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Cheddar Cheese Substitutes And Why The French Don’t Like Cheddar

By Annie André

(Boring Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them to buy something, I may earn a small commission (which helps me buy more croissants) at no additional cost to you. Merci for your support)


Cheddar isn’t always available where I live in France so I’ve found some alternative cheeses that work just as well if not better for my recipes that normally call for Cheddar..

“Cheddar Is NOT Real Cheese,”

said the Frenchman

Cheddar cheese alternative I use in France

Walk into any decent-sized grocery store in France and head over to the cheese section. What you’ll see is a myriad of cheese varieties that will make your head spin.

Now try to find Cheddar cheese. If you’re in a smallish town or outside Paris, look closely because you either won’t find any or you’ll see one single type, maybe two. Some aged cheddar in a small bar. Sometimes you might find a small bag of shredded orange cheddar or a package of sliced orange cheddar. 

In bigger cities like Paris, you will most likely find more varieties of cheddar but it’s still hit or miss depending on the store. 

Cheese aile in a French grocery store in France: Cheddar was nowhere to be found

I’m not saying it’s impossible to find Cheddar cheese in France.  I’m simply pointing out that Cheddar isn’t a popular cheese in France relative to the over 450 different cheeses produced and consumed in France on a regular basis.

Some of my French friends don’t even know what Cheddar cheese tastes like while others jokingly tell me Cheddar is “fade” or “sans goût” tasteless, compared to Emmental, Camembert and Raclette, the three cheeses most consumed in France.

It’s not their fault. Most of their experience with Cheddar cheese is limited to eating Cheddar cheese on a burger or American cheese (that flat square cheese) on a McDonald’s hamburger.

[thrive_text_block color=”orange” headline=””]

You might be interested in reading about how the French love McDonald’s.  [/thrive_text_block]

 

Pintrest pin about 5 French cheddar Cheese Alternatives

 

The French don’t consider Cheddar a worthy cheese

Shocking isn’t it?

“Cheddar cheese in French is FROMAGE CHEDDAR”

My daughter’s best friend’s father, Franck, is your typical French guy. When I say typical, I mean he represents a good majority of the French population with regards to his views.

He’s proud, almost to a fault when it comes to French customs, culture and cuisine. I say this with the utmost respect of course because I’ve learned so much about French culture thanks to my French friends.

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The unsaid Frenchman’s credo

  • He believes that baguettes are a daily thing consumed with dinner and maybe even for breakfast. No, French people don’t eat croissants every morning. 
  • Certain French dishes must never be tampered with, ever, never, ever!
  • Wine can and should be consumed with dinner on a regular basis, not beer.
  • And most of all, cheese is important. You should try to have a variety of cheeses on hand to eat after meals but Cheddar cheese is not one of them because it’s NOT A REAL CHEESE which really means, he believes it’s beneath French standards. Not my words.

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Cheese section in a French grocery store

But I digress. It is what it is and I can’t nor do I want to change how the whole country looks at cheese.

What I really want to talk about is the cheeses you can use in place of Cheddar.

Cheddar Cheese substitutes: Cheeses you can use in place of Cheddar

Cheddar cheese alternatives I’ve found and use in France

First of all, I’m not a cheese expert and I rarely ever ate cheese before moving to France back in 2011.

Since moving to France, I’ve sampled cheeses I didn’t even know existed and I’ve grown a new appreciation for the art of cheese making which dates back to the time of the Egyptians over 7,000 years ago in present-day Croatia. 

About these Cheddar cheese substitutes

None of the cheeses on my list taste exactly like Cheddar and a couple taste nothing like Cheddar but they still work well in many of my recipes which call for cheddar.

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””] You might be interested in reading about French vegan cheese recipes[/thrive_text_block]

1- Cantal Vs Cheddar Cheese

Out of all the cheeses on this list, Cantal is probably the most like Cheddar. Real cheddar. Farmhouse cheddar, aged cheddar—the good cheddar.

Cantal is also one of the oldest cheeses in France, pre-dating Roquefort (11th century) and is even considered a cousin to Cheddar cheese.

It’s believed the Romans brought Cantal to England where it eventually became Cheddar cheese.

