Can You Eat Cheese on Keto Diet? [The Cheesy Guide]

Most cheeses are low in carbs and high in fat, which is good news when you're on a keto diet. But there are also some cheeses you need to look out for.

Otherwise, it's a big thumbs-up to cheese as far as keto is concerned. In fact, this dairy food is a major keto diet staple.

If you need help choosing the best cheeses to add to your keto meal plan, read this quick keto cheese guide covering the top keto diet cheeses.

keto cheese

Are all cheeses low in carbs?

Cheese is a dairy product made from curdled milk, usually cow's milk, but goat's and sheep's milk are also frequently used in cheesemaking. There are roughly a dozen cheese varieties in the world, with thousands of subcategories, so you definitely won't feel any shortage of options.

Cheese is more compact than milk, meaning it is dense in nutrients like fat and protein and low in water content.

But what about its carb content?

  • Well, the amount of carbs varies from one cheese to the next. But generally speaking, fresh cheese is higher in carbs than hard, aged cheese.
     
  • Cottage cheese, for example, has 3.5g carbs per 100g, while Edam cheese has only 1.4 g of carbs in the same serving size. But, as usual, there are many exceptions to this rule.

To play it safe with carbs in cheese, read the label, go for high-fat cheeses, and limit fresh cheeses since these tend to be low in fat. Also, try to avoid processed cheese like American or Gjetost.

If practical, go for grass-fed products as these are higher in vitamin A, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and antioxidants than conventional dairy products [1].

Can I eat cream cheese on keto?

Despite being a fresh cheese, you can enjoy cream cheese on keto. Cream cheese is creamy due to its high-fat content; around 33-65% of cream cheese is fat. Furthermore, a 3.5 oz serving comes with around 4.1g carbohydrates, which isn't all too bad. 

However, don't just buy any brand of cream cheese you come across. Go for cream cheeses that list as few ingredients as possible. Some brands may include additives like carob bean gum, natamycin, and whey salt to get a more desirable texture and flavor, but these may not be best for health.

As with most dairy food, keep your intake moderate to stay within your macros. While you can definitely use it as a spread, there are other ways to incorporate cream cheese into a keto diet. Many keto recipes call for cream cheese as a thickening ingredient in place of yogurt, milk, and heavy cream. It's also used in some smoothies. Here are other ways to use this keto staple.

  • Tip 1 - Feel like classic coconut and almond flour pancakes are missing that extra something to make them tender and delicious? Add a1/4 to a 1/2 a bar of cream cheese to a blender along with a tablespoon of butter and your choice of keto-friendly sweetener, blitz until smooth and incorporate with your other pancake ingredients.

  • Tip 2 - If you find your meat and veggies dinner plain and boring, but you don't have time to make a fancy cheese dip, add some cream cheese into bowl and microwave for one to two minutes. Once the cheese is melted, add a bit of keto hot sauce (or a lot if you already destroyed your taste buds) and mix well. Instant perfect spicy cheese dip.

  • Tip 3 - When you are just starting with keto, many keto foods may taste bland to you and some food textures can leave you wanting more. Cream cheese is here to save the day by adding bulk and satiating protein to any meal. Think buttercream frosting, cheesecake, cream cheese dip with celery, cream cheese stuffed peppers, cream cheese salami wraps, and the list goes on.

How much cheese is too much cheese?

Yes, cheese is a great addition to your keto diet, but it shouldn't be at its center.

Cheese is still high in saturated fat. The debate over whether saturated fat is good or bad is still on [2, 3], so it's best to limit your intake of dairy fat on keto and try to get as much unsaturated fat as possible from fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.

Two other reasons you need to watch how much cheese you're eating is carbs and calories. Cheese contains lactose, a type of milk sugar. Cheese is also dense in calories – if you eat too much you won't be in a calorie deficit, which is crucial in losing weight. To stay within your recommended daily carb and calorie limit, it's a good idea to go for low-carb cheeses and keep your intake moderate.

But how much cheese exactly is moderate?

That's a tough question to answer and depends on your overall diet and the type of cheese. To put things into perspective, here's the carb breakdown for different cheeses. 

  • 3.5 oz cream cheese spread (3.5g carbs)
  • 1 cup diced cheddar cheese (1.7g)
  • 6 slices mozzarella cheese (3.7g)

This amount totals around 9g carbohydrates. However, you likely won't be eating that much cheese anyway. All in all, don't sweat it but also don't rely on cheese too much on your keto journey. Think of it as an addition to your diet and combine it with healthful foods rich in fiber and micronutrients.

