Is the cheese in Velveeta mac and cheese gluten-free?

Quick Answer

The cheese used in Velveeta Shells & Cheese is gluten-free. Velveeta is made by Kraft and does not contain any gluten ingredients. However, some varieties of Velveeta Shells & Cheese do contain wheat flour, which contains gluten. It’s important to check the ingredients list to confirm the specific variety is gluten-free.

Ingredients in Velveeta Cheese

The main ingredients in Velveeta cheese are:

  • Milk
  • Whey
  • Milk protein concentrate
  • Milkfat
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Salt
  • Calcium phosphate
  • Lactic acid
  • Sorbic acid
  • Sodium citrate
  • Sodium alginate
  • Cheese culture
  • Annatto and paprika extract (for color)

None of these ingredients contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Dairy products like cheese do not naturally contain gluten.

Gluten-Free Status of Velveeta

According to Kraft, standard Velveeta cheese sold in blocks is gluten-free. However, some Velveeta products contain gluten-containing ingredients:

  • Velveeta Shells & Cheese made with gluten-free pasta is certified gluten-free by GFCO (Gluten-Free Certification Organization).
  • Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese Cupscontain wheat flour and are not gluten-free.
  • Velveeta Cheesy Skillets may contain gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat flour or pasta.

So while the original Velveeta cheese is gluten-free, some products with Velveeta in the name do contain gluten. It’s important to check the ingredient list and look for certification when purchasing these products.

What Ingredients Contain Gluten?

These are the main ingredients that contain gluten:

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt extract
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Wheat flour
  • Pasta
  • Breading or coating mixes
  • Soy sauce or tamari (unless marked gluten-free)
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Modified food starch (unless marked gluten-free)

So if any Velveeta product contains an ingredient like wheat flour, it will contain gluten and would not be safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. That’s why it’s crucial to read labels carefully.

Cross-Contamination Risks

Even if a Velveeta product doesn’t directly contain gluten ingredients, there is still a risk of cross-contamination at the manufacturing facilities:

  • Facilities that produce gluten-free Velveeta products may also process gluten-containing foods on shared equipment.
  • There could be trace amounts of gluten present on machinery or conveyor belts.
  • Grain dust particles can spread through the air and land on surfaces.
  • Employees may inadvertently transfer gluten to gluten-free areas through hands, clothing or tools.

For these reasons, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should look for products certified gluten-free when available. The GFCO certification verifies testing for cross-contamination risks during production.

Nutrition Facts for Velveeta Cheese

Here is the nutrition information for a 1 oz (28g) serving of original Velveeta cheese:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 45
Fat 3.5g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 15mg
Sodium 230mg
Carbohydrates 1g
Fiber 0g
Sugars 1g
Protein 3g

As you can see, Velveeta is high in saturated fat and sodium compared to natural cheeses. Part of what gives it that smooth, creamy meltability is the addition of emulsifiers like sodium phosphate.

A 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese contains similar calories and fat but higher amounts of protein, calcium and other nutrients. Velveeta is considered more of a processed cheese product than a natural cheese.

Cost Comparison to Cheddar Cheese

Velveeta cheese generally costs less than natural cheese varieties like cheddar or mozzarella. Here is a basic cost comparison of Velveeta versus cheddar cheese:

Cheese Ounces Package Price Price per Ounce
Velveeta original 16 oz $5.98 $0.37
Mild cheddar 8 oz $3.99 $0.50

As you can see, Velveeta costs about 25% less per ounce compared to typical mild cheddar cheese. This makes it a more budget-friendly option.

However, there are some high quality cheddar cheese options that may cost closer to Velveeta, especially when purchased in larger bulk sizes. The nutrition and taste will be better in a quality real cheese.

Taste and Texture

Here is how Velveeta cheese stacks up to real cheese in terms of taste and texture:

Taste: Velveeta has a mild, salty, creamy taste. It lacks the sharpness and depth of flavor that natural cheeses have. Many people consider the taste to be somewhat plastic or artificial.

Texture: Velveeta has a smooth, creamy, almost mushy texture that easily melts. Cheddar and other cheeses are firmer and slice or shred more cleanly. Velveeta melts evenly without clumping or separating thanks to added emulsifiers.

The melted texture is one of the prime reasons Velveeta is popular for dips, sauces and macaroni and cheese. It creates a cohesive, creamy sauce. Real cheeses don’t melt quite as smoothly.

So Velveeta offers convenience in cooking and a mild, inoffensive flavor, while natural cheese delivers superior depth of taste and texture. It depends whether your priority is price, meltability or cheese flavor when choosing between them.

How Is Velveeta Cheese Made?

Velveeta is made via a manufacturing process rather than traditional cheesemaking. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Milk is heated and separated into curds and whey using rennet.
  2. The whey is drained off and the curd is cut into small cubes.
  3. The curd cubes are then heated and pressed to extract more whey.
  4. Salt, emulsifiers and preservatives are mixed in.
  5. The curd is ground up and heated again until a homogeneous mass forms.
  6. Any extra milk ingredients like milk protein concentrate or whey protein are blended in.
  7. The cheese mass is poured into molds and cooled to solidify.
  8. The solid cheese blocks are packaged.

Unlike natural cheesemaking, extra ingredients are added and the cheese goes through an extended heating and pressing process to create that smooth, shelf-stable texture.

How Should You Store Velveeta Cheese?

