Most cheese is made from the milk of cows, goats, or sheep. But it’s worth noting that many cheeses regarded as cow’s milk cheeses (cheddar, for example) can be made with goat’s or sheep’s milk, and vice versa (you can, for instance, make a cow’s milk chèvre). In general, there’s a good reason—such as honoring a European domain designation, or not mucking up a delicately flavored cheese with a “goaty” aftertaste—to stick with a traditional type of milk, but not always.
Cow’s milk cheese makes up the overwhelming majority of cheese consumed in the United States. The relatively neutral flavor of cow’s milk, its ease of handling, and its durability make it the simplest milk to work with.
Goat’s milk is more difficult to work with. Its shorter protein strands can make for more delicate cheeses, but those strands also require gentler handling. Additionally, goat’s milk must be fresh in order to avoid goaty-tasting.
Although rich in fat and protein, sheep’s milk is expensive to produce and can be temperamental to work with.
Cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk are the biggest players in the cheese world, but other milks have cameo roles, including reindeer (used to make Juustoleipa of Finland) and water buffalo (mozzarella di bufala). Cheese can be made from yak’s milk (Nepal), pig’s milk (Mexico), and more.