The harder the cheese, the higher the protein content—that's the watchword according to cheese expert and James Beard Award recipient Max McCalman, author of "Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best."

There are basically three components to cheese, courtesy of the milk it's made from: protein, fat, and water. Less water means more other stuff.

"In a sense you're getting more value for your cheese dollar, nutrition-wise, from the harder cheeses," McCalman says.

That's not the only consideration, he adds. It also depends on the animal the milk came from: sheep's-milk cheese contains the most protein, with goat and cow milks trailing behind. Has your cheese been pasteurized? The heating process might have affected the protein too—it's still there but it's been denatured, unavailable for digestion. (This is just one reason to eat raw cheeses, notes McCalman, a raw-cheese enthusiast. Another is their "fuller aroma and flavor and generally more pleasing textures.")

But we don't need to get into all that. You're just looking for excuses to eat cheese—hard cheese, raw cheese, any kind of cheese. With McCalman's help, we put together a list of some of the more protein-rich options—and then dug up some recipes that let them shine.

1. Manchego


Spanish manchego cheese portion with a special cutting knife on a wooden board (iStock)

Corn season is nigh! Celebrate its arrival with this fancified side dishmade with manchego, which is named after the breed of Spanish sheep that produce the milk it comes from.

2. Pecorino


Pecorino - traditional Italian cheese of sheep's milk, street market, Italy. (iStock)

Featuring pecorino, a hard sheep's-milk cheese, this is an easy weeknight dinner you wouldn't feel bad serving to company: the pasta is homemade and comes together in a snap.

3. Grùyere


Top view of white bowl full of gruyere cheese cubesRelated lightboxes: (iStock)

This riff on the classic French ham-and-grùyere sandwich works anytime, really, but makes for an especially luxurious brunch.

4. Gouda


a wheel of smoked gouda cheese served with crackers (iStock)

Here's an excuse to pick up some good aged gouda (as well as to go wild at the farmers' market).

Check out more protein-rich cheese recipes.