The Ultimate Naxian Cheese Guide: Traditional Naxian Cheeses You Must Try

The Greek island of Naxos is the biggest island of the Cyclades and it is known for its black and white cows and their delicious diary products. Interestingly, about 5 centuries ago, the Cycladic islands were basically the only area of Greece that had dairy cows, which explains why Naxos has such a long tradition in cow-milk cheeses alongside the more usual Greek goat’s and sheep’s cheeses. Today, Naxos is still known for its well-developed livestock sector – you will see cows, sheep and goats all around the island, the latter of which you will often find free-ranging on the mountains – and the Naxiots are still famous for producing some of the best Greek cheeses in the country.


When mentioning Greek cheese surely the first that comes to mind is feta and of course you can find some great feta and feta-like cheese such as Lefko Tyri/Λευκό Τυρί (meaning ‘white cheese’) on Naxos as well. But while feta is delicious, there are plenty more interesting and delicious types of cheese to find on the island and I am sure you’ve clicked on this post to find out about those, haven’t you? Allow me to help you navigate through the Naxian cheese landscape by telling you a little bit about which traditional cheeses you will definitely want to try when visiting the island of Naxos. At the end of the post you will find some of my favourite places to buy cheese on the island.

Graviera Naxou/Γραβιέρα Νάξου
Big wheel of Graviera Naxou in the center

Without a doubt, the most famous of all the Naxian cheeses is Graviera Naxou, sometimes called Naxian Gruyere in English. While ‘Graviera’ is indeed a transliteration, or adaptation of the Swiss ‘Gruyère’, it both is and isn’t similar to the Swiss cheese in flavour. The pale-yellow cheese is typically aged between 5 and 12 months, but I have had Graviera that had been aged for 3 years and seen some aged for 5 years as well. Because the aging-period of the Graviera can differ, the texture and flavour of Graviera can range from buttery and sweet with a mild aroma to savory and nutty to slightly crumbly with a piquant sharp flavour. It is probably because of Graviera’s potential to have slightly different textures, flavours and aromas that it is so popular and easily loved by so many people. 

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Graviera is often served as a table cheese cut into bite-sized chunks, but as the cheese melts easily, it is also a popular cheese to be used in hot dishes such as omelettes, grilled cheese sandwiches, saganaki, or pasta (I use it in my recipe for four-cheese mac and cheese). But what really makes this cheese so special and particularly ‘Naxian’ is the fact that while Graviera is made in other regions of Greece as well, the Cyclades differs in that it is the only region in Greece where Graviera is typically made from cow’s milk (or a mixture of cow’s and other types of milk) instead of the usual sheep’s milk that is used to make graviera. So, while you may find different types of Graviera all over Greece, this is a cheese you should definitely try while visiting Naxos. Luckily, it’s basically impossible not to try as you will find it on every menu on the island. Rightfully so, the Naxiots are definitely proud of their number 1 cheese, which is even protected under PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin) since 1996.

Soft mizithra with salad

Mizithra, or myzithra is a very traditional whey cheese that has been produced all over Greece since ancient times. Mizithra is a rind less cheese that is usually made with boiled whey from sheep, or goats, to which a little fresh milk might be added, but on Naxos, mizithra made from cow’s whey and milk is common too. There are two types of mizithra: fresh mizithra and salted and dried mizithra. 
Fresh mizithra is a white, soft cheese with a creamy texture and a pleasantly mild, almost sweet flavour. Because of its mild flavour, you will often find it served on salads, or baked in little pies, and it’s even eaten as a dessert with some honey, or fruits. Because the cheese is unsalted, fresh mizithra must be consumed within a few hours up to few days after it’s made. Dried and aged Mizithra, is salted, which dries out the cheese tremendously and results in a very hard and crumbly texture. Dried myzithra has a saltier and stronger flavour (though, not too strong) than its fresh versions and it’s often served grated over pasta and other dishes. 


