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Some stores are charging more for white American cheese than the standard yellow that has been a mainstay of grilled cheese sandwiches for decades. Guess what the difference is? Yup, food coloring. So, they charge more to leave out the food coloring? What's up with that? Apparently it is more popular in the Northeast areas of the US. Some say because it at least looks like mozzarella (pictured) or provolone.

Sure American cheese is processed with lots of preservatives and emulsifiers to make them melt easily, but white or orange, they both taste the same. Why pay more?

Instead of riding the processed train, delve into some real cheeses, along with some great cheese recipes

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Mozzarella Cheese Photo © 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.


July 19, 2006 at 1:40 pm
(1) clyde billows says:

Oh contraire – there is a huge difference between white American cheese and the yellow kind. Yellow or orange American slices seem to have an imitation or processed flavor along the lines of non-deli plastic packaged slices. White American deli slices have a fresher and crisper taste, which it to say they are less mushy. Also, when melted in eggs, cheese steaks or on top of burgers, there is a much better texture and unsullied flavor of cheesy splendor.

September 17, 2006 at 11:11 am
(2) Jerry Zella says:

You are totally wrong, white american has a very different flavor than yellow american. I’m talking about deli white american, not Kraft, and I’ve NEVER seen a deli block that didn’t come from Wisconsin.

March 23, 2007 at 4:02 am
(3) Mike says:

I grew up in Philadelphia eating white American cheese. Now living in Chicago has me missing it terribly!

March 23, 2007 at 8:42 am
(4) Peggy - Home Cooking says:

I’m surprised you can’t find it in Chicago, Mike. Have you checked around the markets or are you speaking of just general use in restaurants?

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April 21, 2007 at 10:27 pm
(5) Kim says:

I don’t care if white am cheese costs a million dollars. I’m origionally from DE and currently living in GA. I can’t find it. I want my white cheese!!!!

June 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm
(6) hope says:

go to Publics they got it there

May 1, 2007 at 11:24 pm
(7) Dan Funk says:

For those of you who live in the Chicago Area:

GFS Marketplace in Villa Park carries a bulk pack of White American Cheese.

January 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm
(8) Rita says:

I work in a deli. I’ve eaten both white American cheese and yellow American cheese from our deli (both Kroger brand and Land o Lakes.) There’s no difference. They taste exactly the same. One time we even had a blind taste test in our deli and no one could taste the difference. All the ingredients are exactly the same except food coloring for yellow. If you think that yellow and white American cheese from the Deli have different tastes, you’re deluding yourself into thinking you’re buying a superior product.

February 17, 2009 at 3:02 am
(9) Diz says:

You all need to get a grip! White american cheese is still American cheese which is ALL processed cheap flavourless rubberised garbage! You need to get a passport and discover some real cheese like a vintage cheddar or a good blue stilton, they are real flavoursome cheeses made traditionally and used for more than just lining an ecoli burger. Rant over!

March 24, 2009 at 1:34 pm
(10) Tarha says:

I was born in the Philly area and grew up on white american deli cheese. It was cheap and good. I’ve never tried yellow american cheese from the deli. It’s just instinct to ask for white america. What is up with Chicago not having white american cheese??!! I live in Florida and it’s available at EVERY grocery store or hoagie/sub place.

I’ll take the creamy yummy-ness of American cheese over stinky expensive European cheese anyday!!!

June 4, 2009 at 11:39 pm
(11) mjk says:

I live in Philadelphia. You don’t even need to specify color at the deli. You will get white. It is actually a yellowish white, but not the type referred to as yellow. I never even thought about this until I went to school just three hours away in central Pennsylvania.

September 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm
(12) Vickie E. says:

I grew up in the Reading area – now I’m in Florida and boy, am I missing my Clearfield American Cheese – even New Yorker Cheese will do, but forget it! Don’t even begin to look for Lebanon Bologna, sweet, or honey – we don’t realize how lucky we are to have all these choices at every Pennsylvania grocery store deli. At least they finally got Land O Lakes American, which is better than sticky old white or yellow!