Cantal Cheese, a cousin to Cheddar and a great alternative to Cheddar

2- Edam vs Cheddar Cheese

Edam is a semi-hard cheese originally from Edam in the Netherlands. The interesting thing about Edam is it never goes bad thanks to its red wax outer shell. The cheese just gets harder and harder as it ages which is kind of weird.

Texture-wise, Edam is similar to a young, non-aged Cheddar cheese and tastes slightly salty but can also taste nutty.

Edam cheese from Hollande as an alternative to cheddar cheese

BabyBel:

BabyBel was created by Groupe Bel, a French company in the Jura region of France.

If you’ve ever tried BabyBel, you’ve actually already tried Edam cheese because the BabyBel brand of cheese is the same as Edam cheese. They just don’t call it Edam for reasons unknown to me.

baby-bel-panné crusted babybel cheese
Here’s a recipe for breaded Edam cheese (in French).

3- Mimolette vs Cheddar Cheese

Sometimes called “Boule de Lille” or “Vieux Hollande.”

Mimolette is a  semi-hard French cheese with a deep orange colour and nutty tang which grates and melts similar to Cheddar.

Cheese mites are the secret to Mimolette cheese

The secret to the earthy nutty taste and its textured crust of Mimolette cheese are microscopic cheese mites that live on the surface of most aged cheeses, chowing down on the microscopic moulds that grow there. For most aged cheese, these tiny bugs are a nuisance and gently brushed away. For Mimolette cheese, mites are encouraged. YUM.

Mimolette cheese from France as an alternative to cheddar cheese

Birth of Mimolette

Back In 1675, during the French-Dutch war, Jean-Louis Colbert, the French minister who served King Louis XIV prohibited the import of Dutch cheeses into France. The people who lived in the northernmost region of France, which is now Belgium had strong cultural ties to Holland and loved Dutch cheeses—they complained wildly about the ban.

Colbert ordered the farmers of the region to produce their own Frenchified (better version) of Edam cheese and they did. That is how Mimolette cheese was born.

mac-et-mimolette: Cassolette de macaronis au bacon et à la mimolette
Here’s a Mac, bacon and Mimolette recipe (in French).

4- Aged Gouda vs Cheddar

Another Dutch cheese which is popular throughout France is Gouda Vieux or aged Gouda. It’s a semi-soft cheese with a distinctive crunchy crystal texture which is oddly satisfying to bite into.

Aged Gouda Cheese, a cousin to Cheddar and a great alternative to Cheddar

I love making grilled cheese sandwiches with aged Gouda but goes well with a classic burger too.

HelloFresh France, the meal-kit company featured a Gouda burger on its menu. If you’re interested in learning about HelloFresh, I did a video un-boxing which you can watch here.

old-gouda-cheesburger-hello-fresh-france

5- Emmental or French Gruyere vs Cheddar Cheese

People often get confused between French Gruyere and Emmental. They are often interchangeable in recipes so I included them together on this list.

Emmental is a Swiss cheese recognizable the world over thanks to its holes. You probably know it simply as Swiss cheese because that’s what it’s called in the US and Canada.

French Gruyere is France’s version of Swiss Cheese and also has holes. Swiss Gruyere has no holes.

Emmental-Gruyere-Cheese, a cousin to Cheddar and a great alternative to Cheddar

It’s the cheese on a French Croque Monsieur

Although neither Emmental or French Gruyere taste anything like Cheddar, I included them on this list as a Cheddar alternative mainly because they are used to make the famous French Croque Monsieur which is France’s version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with Bechamel sauce.

Do you know what “Croque Monsieur” means?  Mister Crunch. Sounds better in French, doesn’t it?

Croque Monsieur French grilled cheese sandwich which uses Gruyère

Tasty has a quick video that shows you how to make a Croque using Gruyère cheese.

Both of Emmental and Gruyère are baking cheeses that melt extremely smooth. And they have a distinctive taste that isn’t too overpowering which explains why there are so many French recipes that use these two cheeses.

Here are some other recipes that use Gruyere or Emmental (Swiss cheese).

  • Cheese Fondue
  • French Onion soup
  • Quiche
  • Gratin dauphinoise ( au gratin style potatoes)
  • Cordon Bleu
  • Gratin de Macaronis (French mac and cheese)

Good luck and Bon appetit.