Best keto cheeses

Some cheeses are better than others, at least as far as the keto diet is concerned. Below are some of the best high-fat, low-carb cheeses out there.

1. Mozzarella

Keto friendly: This Italian cheese is keto-approved. It has only 2.2g of net carbs in a 100g serving. It melts easily and its neutral taste pairs well with anything.

Mozzarella is an Italian cheese traditionally made from the Italian water buffalo's milk. But the stuff you see in stores is likely made from cow's milk unless specified.

Mozzarella is a fresh type of cheese with a mild, milky flavor. It is used as a pizza topping, in salads, and casserole dishes.

mozarella

Despite its high water and low-fat content, mozzarella is low in carbs and can be enjoyed on keto. However, mozzarella has a short shelf life, especially after unpackaging (just a couple of days).

In the United States, low-moisture mozzarella is sold as string cheese and is a popular snack with a long shelf life.

Cheese type: semi-soft, brined
Nutrition per 
100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 
300 Total fat: 22.4g Net carbs: 2.2g Protein: 22.2g

2. Cheddar

Keto friendly: An American favorite that's also taking over the world, cheddar cheese is definitely keto-friendly at only 1g carbs in a 100g serving. It will also give you a nice dose of protein and the added benefits of calcium.  

Cheddar is a sharp-tasting cheese that originated in England.

It is among the most popular cheeses in the world and is notable for its bright orange color, which it gets from adding annatto, a spice and a food coloring.

cheddar

Cheddar is exceptionally low in carbs and high in fat while also providing 72% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of calcium in a 100g serving. If you love meals with a cheesy flavor and stringy texture, then sprinkle cheddar over pizza, chili, cream soup, casseroles, chicken breasts, and other savory meals. It pairs well with Dijon mustard and garlic in many recipes.

Cheese type: semi-hard
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 403 Total fat: 33g Net carbs: 1.3g  Protein: 25g

3. Gouda

Keto friendly: Gouda is perfectly suitable on keto. It's low-carb, high-fat, and a mild-tasting substitute for cheddar in recipes.

Gouda is a mild-tasting, yellow cheese originally made by the Dutch. It's also among the more popular cheeses in the world, right after mozzarella and cheddar.

Depending on how long it was aged, gouda can taste almost neutral to fruity and tangy.

Making gouda involves curdling cultured milk, draining the curd, pressing into circular molds, and soaking in brine. 

gouda

The cheese is then dried for a couple of days and let to age for 4 weeks to over a year. Gouda is a melty cheese you can use in place of cheddar, but it's also really good in keto sandwiches and cold cut platters.

Cheese type: semi-hard, artisan, brined
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 356 Total fat: 27.4g Net carbs: 2.2g Protein 25g

4. Brie

Keto friendly: At only 0.5g net carbs, you can enjoy this tender cheese any day on a keto diet.

A soft cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated. Brie has a pale grayish color and a white-colored mold rind, which is edible.  

While there are many varieties of Brie, Brie de Melun is the most well-known type. This brie has a mild and nutty flavor and a barely-there moldy smell.

Overripe Brie, however, can smell of ammonia, which is also normal. Its texture is incredibly soft and sticky.

brie

Brie can be purchased in a full wheel or as a wheel segment. After opening, you should eat Brie within 1 to 2 days. It can be eaten on a cold platter with vegetables, over toast, wrapped in salami, and added to an omelet. Some also like to melt it in a pan or oven and eat with toast.

Cheese type: soft-ripened, artisan
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 334 Total fat: 27.7g Net carbs: 0.5g Protein 20.7g

5. Parmesan

Keto friendly: Parmesan can add fat and loads of flavor to any keto meal. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits [4].

Parmigiano-Reggiano, commonly known as Parmesan, is an Italian hard, granular cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk.

True Parmesan is a hard cheese with a gritty texture and sharp taste described as fruity, tangy, and nutty.

There are many mock Parmesans and the Italian classic is often confused with Grana Padano.

parmesan

Parmesan is most popularly used to flavor sauces, soups, salads, and other dishes. It is finely grated and used in small amounts. However, you can also eat it on a cold platter. Parmesan is expensive due to its long ripening (12 months), so most people like to use it sparingly.

Cheese type: hard, artisan
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 431 Total fat: 28.6g Net carbs: 4.1g Protein: 38.5g

6. Cream Cheese

Keto friendly: Cream cheese is keto-friendly when eaten in moderation. Use it to thicken smoothies and cream soups.

