White vs Yellow American Cheese | Is There a Difference?


White and Yellow American Cheese

The big question on everyone’s mind is whether white and yellow American cheese is the same thing. Okay, I’m kidding, but it is something that I have often thought about when grilling up some burgers. So, I dived into some research, and this is what I learned.

White and yellow American cheese are similar but not exactly the same thing. Yellow cheese has a higher fat content, which accounts for a softer texture and richer flavor, while white cheese is drier and more crumbly. Yellow cheese tends to have a sharper tangy flavor, while white cheese is milder.

In this article, we’ll go in-depth on the differences and how the two are made.

White vs. Yellow American Cheese – The Differences

Though they are close to the same thing, yellow cheese has a higher fat content than white and a richer flavor. The different processes of production result in the higher fat content. The lower fat in white cheese results in a drier texture and will often crumble more easily. It is also easier to spread on crackers and breads that don’t have any butter or oil spread on them beforehand.

Another difference is that yellow cheese will often taste sharper and tangier, while white is often saltier and milder. This difference can be mainly attributed to the process of production. When making white cheese, the curds are drained for a shorter period, resulting in less fat content.

It’s also important to note that yellow cheese tastes different from brand to brand and style to style. The variations could be caused by the seasonings in addition to varying proportions of cheese cultures.

How Is White American Cheese Made?

White cheese is made by adding a coagulant (usually calcium) to milk. The coagulant causes the milk to solidify into lumps, called curds. These curds are made by removing the liquid whey from the mix. Then, the curds are strained to get rid of any excess liquid.

The consistency of cheese will be changed by adding the correct amount of fat. ‘Brine’ is an acid added to the cheese mix to help the curds cling to each other. Next, the curds are then heated in a large pot called a hot-water bath. The hot-water bath heats the pot and prevents any bacteria from growing on cheese at this point. Then, brine and rennet (a mixture of enzymes) are added to the mixture and allowed to sit for several hours at room temperature.

Why Is White American Cheese White?

In the production of white American cheese, the milk is treated with citric acid for a short time before being drained and curdled, which produces a whiter color. It also uses a coagulant, which is calcium chloride. The coagulant can turn the milk a slightly yellow color.

Brands of White American Cheese include:

  • Kraft American & White Singles
  • Breakstone’s American Cheese
  • Borden Philadelphia Cream Cheese-Style Spread
  • Land O’Lakes Cream Cheese Style Spread

How Is Yellow American Cheese Made?

Yellow cheese is made by adding a coagulant to milk, like in the process of making white American cheese. However, instead of straining out excess whey and discarding it, yellow cheese production includes draining extra liquid out of the curds.

This liquid whey (which is a major component of yellow cheese) is then used to make other products like cottage cheese and yogurt. The extra liquid can also be used to make ricotta if there isn’t enough whey left from the yellow cheese production process.

The milk used in the production of yellow cheese has also been drained longer than that of white, leaving more butterfat in its wake.

Why Is Yellow American Cheese Yellow?

The whey that is drained out of yellow cheese production is why yellow American cheese has such a bright color. The color is caused by a protein in the milk called beta-carotene, which comes from the grass that cows eat.

Brands of Yellow American Cheese include:

  • Kraft slices and singles
  • Velveeta singles and slices
  • American Singles by Borden
  • Best Foods Singles by Kraft Foods Group, Inc.

Taste and Texture Differences Between White and American Cheese

White cheese will often have a drier texture and crumble easier. This can be attributed to the lack of fat that is used in its production. Yellow cheese, on the other hand, is usually softer because it has been drained more than white cheese. Another way to tell that yellow cheese is different than white American cheese is by its taste. It will often have a sharper flavor and be tangier, while white cheeses can often be saltier and milder tasting.

Yellow cheese is also a little saltier than white. This can be caused by adding extra spices and ingredients, as well as not properly mixing the components of the cheese before shipping off to the production facility.

Due to the different cultures used to make it, yellow cheese will also have a different flavor than white. Culture plays a significant role in cheese making, and there are different varieties of cultures that can be used to produce a unique taste. Additionally, more cultures can be added to the mix to cause an over-culture, giving the cheese a sharp bite.

Nutritional Differences Between White and American Cheese

The nutritional differences between yellow and white American cheese are minimal. They both have a fat content of around 30% or more. However, the two cheeses are often produced in different forms (e.g., slices vs. spreadable), which can lead to variations in nutrition across the various types.

Additionally, there are some concerns about added artificial colors and flavors that are often not made clear to consumers. A yellow cheese that is produced by a company that is transparent about its ingredients will not contain these added colors and flavors.

Important: If a person is allergic to milk, yellow cheese should not be consumed because it will have traces of milk. If this happens, but customers still want to eat a yellow cheese product, they should be aware that the small amount of milk in the yellow cheese may cause an allergic reaction.

Which Type Is Each Best For?

Yellow American cheese is used more often in food production because of its milder flavor. Foods made with yellow cheese are usually intended to be eaten in sandwich or salad form.

What Yellow American Cheese Is Best For

  • Top of a hot dog, bratwurst, or burger
  • Topping for a steak sandwich (instead of white American cheese)
  • On top of a meatloaf sandwich
  • Topping for an open-faced sandwich (e.g., with turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes)

What White American Cheese Is Best For

On the other hand, white American cheese is often used by chefs in restaurants and at home because of its ability to crumble and melt for a variety of different uses. These include lasagna, grilled cheeses, and inside hamburgers and hotdogs. White American cheese will also hold up better when melted alone into a dish (e.g., lasagna).

White American cheese is also used more often than yellow American cheese by chefs because it melts well when heated and held over an extended period. Whether melted or served cold, yellow cheese tends to have a runnier consistency and may not hold its shape as well as white American cheese when heated.

Is White American Cheese Healthier Than Yellow?

White American cheese is lower in calories and fat than yellow American cheese. However, both types of cheese are high in calories and fat. The point of consuming cheeses is to experience the fantastic taste, so they should be consumed accordingly. As with any other type of food, individual reactions will vary, so it is essential to always read labels before consuming cheese to make an informed decision on your purchasing habits.

The Facts on American Cheese

According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, a little over 95% of the cheese produced in America is cheddar. However, there are many different varieties of cheddar that go beyond the classic orange (and yellow) colored cheese. For instance, sharp cheddars are known for their intense flavor due to a higher level of acidity, while milder cheddars have more sweetness and are often best suited on burgers and sandwiches.

As for blue cheeses (e.g., gruyere, gorgonzola), their taste largely depends on the type of milk and what bacteria species are present (Source). The composition of milk may also vary depending on the region where it is grown, and this is especially true for soft cheeses like brie and camembert.

Final Thoughts

White American cheese is an excellent alternative to yellow American cheese, especially if you’re looking for something creamy and delicious that will also let you enjoy the taste of the food being eaten. However, it is important to pay close attention to labels when purchasing white cheese because some brands do contain ingredients like milk and eggs that may cause allergic reactions in specific individuals.

Also, whitening agents may also be found in some varieties of white American cheese, so it is important to always read labels before consuming hard cheese products. White American Cheese can be found on many grocery store shelves in the frozen food aisle and is packed with great taste!

For more, don’t miss The 10 Best Types of Cheese for Philly Cheesesteaks.

Main photo courtesy of Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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