You can buy orange cheddar cheese in the UK, but it does depend on exactly what you mean when you say “orange cheddar cheese”.
American cheese, also sometimes referred to as orange cheddar, is a type of processed cheese that is made in America, just as the name suggests.
It is created using a variety of cheese types, including Colby cheese (similar to cheddar, but has a milder taste), cheddar cheese, other granular cheeses, and others. They are typically mixed with washed cheese curds, giving American cheddar (also known as orange cheddar) its softness, saltiness, and also creaminess.
If you’re not talking about American cheese, however, you might be talking about British/UK-made cheddar cheese that has had colouring added to it. Generally, ‘natural’ cheddar is creamy-yellow in colour, but this can vary with age and other factors.
Orange cheddar cheese is simply white/yellow cheddar cheese with additional colouring added and yes, you can buy it in the UK. The taste and texture are not affected with the addition of colourings, but rather by the length of time the cheese is allowed to mature.
What Is the Difference Between White Cheddar and Orange Cheddar?
The difference between white cheddar and orange cheddar is whether or not dye has been added to make it that colour.
Naturally, cheddar cheese is a pale colour – pale yellow, off-white, etc. It used to have more of an orange tint, however. This was due to the cows’ diet.
Back in the seventeenth century, when cheddar cheese was first thought to have been created, the cows that provided the milk consumed a lot of food with a high beta-carotene content.
Beta carotene is found in a lot of plants, and it gives fruits and vegetables, such as peppers, pumpkin, grapefruit, carrots, and apricots their bright colours.
Because of the beta carotene fed to the cows, cheddar cheese used to have an orange tint to it.
In this day and age, cows are no longer fed the high beta-carotene diet, so the cheese has returned to its ‘natural’ form, which is the yellow/white/creamy colour it is known for today.
Orange cheddar cheese (not American cheese) has had dye added to it, to give it the old-fashioned orange colouring. The most common dye comes from the achiote tree, and is called annatto.
What Is the Equivalent of “Sharp Cheddar Cheese” in the UK?
Sharp cheddar cheese is cheese that has been aged (or matured) for a longer period of time than mild varieties.
It is often the ageing process itself that causes cheese to have its strong flavour. The longer it has been matured, the sharper or bolder a taste it will have.
As a general rule, mild cheddar cheeses are matured for approximately three to six months.
Sharp cheddar cheeses are matured for approximately eight to twelve months. In the UK, these are known as mature cheddar cheeses.
Extra sharp cheddar cheeses are matured for approximately two years, but there is a wide variation. Some speciality cheeses are left to mature for many, many years – up to five or ten in some cases. These are usually referred to as extra mature cheddar cheese in the UK.
The equivalent of “sharp cheddar cheese” in the UK would be mature or extra mature cheese.
Is Red Leicester the Same as American Cheddar?
No, red Leicester cheese is not the same as American cheddar.
Red Leicester is a crumbly and hard cheese, where American cheddar (or American cheese) is smooth, creamy, and semi-soft.
Regular cheddar is a hard and crumbly cheese, too, but Red Leicester boasts a milder flavour, is much crumblier, and stays moister for longer. Cheddar, on the other hand, has a bolder taste, gets crumblier with age, and is quite dry.
Red Leicester is made in a similar way to UK-made or traditional cheddar cheese, and it also has annatto dye added to give it the bold orange-red colour it is famed for.
Cheddar takes longer than Red Leicester to mature, and the latter is often sold after being matured for just a couple of months.
American cheese is processed, has a very mild scent, and has a rather mild flavour, especially when compared to Red Leicester or UK cheddar.
What Is a Substitute for American Cheddar?
The three best substitutes for when you can’t get your hands on American cheddar (or American cheese) are:
American cheese is processed and often created from Colby and cheddar, so those two are the best substitutes in terms of flavour.
You may find that your Colby/cheddar varieties are bolder than their American cousin, however. If you opt for a mild type (one that hasn’t been matured for a long time), you can closely mimic the flavour. Colby is known to be milder than cheddar.
Muenster is smooth and soft in texture, which makes it more like American cheese in terms of consistency. It also melts well, so it’s the perfect substitute if consistency is important in the recipe.
There are other cheeses that you could look at, as a substitute for American cheddar or American cheese. Velveeta is a brand of processed cheese that has similar properties, and Monterey Jack is another smooth cheese with a mild flavour. The latter has a more buttery flavour.
Mozzarella is often put forward as a substitute for American cheddar, but the flavour is incredibly mild, and the texture isn’t quite the same. If you prefer your cheese to be less smelly and mild in taste, it’s not a bad choice, but it won’t offer a lot of additional flavour or texture to your dish.
Kim is a writer with more than a decade of experience, and a food enthusiast. When she’s not spending her time writing about her favourite dishes, you can find her in the cake aisle of her local supermarket, or making a mess in the kitchen.