Using Cheddar Cheese in Mac and Cheese

If I were stranded on an island with only one cheese for the rest of my life, I would hands down choose cheddar cheese. It’s a versatile cheese that pairs beautifully with a variety of cheeses. It’s the cheese you picture when I ask you to imagine a piece of cheese and one of the most ubiquitous cheeses.

What is cheddar cheese

Cheddar is a hard cheese that ranges from white to orange in color. The texture of this cheese varies on the age of the cheese. Longer aged cheddar will pick up a crumbly texture and sharper flavor, while younger cheeses are smoother and more mild.

What is the difference between orange and white cheddar?

Today, cheddar cheese is naturally yellow or white. However, to achieve that classic orange color they follow a centuries old tradition. When cheese makers began selling cheese, there was a lot of variety in the color of the cheese they offered based on the quality of milk they used in the cheese making process. In order to combat that and have a uniform color, they began to add a naturally occurring dye. Annatto is a flavorless dye that is derived from the seed of the achiote tree.

The orange coloring has no impact on the flavor or quality of cheese, and white cheddar has become more of a buzzword than anything else.

What are the different ages of cheddar?

There are four ages of cheddar cheese.

  • Mild (aged 1-3 months)
  • Semi-sharp (aged 3-6 months)
  • Sharp or Mature (aged 6-12 months)
  • Vintage (aged 12-24 months)

Mac and Cheese Pairing Guide

When you take a bite of cheese, pay attention to where the flavor hits you. Sometimes the flavor takes a few seconds to build. These are what I call “closer cheeses”. Other cheeses immediately open up with flavor. These are “opener cheeses”. Well rounded mac and cheese dishes make use of both opener and closer cheeses.

Most cheddars are opener cheeses. However, pay attention to the age of your cheese. Somewhere between Sharp and Vintage your cheese will cross into the closer side. You’re relatively safe assuming your cheese is an opener and planning your closer cheeses accordingly, but always taste your cheese before committing to a pairing to ensure your dish will be presentable.

Where to Buy Cheddar

Note: This article contains affiliate links to products that I love and use to make mac and cheese in my own kitchen. When you click links here and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my Affiliate Link Policy here.

Cheddar Mac and Cheese Recipes

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