Cheddar vs. Colby Cheese: The Differences

The two most common types of cheese are cheddar and Colby. However, many people don’t know the differences between the two.

Does Cheddar Cheese Need to Be Refr...
Does Cheddar Cheese Need to Be Refrigerated?

For this article, we will explore what separates these cheeses from each other and try to come up with a verdict on which is better.

We will start by discussing their production methods, then move on to their flavor, texture, and color.

The Basic

Cheddar cheese is a type of hard cheese that is named after the town of Cheddar in Somerset, England. It is made from cow’s milk and has a somewhat sharp, tangy flavor. The texture is usually crumbly and the color can range from white to orange.

Colby cheese is a type of semi-hard cheese that is named after Colby, Wisconsin. It is also made from cow’s milk, but has a milder flavor than cheddar. The texture is smooth and the color is generally yellow or orange. Some 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).

Cheddar and Colby are not the same cheese, but there are quite similar.

The Differences


The way to produce Colby cheese is very similar to the way cheddar is made.

The milk is heated 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 dedicated process called ‘cheddaring’ which helps them release the whey. The curds are then salted and put into molds and pressed, later aged, resulting in the classic cheddar cheese.

Read How Traditional Cheddar Cheese is Made

One of the main differences between cheddar and Colby cheese is the aging process. Cheddar is generally aged for at least 2 months up to a few years, while Colby is only aged for around 1-3 months. This difference in aging time results in a different flavor and texture for each cheese. Colby-Jack is having an even shorter aging time of only 14 days, and is also aesthetical with marbled patterns.

Therefore, there is mild, medium, sharp, extra-sharp cheddar cheese depending on how long the cheese has been aged.

The Colby is more comparable to a mild cheddar.

The other difference between the two is that Colby cheese is adding cold water to dilute the whey before the cheddaring process. This reduces lactose, lactic acid production (lowering acidity), and temperature (1).

This additional step discourages bacteria activity, therefore making the cheese taste sweeter and less sharp.

Flavor & Texture

The flavor of cheddar cheese is sharp and tangy, while the Colby cheese is similar but milder as the flavor has less of a chance to develop. This difference in flavor can be attributed to the aging process, as mentioned earlier.

Cheddar cheese is crumbly and harder in texture, while Colby cheese is smooth. Also, Colby is better at melting than cheddar, read why cheddar doesn’t melt well.

The Serve and Use

Cheddar and Colby cheese are both commonly used in dishes like macaroni and cheese and a variety of recipes. It is also popular to use them as toppings on burgers, pizzas, and other foods.

Read How to Eat and Use Cheddar

Since they are very similar, you can almost seamlessly substitute Colby cheese for cheddar in any recipe. It works best for mild cheddar. If you are looking for a better melting one, Colby is a better option due to its higher moisture and softer texture.

Which is Healthier?

There is not a big difference in terms of health between cheddar and Colby cheese. They are both high in calcium, fat and protein, and have a moderate amount of sodium and other minerals.

However, Colby is slightly (about 1-2%) higher in lactose than cheddar due to less aging time. Aging will break down the more lactose in cheese by bacteria. If you are lactose intolerant, cheddar would be the better choice for you.

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