December 1, 2011 at 6:17 am
(13) Laura says:

I grew up in the South and have always had Lebanon Bologna. It’s available at Publix and Kroger, really all you have to do is go to a grocery store deli. Also, Land O’ Lakes DISGUSTING dairy products have also always been available. Maybe you’re living in the sticks?!

September 30, 2009 at 3:01 am
(14) bigjohnweh says:

the only difference is pyschological, our brain makes a huge difference in our eating experience, be it visual (white am looks better on breakfast sandwiches, steak sandwiches, etc. if it looks better we think it is better, or a habitual difference, if you become accustomed to white, you think it is superior, the human brain has the power to make you taste, feel, see, hear whatever you think you should, when a different person will have a completely different experience. for instance, when i’m starving and I go to get a double quarter pounder, from Mcdonald’s if I had a long shift without eating yet, I think the cheese is so delicious, I will eat the little dabs that stick to the box, and love it, if I am at work, starving and we order in fresh sausage egg and cheese biscuits from the deli, and I didn’t well the day before, the white cheese they use taste so creamy and delicious, I clean the bits off the wrapper, but in bith instances, i’m just really hungry, it’s the same thing, think im bulls****ing, try white cheese on a cheeseburger, I bet it “taste” unusual, because you’ve always seen yellow on burgers, or at least way more often, and the colors are more complimentary

February 20, 2010 at 1:48 am
(15) GWSTB says:

Kim- where in GA are you? Our Kroger has Boar’s Head White American (the BEST tasting American cheese I have found!). Check upperscale grocery stores.

February 20, 2010 at 1:53 am
(16) GWSTB says:

Also, Rita… SOME brands don’t have any difference. But I promise that Boar’s Head white american tastes better than the yellow. I’m not sure what the difference is, but it has a stronger taste (maybe the food coloring dilutes the flavor somehow?) I bought the yellow thinking it’d taste the same and it definitely doesn’t.

April 15, 2010 at 4:11 pm
(17) Linda says:

Most Mexican restarants use the white american cheese, there is a huge difference in taste.

April 23, 2010 at 1:33 am
(18) Matthew says:

Ok, it’s already been stated, but white cheese does not taste better than yellow. For anyone who thinks differently, go to a grocery store, and pick up white and yellow American cheese of the same brand. Then do a blind taste test and see if you can really taste which one is which color… I will admit, some cheese brands do taste better than others. Boar’s Head especially, I love anything that they sell! Don’t fool yourselves, and there is no I hope that you realize that there is no point in forking over the extra money for white cheese when yellow is available.

July 22, 2010 at 1:29 am
(19) Brandon says:

I can’t argue the two colors taste different just because I think they taste different. But I will say I know for sure I’ve tasted a difference. It could be the brand. What I think it is is maybe the cheap cheese I’m buying is varying in how old/stale it is, and I alternate between the cheeses. So when I eat the occasional slice I always think it tastes different. I love american but it is definitely the worst kind of cheese.

July 22, 2010 at 4:42 am
(20) Peggy - Home Cooking says:

Brandon, thanks for your response. You brought up some very valid points.

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August 8, 2010 at 4:58 am
(21) Melly says:

I use to work in a place that makes cheese. The only thing different is the lack of dye!!!!

August 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm
(22) Cathy says:

I for one, agree 100% with Peggy — forget the processed train and use the real stuff!!

September 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm
(23) LEE says:

I work in a deli. White or yellow (orange), it’s the same thing. Yellow is to add color to burgers or grilled sandwiches, and the like.

September 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm
(24) Lynn says:

Even if the only difference is psychological, and even if American Cheese is barely cheese, on a cold rainy day, there’s nothing better than a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup.

The cheese is American Cheese.
The bread is white bread. (Even if I always eat wheat for all other purposes.)

There’s something to be said about psychology. :)

And even if the crap American Cheese is full of oil and emulsifiers and whatnot, leaving out the dye is leaving out ONE ingredient that I just don’t need.