You can also find xynomizithra (meaning ‘sour mizithra’) on Naxos. Fresh xynomizithra is a white whey cheese that is soft and creamy with a slightly sour taste reminiscent of Greek yoghurt, although its texture is slightly crumblier. The ‘EAS Naxou’ (The Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Naxos) uses cow’s milk and whey to make their sour mizithra, but goats’ and sheep’s is also common. After milking the animals, the milk is heated briefly and a small amount of rennet is added after which the cheese curdles and sets slightly. The cheese is usually drained and set in a small woven basket for about a day. Like ‘sweet’ mizithra, xynomizithra has to be eaten within a few days after purchasing and it is typically served the same way as ‘sweet’ mizithra, either as a dessert with honey, or on salads. At times, at certain restaurants when ordering a salad, or dish containing mizithra, you will be offered the choice between ‘sweet’ or ‘sour’.


Xynotyro (meaning ‘sour cheese’) is essentially a xynomizitra, which has dried for several weeks until it’s hard like a rock. The cheese has a funky, sour taste (the name means sour cheese, after all) and a very hard and flaky texture. It’s flavour and aroma can be a little strong and very particular, so this is one cheese for the true cheese-lovers out there! Because the cheese is quite crumbly it is best served crumbled, or grated over hot dishes, or casseroles, but it is definitely not bad served on a cheese platter with a glass of good red wine either.

Large wedges of aged anthotyros from Apeiranthos village

Anthotyro (meaning ‘flowery cheese’) is a soft, white, whey cheese similar to mizithra. It is made of either pasteurized sheep’s, or goat’s whey (or a combination) to which only a tiny bit of cream, or milk is added. Similar to mizithra, there is a soft version and a dried/aged version of this cheese.
The soft, fresh anthotyro is creamy and the flavour is mild and milky with perhaps only a slight saltiness to it, very similar to Italian Ricotta. Not only does the cheese have a very low salt content, it contains less fat than any of the other cheeses, so if you’re on a special diet, this is the cheese to try. It is usually consumed as a table cheese and can be combined with either savoury, or sweet ingredients.
The dry, aged anthotyro is slightly salty and has a rich, savoury taste and slightly pungent smell. You will usually recognise this cheese by its small, cone-like shape with a flattened top and its slightly rough texture, but it’s also sold cut into large wedges for those that want a little bit more (see photo above).

Arseniko and a selection of various aged cheeses

Arseniko is another famous Naxian cheese and it is MY FAVORITE (!!!) out of the bunch. ‘Arseniko’, meaning ‘male’ in Greek, is named as such for its powerful taste and high level of calcium (basically, it’s a strong and smelly boy?). Arseniko is made with sheep’s milk, or sometimes with a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. The cheese is generally aged between 4 months up to 16 months and the texture and intensity of the unique flavour of the cheese will evolve slightly with the amount of aging. In general, the cheese has got a firm, slightly buttery texture and a salty, piquant and pungent flavour and aroma


To make arseniko, sheep’s milk is pasteurized and set with rennet after which the cheese-curds are drained in little basket moulds before being aged. The baskets form the cheese’s distinct round shape and lined pattern on the outside of the cheese (you will find similar patterns on some of the other cheeses as well). At cheese shops, Arseniko is usually easily recognisable by its rough, dark brown exterior, or black paraffin casing. In cooking, Arseniko can be used to make saganaki and its amazing when used in the traditional Naxian dish kalogeros/καλόγερος (eggplants stuffed with beef and cheese). However, as is the case with any piquant cheese, it’s always best served as a table cheese cut into large wedges alongside a nice glass of wine, or beer!

Thilikotyri/Θηλυκό τυρί

Now, last but not least, there is not only a ‘male’ cheese on Naxos, but there is a ‘female’ as well. Thilikotyri (meaning ‘female cheese’) is a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese with a slightly sweet, nutty and sour taste (and it smeeellls). The texture of this cheese is slightly crumbly, yet firm and smooth. Thilikotyri is lightly salted and has a lower fat-content than it’s male counterpart. My boyfriend, whose family hails from Naxos, says this is his favourite Naxian cheese (!!!), though he likes them all, of course.

Selection of herb and spice cheese

What else is there?

