Does American Cheese Have Dairy? (Answered)

Kraft Singles Cheese

American cheese is known for its superior melting ability and creamy flavor. It’s popular particularly on grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, omelets, and other foods where melty cheese is desirable. However, American cheese doesn’t meet FDA standards to qualify as a true cheese.

So, what exactly is American cheese? In this article we discuss its ingredients and whether or not American cheese has dairy in it. Here is what you need to known about dairy in American cheese…

Is There Dairy in American Cheese?

In short, American cheese contains dairy. Read on for more details…

American cheese is typically made from milk, salt, enzymes, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, whey, and other less predominate ingredients. It’s not considered real cheese because its production process differs from traditional cheeses. Instead of it being called “cheese” it is often referred to as “pasteurized processed cheese food”, “cheese product”, “American slices” and other similar names.

So, based on these facts, it is clear that American cheese does indeed contain dairy. In fact, it contains several sources of dairy for the typical American cheese product.

The table below shows various American cheese products, whether each contains dairy, and their ingredients with the dairy ingredients underlined. As you can see, all American cheese produces featured have multiple dairy products in them.

American Cheese ProductDairy (Yes or No)?Ingredients
Kraft SinglesYesCheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Skim Milk, Milkfat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Whey, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate, Contains Less than 2% of Modified Food Starch, Salt, Lactic Acid, Milk, Annatto and Paprika Extract (Color), Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor), Enzymes, Cheese Culture, Vitamin D3.
Borden SinglesYesCheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Milk, Whey, Cream, Milk Protein Concentrate, Sodium Citrate, Calcium Phosphate, Modified Food Starch, Contains Less Than 2% Of Salt, Whey Protein Concentrate, Gelatin, Sodium Polyphosphate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Color Added, Vitamin D3, Vitamin A Palmitate, Enzymes, Cheese Culture.
Land O Lakes Deli AmericanYesCultured Pasteurized Milk And Skim Milk, Buttermilk, Milkfat, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% Of Sodium And Potassium Phosphates, Tricalcium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Milk Protein Concentrate, Enzymes.
Boar’s Head Pre-Sliced Packaged AmericanYesAmerican Cheese (Milk, Salt, Cheese Culture, Enzymes), Cream, Sodium Phosphates, Paprika, Annatto, Salt.
Great Value SinglesYesAmerican Cheese (Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Water, Milk Protein Concentrate, Whey, Cream, Tricalcium Phosphate, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid (preservative), Citric Acid, Color Added, Natural Flavors, Vitamin D3.
HEB Sliced AmericanYesAmerican Cheese (Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes [Microbial], Water, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Citric Acid, Annatto (Color).

Food manufacturers change ingredients on occasion. View the actual product packaging for the most accurate ingredient information. Do not rely on the above to make buying decisions based on ingredients.

Does American Cheese Have Lactose?

Lactose is a type of sugar that is found in milk and dairy products. It is a carbohydrate composed of glucose and galactose, and it provides an important source of energy for young mammals.

In order for lactose to be absorbed into the body, it must first be broken down by the enzyme lactase, which is produced by cells lining the small intestine. Some individuals may experience lactose intolerance, which is a condition in which their bodies do not produce enough lactase to properly digest lactose. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products.

Some lactose intolerant individuals are still able to consume small amounts of lactose without experiencing symptoms. Furthermore, dairy products have varying amounts of lactose in them. For example, harder aged cheeses like parmesan tend to have very little lactose whereas processed cheese such as Velveeta and American tend to have quite a bit of it.

Generally, many people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy can consume dairy with a lactose percentage of approximately 3% or less in a sitting. American cheese can have a lactose percentage that exceeds 14% (source). This type of cheese is one that many people with lactose intolerance should opt to avoid given its high lactose percentage.

Do They Make Dairy-Free American Cheese?

There are companies that make American-style cheese that is dairy-free. Two popular products are Follow Your Heart Dairy-Free American Slices and Daiya American-Style Slices. Their primary ingredients include filtered water, starches (i.e. potato, corn), and coconut oil. Since they contain no dairy, they do not have lactose. You can visit the manufacturers’ websites to find out where to purchase them near you.

•Image Credit – Mike Mozart/flickr
•Escoffier. (2023, February 11). Is american cheese real cheese? Escoffier. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from
A lactose intolerant’s Guide to Cheese. Old Europe Cheese. (2020, June 29). Retrieved February 21, 2023, from,%3A%200%2D14.2%25%20lactose%20range