If it adds NOTHING to the taste, why add it?

December 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm
(25) Andrew says:

@Linda (15): The white cheese they use in Mexican restaurants is not American Cheese; It’s either Queso Blanco (which is a standard white Mexican cheese) or Oaxaca Cheese (which is a delicious and also white Mexican cheese).

April 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm
(26) MdashR says:

“I grew up in Philadelphia eating white American cheese. Now living in Chicago has me missing it terribly!”

In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys, they were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighbourhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
And said “You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-air!

April 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm
(27) Randy says:

Check the process/mixture of both of those mexican cheeses, you will come up with white American cheese (both the Mexican cheeses only have small differences, and almost the same taste)

Peggy is right on the cheeses being the same, but thats for packaged American cheeses, the only difference in packaged American yellow vs white is food coloring.
as for deli American cheeses, they’re not even similar to packaged, therefore irrelevant to this article.

February 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm
(28) Roger That says:

Thanks! I have been wondering about that for quite some time. Hopefully, one of them is not as processed as regular white american cheese.
Andrew says:
@Linda (15): The white cheese they use in Mexican restaurants is not American Cheese; It’s either Queso Blanco (which is a standard white Mexican cheese) or Oaxaca Cheese (which is a delicious and also white Mexican cheese).

July 1, 2012 at 7:59 pm
(29) jc says:

I don’t agree that they taste the same, at all. I bet I could identify the difference in a blind taste test, especially if they use “good’ brands. The stuff that is all oil is just disgusting, not even cheese of any kind. I think the yellow color is annatto (which is a seed) and I think it does have a distinctive flavor. This is unless they use those ground insects that color some orange things (I do not know what this is called, but it exists). I do think there is a BIG difference. Brands..Clearfield is great. Land o Lakes, I think, is pretty good too. Oddly enough, I can eat a Buger king sandwich and not mind the yellow cheese probably not cause it tastes good, but because I can only taste it to a limited degree. It is weird, but there are differences in taste, IMO.

September 24, 2012 at 11:48 am
(30) diablojd52 says:

Some of the companies like Kraft also make a synthetic ultra processed prepackaged white cheese now and call it American Cheese. Heck that crap should be allowed to be called cheese. Sure it melts nicely into a grilled cheese but so does real American cheese. Oh and as to the cost….of course REAL cheese costs more than that fake oil based product that Kraft calls cheese.

January 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm
(31) Virginia says:

The best white American cheese is by Land O’ Lakes

February 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm
(32) Craig Hughes says:

I have to laugh when yellow dyed american cheese is called standard or regular. Although it might be for some, or most, it’s still funny. When I moved west from eastern Pennsylvania to the Pittsburgh region it was the first time I ever saw yellow american cheese for sale. As I moved even farther west to Ohio I found that white American was harder to find and more expensive when found. When it comes to “real” American cheese, or the better brands like Land o’ Lakes there is definitely a difference in taste and the white is creamier. In the lesser quality brands I can detect no difference, they’re both pretty bad. When given a choice I always go with white. If no choice, buy less and hope to find the white somewhere else.

April 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm
(33) Edward Henry says:

If you grew up “back east” you will know there is a big taste difference between white american and yellow american cheese, Period!

June 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm
(34) tk says:

Another philly guy now living in the midwest. I was a die hard clearfield white american fan in pennsylvania. I just cant stomach the yellow american here in the midwest, but I found some ok alternatives. I actually like the land o lakes white from walmart, and when in a crunch i’ll buy the boars head white american. The boars head is way over priced, but like I said works in a pinch. Now if i can find some sweet lebanon bologna I”ll be happy!

