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Dec 4, 2006 10:59 PM

Lactose Free Cheeses: Do They Exist?

Has any chowhound heard of lactose free cheese, or where to find such an unlikely item? It seems with so many people being lactose intolerant, and and cheese being so beloved and ubiquitous - there must be some lactose free cheeses available somewhere.

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  1. Most cheeses are lactose free. 98% of the lactose is drained out with the whey and the remaining 2% is consumed in the fermentation process. So most hard or aged cheeses do not contain lactose and can be eaten with abandon by those who are intolerant.

    Here is a link:

    If you scroll down to the bottom there is a list of several cheeses which do not contain lactose, such as cheddar, colby, parmesan, swiss etc

    2 Replies
    1. re: hrhboo

      I agree. Hard cheese by it's nature is near lactose free or has so little that it is not an issue for most people. Here is a site that list the % of lactose in dairy products

      Some people have a problem with dairy but it's not lactose related. My MIL gets stomach problems when eating cheese but can eat ice cream. Go figure.

      1. re: hrhboo

        Actually the vast majority of cheese contains lactose. All mammalian milk contain lactose. Hard, old cheeses beyond 18 months generally are lactose free due to the action of microorganisms. Same goes for certain types of cultures. Finlandia makes some soft commercial cheeses that are lactose free.

      2. If you live in a place where Trader Joe's has moved in, they have yogurt cheese, which I'm pretty sure says "lactose-free" on the package. Whole Foods or any other health-oriented market will probably have it too.

        1. Yes, they certainly do exist in droves. Here in the SF bay area, most any gourmet, health food, or high end grocery store has them. They are rubbery, taste awful, and you cannot cook with them or use them as a substitute in recipes that use regular cheese.

          I am lactose intolerant, but never have problems with cheese. Most of the lactose, or milk sugar, remains in the whey that is drained off of the curds during the cheese making process.

          35 Replies
          1. re: jerry i h

            It's terrible that anyone would create such an awful product and market it as lactose-free when so many fine cheeses do not contain lactose.

            1. re: hrhboo

              It's even worse that people who are lactose intolerant are not advised by whatever health-care professional diagnosed them that most cheeses are lactose free!

              1. re: galleygirl

                That's because health care professionals, in general, tend to have a terror of fats, and cheeses are, basically, fat. They don't want people eating fat. Ever. At all. ;)

                At least that's the impression I've gotten from our dietitian over the years. :)

                1. re: Morganna

                  I'm new here, and newly lactose-intolerant too. University education in microbiology and 3 years experience in science education including teaching about how cheeses and yogurts are made. With all due respect, be careful when telling people who are lactose intolerant to go right ahead and eat aged cheeses because they contain essentially no lactose - unfortunately, that's not quite accurate. People like me who are diagnosed with absolutely zero lactase activity, i.e., completely intolerant, may not be able to eat any kind of dairy product unless it's been subjected to an enzymatic process that predigests lactose into galactose and glucose.

                  I've also been to see a dietitian and she strongly encouraged me to look for lactose free cheeses and milk because despite the fat content, these are excellent sources of protein, especially for vegetarians like me.

                  I've been able to find l'Ancetre brand lactose-free cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar) and Springbank Cheese Company (here in Calgary, Alberta) makes lactose-free lappi, havarti and gouda. I can't taste the difference, price is not that much higher, and my tummy is happy! We can also buy Beatrice and Dairyland lactose-free milk and chocolate milk (about 1.50$ more per 2 litre carton) and sour cream (I forget the brand) in the grocery store. Now all I need to be complete is for Canada to import lactose-free Breyer's ice cream!

                  1. re: hoary bat

                    Basically, all you've managed to do is convince me that people should take advice on the internet with a grain of salt and do their own experimentation.

                    I don't think anyone here was suggesting they were a replacement for medical advice.

                    Unfortunately I have little actual research to cite to please you, but it has been my observation through talking to loads of people with varying degrees of lactose intolerance and checking out how these products are made (ie Cabot Cheddar says it IS lactose free, and that's part of the cheddaring process), that most semi-hard/aged cheeses have so little lactose that most lactose intolerant people don't have problems with them. Also, that most of the people who do have problems with these cheeses find that eating some lactase along with the cheese will resolve the issue.