  • Mac and Cheese– I use Gouda & Cantal with a bit of Blue cheese.
  • Tacos– I use Edam and Mimolette together
  • Sandwiches– Swiss, sliced Mimolette, Cantal, Gouda, Edam or any cheese I want to try.
  • FajitasMimolette
  • Omelettes– I don’t particularly like Swiss cheese omelettes but all the other cheeses on this list go well inside of an omelette.
  1. When I was living in London and Barcelona, I had the same problem with french cheese… They were little choice and not the best products, and even crapy ones were really expensive. The best thing for me was just to embrace the local culture, and try everything those countries had to offer. To this day I still miss the “patatas bravas and chorizos” from Spain.

    And as for why we are not as fat, it’s largely because of portion control I think. We can occasionally binge on wine and cheese at a dinner party, but eat better the rest of the week. And there is less opportunities to eat fast food anyway, especially in the country side. Most small towns have yet to see a McDonald.

    And probably that the “french pride” in food is a big help.

    Not to mention that the government is actively trying to get us fit. The health care system in France is in deficit, so the best way to control that is to have healthier people. For instance, they cut down vending machines from schools.

    And I mean no offence to the americans, but I think we’re terrified of ending up with an obesity rate like they have.

    Anyway thanks for the article. As I often cook different kind of cuisine I was looking for cheddar.

  2. Hi,
    I live in “Les Arcs sur Argens”, close from La Garde, and you can find a “seriously strong” cheddar in the Hyper U supermarket (we have a lot of British Expats here). You can find other good things like that, but unfortunately no Pimm’s.

    1. Hi Xavier,
      Seems like wherever there are expats there is cheddar cheese… I know Les arcs sure argens. I have not been there yet but if i do do i will be sure to get some strong cheddar. In the mean time, we have gotten used to NOT eating cheddar cheese. I can even make mac and cheese without cheddar now. It’s quite good with emmental and blue cheese..MMM

  3. I don’t live in Paris but in Annecy and have had no problem finding cheddar cheese. The sell off the wheel at the Auchan supermarket at Epangy and also the local Huit a Huit at Methon Saint Bernard stock both a mild & aged Cheddar

  4. I lived in France for around a year and finding cheddar as difficult however a few supermarkets (especially in parts of France with large numbers of British expats) have started to stock it. It’s just bog-standard processed British cheddar, but still nice to have.

    I mainly used Gruyere as a substitute.

    1. James,
      I recently went to toulon and found one type o cheese there but when I went back a second time they were all out. I am so used to eating Gruyere and emmental now that I don’t even miss cheddar anymore except when making adult mac and cheese..

    2. Hi James,
      It must depend where you look and in what area like you said, where there are larger number of British expats it makes sense but in other areas it’s more of a speciality..

  5. Hey Annie,
    Great video once again! Well, as I have already lived in France for a while I see your point and how it is not to be able to find some products that we find in our country. My problem was not about cheddar cheese but about spanakopita, good feta cheese, mezes and many other delicious products that we eat in Greece but we cannot find in France. Sometimes we find these kind of products but they are not in a good version :)
    Off course i am not going to complain because French food is amazing it self so I had no problem to eat well there. Plus, i had the unique advantage to bring stuff from Greece and share them with my French friends every time I visited my family :).
    Thank you for sharing!
    Have a good day

  6. No cheddar in France.. how did people survive it? ;)

    Well, I come from a country that isn’t so cheese crazy but thankfully, I grew up in a country that has cheese everywhere! :) At least easily available in supermarkets!

    Why aren’t French people fat now… I have to so some research into that! So much of cheese and drinks! And still slim.. surprising!

    1. Hajra,
      I thought the same thing at first. Honestly, there is no shortage of cheese here. We all eat loads of it too. Just not cheddar. Lately it’s goat cheese drizzld with honey. YUMMY. I’m having a blast researching why French people are not fat as a nation in comparisson to the US. It’s actually quite interesting.

    2. Hi Hajra,

      I had to get back to you on that one. Believe me the French don’t need cheddar cheese, we have so many over there, that’s unbelievable. Cheeses that I’ve never seen here.

