Find out what cheddar cheese is made from, used for, and if this ingredient is safe to enjoy on a gluten-free diet.
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If you’re just getting started with a gluten-free diet, you may be looking around at all your favorite foods and ingredients wondering what is safe for you to keep eating and what you’ll want to start finding replacements for.
Cheddar cheese is a popular cheese that’s used in many different countries and cuisines, America included. Cheddar cheese can be enjoyed in slices, in sauces, added to soups, breaded and fried, topped on sandwiches, bagels, or pizzas.
If you enjoy any of these foods, you’re very likely no stranger to cheddar cheese. If you’re looking to discover which cheeses are safe for your gluten-free diet, you’re in the right place. We’re deep diving into the topic of cheddar cheese and getting you the answers you need to find out if you can keep piling this ingredient on all your favorite dishes.
In this post, we’ll talk about what cheddar cheese is, what it’s made of, if most cheese is gluten-free, and of course answer whether or not cheddar cheese is safe for your gluten-free diet.
We’ll wrap the post up with a few things you’ll want to know about where to watch for gluten when it comes to cheddar cheese so you’re always informed as to when to enjoy it and when to steer clear of it.
Let’s talk cheddar!
What is cheddar cheese?
Cheddar cheese is a type of cheese that’s sharp in flavor, off white to orange in color, and extremely popular in American and European cooking.
Cheddar cheese can be used in dishes with pasta (think mac and cheese), on top of many Mexican inspired dishes like tacos or enchiladas, on charcuterie boards with other meats and cheeses, and popular on sandwiches, baked potatoes, and cheese sauces.
What is cheese made of?
Most cheese is made of milk, cultures, rennet (an enzyme), and salt, regardless of whether you buy it at a grocery store or make your own cheese at home.
Cheese can be made using any type of animal milk, including cow’s milk, goat milk, sheep milk, yak milk, and even water buffalo milk. Yes, that’s really a thing.
The most common cheese you’ll find at a grocery store or at restaurants is made from cow’s milk.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
You can find gluten in whole grains, but also in many processed foods as well. If you purchase wheat bread, there will be gluten in it, because wheat by nature has gluten.
Many processed foods have hidden gluten in them in the form of gluten or wheat derivatives. These are also in the form of flavorings, binders to keep ingredients together, or other additives.
Is cheese gluten-free?
Most cheese is naturally gluten-free, as milk, cultures, rennet, and salt are all gluten-free.
There are some cheeses that may have gluten added to them, especially if they are low salt or fat free cheese. Others have gluten added to them as a stabilizer or preservative. You can find out if the cheese you’re buying contains gluten by looking at ingredients lists.
Is cheddar cheese gluten-free?
Cheddar cheese is almost always gluten-free, because it isn’t made with any wheat products and no gluten is added to it during processing. The things you’ll want to think about before eating cheddar cheese is what you eat it with or nearby.
For example, a cheese plate may contain crackers with gluten and cross contamination risk may be high. Or if cheddar cheese is used in or on a dish with other gluten ingredients, like pasta or bread, then cheddar cheese will likely have at least trace levels of gluten from cross contamination.
Is cheddar cheese dairy-free?
Cheddar cheese is not dairy-free as it is made with cow’s milk. A dairy product is anything that comes from or is made from animal milk.
Cheddar cheese is always a dairy product unless it is a dairy-free brand and the ingredients use plant-based milk and ingredients, like soy milk, rice milk, or other dairy alternatives.
Read on: Gluten-free dairy-free snack board
Is cheddar cheese always gluten-free?
Cheddar cheese on its own is likely to always be gluten-free. However, there are things you’ll want to consider before using that as a blanket statement.
For example, cheddar cheese itself may be gluten-free, but the things that people use cheddar cheese on or in aren’t always. Pasta, pizza, bread, breadsticks, sandwiches, potato chips, nachos… these foods aren’t always gluten-free.
As an ingredient on its own, you can safely enjoy cheddar cheese on a gluten-free diet, but if it’s served alongside or in a dish with other ingredients, you’ll want to be sure that those are also gluten-free if you’re trying to keep up with avoiding gluten.
Trace amounts of gluten can come into contact with the cheese and depending on your level of sensitivity to gluten, you may or may not get sick from that cross contact.
Read on: Is Velveeta gluten-free?
Read on: Is blue cheese gluten-free?
If you love cheddar cheese and have been wondering how it will fit into your gluten-free diet, I hope this post has given you the information you’ve been looking for.
Cheddar cheese is almost always gluten-free, but you’ll want to be aware of what it’s served with and what other ingredients are used in a dish if you plan to enjoy it on your gluten-free diet.