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What is American Cheese?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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American cheese in its most common form is a blend of milk, milk fats and solids, with other fats and whey protein concentrates. Although loved by many children (and adults) as a snack or in grilled cheese sandwiches, it is not usually considered "cheese," except by legal definition. All the ingredients do meet the legal definition of cheese, although the final result is typically more cheese-like. This is why many products bear the name "cheese product" or "cheese food" on the packaging.

When it was first developed, American cheese was a blend of Colby and cheddar cheeses. These varieties were most popular in America, where the particular blend was invented. The cheese then was sold in blocks in delis and supermarkets, where it was often was preferred because of its mild flavor.

With the surge in popularity of convenience foods in the 1950s, it is not surprising that processed cheese slices were first commercially available during this decade. This processed cheese soon took the name "American" and the product as it is known today was born. "American cheese" does have a specific definition as a pasteurized process cheese, in fact.

This cheese was first popular because it melted smoothly and didn't separate when heated, as cheddar tends to. This made is a good choice for use on grilled cheese sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and for use in dips and spreads. It still maintains those properties, and most people are familiar with Ro*tel® cheese dip, which uses pasteurized process cheese and tomatoes with chiles. Kept warm in a slow cooker, this cheese dip is probably one of the most popular hot dips nationwide.

American cheese has its critics, for its fat and sodium content, colorings, and other additives. It is, after all, made from the remnants of "real" cheese-making. It is high in calcium and protein, however, and is still a good way for parents to make sure their picky eaters get some kind of variety in their diets. Although disrespected by many, the cheese has a place in American eating and cooking.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at DelightedCooking. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon929180 — On Jan 30, 2014

Bottom line is to check the package description. if it is American Cheese then it is the good stuff. American Cheese food or American Cheese product or American alices are not so good. Compare the ingredients! Any cheese product that has soybean oil in it is not good. Soy products are another story. Only eat soy that has been fermented. Real American Cheese is good!

By anon326266 — On Mar 20, 2013

I just received a response from Kraft to my question:

Has Kraft stopped making the 1 lb. Deluxe American Cheese loaf. I grew up with it and still had it as an essential part of my diet. It tastes better and is cheaper than the individually wrapped slices.

Answer: Thank you for visiting kraftfoods website and for your interest in KRAFT® Deluxe American Pasteurized Process American Cheese.

It's great to hear from consumers who are looking for our products because it lets us know how much you enjoy them. The tough part comes when we have to share the news that the product you're trying to find has been discontinued.

If products don't seem to be popular with our consumers, and demand starts to drop, a decision is made to discontinue the item. Once this decision is made, we stop making the product and the remaining supply is shipped from our warehouse to the grocery stores.

At this time there are no plans to bring back our discontinued products, but we are always cooking up something new to help you live and eat better so you may discover a new favorite!

Again, thanks for contacting us, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Kim McMiller

Associate Director, Consumer Relations

No more blocks of Kraft American Cheese!

By anon257357 — On Mar 26, 2012

I recently made sandwiches for a customer using the Sysco Brand of American Cheese purchased from Sysco Foods. I specifically put the cheese on a vegetable sandwich, then I put cream cheese, then sliced red onions, avocado slices, cucumbers, then sprouts then american cheese. The american cheese completely melted to the point of running out of the bread and on the the plastic wrap and the outside of the bread.

I am completely puzzled by this and am wondering if you have ever heard of it before? These were cold sandwiches and this happened to all of them (115). Thank you for your advice.

By gayle389 — On May 25, 2011

Does anyone know what I can use instead of American Cheese? I live in Canada, and no one here carries it. I have checked in delis and specialty cheese shops, and no one even knows what it is. Thank you.

By anon108765 — On Sep 04, 2010

How could you people be talking about kraft being the brand? makers of cheez-whiz and velveeta. those products are nasty as is the deli slices. it's not even "cheese". It has to be called "pasteurized process cheese" or "cheese food."

By anon98701 — On Jul 23, 2010

American cheese from the deli case is really good. It is a blend of cheddar and colby. Its almost...buttery.

American cheese singles, the kind individually wrapped in plastic, is a processed cheese food.

If you get the sliced but not individually wrapped variety of American cheese then you are buying real cheese. Not a cheese food.

Either is good in grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, on hamburgers, and a slice will definitely improve Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

But for sandwiches I don't really care for the wrapped singles. American cheese either sliced in the deli or in the dairy case is good on a sandwich, like turkey or ham, is good with crackers, or with a crusty bread. You can also shred it or melt it for nachos or tacos, as a substitute for cheddar.

I find the American cheese in the deli at my supermarket is the best tasting. But I also like the sliced Kraft singles which are not individually wrapped too.

American cheese snobs are losing out by not looking past the limits of the individually wrapped American cheese processed cheese food slice.

I love me some cheddar, but in some recipes it's just not as creamy and smooth as real American Cheese. Real American cheese is very tasty, and you should be embracing it and standing up to the derision from the old country. lol. Put our cheese where their mouth is. I'd like to see a blind taste test.

By GardenTurtle — On Jul 15, 2010

@nightlights: I completely agree with you. I have bought off brand cheese and it tasted like wax. It had no flavor to it and would hardly melt. I have since decided not to skimp on cheese! I only buy Kraft now!

By nightlights — On Jan 31, 2010

The first version of American cheese (colby/cheddar blend) sounds good, the modern version is not.

If you still want sliced American cheese, avoid the cheaper brands and the generic brands altogether. Spend the extra money and get the Kraft or even Borden brand, the difference is surprising and worth the extra dollars!

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at DelightedCooking...
Learn more
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