Apart from the most famous traditional Naxian cheeses I have mentioned above, there are many more types of cheese and other dairy-products you may find on Naxos. At several cheese shops, you will definitely find different types of ladotyri, which are cheeses stored in (flavoured) oil and krasotyri, which are wine-soaked cheeses. You might also stumble upon some other unique products made by the many local cheese-producers such as Graviera with truffle, Gidino/Γίδινο (a hard, yellow, 100% goat’s milk cheese for those that don’t consume cow’s, or sheep’s dairy), Melanotyri/Μελανοτύρι (a hard sheep and goat’s milk cheese aged in wine sediment), various cheeses covered in herb and spice blends, or smoked versions the most popular cheeses. 


I think it is clear that Naxos really is a cheese-lovers paradise where you will not have any problems finding some of the finest cheeses in Greece! But after indulging in various cheese platters and salads covered in cheese at some of the many restaurants, you will probably want to purchase a chunk, or a wheel of cheese as a tasty souvenir, or gift. So, where should you go to purchase a good selection of traditional Naxian cheese to take home?

Apeiranthos village, Naxos
Where to buy good Naxian cheese on Naxos?

You will find high-quality Naxian cheese basically anywhere on the island, but these or some of my favourite spots to go cheese-shopping. Most of these shops should be relatively easy to find, though most addresses on Naxos are based on street names and postal codes only and lack a specific number. Having trouble finding the specific address? Just ask any local Naxiot in town – they will surely know where these stores are located!

Tziblakis Traditional Shop
Location: Papavasileiou Street, Naxos Town 84300

Tziblakis store is recognisable by its many wicker baskets hanging outside the storefront. In this shop full of old-fashioned cooking utensils and other trinkets, you will find some of Naxos’ best cheeses (great arseniko and xynotyro!) and other local food-products such as herbs, spices, teas, wines, oils, liqueurs and various pickled items (y’know, to go with your cheese!). When on Naxos, this is definitely a place to check out!

Naxos Cheese Koufopoulos
Location: Papavasileiou Street, Naxos Town 84300

This deli-style shop mostly sells their self-produced products and at this place you will definitely find the most cheese varieties – both traditional and some of the more modern, unique cheeses such as those flavored with oils, truffle, or spices – alongside a good selection of fruit preserves and some cold-cuts to truly complete your cheese platter dreams. This shop is a real beauty!

EAS Naxou – Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Naxos
Location: Protopapadaki (The main boulevard of Naxos Town)

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning ‘EAS Naxou’. The ‘Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Naxos’ was founded in 1926 by a small group of local producers to support and protect their production of cheese and other dairy-products. The shop of EAS Naxou is located on the main boulevard of the chora of Naxos (‘Naxos town’) and sells some of the more popular, mainstream cheeses. For some of the best Graviera and Xynomyzithra (both made from cow’s milk) on the island you will have to pass from this place. At the shop, you will also find their own Gidino (100% goat milk cheese) and kefalotyri (a hard sheep’s or goat’s cheese), alongside Greek yoghurts, butters and many other local products.

Location: Apeiranthos 84302

This shop is a little harder to find, though the beautiful town of Apeiranthos is well-worth a visit. Located across from Amorginos Tavern in the old part of town, is a small shop selling some local products. In this shop you will find cheeses produced specifically in Apeiranthos such as arseniko, Graviera and xynotyro, but also some fruit preserves, and homemade Zaboni if you’re lucky (Zamboni is Naxian dried, cured ham. The family that owns the shop and tavern also butcher their own animals for meat, so it’s a real treat!).


I hope this ‘ultimate’ guide to Naxian cheese will be of help on your cheese journey. Καλό ταξίδι και καλή όρεξη!


  1. bart

    Thanks for the great article. I finally found an article with both English and Greek version of cheese names. (useful while buying local cheese on Naxos)


    1. thegluttonlife

      Thank you very much! It can be confusing sometimes to see which cheese is exactly which (though, they are all tasty of course)! Even I get confused sometimes haha, but I’ve tried my best with this guide. Good luck with you cheese adventure ;)!


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    […] Arseniko-kaas is afkomstig uit het bergdorp Koronos op Naxos en zou daar al duizend jaar worden gemaakt. De naam is afgeleid van het Griekse woord voor ‘mannelijk’, waarschijnlijk een knipoog naar zijn sterke, pikante smaak en geur. […]


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