For an almost effortless way to a more interesting cheese platter, marinate fresh goat cheese in olive oil with herbs and spices. Use it as a topping for crackers, a spread for sandwiches, or crumbled into salads.
Tangy and creamy, fresh goat cheese (also known as chèvre) is delicious right out of the package, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get creative with it. Marinating it in extra-virgin olive oil with flavorings like garlic, thyme, fennel seed, and lemon peel infuses it with flavor. It can be used the way a regular goat cheese would: crumbled in salads, spread on a warm baguette as part of a sandwich, or, our favorite, served simply with crackers.
You don’t need to go crazy with ultra-expensive olive oil, but you do want to at least get a decent extra-virgin one, and you should make sure that you like the flavor of the oil by itself before you mix it with your chèvre.
The beauty of marinated goat cheese is that you can use any flavors you like. A sweet version with honey and lavender is delicious, but you can also get spicy with fresh chili and lemon peel. Look at your spice rack and choose a couple that work well together, add a strip or two of citrus peel, and some fresh herbs if you have them. We love pink peppercorns for their fruity spice and festive color, but don’t worry if you can’t find them. Once you’ve combined the cheese with oil and flavorings, let it stand in the fridge for at least 2 hours for the flavors to mingle (though our testing showed that it gets even better after a day or two).
Jars of marinated goat cheese can be made ahead, but be mindful of proper food-safety practices: botulism is a very real risk with garlic- and herb-infused oils. After making your marinated cheese, keep it refrigerated and use it within one week. The oil will turn cloudy and sometimes even congeal when chilled, but that’s fine—just take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to serve it and it will melt and regain its original clarity. Much of the flavor is in the oil, so make sure you drizzle a good amount over the cheese when you plate it.
A note about the shape: you can either roll the cheese into balls or simply slice the log into rounds before marinating. To cut the cleanest slices, forgo a knife and use (unflavored!) dental floss or a cheese wire if you have it, and make sure the cheese is still chilled. The rounds fit a bit more easily into the jar but there’s no difference in flavor. And really, flavor is what this is all about.
- 1 small log fresh (not aged) goat cheese (5 oz, 145g)
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (more or less, as needed)
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, whole
- 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, optional
- 2 2-inch strips lemon zest (peeled with a vegetable peeler with as little white pith as possible)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
- Cut goat cheese log into 4 equal pieces; form into balls, if desired.
- Add 1 cup olive oil into a a sterilized wide-necked jar. Add chili flakes, fennel seed and peppercorns. Add the goat cheese balls one at a time, adding a little olive oil between each one so they are fully immersed. Add lemon zest, bay leaves, thyme and garlic to jar. Pour in enough olive oil to fully cover cheese. Seal jar and refrigerate for at least a few hours (we found it best after 2 days). Lasts for up to 2 weeks.