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American Cheese Substitute for a Flavorful Twist.


In this article, we embark on a delicious journey to explore American cheese substitutes. This range of options can replicate this iconic cheese’s creamy richness and versatility.

American cheese has long been a staple of American cuisine. However, many people are now seeking alternatives to this processed cheese product.

serving board with hamburger topped with American cheese.

What Is American Cheese?

American cheese is popular for its creamy texture, melting ability, and salty flavor.

People often use it for grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, nachos, and mac and cheese.

In most cases, American cheese is equivalent to processed American cheese. Cheesemakers make this cheese by starting other cheeses, like Cheddar or Colby. They combine it with milk fats, water, and other additives. Some American cheeses also contain granular cheese.

This cheese can be white or yellow, with the yellow one having food coloring from annatto seeds.

Because American cheese has a lot of additives, the FDA says it does not fit the “real” cheese category. Instead, American cheese is a “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”

The most common example of this cheese is Kraft Singles. You’ll find these American cheese slices in almost all grocery stores across the US.

Best Substitutes For American Cheese

It is worth exploring substitutes for American cheese. Using another cheese that better meets your dietary preferences and needs makes sense.

The following are among your best options, choose one, and continue with your recipe.

1. Cheddar Cheese

Cutting board with shredded cheddar cheese.

Cheddar cheese is an excellent American cheese substitute. After all, Cheddar is usually a key ingredient in American cheese you can use it in the same dishes.

It has a buttery flavor that is rich and delicious. Remember that Cheddar gets a sharper flavor and a crumblier texture as it ages. For this reason, it is important to use young, soft Cheddar for the best results.

What makes cheddar cheese a great option, too, is that it melts well. You can use it to replace American cheese in nachos, grilled cheese, and pasta dishes. Better yet, make cheese bowls out of this cheese.

There are two varieties of Cheddar, yellow and white. If color is important to your dish, choose white Cheddar cheese to replace white American cheese.

Tips:

For Cheddar to melt evenly, it is best to shred it first. As mentioned, a young Cheddar is the best option. However, if you are okay with the sharper flavor, aged Cheddar will work for recipes that call for American cheese.

2. Swiss Cheese

Serving plate with sliced Swiss cheese and crackers.

You may also try using Swiss cheese; it is among the best white American cheese substitutes. Swiss cheese has a firm texture and mild flavor, and its signature holes, or “eyes,” make it easy to identify.

It’s slightly golden hue and buttery smoothness make not only a visually appealing option but also a delicious one.

Swiss cheese is firmer in texture and doesn’t melt as easily as American cheese. Still, it is a great choice for burgers, dips, sandwiches, and casseroles.

Tips:

There are many kinds of Swiss cheese, as it can be any cheese from Switzerland. Emmental or Emmentaler is your best bet, but Jarlsberg is also a decent choice.

3. Colby Cheese

Block of Colby cheese on top of cutting board.

Another readily available swap you can opt for is Colby cheese. Colby cheese is another common ingredient in American cheese, so this is a great choice.

It has a slightly sweet taste with an orange color. Colby is versatile and mild, too. It will pair well with most ingredients that taste great with American cheese.

Like American cheese, Colby cheese also has a low melting point. Its firm texture also holds up well in heat. Use it to make grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, macaroni and cheese recipes.

Its firm texture also holds up well in heat, making it a great option for macaroni and cheese dishes.

Tips:

Colby is the closest option if you want to replicate American cheese’s flavor and texture. Consider using it first before looking for another cheese.

4. Velveeta Cheese

Block of velveeta cheese on top of white cutting board.

Another accessible option you have for a yellow American cheese alternative is Velveeta. You may already have Velveeta cheese at home, making it a quick swap. The cheese never hardens and has a long shelf life, so it is a common pantry item in most households.

Velveeta cheese maintains a silky and smooth texture even after you heat it. It is great for mac and cheese, sauces, casseroles, dips, soups, and nachos.

Note that this yellow cheese can be too rich or salty for some. Still, it’s ultra-creamy texture and superb melting properties make it a great swap to American cheese.

Tips:

Remember that Velveeta cheese is processed cheese, too, like American cheese. If you are after the health benefits, then there are better options on this list for you.

5. Havarti Cheese

Sliced Havarti cheese on the white plate.

Another cheese that you can use as an alternative to American cheese is Havarti cheese. Havarti cheese is a semi-soft cheese made from Danish cow’s milk. This cheese has a buttery and creamy texture.

Havarti cheese’s taste is mild and slightly sweet. Some varieties can taste nutty. For this reason, some Havarti cheeses can affect the flavor of your dish. Still, it can be a swap because you can melt it in a fondue or use it in grilled cheese sandwiches.

You may add it to your salads, making it versatile.

Tips:

There are Havarti varieties that have extra flavors. Some come diffused with herbs, while others have horseradish and other ingredients. If you want a richer-tasting dish, try the flavored varieties of Havarti. For instance, a dill-infused Havarti can give your grilled cheese sandwich an herby touch.

6. Muenster Cheese

Plate with served burgers topped with Muenster Cheese.

Made from pasteurized cow’s milk, Muenster cheese is a mild cheese with a soft and smooth texture. It has a distinct orange rind that makes it easily identifiable. People commonly use it to make sandwiches and mac and cheese.