      Why French are not fat? It’s because of several reasons… 1. They don’t really believe in junk food and snacks. 2. They don’t drink sodas. 3. They eat healthier and non process food.

      Those are some of the reasons, there are others… why French are keeping healthy :)

  7. Hi Annie,

    I’ve seen you on Adrienne’s blog and the title of your post made me click, that and the fact that I am trying very hard to extend my online relationships with other bloggers.

    The reason why I was attracted by your title is that it had the word “France”, my country of birth. By the way your name is 100% French, what about you? Are you French?

    1. Sylviane,
      I’m so glad you stopped by. Now I have a personal connection from France who i can ask many questions. I agree, who needs cheddar cheese. I actually don’t eat that much cheddar cheese but it still surprised me that its so hard to find.

      Yes and no about me being French. I am French Canadian on my fathers side. I can trace his routes back to France Poitou of unbroken French last names. My father was Jean-Louis Andre and my brother is Louis Andre. All very french names and yes i do speak french too. LOL. Granted, i have a different accent than a the French of France but as you know we still understand one another no problem.

  8. They sell cheddar in the Auchan in Avignon!!! Had no idea that it was a delicacy … admittedly you don’t get the varieties of cheddar but you can get it … personally I hate emmenthal … which is frances equivalent!

    Try Comte! Yummy, like strong cheddar!

    1. Hi Ameena, LOL, i’m not sure i would call it a delicacy. In California YES, we had some pretty expensive and good aged cheddar that were from Australia and England but not here. The expensive cheddar I cheese i found in Paris was actually the the cheap stuff similar to what i would find in the US and canada with Orange coloring added to it YUCK!. Oooh i have to run now to eat my emmental omlette…

  9. I never knew that you couldn’t get cheddar cheese in France?

    Not that I eat a lot of cheddar cheese anyway. I do like cheese i.e. Blue cheese, Emmental, Mozzarella, Apple wood. All with wine..

    I also love cheese cake.

    France is the place for food and I know how crazy the French are for eating.

    I feel educated today Annie, than you. I look forward to the next instalment.

    Also the video was funny :-D

    1. Dan i am glad i could warn you before you come to France. It’s actually not even a big deal it’s just curious..
      Today i actually found cheddar cheese at our local market but there was only 3 packages amount a all the hundreds of packges of cheese. I actually love emmental which is usually very expensive in the us and canada but very inexpensive heree so it all balances out.

  10. Wow, no cheddar cheese in France. I bet that was a rude awakening but sounds like you guys have solved this problem.

    I guess my question would be if you are out at a restaurant and I’m aware that their foods aren’t the same as ours, can you ask for a specific cheese then? I’m sure they have plenty to choose from since they are pretty big on different cheeses. I’d be curious to know.

    Thanks Annie, another great video..

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne,
      You asked: Can you ask for a specific cheese? yes and no.
      It depends on what you are ordering and the type of restaurant you are in. Typically i don’t ask for different cheeses because it’s usually in the food already.

      If i were to ask for a different cheese my choices would be one of the everyday cheeses here which are “emmental” “Gruyere” “comte” “brie”, cantal, Sometimes Roquefort and blue cheese depending on where you are. There are not a lot of sandwich shops here. There are a lot of Brie sandwiches on baguettes. Brie is eaten in quantity here like mozerella and cheddar are eaten in the states and Canada.

      Hope that answers your question.

  11. How fascinating…. no chedder in France. I had no idea. Luckily for me, or unlucky for me I don’t eat cheese. I work at a wine bar where we have some crazy cheesers. They won’t to know every detail of their cheese, where it’s from etc. etc. I can’t wait to read your post about how they eat so much cheese but are not fattys like us Americans. Maybe it’s processed cheese vs. fresh…. or they JUST eat cheese, not a big ol hamburger with melted processed gunk.

    1. Damn Meg, what do you eat these days?

      It’s crazy how much booze and cheese the french eat and honestly i hardly see any obese people. I thought i found one the other day but when i got closer it turns out they were not French. Sadly it was an American couple. And the French don’t really go to gyms like in the US. Or do Americans even go to the gym? It’s so illogical but i’m learning why slowly and can’t wait to do a write up about it.

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