What Are the Best Cheeses for Lactose-Intolerant People?

Lactose intolerance, a common digestive disorder, can make enjoying dairy products challenging. Lactose-intolerant individuals lack sufficient lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. 

Fortunately, not all cheeses are off-limits. Some cheeses naturally contain lower levels of lactose due to the fermentation and aging processes. These cheeses allow those with lactose intolerance to indulge in their favorite dairy flavors without experiencing discomfort

By understanding which cheeses are more suitable, you can continue to enjoy the rich, savory taste of cheese while managing your lactose intolerance effectively.

Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are virtually lactose-free, while aged varieties such as Parmigiano Reggiano contain minimal lactose, making them excellent choices.

Curious about which cheese might best suit your needs and taste buds? Let’s explore some more options that could pleasantly surprise you.

Key Takeaways

  • Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are virtually lactose-free.
  • Aged cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, contain minimal lactose.
  • Goat cheese often has lower lactose content and is better tolerated.
  • Feta cheese, typically made from sheep’s milk, is low in lactose.
  • Cottage cheese is low in lactose and rich in essential nutrients.

Understanding Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body produces insufficient lactase, the enzyme essential for digesting lactose. Affecting over 65% of the global population, this condition results from reduced lactase production, making it challenging for many individuals to digest dairy products as they age. Unlike an allergy, lactose intolerance is due to an enzyme deficiency, not an immune response.

When lactase levels drop, symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea can occur after consuming dairy. These symptoms typically appear later in life as lactase production naturally decreases. Recognizing these symptoms can help you manage your diet to avoid discomfort.

Interestingly, the cheesemaking process removes over 90% of lactose from milk, resulting in many cheeses having much lower lactose content than other dairy products like milk, yogurt, and ice cream. Soft cheeses, in particular, have even lower lactose levels, making them a more tolerable option for those with lactose intolerance.

Understanding how lactase production and lactose levels in different cheeses affect your body can help you make informed dietary choices without triggering uncomfortable symptoms.

Low-Lactose Cheese Options

If you’re lactose-intolerant but love cheese, you have several great options. Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are virtually lactose-free.

Aged cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano also contain minimal lactose.

Additionally, goat cheese can be easier to digest for some, making it another excellent choice.

Hard Cheeses Benefits

Hard cheeses offer several benefits, making them a popular choice for cheese lovers and those with specific dietary needs. Here are some key advantages of hard cheeses:

Low Lactose Content: Hard cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, and Swiss are aged for extended periods, during which most of the lactose is broken down. This makes them suitable for people with lactose intolerance, allowing them to enjoy cheese without digestive discomfort.

Rich Flavor: The aging process of hard cheeses intensifies their flavors, resulting in a more robust and complex taste profile. This makes them a great addition to various dishes, adding depth and richness.

Nutrient-Dense: Hard cheeses are packed with essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. These nutrients are crucial for maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and overall bodily functions.

Long Shelf Life: Due to their low moisture content, hard cheeses have a longer shelf life compared to soft cheeses. This makes them a convenient option for stocking up and using over an extended period without worrying about spoilage.

Versatility: Hard cheeses are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. They can be grated, shredded, or sliced and used in a wide range of recipes, from pasta and salads to sandwiches and casseroles. They can also be enjoyed on their own as part of a cheese platter.

The cheesemaking process makes these cheeses suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals.

By opting for hard cheeses, you enjoy delicious flavors while promoting better digestive health.

Goat Cheese Tolerance

Goat cheese provides a lower-lactose option that’s easier to digest and rich in unique flavors, making it a valuable addition to the diet of those who are lactose-intolerant. Unlike cow’s milk cheese, goat cheese contains significantly less lactose, making it a favorable choice for individuals with lactose digestion issues.

One key reason for its digestibility is the higher concentration of short-chain fatty acids in goat cheese. These acids not only aid digestion but also help reduce gut inflammation. Additionally, goat cheese is rich in probiotics—beneficial bacteria that support gut health and further ease the digestive process.

Versatile and flavorful, goat cheese can be seamlessly incorporated into various dishes without causing significant digestive discomfort. 

Feta Cheese

Greek feta

Feta cheese, made predominantly from sheep’s milk, is an excellent low-lactose option for those who are lactose intolerant. Its naturally low lactose content allows for moderate consumption without the risk of digestive issues, making it a suitable addition to your diet if you’re looking for a cheese that won’t upset your stomach.

In addition to being low in lactose, feta cheese is rich in essential nutrients such as protein and calcium. These nutrients are crucial for maintaining strong bones and muscles, which is particularly important for lactose-intolerant individuals who might miss out on these benefits from other dairy products.

The unique, tangy flavor of feta cheese can enhance a variety of dishes, from salads to pastas, making it a delicious and healthy choice.

You don’t have to compromise on taste or nutrition when you choose feta cheese. Its versatility and nutrient profile make it an excellent option for anyone looking to enjoy cheese without the discomfort that lactose can cause.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese, with its lower lactose content, is an excellent option for those who are lactose intolerant but still seek a nutritious and tasty dairy product. Unlike many other cheeses with higher lactose levels, cottage cheese is easier on the stomach due to its reduced lactose content. This makes it an ideal choice for cheese lovers who struggle with lactose intolerance.

Opting for cheeses with less lactose can enhance your diet and alleviate discomfort. Cottage cheese stands out because it not only has low lactose content but also provides essential nutrients. You can enjoy its creamy texture and rich flavor without the typical digestive issues.

Nutritional Benefits

Cottage cheese offers a range of nutritional benefits, making it a valuable addition to your diet. For those who are lactose-intolerant, it’s noteworthy that cottage cheese is lower in lactose while still being rich in essential nutrients. It serves as an excellent source of protein, crucial for muscle repair and growth. Additionally, it provides a significant amount of calcium, which is vital for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Cottage cheese also contains important vitamins such as A and B12. Vitamin A supports immune function and vision, while B12 is essential for nerve function and the production of red blood cells. Riboflavin, another B vitamin found in cottage cheese, plays a role in converting food into energy.

Here’s a quick overview of the nutritional benefits per serving:

Nutrient Amount per Serving Benefits
Protein 14g Muscle repair and growth
Calcium 125mg Bone health
Vitamin A 120 IU Immune function, vision
Vitamin B12 0.9mcg Nerve function, red blood cells
Riboflavin 0.2mg Energy conversion

Incorporating cottage cheese into your meals can be both delicious and nutritious. Whether enjoyed in a savory dish or a sweet treat, it is a versatile food that can help enhance your nutrient intake.

Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is an excellent choice for lactose-intolerant individuals due to its minimal lactose content. Specifically, Parmigiano Reggiano undergoes an extensive aging process and lactic acid fermentation, which significantly aids in lactose breakdown. This allows you to enjoy this cheese without digestive discomfort, making it a suitable option for those who typically avoid dairy products.

Not only is Parmesan cheese easy on your stomach, but it’s also incredibly versatile in the kitchen. You can sprinkle it on pasta, melt it into sauces, or enjoy it on its own. Its rich, nutty flavor enhances a variety of dishes, making it a favorite among many.

Swiss Cheese

If you’re looking for a delicious and lactose-friendly option, Swiss cheese is an excellent choice. With a remarkably low lactose content of just 0.01%, it’s ideal for those with lactose intolerance. You can enjoy its rich, nutty flavor without the worry of digestive discomfort.

Swiss cheese isn’t just low in lactose; it’s also rich in essential nutrients. It’s an excellent source of protein, which is vital for muscle repair and overall health. Additionally, it provides a good amount of calcium, crucial for strong bones and teeth.

So, not only are you indulging in a tasty treat, but you’re also nourishing your body with important nutrients.

Incorporating Swiss cheese into your diet can be both enjoyable and beneficial. Whether you’re adding it to a sandwich, melting it over vegetables, or enjoying it on its own, Swiss cheese offers both taste and nutrition. Its minimal lactose content ensures that those with lactose intolerance can savor its deliciousness without concerns.

Cheddar Cheese

Portion of Cheddar

Cheddar cheese, with its rich flavor and lower lactose content, is a great option for those with lactose intolerance. It contains about one-third of the lactose found in milk, making it more suitable for those sensitive to lactose. If you want to enjoy cheese without discomfort, cheddar is an excellent choice.

Cheddar cheese is also nutritious, being a good source of protein and calcium, which are essential for muscle function and bone health. Including cheddar in your diet allows you to gain these benefits without the worry of lactose intolerance.

Additionally, cheddar cheese is versatile in cooking. You can use it in various dishes, from sandwiches and salads to casseroles and pastas. Its rich flavor enhances any meal, providing both taste and nutrition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Cheddar or Mozzarella Have Less Lactose?

Cheddar contains less lactose than mozzarella, making it a more suitable choice for those with lactose intolerance. It is easier to digest while still providing essential nutrients like protein and calcium.

Is Feta or Goat Cheese Better for Lactose Intolerance?

Choose feta or goat cheese based on your taste preference. Both are low in lactose, easy to digest, and nutrient-rich. Feta has a tangier flavor, while goat cheese is creamier and contains probiotics.

Is There Any Non-Dairy Cheese That Tastes Good?

Yes, many non-dairy cheeses taste great. Brands offer flavors like cheddar and mozzarella made from nuts, seeds, and soy. Some even melt and stretch, making them perfect for various dishes.


Lactose-intolerant individuals don’t have to miss out on the delicious world of cheese. By choosing aged cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, Gouda, and even certain softer options like Brie, you can enjoy rich flavors and textures without the discomfort. 

These cheeses have naturally lower lactose levels due to their aging and fermentation processes, making them suitable for those with lactose intolerance. By understanding and selecting the right cheeses, you can savor your favorite dairy delights while maintaining your dietary comfort.