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The Top 9 American Cheese Substitutes

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American cheese grilled sandwich on a plate

American cheese is a mild and creamy processed cheese that is white or yellow-colored with a medium-firm texture. Packaged as a block or in slices, its melting point is very low, making it a perfect addition to burgers, sauces, or any other recipes where meltability is important. American cheese is also delicious added to sandwiches and subs; its creamy texture and mild salty flavor make it a popular choice.

Not everyone enjoys American cheese. It is processed, high in sodium, and many “cheese purists” cringe at the thought of using it. If you can’t or won’t use American cheese then you’re going to need a suitable replacement. We’ve created a list of our favorite American cheese substitutes that are mostly everyday items you’ll find at the supermarket. Let’s check them out!

American cheese substitute infographicAmerican cheese substitute

1. Cheddar

American cheese is often made from cheddar, so it makes sense that we place this option at the top of this list. Rich and buttery, this is a good replacement so long as it is suitably aged. As cheddar matures, its consistency becomes crumblier and drier with a sharper flavor. Avoid this option and instead, choose a mild variety that won’t overpower your burger.

Tip: If you enjoy cheddar cheese then why not learn how to make it at home? We show you how in this illustrated guide.

2. Colby

Colby is another variety that is commonly used to make American cheese. It is similar to cheddar in taste, with higher moisture content and a milder flavor. Colby has excellent melting properties and can be used anywhere that you’d use American cheese. Perfect in a grilled cheese sandwich or grated onto nachos, this cheese won’t let you down in the kitchen.

3. Muenster

Muenster is a mild-tasting cheese that has a soft smooth texture and a characteristic orange rind. Its taste is arguably the closest you’ll get to American cheese; however, its texture is like a naturally made cheddar rather than processed. Like many natural cheeses on this list, Muenster gains a sharp, strong flavor profile as it matures. It is also well-known for being a very smelly cheese once aged.

A block of Muenster cheese
Muenster is excellent for replacing American cheese.

4. Velveeta

If you’re trying to avoid American cheese because it’s processed then you’re best to avoid Velveeta. Otherwise, this makes a great alternative because it offers a smoother, softer texture than regular cheese. Its melting properties are superb – maintaining a silky smooth saucy texture once heated. It is perfect for drizzling over nachos, mixing into Mac and cheese, or for use in casseroles and sauces. Velveeta can be bought in slices or as a block.

5. Monterey Jack

Monterey Jack is a mild-flavored cheese with a lovely smooth texture that fits in well with any recipe that calls for American cheese. Its buttery properties are delicious once melted, and it is ideal topped on pizza or grated into soup. Sliced Jack is good for adding a creamy, mild layer of deliciousness to a burger and is ideal for sandwiches.

6. Havarti

Havarti is a semisoft cheese made from Danish cow’s milk. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that is likely to appeal to any palate and is amazingly smooth textured. Havarti is suitable for grilling, melting, or slicing. It makes a tasty substitute for American cheese in salads, sandwiches, or fondue.

7. Mozzarella

Most home cooks are familiar with mozzarella, an Italian cheese made from buffalo or cow milk. With a mild flavor and subtle aroma, it is a good option for people who don’t like strong flavors. Use mozzarella in food where melting is required – pizzas are your best option but it also is good on top of nachos, or your favorite pasta. Although Italians love to add slices of mozz to sandwiches and paninis, this cheese won’t provide flavor or texture anything like American cheese when sliced.

Mozzarella cheese
Mozzarella is ideal for those who enjoy mild flavors.

8. Fontina

Fontina is another Italian washed-rind cheese that comes from cow’s milk. It is a rich, creamy and good for melting. This would be a tasty option if you want more flavor than American cheese. It provides a nutty, earthy taste, but isn’t too overpowering.

9. Make your own

If you’re unable to find American cheese in a store near you, then why not make a homemade version using a block of colby? Here is how it’s done.

Prep time: 15 minutes. Chill time: 3 hours. Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz colby cheese, grated
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 4 Tbsp whole milk (full cream milk), divided
  • 2 tsp gelatin
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Method

  1. Line an airtight container with plastic wrap. It should be large enough to hold 4 cups of water.
  2. Add the cheese and salt to a blender and pulse until the cheese has just begun to break up. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, pour 4 Tbsp of milk and then sprinkle over the gelatin. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining milk and butter over medium-high until boiling. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture.
  5. Switch the blender back on, and pour the milk back into the cheese, processing for 15-20 seconds until smooth. At the halfway point, stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Quickly pour the cheese mixture into the container and use a knife to smooth out the top. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours; a firm texture is a sign that it’s ready to eat.

Notes:
-Store cheese refrigerated for up to five days in an airtight container.
-Cheddar can be used in place of colby; however, the final cheese will have a tangier, stronger flavor.
-Avoid using mature, crumbly cheese as it won’t work in this recipe.

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What is American cheese?

American cheese can come in a variety of styles. The most common is a processed American cheese made from leftover scraps of unprocessed American cheese, with the addition of milk protein, milk, water, and food coloring like annatto. The substitutes offered in this article are best for this type of cheese.

American cheese product has so much extra milk and “non-cheese” additives that it can no longer legally be called cheese. An example of this in the United States in Kraft Singles, that gets labeled “pasteurized prepared cheese product”.

Finally, there is an unprocessed American cheese which is a pale color and is a type of cheddar. This is a “real cheese” and if you enjoy a more natural tasting product then this is your best option.

Final words

American cheese is one of the better varieties for melting into food. If you need an alternative then you may want to try cheddar, colby, or Velveeta. They all have good melting properties and are mild enough to fit into most recipes without creating any awkward flavor imbalance.

What is your favorite cheese for grilled sandwiches and burgers? Please let us know in the comments below.