That said, Muenster cheese is also among the best American cheese substitutes. This French cheese also tastes close to it, so the swap will not result in a flavor shift in your dishes.

Tips:

Do note that Muenster cheese is more similar to Cheddar regarding texture. That said, it is also best to opt for a young Muenster cheese to replace American cheese.

7. Mozzarella Cheese

Three owls of fresh mozzarella on top of the black plate.

Typically made from buffalo or cow milk, mozzarella cheese has a mild flavor and subtle aroma. For this reason, this Italian cheese is a fantastic substitute for American cheese. This swap especially makes sense for those who find American cheese too strong.

Because of its melting ability, mozzarella is perfect for pizzas, quesadillas, and pasta. It’s also a great option for fillings and stuffings if you’re after a milder flavor.

Another good thing about mozzarella? It’s a healthier alternative to American cheese because it has low sodium and fat content.

Tips:

Always opt for fresh mozzarella cheese if you can. Otherwise, the pre-shredded ones you can find in most stores will do the job.

8. Fontina Cheese

Hand holding package labeled Fontina cheese.

Fontina cheese is a semi-soft cheese, washed-rind Italian cheese. This cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a rich taste and creamy texture. It is also a great melting cheese. For this reason, it is one of the best swaps for recipes that call for melted American cheese. Use it in grilled cheese sandwiches, pizzas, and casseroles.

However, it is important to note that Fontina has a slightly different flavor profile. Although it has a mild taste, it has nutty and earthy undertones you won’t find in American cheese. If you use Fontina to replace American cheese, expect a flavor shift in your dish.

Tips:

Some types of Fontina cheese can be saltier than American cheese. Before adding it to your recipes, do a taste test to avoid an overly salty dish.

9. Monterey Jack Cheese

Monterey Jack is also a great choice if you’re looking for an American cheese substitute. Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese with high-fat content. That said, it melts just as easily as American cheese.

On top of that, Monterey Jack is a mild, creamy, and delicious cheese. It is ideal for sandwiches, burgers, mac and cheese, and dips. Monterey Jack is also a great ingredient for pizza toppings, soups, and casseroles.

Tips:

There are two different kinds of Monterey Jack: traditional and high-moisture Jack. For a better match, choose the high-moisture variety. It has better melting properties compared to the dry, traditional one.

10. Pepper Jack Cheese

Pepper Jack cheese is simply Monterey Jack cheese with extra ingredients. It has sweet red peppers and habanero chilies. That said, it is a great alternative to add some heat to your recipes.

Monterey Jack also contains some spices and herbs like rosemary and garlic. Obviously, it has a more complex taste than American cheese.

Still, it makes a great swap because it has a similar melting ability and is equally versatile.

Use it to give some kick to your sandwiches, baked macaroni, and pizzas.

Tips:

Depending on the brand, Pepper Jack cheese can have varying heat levels. Make sure to do a taste test so you won’t end up with an overly spicy dish. Also, use this cheese sparingly when feeding children, as they usually do not like spicy foods.

11. Oaxaca Cheese

Oaxaca cheese is a lesser-known variety of cheese. However, it is also among the best substitutes for American cheese if you can find it. This Mexican cheese has a stringy texture that differs from American cheese.

Still, it can replace American cheese because Oaxaca cheese melts very well. Oaxaca has a mild and buttery flavor. It will taste great in baked recipes, tacos, and quesadillas.

Tips:

Oaxaca cheese has a short shelf life. Before you open a pack, ensure you can use the entire thing for your dish. If not, remember that the leftover can only last a week in the fridge.

Is American Cheese Real Cheese?

According to the FDA, American cheese is not real cheese. Real kinds of cheese should come from heating milk and collecting the curds. In the case of American cheese, manufacturers make it by mixing real cheese with emulsifiers and additives. It does contain real cheeses. However, the addition of other ingredients disqualifies it from being a real cheese.

Is American Cheese The Same As Cheddar?

No, American cheese is not the same as cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese is real cheese, while American cheese is not.
Manufacturers often use Cheddar cheese to make American cheese, though. For this reason, there are similarities in flavor, texture, and melting properties.

What Is A Substitute For American Cheese In Mac And Cheese?

The best options for an American cheese swap in mac and cheese include Cheddar, Velveeta, and Colby cheese. You could also experiment with Swiss or Havarti for a unique twist on this classic dish.

Does American Cheese Offer Health Benefits?

Yes. This processed cheese is a good source of zinc and potassium. It also contains vitamins A and D. However, this cheese is high in sodium, fat, and calories. For this reason, you should not consume it in large amounts. There are healthier alternatives to this cheese, which you may use as an alternative if you watch your sodium, fat, and calorie intake.

Summary

Many people love American cheese for its melting ability and rich flavor. But if you want a healthier alternative, you have plenty of options. The best American cheese substitute options are Cheddar, Swiss, Colby, and Havarti cheese. A mild Gouda or even cream cheese will also work in a pinch.

Whether you are making a grilled cheese sandwich, nachos, or mac and cheese, you can find a suitable option that fits your needs. By trying out these swaps, you can discover new and exciting flavors that will help you create delicious and healthier dishes.

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Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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