June 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm
(35) Nicole says:

I’m originally from southern Jersey, but lived most of my life in Florida (Tampa). I grew up on both white and yellow american and like both, as long as they are from a decent brand. I agree that it is a very psychological thing to northerners to buy white, and for everyone to put yellow on grilled cheese or burgers just because it’s embedded in our minds as standard. It’s comparable to paining a school bus green instead of yellow, or a wagon purple instead of red, same thing. The two cheeses are made exactly the same and even together, the only difference is the additive of flavorless food coloring before packaging. However, ALL american cheeses are incredibly unhealthy. I usually buy the white if it is the same price (and brand), but I might buy the yellow if it is running cheaper. I can understand yellow being cheaper because they have to compete with dumb monopoly gooey and over-processed brands like Kraft. But seriously buy white and yellow amerian of the same brand and have a friend help you do a blind taste test to see if you can taste the difference (or if you just make a lucky guess).

July 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm
(36) MikeO says:

To the author, if any reason we in the northeast prefer the white, My wife and I think, it’s because yellow can never be trusted. White means that someone bought cheese. Yellow means they bought pasteurized cheese product, like velveeta, or worse.
To Diz, it’s hard not to get an attitude towards folks like you. This is the type of response I tend to feel when someone attempts to belittle me, like you did in your posts…You probably call yourself a “foodie,” because everything in your life is about trends, and you are too lazy to actually educate yourself, and learn actual words, like “epicurean.” Certainly, cheeses like stilton are amazing. But, they are terribly rich. Many folks seem to have incredibly efficient digestive tracks, and eat very little. For me, my brothers and Dad, and many friends, in a full day of exertion, dietary needs will increase to about 4000 calories a day. And mind you, I’m 6 foot even, 175 pounds, with a 34 inch waste–not big, or overweight, by any measure. And what a shame, nobody loved you, nobody cooked comfort foods for you: you don’t know the beauty of simple beef stew, or mac and cheese made with real cheese, and the elbows not over cooked so the whole thing comes out as rubber. You probably turn your nose up at a tuna sandwich, as you’ve never had one made with real mayo, on a cheap rye, with fresh ground pepper, chopped celery, salt, garlic and onion powder, and completely smothered in pickles and potato chips. You think egg salad sandwiches are gross because you’ve never eaten one right after the eggs are peeled, never having seen the refrigerator, made on Portugese, or Arthur Avenue Italian bread. Woe is you, you’ve missed American cuisine altogether.

July 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm
(37) MikeO says:

My wife and I like Boar’s Head White American, when we choose American Cheese (we eat a lot of Provolone, bought from the Italians at the corner deli. But, it’s hard for us to order it, as we grew up ordering “a-pound-of-Land-O’Lakes-White-American-sliced-paper-thin” like it was one word).
Cheers all. Thanks for settling this mystery for us. It was fun to see the perspectives from around the country.
By the way, we just had lunch. I took a couple of sesame grinder rolls, fresh from Arthur Ave yesterday morning, sliced off the top and bottom crust (set aside for bruschetta), buttered lightly, sliced in half. In airy folds, open face, slices of imported ham, Capicola, Sopressata, Prosciutto, with a couple of forkfuls of hot pepper relish, and some slices of provolone interspersed and on top. Into the oven at 350, until the butter fries the bread crispy and the cheese melts. Close the Sandwich, and slice into 2″ peices so the goodness doesn’t squeeze out while you eat it. On the side, some nice greens, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, some fresh ground pepper, and italian seasoning. It was decadent.

September 27, 2013 at 12:13 am
(38) Marty says:

The difference is a chemical called Annatto. It’s an extract that provides a yellow color without changing the flavor significantly. There is no cheese on this planet that has the natural color of a pumpkin. Do a little research on the difference between white and yellow cheddar. The flavor difference is nothing more than hallucination.

January 19, 2014 at 6:24 am
(39) Michelle says:

Actually a ton of “Mexican” restaurants use LAND O LAKES® Extra Melt® American Cheese…I’ve seen the purchase orders.

Andrew says:
@Linda (15): The white cheese they use in Mexican restaurants is not American Cheese; It’s either Queso Blanco (which is a standard white Mexican cheese) or Oaxaca Cheese (which is a delicious and also white Mexican cheese).

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