                    This doesn't mean there aren't people who are so sensitive this won't work. And anyone who comes here for information about this sort of thing, who hasn't been told about how the cheddaring process actually removes the lactose from most cheddars deserves to know this and to have a chance to experiment on their own to see how well they tolerate them.

                    My husband is one who needs to take lactase, but that solves most issues. I am one who has next to no problem with any cheeses, even soft or fresh ones, I only react badly to milk and regular ice cream.

                    I don't know how new you are to online communications, but the winking smiley face at the end of my comment about health care professionals indicates I was joking/teasing. In this case it was more exaggerating for comic effect. Of course there are health care professionals who aren't lipophobic, I'm so pleased you've found one.

                    1. re: hoary bat

                      Wow, lactose-free sour cream? Anyone seen that in the NY area?

                      1. re: Up With Olives

                        You can buy Tofutti brand sour cream - it tastes exactly the same but has no dairy in it whatsoever.
                        ALSO: Cabot cheeses contain 0g of lactose!

                        1. re: ewisker

                          I love my better than sour cream, thank you tofutti! they also make a better than cream cheese product, but i haven't had it.
                          I buy Veggie Cheese - don't remember the maker. It is a soy/non lactose product and it 1. tastes good, 2. MELTS! which is a problem with a lot of other dairy free options. it also comes in a variety of flavors...

                          1. re: ewisker

                            Y'know, I basically revere all things lactic but I actually prefer Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream to the real thing as a garnish. Mind you, I wouldn't substitute it for in baked goods but it's lovely stuff on baked potatoes, black bean soup, nachos, etc. It has a very rich, satiny texture and tastes like sour cream but "cleaner," with a much less cloying mouthfeel. No creepy aftertaste, either. It's available at health food stores.

                            1. re: MacGuffin

                              I usually pick things like that up and then put them back after I read the label.

                              1. re: Up With Olives

                                Well, you're certainly entitled. Last I heard, there's no law forcing shoppers to purchase Tofutti products.

                        2. re: hoary bat

                          Hoary Bat, I also live in Calgary and would desperately love some lactose free sour cream and cheese (very severe intolerance like you). Can you please tell me where you have been buying them and product names if possible? Thanks so much!!!

                          1. re: hoary bat

                            Hi. Thanks for your post. Like you, I need ZERO lactose in my food.
                            So, I have to agree with your assessment... The results of others may vary. However, there's a reason why it says "0g of lactose per serving" on many packages of cheese.... Here in the US, the manufacturers of the cheese (cabot, kraft, cracker barrel, etc) would never say 'lactose free' unless they were certain of it or they would be sued. Yogurt cheese has worked out for me fairly well as has finlandia swiss and muenster. In fact, the finlandia cheeses aer probably some of the best lactose free cheeses I've had. Look at Finlandia's website for details:
                            I can't eat regular yougurt, or parmesan, etc. Nor can I eat cheese made from goat's milk (feta, chevre, reggiano) without taking lactase enzyme's (I still contend the lactaid is the best of the bunch, but again, YOUR mileage may vary).

                            Everyone's intestine's are different, so what I may tolerate you may not.

                            Sorry if my message is cheesy. ;)

                            1. re: bartman227

                              Does beet-derived lactic acid cause you problems? A lot of the vegan non-dairy options use this IIRC.

                              The Daiya "cheese" has been getting some rave reviews recently, and interestingly, it's non-soy based. I don't love it as much as some, but it's not bad.

                              1. re: bartman227

                                That's because the goats milk, like all mammalian milk, contains high levels of lactose which does in fact end up in the cheese.

                                Green Valley makes a lactose free yogurt and I believe sour cream.

                              2. re: hoary bat

                                I've always thought Mozzarella contained a fair amount of lactose. It is afterall an unripened soft cheese. Yet, I find websites that claim bries and camemberts are low in lactose....and Natural Pastures' Buffala Mozzarella claims to be lactose free. In fact, their website seems to suggest that all mozzarellas are low in lactose...Anyone have any thoughts on this. Take a look at their site.

