If you have gluten sensitivity or intolerance, you want to be sure you are eating foods that won’t trigger any of the horrid symptoms like diarrhea, heartburn, flatulence, and more. But you love cheese, so can you safely have some, and if so, what cheese is gluten-free?
Most cheeses are gluten-free, but it is safest to always read the label. In general, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, Swiss, goat, feta, cream, cottage, cheddar, brie, parmesan, and blue cheeses do not contain gluten.
Popular brands that sell gluten-free cheese are Kraft, Daiya Foods, Organic Blue Valley, Dargento, and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
Here is everything you ever needed and wanted to know about gluten in cheese, what brands usually sell gluten-free cheese, and more.
What Is Gluten in Cheese?
Gluten in cheese means that the final cheese product contains gluten, a type of sticky glue-like protein commonly found in rye, barley, or wheat. This sticky “glue” is added to cheeses to help improve the texture and help the cheese set better.
Cheese is naturally gluten-free, but if the cheese you buy contains modified food starch that is made from wheat or wheat starch, then the cheese would not be gluten-free. Other ingredients that indicate the presence of gluten to watch out for include:
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein (or wheat)
- Malt (malt extract or malt vinegar)
- Powdered cellulose
- Spice blends or spice mixes
- Natural color
- Natural flavor
- Artificial color
- Vegetable gum
- Artificial flavoring
- Food starch
Moreover, you also need to be careful about cross-contamination.
If the cheese is manufactured in a factory that uses gluten-containing ingredients for other products, it is likely that cross-contamination can happen. Then the gluten-free cheese won’t be gluten-free any longer.
For those who suffer a high gluten intolerance, even mild exposure to gluten can lead to serious health complications such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), bloating, diarrhea, and dehydration.
Cross-contamination (or cross-contact) can also happen if you buy cheese at a deli (or any other place) and the machine that cuts the cheese has not been properly cleaned to prevent the gluten-free cheese from becoming contaminated with gluten from other products it previously cut or sliced.
What Is Gluten-Free Cheese Made Of?
Cheese that does not contain gluten is made from cow, goat, buffalo, or sheep milk (and salt and rennet). Dairy ingredients, when no gluten-containing ingredients have been added, are naturally free from gluten.
As such, cheese typically does not contain gluten.
But it is best to read the ingredient list on the label to ensure the cheese is safe for consumption if you have celiac disease (also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy or sprue; an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and damage in the small intestine when eating gluten-containing foods) or gluten intolerance or sensitivity.
What Cheese Doesn’t Have Gluten?
Here is a list of cheeses that generally do not contain gluten (however, it deserves to be repeated: check the label to ensure you can safely consume the cheese):
- Ricotta cheese
- Goat cheese
- Feta cheese
- Provolone cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Brie cheese
- Gouda cheese
- Monterey Jack cheese
- Muenster cheese
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- Colby cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Shredded cheese
- Cheese whiz
- Sliced cheese
- String cheese
- Cream cheese
- Cheese sticks
- Non-dairy and vegan-friendly cheese alternatives, such as nutritional yeast, avocado, and “cheese” made from nuts, seeds, or soy
Cheeses With a Higher Risk of Containing Gluten
Here is a list of cheeses that are more likely to contain gluten, but as always, read the label to be sure:
- American cheese
- Cheese spray
- Cottage cheese
- Blue cheese – however, it depends on the mold cultures of the cheese
- Cheese spreads
- Cheese powder or powdered cheese
- Queso cheese dip
- Flavored cheese
Non-Gluten-Free Cheese Products
Cheese products that typically contain gluten include:
- Cheesecake (especially if the base or crust is made from wheat or gluten-containing flour)
- Breaded mozzarella sticks
- Specialty cheese that contains beer (aka beer-washed cheese)
- Gourmet cheese (may contain gluten because of the high cross-contamination risk
Eating cheese with a gluten-containing product like crackers, essentially makes the cheese non-gluten-free. The same can be said when you buy cheese-flavored snacks or baked goods with cheese (that are not labeled gluten-free).
List of Gluten-Free Cheese Brands
Here is a list of gluten-free cheese brands, but again, check the label of the cheese variety before you buy:
- Daiya Foods
- Asiago Cheese
- Organic Blue Valley Cheese
- Good Culture
- Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- Velveeta cheese
- Kraft Foods
- Crystal Farm
- Trader Joe’s
- 365 Whole Foods Sliced and Shredded Cheeses
- Boar’s Head
- Signature Select, Primo Taglio /O Organics (Safeway or Alberston’s)
- Kirkland Cheese (Costco)
- Great Value (Walmart)
- Tofutti Vegan Cream Cheese
- Kite Hill Dairy-Free Cream Cheese
- Happy Farms Original Cream Cheese
- Lucerne Cream Cheese
- Prairie Farms Original Cream Cheese
- Andrew & Everett Hormone-Free Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Igourmet Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
- Mama Francesca
- Siete Foods
- Grounded Foods
- Mother Raw
- Stonewall Kitchen
- On The Border
- Notcho Nocheez
- Core & Rind
- LOCA Food
Does Gluten-Free Cheese Taste Different?
Since cheese is naturally gluten-free, there is no main difference in taste between cheese with or without gluten. It all depends on the cheese you prefer and what you can safely eat.
My Last Foodie Thoughts
When you have gluten-related health issues, choosing foods that are safe for you to eat is essential. No one wants to suffer from gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance symptoms, and you can stay healthy with the right information and responsible choices.
So while cheese is usually free from gluten or gluten-containing ingredients, it is recommended to read the label carefully before you buy. You know, however, you are safe when the label of the cheese identifies it as gluten-free certified or lists the main ingredient as cow’s milk or grated Parmesan cheese.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, so learn more about gluten and ingredients that contain gluten so you can make a healthy and safe choice for yourself and your family.
Read more about our other gluten-free foods guides: