Understanding the White Stuff on Cheddar Cheese: Is It Safe?

  • The white stuff on cheddar cheese is calcium lactate, a safe, natural byproduct of the aging process, often enhancing the cheese’s flavor
  • Calcium lactate is not mold, and its presence is a sign of well-aged cheese, sometimes adding a slight crunch
  • To differentiate between calcium lactate and mold, note that calcium lactate appears as white specs or crystals, whereas mold resembles green fur
  • Proper storage in plastic wrap can help prevent mold on cheddar cheese by maintaining its moisture content
  • The presence of calcium lactate, or “cheese crystals,” is generally appreciated by cheese connoisseurs for indicating a flavorful, well-aged cheese

Can You Eat Cheese With White Stuff On It?

The white specks you might encounter on cheddar cheese, both on the surface of a block or in pre-shredded varieties, are actually calcium lactate crystals. Consider these a mark of quality!

These calcium deposits are a natural byproduct of aging in cheddar (and many other cheeses), and can even be present in smaller amounts even if they’re not immediately visible.

There can be no keener pleasure than the sight of a cheese counter overflowing with its riches – Nigel Slater

The presence of calcium lactate crystals is entirely natural and arises during the aging of cheddar. There’s no need to worry about consuming them, as they’re safe for eating.

This build-up is sometimes referred to as “cheese crystals.”

Those white specks aren’t a sign of spoilage and definitely not mold. In fact, cheese aficionados consider them a good thing!

These calcium lactate crystals form naturally as cheddar ages, often indicating a more mature cheese with richer flavor.

How Do You Keep Cheddar Cheese From Molding?

Okay, so we’ve established that the white stuff on cheddar cheese is calcium lactate,

Therefore, it’s not mold as you first may have assumed.

With that being said, this probably doesn’t stop you from worrying about mold.

You’re no doubt used to purchasing your favorite cheddar and noticing that it does mold.

And more often than not, this occurs well before the use-by date.

English cheesemakers are, and always have been, a curious and inventive bunch – Lizzie Cheese

So, how exactly do you keep cheddar cheese from molding?

Firstly, it’s important to note that the use-by, expiration, or best-before date, merely gives you an idea of how long your cheddar will last unopened.

However, you’ll typically see “use within 7 days of opening” on the packaging.

In truth, your cheddar may well last longer than 7 days, but once opened, the clock is ticking.

Cheddar cheese, and all hard cheeses, can generally be kept in plastic wrap.

Due to their low moisture content, you’ll usually find that hard cheeses won’t dry out.

This is an issue with soft cheeses, which should typically be wrapped in parchment or waxed paper.

Mold does require moisture to form, so this is something you need to be wary of.

You’ll also notice that mold on cheddar is typically like green fur.

So, you certainly don’t have to worry about white crystals.

Another way to check whether it’s mold or calcium lactate is by running a knife over it.

If the white areas are textured, then it’s a completely natural formation.

However, if it spreads, then I’m afraid it’s mold.

What’s the Crunch? Crystals in Cheese

My Final Thoughts

So, I hope you understand that the white stuff on cheddar cheese is calcium lactate.

This is completely natural and safe to eat.

These are often described as “cheese crystals” and may even provide a slight crunch to your cheddar.

However, cheese crystals are generally viewed as a sign that cheese is well-aged and more likely to be flavorful.

With that being said, if you are worried about mold forming, then always ensure your cheddar is correctly packaged in plastic wrap.

A well-made Cheddar is a marvel – a complex interplay of flavors and textures that keeps you coming back for more – Janet McKeown

Furthermore, regardless of the expiration date, most cheddars will inform you on the packaging that it should be eaten within 7 days of opening.

If you want to know more about using cheese within the recommended period, read my article on whether it’s safe to eat Babybel after its expiry date.

Does this article change the way you might select or appreciate aged cheeses, knowing that these crystals are a sign of a well-aged product?

Let us know in the comments below!


Q: What is the white stuff on cheddar cheese?
A: The white stuff on cheddar cheese is calcium lactate, a natural byproduct of the cheese aging process.

Q: Is the white stuff on cheddar cheese safe to eat?
A: Yes, calcium lactate is completely safe to eat and indicates a well-aged cheese.

Q: How can you differentiate between calcium lactate and mold on cheddar cheese?
A: Calcium lactate often appears as white specs or “cheese crystals” on the cheese, which are safe and natural. Mold on cheddar, however, typically looks like green fur. Running a knife over the white areas can help; if the white areas are textured, it’s natural formation, but if it spreads, it’s likely mold.

Q: How do you keep cheddar cheese from molding?
A: Keep cheddar cheese wrapped in plastic wrap to maintain its moisture content and prevent molding. Hard cheeses like cheddar usually last well beyond their use-by dates if stored properly.

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