                                1. re: cheesygirl

                                  Crazy! As I had understood it, whey is the enemy of the lactose-intolerant, and therefore wet fresh cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta were higher in lactose. I'm not sure I understood their whole explanation, but it worried me that they kept talking about dieting, quite a different issue from lactose intolerance.

                                  1. re: Up With Olives

                                    Fresh mozzarella is a lactose bomb, IME. Aged cheeses have less lactose the more aged they are, same with fully fermented yogurt.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      @MCF you are correct. The longer a cheese is aged, the less lactose it has.
                                      This is why naturally aged cheddar's are lower in lactose.
                                      Basically the creamier the texture, the more lactose it is likely to have.
                                      This does NOT mean that because a cheese is aged that it is lactose free, but is extremely low in lactose.

                                2. re: hoary bat

                                  For those of you who like me are really 100 % lactose intolerant you will find that Finlandia makes lactose free cheese that are labeled as such. Finlandia Munster makes for a great pizza enjoy.

                                  1. re: abtiva

                                    @abtiva - yes I have had good success with some Finlandia cheeses, especially the swiss and Muenster varieties.
                                    However, I am extremely sensitive to lactose so even those have been known to bother me on a bad day. So if one is mild-medium sensitive, those should be just dandy.

                                    1. re: abtiva

                                      I keep reading about the quality of Finlandia, I am going to buy some.

                                      1. re: hoary bat

                                        Your thread is very informative. I have found that Chapman`s ice cream has a variety of products that adress special needs. I wonder if they have a lactose-free product. I as well am newly diagnosed with lactose intolerance, it`s a learning process.

                                        1. re: hoary bat

                                          Thank you for this info. My daughter was recent diagnosed and we are researching what she can eat.

                                          1. re: hoary bat

                                            I whole-heartedly support hoarybat's assertion. At zero tolerance for lactose some old hard cheese are ( believe) completely lactose free (e.g. a true 5 year old Gouda I have found to be best option), but many are not (e.g. 9-12 month old parmesan). The firmness of a cheese is imparted both by the fat content as well as the age (loss of moisture) so hardness on it's own is not a satisfactory guide.

                                            Generally the prognosis for a newly and acutely lactose intolerant person is that the lactase producing cells in your intestine may be replenished by stem cells over subsequent years - usually between 2-20 years - and you should recover some minor ability to handle lactose, but of course never what you had as a child!

                                          2. re: Morganna

                                            You have the wrong dietician. Better dieticians are not fat-phobic (and not even animal fat-phobic, except for people with cholesterol problems, which is a minority of people). Good dieticians want to create balance with the widest array of food choices, because they know that those two ingredients (plus awareness of portion sizes and regular exercise) are the key to compliance - food restriction (except for people with specific dietary contra-indications) is a chump's way to non-compliance over time.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              *grin* Yeah, I know. Unfortunately, where I live, there are only two dietitians close enough to be reasonable to go to. They work out of the same office and have the same attitudes.

                                              I always took her comments about fats with a grain of salt anyway (and her comments about salt, too!). We need fats to survive and digest and absorb our foods, and some fats actually HELP us. :) The trick is not overdoing! :)

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                Unfortunately, that type of dietician is practically non-existent in the real world or online, from my experience. The vast majority, along with doctors, just regurgitate the USDA's harmful and non-scientific, fat phobic, high grain robots. The people in the Harvard School of Public health are an exception, they generally put out sound, science-based information, unfortunately it gets drowned out by the USDA propaganda machine.

                                                Instead of examining the science objectively, they find ways to discount what they believe is the truth, and cherry pick from (often flawed) studies. They've been trying to jam their square peg in a round hole for decades. They're so convinced that their ideas are correct they only look for information to affirm it. It's confirmation bias to the extreme.

                                              2. re: Morganna

                                                I don't think health care professionals really know much about this. It took over 10 years for me to be accurately diagnosed as lactose intolerant--after going to numerous health care professionals!!

                                          3. re: jerry i h

                                            OK, so you all are saying all cheeses have no lactose? Or just hard cheeses? How about semi-soft like meunster? How about cream cheese? (MY BAGELS AND LOX!!!!) What should I do to be sure? Where can I buy lactose free cream cheese in SF?

                                            1. re: niki rothman

                                              cheddar .02 gm lactose cream cottage 0.1 gm lactose

                                              Harder, more aged cheeses are lower, but I have a container of cheese curds(cheddar) in my fridge which contains no lactose.

                                              1. re: niki rothman

                                                Try toffutti cream cheese, 100% vegan (and therefore, lactose free).
                                                Or, try taking some lactaid, or dairy care, or some other lactase supplement. This may or may not do it for you.

                                                1. re: niki rothman

                                                  Niki - - cheeses that are natually aged tend to be lower in lactose. Cream cheese is not natually aged, it has lactose.
                                                  If you want to have real cream cheese, try taking some lactaid with your bagel & lox, but only use 2-2 teaspoons of cream cheese. Some experimentation will be required -- in addition, as you age, it is likely you will become MORE lactose intolerant, as in you will be able to handle less lactose than before.

                                                2. re: jerry i h

                                                  Completely false - in every possible way.

                                                3. I read the ingredients on tofu cream cheese and put the package back. I'd rather not.

                                                  I stay away from fresh cheeses like ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese, sour cream, etc. Most other real cheese is okay. I'm wary of supermarket cheese, with its additives, and only buy Cabot, which says it's lactose free. Here's a chart of lactose percentages:

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Up With Olives

                                                    I was told that cultured sour cream (which is the kind I buy anyway) is fine.

                                                    1. re: Up With Olives

                                                      Tofu cream cheese is surprisingly edible. It's one of the few dairy-relacement products I've found that's worth eating.

                                                      1. re: Up With Olives

                                                        Cabot hunters seriously sharp is da bomb.

                                                        1. re: Up With Olives

                                                          Great news! Real lactose-free diary sour cream and cream cheese exists! Green Valley Organics ( the only provider of these products and plain (not flavored) yogurt. My 64 year old husband has nearly zero tolerance for lactose and he is having no discomfort. I wish I could convey his pleasure when he had cream cheese on a bagel for the first time since he was a boy. I am very busy using the plain yogurt to make my favorite Turkish, Indian and stroganoff recipes. Try and enjoy.

                                                          You can buy Green Valley Organics at Whole Food Markets. If they don't have the new lactose-free cream cheese yet, you will need to give them the UPC #8131261000 to order it.

                                                        2. Actually, all Cabot cheese is lactose free. I talked to one of their reps at the Big E this year, and he only got me to try some when I saw their info, which stated this. So have at it!

                                                          18 Replies
                                                          1. re: FloraPoste

                                                            Should I just do a google search for cabot cheeses? Are they available near SF? National chain stores?

                                                            1. re: niki rothman

                                                              I live in Boston, and Cabot Cheese is available at every grocery store here. But I just looked online, and near SF their available at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

                                                              1. re: FloraPoste

                                                                Thanks so much! I'll be looking at the Cabot cheese next time I'm at TJ's which is often. I was recently hospitalized with horrible GI problems - part of which may be a recently developed lactose intolerance. It can be really serious.
                                                                I really appreciate these tips.

                                                                1. re: niki rothman

                                                                  Have you tried Lactaid, an over-the-counter lactose replacement tablet? If not, check with your health care professional. I heartily recommend it! I've been using it for years and, as a result, I can eat any dairy product I want.

                                                                  Since you've posted to Chowhound about cheese, you're clearly trying to control your food choices when you're eating in your own home. However, your bigger challenge is going to be managing your food choices eating out. You may discover that people put dairy products in some of the most unpredictable foods! I finesse the whole problem by taking a Lactaid tablet, especially any time I'm not confident about the preparation.

                                                                  I had a really sweet lactose experience dining at Jean Georges. My husband and I had ordered the tasting menu. At the beginning of the meal, as usual, I brought a couple of packets of Lactaid out of my purse and put them near my place setting, discretely tucked under the rim of my bread plate. Our waiter noticed my packets of Lactaid and piped up, "I'm lactose intolerant, too. I'll be sure to tell you when there's dairy in any of the dishes."

