although Taleggio’s smell can be potent, its flavor is mild and buttery with a fruity tang. I love the combination of taleggio with a whole grain mustard, especially on something super-savory, like a hot dog. Cover a hot dog bun with room temperature taleggio, followed by a thin layer of mustard. The savory juices from the hot dog complement the pungent cheese, while the mustard cuts through with a tangy finish.

2. Sharp Cheddar & Pickle Relish

Photo by Marissa Mullen

An aged sharp cheddar with sweet pickled cucumbers has always been a favorite cheese board pairing of mine. For a summertime meal, cheddar melts wonderfully on sandwiches and burgers alike. Cheddar can be quite creamy on the palate, which is why I love brightening the bite with a pickle relish. Relish has the tang, sweetness, and bitter flavors to round out the experience. To put this pairing to work, I’d recommend layering cheddar and relish on a super-crispy chicken smash burger, or even using the cheese in the burger, be it classic beef or a fried mushroom version.

3. Gruyere & Honey Mustard

Photo by Marissa Mullen

Gruyere is an earthy and complex Swiss cow’s milk cheese. When on the younger side, the cheese has a mild and creamy flavor. As it ages, it develops notes of hazelnut and slightly fruity characteristics of pineapple and apricot. Both offer an excellent base for a smooth honey mustard (store-bought is great, as is quickly stirring together whatever mustard and honey you have on hand, but you could also make your own if you’re feeling ambitious), encouraging the sweeter notes in the cheese to shine while still remaining on the savory side. Gruyere is another great melting cheese, making this pairing shine in grilled cheese and burgers alike.

4. Camembert & Tomato Jam

Photo by Marissa Mullen

Camembert is a decadent French cow’s milk cheese with notes of salted butter, creme fraiche and mushrooms. Pairing this elegant cheese with tomato jam takes the experience to a whole new level. Something like ketchup can be a bit sweet, while this tomato jam recipe incorporates lemon, cinnamon and chili flakes for an extra zesty kick. Spread some camembert on a slice of toasted bread, then add a layer of tomato jam, and top it with a juicy turkey burger for an elevated barbecue treat.

3. Blue Cheese & Buffalo Sauce

Photo by Marissa Mullen

Last, but definitely not least, this is a classic combination for the summer grilling season. Blue cheese and buffalo sauce (which is technically a simple combination of hot sauce, butter and garlic powder) work wonderfully together, blending the pungent and creamy notes of the blue with the sauce’s buttery, spicy vinegar-y kick. I highly recommend trying this combination on a chicken burger or with grilled wings

What’s your go-to cheese and condiment pairing? Let us know in the comments!

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Marissa Mullen is a Brooklyn-based food stylist, recipe developer, photographer and cheese lover. She is the founder of That Cheese Plate and creator of the Cheese By Numbers method. She is also the author of the best-selling cookbook, That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life, a step-by-step styling guide for crafting beautiful and delicious cheese plates as a form of creative expression. Featured on The Today Show, The Rachael Ray Show, Business Insider, Vox among others, Marissa is dedicated to bringing people together through creativity, food and entertainment.