What Is the Difference between American and Cheddar Cheese?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/06/2024

People often have trouble distinguishing the difference between American and cheddar cheese. While these two cheeses are similar in color and appearance, they are incredibly different in other ways. 

So, what is the difference between American and cheddar cheese? The most important difference is that cheddar cheese is real cheese, and American cheese isn’t cheese at all.

Learn about the key differences between American and cheddar cheese. 

American cheese vs cheddar cheese

Are American and cheddar cheese the same? 

American cheese and cheddar cheese have several important differences. Cheddar cheese is “real cheese” made of 100% cow’s milk. American cheese isn’t actually considered cheese.

If you check the label on American cheese, you’ll notice that it’s referred to as a pasteurized cheese product. In order for a product to be considered cheese, it needs to be at least 51% real cheese. American cheese does not qualify under this parameter, so it is classified instead as a cheese product.

yellow and white cheddar

What is cheddar cheese?

Cheddar cheese is natural cheese made from 100% cow’s milk. The process of cheddar-making is similar to the production of other popular cheeses.

First, milk is heated with enzymes known as rennet, which causes the milk to coagulate into cheese curds. The cheese curds are then separated from the whey and stacked into blocks for aging through a process known as cheddaring. 

Cheddar is a sharp-tasting cheese but can also be found in medium and mild forms. It’s a very diverse cheese and comes in yellow, white, and aged varieties. Aged cheddar has a more robust flavor, while yellow cheddar and white cheddar have similar flavor profiles.  

grilled cheese sandwich

What is American cheese?

American cheese is a processed cheese product with a mild flavor and is one of the most popular options used to make grilled cheese sandwiches. It has a slightly salty flavor due to the added salt content from sodium chloride—not to be confused with a healthier salt like sea salt. 

American cheese is made from unfermented dairy and several other questionable ingredients, including the following:

  • Modified food starch/monosodium glutamate (MSG)

  • Natamycin–a mold inhibitor banned by Whole Foods

  • Trisodium phosphate–cleaner/stain remover

  • Soy and canola oil

  • Synthetic vitamins

  • Artificial food coloring

  • Tartrate–an emulsifier known to cause diarrhea 

American cheese also contains the emulsifier sodium phosphate, which is often found in medications associated with kidney damage. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, oral sodium phosphate is associated with acute kidney injury.

Because American cheese is made using whey proteins from cow’s milk, it’s incredibly high on the insulin index. Whey is high in protein and low in fat, which causes a significant spike in insulin. 

Learn more about American cheese in this video. 

What is the difference between American and cheddar cheese?

American cheese and cheddar cheese may look similar, but they are actually very different. Aside from the difference in how they are made, there are a few key characteristics that distinguish the two products.

Nutritional content

American cheese nutrition facts (one slice):

  • 60 calories 

  • 4 g total fat 

  • 2 g carbohydrates

  • 2 g sugar

  • 4 g protein

Cheddar cheese nutrition facts (one ounce):

  • 113 calories

  • 9 g total fat

  • 0.4 g carbohydrates

  • 0.1 g sugar

  • 7 g protein


American cheese has a milder taste compared to the sharper flavor of cheddar cheese. There are two varieties of American cheese: yellow and white. Both cheeses have a similar flavor profile, although white American cheese is often considered milder and a bit saltier. 

Cheddar cheese is a very diverse cheese with a flavor profile that varies depending on the type of cheddar cheese you’re getting. There’s either mild, medium, or sharp cheddar, and it can also be yellow or white. 

Cheddar cheese is often aged, which results in a sharper flavor. 


American cheese melts easily and is known for its creamy texture. Cheddar cheese has a firmer texture and is usually sliced, shredded, or grated before use.

Aged cheddar has a harder and more crumbly texture.

Melting point

American cheese has a much lower melting point than cheddar cheese. It has a softer, creamier texture, so it melts easily on sandwiches or burgers. 

Cheddar cheese has a higher melting point, but it’s still able to melt evenly with a uniform texture.  

Cooking uses

American cheese is most commonly used for sandwiches and subs, especially grilled cheese sandwiches and cheeseburgers. It’s also a popular choice for melted cheese dips.

Cheddar cheese is often used in pasta dishes like macaroni and cheese and is even used in baked goods and breads. 


Cheddar cheese originated in England—however, some historians believe its origin is traced back to the Roman Empire. 

Despite its name, American cheese actually originated in Switzerland in the early 20th century. 


American cheese is made by blending unfermented dairy products, whey, and several other emulsifiers and preservatives. It’s then sliced and wrapped individually. 

Cheddar cheese goes through a unique process known as cheddaring. This process involves stacking cheese curds to remove excess moisture. This process also works to acidify the cheese, creating a unique flavor and texture.

