Top Low Lactose and Lactose-Free Cheeses That Are Safe to Enjoy
Lactose free cheese

Cheeses play an important part in modern cooking. It’s hard to imagine a world where you had to cut cheese entirely from your diet. Imagine never eating pizza again, or how dull toasted sandwiches would be if they never had any melted cheese on them.

The good news is that just because you’re lactose intolerant doesn’t mean you have to cut this dairy product from your diet. The only thing you need to do is switch over to low-lactose or lactose-free cheeses, and in this guide, we’re going to take a look at some of the tastiest cheese types to give a try.

What Is Lactose and Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose is also called milk sugar. It’s a disaccharide sugar found in milk, and most dairy products are made from milk.

When someone is lactose intolerant, it usually means that their small intestine doesn’t produce enough enzymes to digest these milk sugars.

Some of the most common symptoms of lactose intolerance include gas, bloating, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

There are no treatments for lactose intolerance, but you can live a very normal life by simply cutting lactose ingredients from your diet.

What Are Low-Lactose and Lactose-Free Cheeses?

Big piece of lactose free cheese on wooden board

There are still some cheeses that you can enjoy, even though you might be lactose intolerant. These cheeses are called low-lactose and lactose-free cheese and are very different products.

Lactose-Free Cheese

Lactose-free cheese is a type of fresh cheese that isn’t made from milk. They contain no traces of lactose because they are made from soy, rice, cashews, or almonds. These cheeses are also considered vegan cheeses since they’re made from plants instead of animal byproducts. 

These cheeses are quite different in texture and flavor because they don’t contain any real dairy ingredients. Those who are extremely sensitive to lactose do, however, find them quite agreeable.

Low-Lactose Cheese

It’s important to note that cheeses in general don’t contain nearly as much lactose as raw milk products or other dairy products. This is because the cheesemaking process removes a lot of lactose ingredients from the final product.

When milk cheese is made, the milk is thickened. This causes the whey to separate from the curds. Most of the lactose is found in the whey, while very little is left behind in the curds. Harder cheeses are made from purer curds, while softer and creamier cheeses tend to contain more whey. And this is why some cheese types are still unedible to those with lactose intolerance.

Low-lactose cheeses are the types of aged cheeses that contain very little lactose. These products are still made from milk but are low in lactose because of the maturation methods that are used.

Not only is the whey drained from these cheeses, but they also undergo an extended maturation process. This process causes lactose to change into lactic acid.

Here’s a quick look at the aging duration of some of the most common cheese types:

  • Classic Gouda: 18 months
  • XO Gouda: 26 months
  • Parmigiano Reggiano: 12 to 24 months
  • Grana Padano: 12 to 20 months
  • Mimolette: 22 months
  • Romano: 3 to 4 years

Some of these naturally aged cheeses contain so little lactose that it’s hardly traceable, and most of these cheeses contain less than 1 gram of lactose per serving, which is still acceptable for most lactose-intolerant individuals.

Cheeses That Are Safe for the Lactose Intolerant

Surprisingly, many cheeses are virtually lactose-free and shouldn’t cause any intestinal issues. It’s mostly harder cheese types that are safe for consumption because these harder cheeses contain less whey, and any leftover lactose content is transformed into lactic acid through a slow maturation process. 

Here’s a quick look at some of the best cheeses to enjoy if you have dairy sensitivity.

Muenster

Muenster is a semi-soft cheese that is usually made from cow’s milk. This cheese is fairly safe to enjoy since it has a very low lactose range of 0 to 1.1%. The cheese is also delicious, with a nutty undertone, and is quite flexible since you can easily slice it or cut it into cubes.

Camembert

Camembert is a soft, creamy French cheese that offers a milky taste with a slightly grassy undertone. This cheese naturally has a 0–1.8% lactose range and is one of the best cheeses for those with dairy sensitivities.

Brie

Brie is a lot like Camembert, but it is a little bit softer and creamier. The semi-soft cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a slightly higher lactose range of 0 to 2%.

Cheddar

Cheddar cheese is a crumbly cheese that is very popular in dishes like macaroni and cheese, cheese sauces, and pizza. This English cheese has a range of lactose from 0 to 2.1% because it is slowly matured by cheesemakers.

Provolone

This is one of the few softer cheese types with low lactose levels. The versatile cheese is quite buttery and perfect for pizza or sandwiches. It’s safe for lactose intolerant people because it only has an average rating of 0 to 2.1% lactose.

Gouda

Gouda, with its smoky aroma and slightly sweet yet creamy taste, is also fairly safe for those with lactose sensitivity because this cheese contains only about 0 to 2.2% lactose per serving. It is also a very diverse cheese that can be used in several food dishes, since the cheesy goodness is very creamy and not too overwhelming.

Blue Cheese

Blue cheese can smell a little bit overwhelming, but lots of cheese lovers enjoy the salty taste and the crumbling effect. This cheese is relatively low in lactose, with a 0 to 2.5% range.

Cheeses to Avoid if You Are Lactose Intolerant

Ricotta-cheese

Even though most cheeses are pretty low in lactose, some do contain quite a bit of these milk sugars. Here are some cheeses that you should try to cut from your diet.

Feta

Feta is popular in salads, on sandwiches, and even on pizza because it pairs well with spices and the crumbly texture is divine. This cheese should, however, be enjoyed sparingly because it has a 4.1% lactose range. The cheese contains lots of lactose because the curd cubes are stored in whey.

Ricotta

This Italian cheese has a mild, creamy taste, and it is very soft because it is made from soft cheese curd. The soft curd still contains plenty of whey, which is why the cheese has a pretty high lactose range of up to 5.1%. These cheeses also don’t undergo such an extensive maturation process.

Velveeta

It is also best to avoid Velveeta cheese. This cheese is very similar to American cheese and has a creamy, salty, and tangy taste. The cheese is very soft and springy, but it contains up to 9.3% lactose.

American Cheese

American cheese is quite melty and is often used on burgers because it melts so easily. This cheese is made from other cheeses like cheddar or Colby, but it has a very high lactose range of up to 14.2%. It’s the type of cheese that you’re most likely to encounter when you buy takeout foods like cheeseburgers or other comfort foods.

The Takeaway

Those with lactose intolerance can have just as much fun sampling different cheesy treats as any other person. Cheeses in general are pretty low in lactose, and there are many lactose-free cheeses or low-lactose cheeses out there that can be enjoyed without any unpleasant side effects.

Now that you know what cheeses to enjoy, it’s time to take a look at some of the other guides on Cook Room Kitchen and seek out some tasty cheesy food recipes that you can make with these cheeses.

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