Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Guide to Lactose Free Cheeses

If any of you are a cheesehead like me, the sight and aromas of a luscious cheese shop probably bring you close to tears, right?  Well, weep no more. After hours of research and personal experimentation to verify, there are now many options to choose from. So many, that I recently had the strange experience at Trader Joe's of having too many cheeses to choose from.

Here's my cheese journal of what works for me:

Goat or sheep milk

Cheeses made from these animals are generally safe. Any specialty cheese shop will carry many of these varieties. Look for styles of cheddar, gouda, feta, mozzarella, brie, and blue cheese made from goat or sheep milk. There are two varieties of goat cheddar that strangely don't agree with me (Trader Joe's and Woolwich), so always try anything new on a day off, just in case.

Swiss emmentaler and gruyere

Unique from Belgium or French varieties, Swiss emmentaler/gruyere is the only variety of emmentaler made from raw, unpasteurized cow milk.

Parmeggiano reggiano

Yup, that's right - make sure to get this exact variety, made with unpasteurized cow milk, and go crazy dressing up your (gluten free) pasta again! 

Raw, unpasteurized cow milk

 I suspect this critical ingredient is what renders swiss emmentaler, gruyere, and parmeggiano reggiano lactose free. Apparently pasteurization kills the active enzymes in milk that help digest the troubling lactose. Yay for french onion soup again!

Aged cheeses? 

While I've been told by several cheese mongers that the aging process kills the lactose, traces may still remain, and I've had mostly no luck tolerating aged cheeses. I've tried ones aged a few months to a couple years, finding none that are safe. Beware of relying solely on the "aged" characteristic to render a cheese "lactose-free".

Happy tasting and eating, y'all!


  1. Happy new year! Awesome post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, PrajK! Glad to know someone's reading :)

    2. Thank you for doing the leg work and creating this very helpful post. I'm in the same boat: gluten and lactose-free works best. I tried the Swiss Emmentaler cheese over the weekend with some sweet green grapes and enjoyed it so much! A great find this summer! :)

    3. Dear Suzette, so glad to hear the cheese worked for you! Cheers to summer indeed :)


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