Shelf life

American cheese has a relatively long shelf life, which is one of the reasons it became so popular in the first place. Unopened in the refrigerator, American cheese can last for about six months.

Cheddar cheese has a shorter shelf life than American cheese because it isn’t loaded with preservatives. Unopened cheddar cheese can be stored in the fridge for around 4 to 6 months. Once opened, cheddar cheese is good in the fridge for around 3 to 4 weeks. 


Generally speaking, both cheeses can be found at very affordable prices. Deli American cheese is typically more expensive.

High-quality cheddar and aged varieties are also more expensive.

Which is healthier, cheddar or American cheese?

American cheese is a processed cheese product and is not the healthiest option for cheese. It contains several additives that have been linked to health problems and offers limited nutritional benefits. 

Cheddar cheese is a much better choice. 100% grass-fed organic cheddar is the healthiest option.

Are American cheese and cheddar cheese keto-friendly?

Cheddar cheese contains zero grams of sugar per cup, so it’s keto-approved. The longer cheddar is aged, the less sugar it contains. Cheddar can be used in many keto-friendly cheese dishes like these delicious cheddar biscuits.

American cheese is not a keto-friendly cheese. It contains ingredients that are a poor choice for a Healthy Keto® diet and is also high on the insulin index.

processed cheese slices

How much American and cheddar cheese can you have on keto?

Cheddar cheese is a tasty addition to a keto diet and can be consumed in moderation. It contains around 0.4 grams of carbohydrates per ounce, so you can enjoy cheddar and remain comfortably in ketosis. 

Keeping your cheese consumption at a moderate level is also a good idea for digestion. “Some people get constipated if they consume too much cheese,” Dr. Berg explains, “so 3 to 4 ounces per meal is great.”

American cheese should not be consumed on keto, because the insulin spike it can cause is not keto-friendly and will prevent you from remaining in a state of ketosis. 

Health benefits of real cheese 

Natural cheeses like grass-fed organic raw milk cheese or goat cheese are much healthier options with several nutritional benefits.  Real cheese contains high amounts of bioavailable calcium and vitamin k2—which is very important for the transportation of calcium. 

Real cheese is also an excellent source of the following:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (CLA, DHA, EPA, ALA)

  • Protein 

  • B vitamins

Moderate amounts of cheese can be helpful for digestion due to fermentation. It’s also tolerated better than other dairy sources due to the breakdown of lactose. Avoid low-fat cheese and look for cheese made with whole milk.

natural cheese

Key takeaways

When comparing the difference between American and cheddar cheeses, it’s clear that cheddar cheese is better for keto and also the far healthier choice overall. American cheese is artificially processed, full of unhealthy preservatives, and unsuitable for keto. 

Real cheeses like cheddar cheese provide you with fat-soluble vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and B vitamins. Opt for the healthier choice and avoid American cheese.


1. Which is better, American or cheddar cheese? 

When comparing American cheese to cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese is always a better option. Cheddar cheese is actually real cheese, while American cheese is actually only considered a cheese product as it is not even 51% cheese.

Real cheese has several health benefits and provides the body with important vitamins and minerals.

2. Is American cheese the same as cheddar cheese?

No, cheddar cheese is 100% real cheese. Cheddar cheese has a sharper taste and is much healthier than American cheese.

3. Is deli American cheese real cheese?

Deli American cheese slices typically contain 51% cheese, so they can be called cheese. It has a firmer texture and more robust flavor than standard American cheese slices.

It’s important to remember that deli American cheese is still a processed cheese and contains many additives and unhealthy ingredients.

4. Is cheddar cheese keto-friendly?

Absolutely, cheddar cheese contains around 0.4 grams of carbohydrates per ounce. Aged cheddar cheese contains even less so it is also a viable option for someone following the keto diet.

5. Is American cheese keto-friendly?

American cheese contains sugar and is heavily processed, so it’s best avoided on a keto diet. There are plenty of other cheeses with higher nutritional value that are 100% keto-approved. 

6. How much cheddar cheese can I have on keto?

Cheddar cheese is an excellent food to enjoy in moderation on keto. Try to keep your cheese consumption at around 3 to 4 ounces per meal on the keto diet. 

7. How much American cheese can I have on keto?

You should not have American cheese on keto as it can spike insulin. There are many healthier cheese options suitable for a ketogenic diet, including cheddar cheese. 

8. Is American cheese ultra-processed? 

Yes, American cheese is actually considered a processed cheese product, not cheese. Real cheese must contain at least 51% cheese, and American cheese does not meet this requirement.

9. Which melts faster, American cheese or cheddar cheese? 

Creamy processed cheese, like American cheese, melts faster than natural cheese, like cheddar cheese. Although it takes a little longer to melt, cheddar cheese will still melt uniformly and with a creamy texture, making it a preferable option to American cheese.

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