The ultimate guide to biscuits for cheese

01 July 2024, 08:57 AM
  • Biscuit tins at the ready – Speciality Food has all the information you need about the most popular types of crackers to sell and serve with cheese
The ultimate guide to biscuits for cheese

While fine artisan cheeses are rightly the star of any cheeseboard, the humble partners you serve alongside the main event can make every mouthful into a true delight. That’s why we’re not shy of singing the praises of the all-important biscuit at Speciality Food

By curating your selection to the best crackers on the market, not only will you be able to offer a perfect upselling opportunity at the cheese counter, but you’ll also ensure your customers enjoy their cheeses to the fullest.

The best biscuits for cheese

Whether you choose to keep it simple or veer off the beaten path with innovative textures or flavour combinations, the elements of a great cracker are straightforward for Edward Hancock of Cheesegeek: “A clean, crisp snap and a subtle flavour with a clean, short finish is ideal,” he tells Speciality Food.

Delve into the details about the different crackers available for your shelves below.

Sourdough crackers

The care and craftsmanship that go into creating good-quality sourdough biscuits make them one of the most obvious partners for artisan cheeses. Like with sourdough bread, sourdough crackers are made using a ‘starter’ that contains wild yeast and good bacteria. “As a fermented product, using a mother culture/starter culture, they carry the closest resemblance to cheese,” says Edward.

But what’s more, the flavour of a sourdough cracker is just what you want for a great all-rounder with your cheeseboard, with “minimal residual texture and flavour, just a hint of bitterness to complement the richness of cheese, and a clean, crispy snap which balances cheese’s creaminess,” Edward says. 

“The last thing you want is either a cloying texture, or the biscuit to be bringing too much flavour – it is a supporting act to the cheese, not a co-star,” he explains.

Simon Jones, owner of Forest Deli, agrees that sourdough is the perfect base for enjoying cheese. “My personal preference and what we use for cheese tasting events are the Peter’s Yard Original Sourdough Crackers. They have a good crunch but a neutral flavour, so all the flavour hitting your taste buds is the cheese.”

Water biscuit

Open any biscuit selection box and you’ll find this stalwart classic. The water biscuit, which takes its name from its simple recipe involving water and flour, is known and beloved for its neutral flavour, paper-thin form and brittle crunch.

While it’s good to have an old school ‘original’ recipe on your shelves, retailers can also choose to introduce a bit more flavour to these simple biscuits. Stag Biscuits’ Stornoway Salt & Black Pepper Water Biscuits are said to pair well with Connage Clava Brie-style cheese, fig and walnut, or you could push the boat out further still with their seaweed-flavoured biscuits.

Cream cracker

Like the water biscuit, cream crackers are a classic option because they provide a neutral base for any cheese – plus, they’re ultra-sturdy while offering a satisfying crunch.

Made famous by Jacob’s since the late 1800s, cream crackers have a bit more flavour than a water biscuit while still managing to pair with anything from a generous slice of punchy mature Cheddar to a subtle, creamy goats’ cheese.


Another familiar favourite in the biscuit tin is the Scottish oatcake. Traditionally, these are made from stone-milled Scottish oats and have a softer snap. Tap into the health trend by talking up the fibre content of oat biscuits and opt for varieties that contain wholegrain oats. Nairn’s even adds oatbran to their Organic Scottish Oatcakes to make them higher in fibre.

When it comes time to pair your oatcakes, a flavour-packed blue cheese makes a great partner. Simon suggests trying a strong cheese that has a soft texture, such as Baron Bigod or Stinking Bishop. A traditional oatcake biscuit will “crumble in the mouth” with these options, providing some texture to the cheese, he tells Speciality Food.

Rye biscuits

Biscuits made with rye grains are a fantastic complement to rich cheeses thanks to the earthy, slightly sour flavour of rye. Rye grains contain a host of healthy nutrients too, such as protein, potassium, fibre and B vitamins. Although they aren’t a traditional staple with cheeses in the UK, they are becoming increasingly popular. 