To maintain optimal flavor and texture, Velveeta cheese should be stored properly. Here are some tips:

  • Keep unopened Velveeta in the refrigerator. The cold environment helps prevent spoilage.
  • Once opened, rewrap tightly in plastic wrap or an airtight container. Don’t let air reach the cheese.
  • Try to use opened Velveeta within 3-4 weeks. It may last a month or two but quality declines over time.
  • Avoid freezing blocks of Velveeta if possible. This can cause texture issues after thawing.
  • Pre-mixed Velveeta sauces or cheese spreads freeze better than plain blocks.
  • Check for mold growth, which appears as blue, black or white fuzzy spots.
  • Discard any Velveeta that smells bad, looks very moldy or has an off coloration.

With proper refrigerated storage, unopened Velveeta lasts about 6-10 months past the “best by” date on the package. But once exposed to air, it goes downhill faster than more natural cheeses. Follow these tips to keep it as fresh as possible.

Health Concerns with Velveeta

There are some potential health issues to consider with Velveeta cheese:

  • High sodium: Velveeta is very high in sodium, with about 330mg per 1 oz (1/4 cup shredded). Eating too much can increase blood pressure.
  • Saturated fat: Full-fat Velveeta contains around 3g saturated fat per ounce, which raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
  • Preservatives: Velveeta contains sorbic acid as a mold inhibitor. Large amounts may cause headaches or skin rashes in sensitive individuals.
  • Food additives: Velveeta contains yellow #5 and yellow #6 food coloring, which may cause allergic reactions.
  • Lack of nutrients: Velveeta is low in protein, calcium and beneficial probiotics compared to natural cheeses.

While occasional small portions of Velveeta are probably fine, regular high intakes could have negative effects due to these concerns. Moderating portion sizes and choosing reduced-fat or low-sodium varieties when available can help minimize the risks.

Gluten-Free Substitutes for Velveeta

If you need a gluten-free substitute for Velveeta, here are some options:

  • Gluten-free cheddar – Aged cheddar has more flavor than Velveeta.
  • Havarti – Creamy, smooth meltability similar to Velveeta.
  • Monterey Jack – Mild but with a hint of a bite.
  • American cheese – Made from real cheese, melts smoothly.
  • Queso blanco – Made from milk curds, offers a creamy texture.
  • Nutritional yeast sauce – Vegan cheese sauce made from deactivated yeast.

When selecting an alternative, check that it’s labeled gluten-free and avoid any with stabilizers that could contain gluten. Test recipes and adjust cooking times, as real cheeses melt differently than Velveeta.

Uses for Velveeta Cheese

Here are some of the most popular ways Velveeta cheese is used:

  • In macaroni and cheese recipes – The smooth, creamy melt makes the sauce.
  • Dips like queso or cheese sauce for nachos
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Topping for casseroles or baked dishes
  • Cheeseburgers – Melts nicely over the patties
  • Enchiladas, burritos or quesadillas
  • Mixed into chicken salad or tuna salad
  • Quesadillas
  • Broccoli and cheese soup

Velveeta is commonly used in American-style cooking any place you want an easy, creamy, melted cheese texture without too strong a cheese flavor. The emulsifiers allow it to integrate smoothly into dips, sauces and casseroles without separating or becoming clumpy.

Nutrition Comparison to Real Cheese

Here is how Velveeta stacks up against real cheese nutritionally in a 1 oz (28g) serving:

Nutrient Velveeta Cheddar Cheese
Calories 45 114
Fat 3.5g 9g
Saturated Fat 2.5g 5.7g
Sodium 230mg 176mg
Protein 3g 7g
Calcium 150mg 204mg

As shown, cheddar has more calories, fat and sodium since it is less processed. But it also provides higher amounts of protein and calcium than Velveeta.

Real cheese is superior nutritionally when eating in moderation. But for cooking, Velveeta’s lower fat content and smooth meltability may be preferable in some recipes.

Common Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Velveeta cheese:

Is Velveeta real cheese?

Velveeta is considered a “pasteurized prepared cheese product” rather than a true cheese. It goes through an extensive manufacturing process that results in a soft, creamy texture.

Is Velveeta healthy?

No, Velveeta is high in sodium, saturated fat, and preservatives so it is not considered very healthy, especially if eaten regularly. Small occasional portions are ok.

Is Velveeta gluten-free?

Plain Velveeta contains no gluten ingredients. But some Velveeta products with pasta or flour may contain gluten, so check labels.

Does Velveeta need to be refrigerated?

Yes, Velveeta always needs refrigeration to prevent bacterial growth. Leave it in the fridge until ready to use.

Can you freeze Velveeta cheese?

Freezing is not recommended for plain Velveeta blocks, but pre-prepared Velveeta sauces and spreads freeze well for later use.

Is Kraft Mac and Cheese gluten free?

Most Kraft Mac and Cheese contains wheat flour so it is not gluten-free. But Kraft and Velveeta do make some gluten-free pasta and cheese sauce varieties.


In summary, plain Velveeta cheese without added pasta or flour is gluten-free. But it provides less nutrition than real cheese varieties. Velveeta melts smoothly thanks to added emulsifiers and can be a budget-friendly choice for cooking. But for eatng raw, natural cheese delivers more flavor and nutrients. Check labels carefully when purchasing Velveeta products, as some do contain gluten. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about including Velveeta cheese in your gluten-free diet.

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