Do you love cheddar cheese but can’t eat lactose? If so, this blog post is for you!
In this post, we will discuss which types of cheddar cheese are lactose-free — at least virtually. We will also discuss and talk about some of the most popular brands of cheddar cheese and their lactose content.
As a refresher, lactose is a natural sugar found in dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk. Lactose-intolerant individuals are unable to digest this sugar, causing uncomfortable symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
So, Is Cheddar Lactose-free?
First of all, cheddar cheese is a type of daily product made from cow’s milk and it will inevitably contain a certain amount of lactose. Similar to other hard cheeses like parmesan, cheddar is generally considered to be a low-lactose food typically at around 0-2% lactose range. Not exactly lactose-free, but close enough to be insignificant.
For example, a cup of whole milk (240 grams or 8 oz) has about 12 grams of lactose, while one cup of cheddar cheese (105 grams or 3.7 oz) only has about 0.2 grams of lactose (source: USDA).
Therefore, it’s likely that you can eat a whole of this 9-month Tillamook sharp cheddar block without experiencing symptoms. There is only a total of 8 grams of carbohydrates in the whole pack. Considering the limitation of lactose for most lactose-intolerant people is 18 grams per day, according to Healthline.
That is because the process of making cheddar cheese includes the cheddaring process which reduces the lactose content. Furthermore, the aging of cheese allows more lactose to be broken down by lactic acid bacteria thus reducing its overall lactose content even further. And the longer the cheddar cheese ages, the more lactose it loses. This means that aged or extra-aged cheddar cheeses are generally considered to be virtually lactose-free.
So, while cheddar cheese is not technically 100% lactose-free, it is much lower in lactose than other types of cheese such as cream cheese, mozzarella or cottage cheese.
Cheddar Variety: What about the Extra Sharp Cheddar?
Extra sharp cheddar is aged for at least 12 months and up to 24. The longer it ages, the more intense flavor profile it develops, as well as its lactose content reduces significantly. Extra sharp cheddar is usually the better option than regular sharp cheddar for those who are lactose-intolerant as it has much less lactose than mild or medium-aged cheddar.
In fact, It’s normal to see mild cheddar to have around 1-2% lactose content, while aged sharp cheddar will usually be only lesser than 1%. As for the processed or pre-shredded cheddar cheese, they often contain more total carbs than their block counterparts due to being added with ingredients starch and cellulose as anti-caking agents, extra dairy, emulsifier, and also many other additives.
The carbs/lactose content goes:
Natural cheddar of all ages > Pre-shredded cheddar > Processed cheddar
For example, a 1-oz slice of Kraft Single Original Cheddar Cheese (19 grams) has about 3g of total carbs, whereas one slice of the Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (28 grams) only contains less than 1g of carbs. See the image below.
So, if you’re looking for a better cheddar with even less lactose, go for the extra sharp variety!
let’s move on to some of the most popular brands of cheddar cheese.
Best Lactose-free Cheddars — Popular Brands
The lactose content depends on the brand — milk used, ingredients used, production, and how long the cheese is aged. While all cheddar cheeses are not 100% lactose-free, here is a list of some popular brands of cheddar that tend to be lower in lactose:
These include Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese, and Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese: Tillamook cheddar. Also apply to other styles like shredded, sliced, deli-sliced, block and loaf.
Sargento Sharp Natural Cheddar Cheese: Sargento cheddar cheese contains 0 grams of carbohydrates per slice.
Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar: Cabot cheddar cheese is containing about 1 gram of carbohydrate per 1-inch cube, equivalent to 1 oz serving.
Kerrygold Aged Cheddar: Kerrygold cheddar cheese has 0 grams of carbohydrate content per 1-ounce slice.
Organic Valley Grassmilk Raw Sharp Cheddar: Organic Valley cheddar contains 1g total carbs per serving.
365 Whole Food Market Sharp Cheddar: 365 cheddar. It’s labelled with <1g of carbs per 1″ inch cube.
Great Value Sharp Cheddar: Great Value cheddar cheese. It has less than <1g of carbs in each serving.
While most store-bought natural cheddars are considered to be very low or virtually lactose-free, it is important to note that some sensitive individuals with lesser tolerance may still experience uncomfortable symptoms If this is the case, they should avoid eating any type of cheese and opt for other dairy alternatives like the vegan cheddar, read my vegan cheddar overview here.