Cheddar vs. Colby Cheese: The Differences

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Aaron

  • Colby is milder and moister than cheddar.
  • Colby does not go through the ‘cheddaring’ process.

In the US, you’ve probably heard of cheddar and Colby cheese. Sure, they look almost exactly the same, but what’s the difference?

There are some variations of Colby as well, such as the Colby Jack. We’ll talk about it later.

Also, we will go through the nitty-gritty detail about their taste, how they are made, which one is healthier, substitutions and so on.

And ultimately which one is better suited for your dish? Let’s dive in.

Cheddar is a British cheese, Colby is American.

Cheddar cheese is a type of semi-hard cheese named after the town of Cheddar in Somerset, England. It has a long history to trace with the earliest record in the 1100s. The cheese is brought to America and becomes recognized today. And cheddar is still one of the most popular cheeses.

In the 1800s, America grew very fast and a style of cheddar was getting its popularity in the city of Colby, Wisconsin. It’s often pressed into a cylindrical shape, which is also known as longhorn.

This style of cheddar is moister, softer and milder than the typical cheddar cheese at that time. It’s somewhat similar to the mild cheddar today. This style later got its name Colby.

Apart from that, some of the best-known varieties of Colby cheese are Colby Jack (a mix of Colby and Monterey Jack) and Colby Longhorn (a style or shape of Colby).

So, do they taste the same?

For most people, they taste very similar. The main difference is likely due to different brand and their production.

But one thing that most people can agree on is that the flavor of cheddar cheese can be sharp or mild, but Colby cheese is always milder and moister.

That is due to one additional step (we’ll talk about that below) involved, it makes Colby a little less acidic in the early production phase, and therefore the typical sharp flavor is reduced by half in the aging phase. Think about a less-developed version of mild cheddar.

If you really want to rank them from strong to weak:

Aged cheddar > Mild cheddar > Colby Cheese

Overall, cheddar cheese is meant to be crumbly and harder in texture, while Colby cheese is smooth but firm. Also, Colby is better at melting than cheddar.

What’s the one step that makes them different?

The way to produce Colby cheese is very similar to the way cheddar is made. They both use cow milk.

The general process for cheddar is first to heat the milk to a certain temperature and then curdled using rennet and culture. The curds are then cut into small pieces and stirred, and go through a process called ‘cheddaring’ which helps them expel more whey. The curds are then salted and put into molds and pressed, and lastly aged for months.

Cheddaring is an important step stacking the curd blocks on one another to ‘dry them up’. It’s to increase the acidity to favor the bacteria’s action for later aging. As for Colby, no cheddaring process. Instead, cold water is added to further dilute it.

This will reduce the lactose content, lactic acid production (lowering acidity), and temperature(1). This additional step also discourages bacteria activity, therefore less sharpness is developed, making the cheese taste milder and sweeter.

Another difference is the aging time. Cheddar is generally aged for 2-3 months for mild, or up to a few years for sharp cheddar; Colby is usually aged for around 1-3 months. This ensures a distinct flavor and texture. Colby-Jack is having an even shorter aging time of only 14 days and is having a pleasing marbled pattern.

How you should use them right? and substitute each other.

Mild cheddar and Colby can be used interchangeably in almost any recipe. Aged cheddar can be much more flavorful with a robust dose of flavor to shine in your dishes. Some really old ones will have crystals formed to give you wonderful salty bites.

You can think of hundreds of ways to use them in your dishes. Cheddar and Colby cheese are both commonly used in dishes like macaroni and cheese and in a variety of recipes. They are also popularly used as toppings on burgers, pizzas, and other foods.

If you are looking for a better melting one, Colby is a better option due to its higher moisture and softer texture.

And lastly, which cheese is healthier?

There are no big nutritional differences between cheddar and Colby cheese. It depends on the milk source. Overall, they are both high in calcium, fat and protein, and have a moderate amount mineral. But just be noted that some brands can be a little saltier!

If you worrying about the lactose intolerant, Colby is slightly — about 1-2% — higher in lactose than cheddar due to shorter aging. If so, cheddar will be the better choice for you.

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