Here’s Why Cheddar Cheese is Orange


Why is Cheddar Cheese Orange

A type of cheese, a bunch of grass, an English village and the Azctech tribes. What do these things have in common? 

Well, the answer is a lot more than you think. We were looking around the old web to see if we can gather some knowledge for all those that like us, want to learn all they can about the most important part of any diet: Cheese.

Have you ever wondered why some cheeses are cloudy white, off white (a little less cloudy would be the exact phrase), full-on yellow, and for today’s example, orange? To find out, let’s try to figure out what makes certain cheeses look the way they look. 

When we started our cheesy journey, things were looking simple. We had a fistful of mozzarella, and it was as white as the milk from which it was made. Low and behold, my eyes wandered, my heart stopped, and there it was in front of me. A block of orange goodness called: the cheddar!

As we sat down to clear our head of confusion, we started thinking, why is it not white? Well, it turns out, the color of the cheese depends on a lot of things. Check it out.

Not all cows are the same and not all cows diets are the same, so it would make perfect sense for us to segway into:

The Cows Diet

If our bodies were a milk machine (which unfortunately they aren’t), we suppose what we ate would have a significant effect on the merch. But cows, as far as we know, eat, well, grass.

But what kind of grass is very important?

If the green that they are nobbing on is full of carotene, well, their milk is going from white to yellow in no time. And it’s taking the cheese with it.

Food Coloring

So now we know why some cheeses aren’t white, but why is cheddar orange?

Cheddar is a cheese that originated in an English village called, you guessed it, Cheddar. Initially, it wasn’t crazy colored at all. It was just plain off white – well, in the summer anyway. See, the cows ate fresh grass during the summer, which had something called beta carotene in it, so they couldn’t make that pure white milk (which was suitable for the cheese, we suppose). During the winter, they ate hay, which is dried out grass, so their milk was more traditionally colored, let’s say.

Colored cheese on a plate

In time though, food coloring of sorts was added to it, as it was believed that Cheddar (the village) had outstanding cows that produced the best cheese, and well, everybody wanted in on the orange action. So little by little, everybody’s cheese got yellow and then the now standard, orange. But let’s not beat around the bush longer. What about the Aztecs?

Aztec War Paint

People figured out many ways to make cheese more yellow so that they can sell it for a higher price. Food coloring of all sorts was added, so in the time of annatto and roucou usage, the red seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa Orellana) emerged. The Achiote tree is native to central and South America, with which the Aztec tribes used its seed to make red warpaint as they produced the most vibrant colors at the time. 

These seeds contain bixin and norbixin, substances that are carotenoids, and antioxidants. You can see a trend of carotenoids here, and yes, you may be thinking: Who’s to blame for the wacky colored cheese? It’s those darn carrots!

It’s not clear as to how and when the American tree seeds got mixed with the traditional English recipe, but it did the job, so it seems life found a way. We mean come on, cheese making in Cheddar (again, the town) goes back to 1170. AD. That’s a lot of time for a lot of cheese science.

No Racism When it Comes to Cheese

So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t judge a cheese by its color! Not all cheddar is orange, and not all orange cheddar is the best cheddar. Cheese comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Look, for instance, at the good people of England way back in the day. They knew what real quality is, and they knew that the more orange, the better. Now get out there, get some of that weird-looking cheese, slice it up, and start munching!

Up for another Cheesy story? We ranked the smelliest cheeses in the world. Don’t worry, we’re not showcasing them, it’s just another interesting article and that’s it. Enjoy reading!

Cheesy Guru

Cheesy guru bringing you hot topics from the cheese world. Stay up to date with the latest trends from the industry or learn about cheeses you never knew about. All this in one place, your go-to website when it comes to cheese - Cheese Buzz!

Recent Content