Artisan makers are experimenting with both simple versions that show off the flavour of rye or crackers doused in seeds that offer a pleasant crunch. Seggiano’s Wholegrain Rye Digestives are simply made with stone-ground organic rye and cold-pressed oil and are free-from yeast and dairy. Sheridans Cheesemongers in West Cork sells a specially made Rye & Linseed cracker, handmade with rye flour from Macroom Oatmeal Mills and unbleached white flour, extra virgin olive oil and brown linseeds, or flaxseeds. 

Flavoured biscuits

Although the experts advise keeping it simple when serving biscuits with cheese, you’ll find that crackers now invariably come in a variety of exciting flavours. Some are still straightforward, such as sea salt and rosemary, while others are eye-catchingly bold, like chilli, charcoal and even Marmite.

Even if your instincts tell you to tread lightly, Simon finds that customers like to try wild and wonderful new flavours. “I always feel that having a cracker with a very strong flavour has too much impact over the cheese, but as the customer is always right, we do have chilli crackers for those who like them!” he says.

Alongside rosemary, crackers that incorporate herbs such as basil or chive are likely to find favour with customers. You can also try stocking varieties that recreate the flavours of popular cheeseboard accompaniments. “We sell a range of The Fine Cheese Co crackers and they are very popular with our customers. The Walnut, Honey & Olive Oil biscuits do match very well with a rich blue cheese, such as Perl Las, and the Sea Salt & Olive Oil are a great all-rounder,” Simon says.

Wafer biscuits

Looking for something a bit different? In our recent run-down of biscuit trends, we highlighted a pocket of innovation in the savoury biscuit sector with the growing popularity of wafer biscuits. The Good Guys Bakehouse is one brand seeking to shake up what founder Steve Monk called an “ageing” category by creating light wafer biscuits that pack a punch of flavour, while appealing to the health-conscious at only five calories each. 

Olina’s range also includes Wafer Crackers in Natural, Black Pepper and Sesame flavours, while Cartwright & Butler offers Savoury Cheese Wafers in Sea Salt & Black Pepper and Honey & Mustard flavours, which were designed to accompany cheese or enjoyed solo.

Gluten-free biscuits

Another fast-developing area of the savoury biscuit scene can be found in gluten-free options. “One area we always used to struggle with was getting great quality gluten-free crackers, and it is a positive step that rather than just one offering there are now good quality crackers available,” Simon says. He highlights Kent & Fraser’s Cheese Wafers as a popular option with customers, as well as The Fine Cheese Co’s gluten-free crackers, which are “as tasty as their standard range”.

Island Bakery’s Dawn Reade recently told Speciality Food that creating a gluten-free range had become a priority after they noticed a lack of quality options on the market. “So often these biscuits will taste nice, but you’re left with a sandy texture, usually because of rice flour,” Dawn said. The brand developed its Sweet FA range with tapioca and gluten-free oats to be “biscuits even people who aren’t coeliac or gluten intolerant could enjoy… not second best!”

Seeded crackers

With health-focused customers looking for biscuits that pack in more nutrients per bite, seeded crackers are having their moment in the spotlight. Matthew Chiles of Gourmet Partners, which supplies Olina’s biscuits to retailers, recently told Speciality Food the brand has seen a “huge spike in sales of our Simply Seed range,” which are gluten-free as well as containing linseeds, sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds and black and white sesame seeds.

He says there “seems to be an overlap, as consumers without underlying health issues, or with keto diets, are just enjoying the idea of snacks that taste great and are made from healthier ingredients.” Indeed, the Simply Seed Pumpkin Flatbreads are now outselling all of Olina’s other products, including the core range and popular Seeded Toasts and Wafer Crackers.

Sweet biscuits

Anyone who has bought a biscuit selection box will know that sweet biscuits are not off the table when it comes to pairing cheeses. From the classic, mildly sweet digestive to a buttery shortbread, or even a bolder option, like a dark chocolate coated biscuit to pair with a creamy blue cheese like Barkham Blue, the options are endless.

Fruit toasts, which often boast gluten-free credentials and health benefits, are another option that offer a satisfying crunch with cheese. Flavours often include the fruits you’d find served alongside a cheeseboard, such as fig, apricot or cranberry.

From the classic options to new favourites, there are countless biscuits to pair with good-quality artisan cheese – the only problem will be finding enough space on your shelves to include them all.

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