                                                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                                                    What a great post! here are some examples sources of lactose one would not expect:

                                                                    1) Frito Lay Baked KC Masterpiece chips (check the label!)
                                                                    2) Hershey's dark chocolate (milk!)
                                                                    3) Certain kinds of Veggie bullion cubes. (Milk!)
                                                                    4) Healthy Choice Beef Merlot Steam Roaster (just added 2 months ago)
                                                                    5) McDonald's French Fries (processed with Milk!)

                                                                    Keep in mind that alternate or original versions of these products DID NOT HAVE LACTOSE! Hence the reason I read labels when I buy products, becuase the food mfr's change things around on occasion.

                                                                    Here are some foods that may surprise you:
                                                                    1) Pepperidge Farms Stuffing Mix (no dairy, but check the label). In the past, the rule of thumb was Pepperidge Farm=Lactose.
                                                                    2) McDonald's baked hot apple pie (no lactose, see:
                                                                    )3) Arby's cherry and apple turnover's are lactose free. Amazing, as they are tasty (but not so good for you).

                                                                    So, there are options out there peoples....
                                                                    Good Hunting.

                                                                    1. re: bartman227

                                                                      I will add to this list of unfortunate surprises: Ensure, the weight gaining kind.

                                                                      I was used to drinking regular Ensure, which doesn't contain milk, and one day picked the "extra weight gaining" one, without it occurring to me me that the ingredients would change, and I was SO sick. I realized after drinking the whole thing there is a ton of milk in it.

                                                                      1. re: bartman227

                                                                        coconut milk products and yes the ice cream is awesome we all love it

                                                                        1. re: MarshaBinkley

                                                                          I really enjoyed the peanut butter and the caramel flavors. I actually have cabot extra sharp cheddar in my refrigerator and it is really 100% lactose free.

                                                                        2. re: bartman227

                                                                          Always, always read the labels, especially on grocery shelf items. Ingredients change even on your trusted items. I always used Pepperidge Farms Stuffing Mix with no dairy until this year. I checked the package and it changed to diary where I live and shop.

                                                                2. re: FloraPoste

                                                                  I disbelieve cabot. My family tried their lactose free cheddar and had a reaction.

                                                                  1. re: dairyintolerant

                                                                    are you sure your family doesn't have a different type of dairy sensitivity (i.e. not lactose)?
                                                                    i'm extremely sensitive to lactose and i love cabot cheese. it doesn't bother me - i'm pretty sure there is no lactose there.

                                                                    1. re: katien

                                                                      100% certain. See my other comment about making mozzarella from milk treated with Lacteeze drops. It may just be how tolerant you are. Lactose free can legally be 0.49% lactose. If there was store bought real cheese that my son could eat, I would so buy it rather than going through the hassle of making it. What I don't get, is why lactaid doesn't make cheese :(

                                                                      1. re: katien

                                                                        Please, each person has a different level of lactose intolerance. If the nutritional label shows 0 grams of Sugar, that means (based on FDA regs.) that the product may have less than 1 gram of lactose. Each person must find his or her own level of comfort.

                                                                      2. re: dairyintolerant

                                                                        I also found Cabot to not be lactose free and disbelieve their claim.

                                                                        1. re: Joshstern

                                                                          Remember, if the nutritional label on cheese shows 0 grams of sugar, the product may still contain lactose, but less than 1 gram. Phooey on their claim "no Lactose" when the product may contain only a trace.

                                                                      3. re: FloraPoste

                                                                        I have found that although the Cabot package claims to be lactose free, it is in fact not lactose free for those that are highly sensitive.

                                                                        1. re: FloraPoste

                                                                          I have been eating lots of cabot & cracker barrel & kraft extra sharp cheddar cheeses and they are all lactose free, at least the ones that say 100% lactose free on the back label are. I would caution however to watch your intake--Too much of anything can cause a problem, if you get where I am going with this...

                                                                          1. re: billdeserthills

                                                                            because they are not 100% lactose-free. that is physically impossible with a dairy cheese. the labels can legally round down, which they do.