Why is Cheddar Cheese Orange?

Why is cheddar cheese orange?

It's one of those why-did-I-never-think-of-this-before questions that can come out of nowhere: "Why is cheddar cheese orange? Cheddar cheese is made with cow's milk, isn't it? And cow's milk is white, right? So, orange cheddar cheese – I mean, what's up with that?"

Fortunately, it's a simple answer. Why is cheddar cheese orange? Because cheesemakers add orange coloring during the cheesemaking process. It's the result of hundreds of years of tradition, dating back to the time when cheddar cheese in England was made with milk from cows whose beta-carotene-rich diet produced an orange tint in the milk. Today, orange cheddar cheese is colored with annatto, the fruit of the achiote tree, while white cheddar is made without any added color.

Here in Wisconsin, we asked and answered the "why is cheddar cheese orange?" question long ago. (We think about cheese a lot.) Today, we're more likely to ask questions like "Where did I leave my cheddar cheese?" Or "How can aged white cheddar be this freaking good?" Or "Could I have cheddar cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, please?" Those are the obvious questions when your cheesemakers make the tastiest, highest-quality cheese in the world. And having won more awards for our cheese than any other state or country on earth, there's really no question about that.

Pairing your white or orange cheddar cheese

Whether you're pairing white or orange cheddar cheese, it's the age and sharpness of the cheese that will determine the best beer, wine, or liquor to match up with your chunk of cheddar.

Milder cheddars are an easy-going cheese and can pair with almost anything. For beer, try a pale ale, lager, or pilsner. White wines are great with mild cheddars – chardonnay, pinot gris, or rose will always be a pleaser. For red wine, try a pinot noir or merlot pairing. And if you're drinking stronger stuff, rye whiskey or a tequila reposado will do the trick.

Aged cheddars will want drinks that match their sharp flavors or beverages that provide a sweet contrast. In red wine, try a chianti, cabernet, or malbec wine pairing. Aged cheddars also do nicely with whites like riesling, chardonnay, and champagne. If you're in the mood for beer, a saison ale, cider, or Belgian ale will add a touch of sweetness to the pairing. And a bourbon, single malt scotch, or a sweet port will make a great after-dinner pairing.

Videos: Discover Your Next Favorite Cheese

FAQs: Why is cheddar cheese orange or white?

Why is cheddar cheese orange or white?

When cheddar cheese was originally produced centuries ago in England, it had an orange tint thanks to the type of grass eaten by the cows that supplied the milk for the cheese. The orange color came to be associated with cheddar cheese, and cheesemakers have been adding pigment to the cheese ever since. There is no discernible flavor difference between orange or white cheddar cheese.

How is cheddar cheese made?

Cheddar cheese starts off much the same way as other cheeses – where rennet is added to the milk to separate the curds from whey. It's after the curds are separated that cheesemakers use a special process called cheddaring to create cheddar cheese. The curds are formed into large slabs, stacked on top of each other, and flipped over and over again to release more away and created denser curd. Eventually, the slabs are milled to make smaller curds which are pressed into molds where the cheese will drain and be left to age for 3 to 24 months.

Why is orange cheddar cheese better in Wisconsin?

If cheese lovers dream of orange cheddar cheese, orange cheddar dreams of Wisconsin. That's because every little chunk of cheddar knows that when you've been made in Wisconsin, you've really made it big. Wisconsin is where master cheesemakers learn their trade, and where they rack up more awards for cheesemaking than any other state in the country or country in the world.

How did Wisconsin come to be the unofficial cheese capital of the planet? That's what happens when a whole state is dedicated to making the best cheese in the world. And to making more flavors, styles, and varieties of cheese than anywhere else.

So, when you're dreaming of out-of-this-world orange cheddar, just look for a Proudly Wisconsin Cheese badge on the label. Wisconsin cheesemakers are just happy to make your dreams come true.

Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?

Back to Categories

Wisconsin Cheese Feed

Check out the world’s largest cheese platform.

Join our
ever-expanding Cheese Feeds:

View our Current Issue

View Now