Cream cheese is a spreadable, fresh cheese made from a combination of cultured milk and cream.

Most cream cheeses contain additives and stabilizers such as carob bean gum to prevent it from separating. Some brands may also add salt.

Cream cheese has a mild, milky taste and dense, creamy texture, and it is most comparable to Mascarpone. 

cream cheese

It's popularly used as a spread but also in making dips, cheesecakes, and frosting.

Cheese type: fresh soft, processed
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 342 Total fat: 34.2g Net carbs: 4.1g Protein 6g

7. Feta Cheese

Keto friendly: Add feta to your keto diet if you want a low-calorie cheese that also comes with health benefits.  

Feta is a Greek cheese made from sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep's and goat's milk.

It is one of the healthiest cheeses on the Planet, rich in probiotics [5] and lower in calories than most cheeses. This Greek treasure contains almost 2%CLA, which is an essential fatty acid

Feta is an aged cheese with a bold, tangy taste. It is a crumbly and sold in small blocks that are kept in brine, often with herbs and spices. 

feta cheese

Feta is a table cheese best when used in salads and pastry. However, you can also grill it and add it to omelets.

Cheese type: soft or firm, brined
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 264 Total fat: 21.3g Net carbs: 4.1g Protein 14.2g

8. Goat Cheese (Soft)

Keto friendly: This low-carb cheese can help you eat fewer calories on a keto diet. It's also great for your health.

Goat's cheese is higher in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) than cow's milk (34%) [6]. This not only gives goat's cheese its characteristic tart flavor but also keto diet benefits.

Goat's cheese is also easier to digest, has less lactose, and is less likely to cause allergies [7].

While there are certainly many different goat's cheeses, most people are familiar with soft goat cheeses like Anthotyro. 

goat cheese

This type is hard, salty, and savory. It is white with a strong smell. Use it to add flavor to pasta and salads.

Cheese type: hard, whey
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 185 Total fat: 15g Net carbs: 3 g Protein: 9g

9. Blue Cheese

Keto friendly: Blue cheese can make for a great low-carb flavor enhancer. Use it with chicken, cauliflower, keto pasta, and add it to sandwiches

Blue cheese refers to a broad category of cheeses made by adding Penicillium mold to the cheesemaking process.

As the blue mold spreads, the cheese develops a marbled appearance. Blue cheese may develop a characteristic pungent smell due to the presence of smell-producing bacteria.

The oldest ever blue cheese is Gorgonzola. 

blue cheese

The taste of most blue cheeses is sharp, salty, and rich in umami flavor. That's why blue cheese is a popular flavor-enhancing ingredient in risottos, pasta, cream sauces, chicken, and more. However, it's also tasty on its own, served alongside salads. 

Cheese type: semi-soft, blue-veined
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup 
Calories: 353 Total fat: 28.7g Net carbs: 2.3 g Protein: 21.4g

10. Provolone Cheese

Keto friendly: At only 2.1g net carbs, this Italian favorite is suitable on keto. If you like quality cheeses, then add this one to your menu.  

Another Italian cheese on the list is this stretched-curd cheese. It is produced in pear, sausage, or cone shapes, all 4 to 6 inches long.

Provolone comes into two types: sweet and picante (similar to cheddar in taste). The first one is aged 2-3 months, the latter over 4 months.

Provolone Cheese

Provolone cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. It's also high in sodium, which is a good thing when you're on a keto diet.

It's mostly served as a table cheese with bread and wine. However, it can be baked and added to savory meals.

Cheese type: semi-hard, artisan
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 351 Total fat: 26.6g Net carbs: 2.1g Protein 25.6g

11. Swiss Cheese

Keto friendly: Swiss cheese has slightly more carbs than other aged cheeses. Eat it as a snack or add thin slices to keto sandwiches.

Swiss cheese is a generic name for several types of related cheese. But it most commonly refers to Swiss Emmental, a shiny, pale yellow cheese with large holes.

The texture is gummy and the flavor mild but savory. If you like a flavorful Swiss cheese, go for the ones with holes.

swiss cheese

Swiss cheese is a rindless cheese. It is also eaten as a table cheese and pairs well with salami, olives, and crudités. It can also be used for fondues and in baking.

Cheese type: hard, artisan
Nutrition per 100g / 3.5oz / 2/3 cup
Calories: 380 Total fat: 27.8g Net carbs: 5.4g Protein: 27g

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