What is Cheddar cheese?


Kurt Olsen

Cheddar is classified in the family of hard cheeses. It is originally an English cheese, but its production has since spread all over the world, particularly in Canada, the United States, and Australia, with a very diverse range of offerings and quality. Be aware that its natural color is not yellow-orange as many people think. Natural cheddar actually has a warm cream color, so it is rather pale yellow or white. Its aging varies from 3 to 36 months, depending on whether you are looking for a young or aged cheddar taste. We will explain its origins, characteristics, how to enjoy it, and how to incorporate it into your gratin recipes or others.


Cheddar is a (very) great traveler. The former British Empire has introduced this cow’s milk cheese to almost the entire planet, and it is now produced on all continents of the world with varying qualities depending on the regions. Cheddar is even considered today to be the most sold cheese in the world.

An AOP cheddar to protect the most famous of English cheeses.

To preserve the quality of authentic cheddar, its British roots, and traditional manufacturing methods, the English have protected the West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO since 1997. In France, you can find this cheese under the brand BRITISH HERITAGE. PDO cheddar must be made only with ingredients from the South West of England in the four historic counties: Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Dorset.

How is cheddar cheese made?

To make cheddar cheese, the milk is first heated to 40°C. Once the milk has curdled, the cheese is cut into blocks and then stacked to drain. This technique is called “cheddaring”. The blocks are then cut into small pieces and vigorously mixed and sometimes mashed with a fork. Salt is added, and then the mixture is placed in a mold and wrapped in cloth. This method allows the cheese to be preserved for long journeys. In fact, this technique dates back to the origins of cheddar in the 17th century when the cheese had to be transported throughout the British Empire. The aging process begins at this point and can last up to 36 months for the oldest cheddars.

Why are there orange cheddars?

You have probably seen cheddars with an orange color and may think it is a characteristic color for this cheese. Actually, not at all. If a cheddar is orange, it has been modified with food coloring. Annatto, a reddish-orange condiment, is often used to give it that orange-red color. The origin of this practice and why it was implemented is not well known. However, the addition of this food coloring is prohibited in the specifications of West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO. The natural color of cheddar is therefore pale yellow or white.


Cheddar is the name of an English village, located in Somerset, in the southwest of England, a few kilometers from Bristol. At the edge of the village are gorges, and it is in the surrounding caves that producers have found the ideal conditions for maturing cheddar. This cheese has been produced since at least the 12th century. In its original version, it was traditionally made within a 50 km radius of Wells Cathedral.

And today, according to the rules of the West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO, it must be traditionally made with ingredients from the Southwest of England in the four counties: Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Dorset. This is indeed the case with AOP BRITISH HERITAGE cheddar.


It all depends on which Cheddar we are talking about, whether it’s firm or semi-firm. Shredded or grated Cheddar is ready to melt in dishes like croque-monsieur, hamburgers, welsh rarebit, gratins, poutines… But the AOP model, the West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, can also be served as a tasting cheese on a cheese platter at the end of a meal. It easily withstands a good year of aging and pairs well with dried fruits or figs. It has a slightly crumbly texture, a complex taste with sweet and roasted notes. Thanks to its aging, the AOP Cheddar reveals crystals with a unique crunch. It also possesses all the classic culinary characteristics of Cheddars: when heated, it becomes creamy and gratinates. Its distinctive and fruity flavor adds character to recipes. Therefore, you can also use it for burgers, muffins, welsh rarebit, gratins, or even the famous mac & cheese.

What are some recipes to make with Cheddar?

Cheddar is an English cheese that can be easily cooked with vegetables or used in salads. It is a true delight for the taste buds, imparting a unique flavor to your dishes. There are a variety of recipes based on Cheddar, where it can replace other uncooked pressed cheeses. It can be enjoyed from appetizers to the end of the meal. Its potential seems endless.

Ideas for appetizers with Cheddar: How about pineapple and Cheddar toast? Here’s a sweet and savory toast with a very simple preparation that you can enjoy with a satisfying bite. Discover the complete recipe for pineapple and Cheddar toast.

Shortbreads are small Scottish biscuits. Prepare them with Cheddar for a flavorful recipe. Discover Cheddar shortbreads.

Ideas for typical dishes with Cheddar:

  • Incorporate Cheddar into your burgers with this delicious and tender recipe for chicken burgers or the easy recipe for Cheddar, ground beef, and pickles burger.
  • Comforting and satisfying, Mac and Cheese is a classic dish that can be prepared with Cheddar. It’s also a perfect recipe for flexitarians and can be accompanied by a simple salad. Discover our complete recipe for Mac and Cheese.
  • Stay light and crispy with the idea of a salad with roasted beetroot and Cheddar. An easy dish to prepare in just 15 minutes.

Dessert idea with Cheddar: A delicious sweet and savory dessert to enjoy by the fire in winter? Indulge yourself with this recipe for apple and Cheddar pie.

It’s even better with:

  • White Port: Pair your Cheddar with a good white Port for a true English tasting experience. Yes, English, because the British have played a key role in the globalization of Port wine, and this wine has a real “British” connotation.
  • Sourdough bread: AOP Cheddar pairs perfectly with a nut bread, for example. Be sure to toast the slices in the oven before tasting.

Cheddar can be sold grated or in the form of curds. Curd cheese is thus familiarly called “cheese curds” or “skouik-skouik”. It is actually a fresh cheese, originating from Quebec, which you can find especially in poutines. No comparison, therefore, with the true PDO cheddar, which is sold in blocks. British Heritage offers a 12-month aged Extra Mature block, a 9-month aged Mature block, and 12-month aged Extra Mature slices.

Contact Us

For more information or to make comments and suggestions, please contact:
Kurt Olsen
Dairy Development Coordinator, Missouri Department of Agriculture
Phone: (573) 291-5704
E-mail: [email protected]