Skip to Content

Santiago de Compostela and its Tetilla Cheese (and a recipe!)


Santiago de Compostela is the number one Christian city in all of Spain, and a beautiful city at that. The city is the capital of Galicia and, because of its religious importance, hosts a huge, beautiful cathedral in the Old Town. UNESCO inscribed the Old Town as a world heritage site in 1985. Along with its religious importance, it was destroyed by the Moors in the 10th century. When it was rebuilt, the buildings were completed in the Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles.

Santiago Compostela Cheese

 Why is Santiago de Compostela so Famous?

It is widely believed that the remains of St. James, after his beheading in Jerusalem, were brought back to Spain where he had previously preached. Every year, thousands of people walk the St. James’ Way. In Medieval times the pilgrimage began at one’s house, but today there are many different routes and most Spaniards believe that they should start in the Pyrenees.  

When walking the route, pilgrims obtain a passport which allows them to take advantage of cheap lodging along the way. The main route is about 1000 kilometers long, and it has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List separately from its end point of Santiago de Compostela. All of Galicia is famous for its gorgeous towns, wineries, and food.

What is Tetilla Cheese?

Tetilla is the favorite cheese of the Galicians, and for foodies like us, that means we want to not only try it, but learn all about it.

 It has been produced for about 250 years, and the milk primarily comes from Fresian cows. This is a popular breed in the region as they thrive on the rainy, soil-rich lands along the coast of northern Spain. Most people serve Tetilla with dried fruits or just have a slice or two for dessert, but it is also delicious melted or used in a baked dish and there are lots of recipes that include Tetilla. 

Below is the recipe I used this delectable cheese with as a way to use up my leftover ham from a recent dinner.

Why is Tetilla Cheese Important to Santiago de Compostela?

As we wandered into town, we immediately noticed there are lots of cheese shops selling this very distinctly-shaped cheese. Oh, I failed to mention that the cheese is shaped and named after the “nipple.” This is attributed to the shape of the wooden mold the boiled milk is poured into, but there is also a legend that related to Santiago de Compostela’s famous cathedral.

When the cathedral was being rebuilt in the Gothic style, stone carvers were hired to complete the frieze’s on the arched doors. One statue was a well-endowed woman. This scandalized the pious citizens and there was a public outcry to have the statue’s offending bosom reduced (maybe the first boob job in Spain!). However, after the church officials completed the reduction, other citizens were outraged, claiming that there was no reason to deface the artist’s work. For their rebellion, they started making their famous cheese in the shape of a “tetilla” to celebrate the fact that God loves all people, large and small!

 A Tetilla Cheese Recipe

This is really our own creation, using a basic scalloped potatoes recipe and making it our own.

Santiago Compostela Cheese

Tetilla Cheesy Ham and Potatoes (not for the calorie-conscious!)


4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

1/4 cup onion, chopped (1 small onion)

1 small garlic clove, minced

dash of salt and pepper

4-6 potatoes, peeled and sliced

1 ½ cups of chopped, cooked ham

2 cups of cubed Tetilla

(*If you don’t have Tetilla, use any melty, gooey, cheese that you love!)

2 cups of milk


Preheat oven to about 350 degrees. Slice the tetilla, potatoes, and ham. Set aside to make the sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute onions and garlic until transparent. Add the flour and salt and pepper, combine with the butter and continue over low heat until the mixture is slightly browned. Pour in the milk, stir, and heat slowly to boiling. Turn down the heat, add cheese; stir until all is melted. Layer half of the potatoes and ham in a greased baking dish, pour half of the sauce over this layer. Repeat the layer with remaining potatoes and ham, pouring the remaining sauce on top. We kept a little ham and chopped cheese to put on the very top for a garnish. Bake until potatoes are cooked, about 60 minutes. Serve hot!

This reheats really nicely for leftovers made from leftovers!!!

 Have you been to Santiago de Compostela?  Have you tried Tetilla?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Click here to find out more about Santiago de Compostela and its famous cheese!


Wednesday 14th of May 2014

Yum! I'm currently living in Madrid, and I've been dying to make my way up to Galicia. While I don't think I could ever survive walking the Camino de Santiago, I could definitely survive eating cheese... all day long. Perhaps I should start planning a trip to Santiago de Compostela soon!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 14th of May 2014

Courtney, You should definitely do it! You will love it! It's gorgeous up there.

Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

Wednesday 14th of May 2014

That is such a great story about the world's first boob job!! I haven't been to Santiago de Compostela but hear abou tit a lot because one of the hiking trials near me in the south of France is part of the St James' Way. I'd love to try the cheese as I don't think I've ever found one I don't like...

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 14th of May 2014

Phoebe, I thought it was a humorous story..for sure.

Amy @ Amy and the Great World

Tuesday 13th of May 2014

Beautiful! And THAT CHEESE DISH. You're going to ruin my diet.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 14th of May 2014

Amy, It is decadent...but delicious!

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 13th of May 2014

Marta, One of my favorites is the Spanish Provolone. I don't know where it's made, but OMG it is good!

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 13th of May 2014

Van, That also sounds delicious. I'll have to try it that way!