Are There Carbs in Cheese?
What to Eat

Are There Carbs in Cheese?

Are There Carbs in Cheese?

Posted 7 days ago

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Say “cheese!”

Cheese is one of the world’s favorite foods, made from aged milk and various enzymes and microbial strains to produce a product that’s salty, rich in umami flavor, and uniquely — well — cheesy. Most cheeses are also ideal for Keto — containing very low carb counts.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should build your meal plan around cheese — although we understand the temptation.

Here’s our definitive guide to cheese on Keto.

Is Cheese Keto?

Most cheeses are perfectly Keto-friendly. Cheese is a naturally high-fat, low-carb food — with a healthy dose of protein, too.

That makes cheese a great snack, or a good way to add fat and protein to a Keto-friendly meal.

In fact, cheese plays a starring role in many Keto snacks and recipes — chaffles, anyone?

How Much Cheese Can I Eat on Keto?

Most cheeses contain 1-2 grams of carbs per ounce, so you could technically eat a lot of cheese and still be under your carb limit for the day.

It’s probably not the best idea, though.

Cheese is high in fat and therefore, really calorie-dense. Eating a lot of cheese could slow down your weight loss.

Not to mention, many people have reported constipation or similar digestive upsets when they eat too much cheese.

Cheeses to Avoid on Keto

Most regular cheeses have Keto-friendly macros, but there are some that should be avoided. These include:

  • Flavored, sweetened cream cheese (like strawberry or blueberry)
  • Cheeses that contain fruit

Some plant-based cheeses may contain more carbs, as well. It's important to check the labels for all plant-based cheeses.

Also, reduced-fat cheeses tend to have more carbs than their full-fat counterparts because they contain added fillers to help replicate the texture and meltiness of full-fat cheese.

There are tons of products that are cheese-flavored or made with cheese as a key ingredient. These include:

  • Cheese crackers: While some Keto-friendly cheese crackers exist, they are typically made with grains and cheese. Be sure to check the label.
  • Cheese dips and sauces: Cheese dips and sauces like queso and fondue can sometimes contain added starch or fillers to make them smoother, but for the most part, these foods are Keto-friendly. Check the label if you can just in case.
  • Cheese-based soups: Cream of cheddar soup is typically made with flour as a thickener — therefore, it’s too high in carbs for Keto. For other soups that contain cheese, it will really depend on the other ingredients.
  • Blue cheese salad dressing: Blue cheese salad dressing is ideal for Keto; high in fat and very low in carbs. Again, check the ingredients label for any sneaky added ingredients that are not low carb.
  • Cheesecake: Cheesecake is high in carbs from sugar, but we have plenty of Keto-friendly cheesecake recipes to sate your sweet tooth.
  • Mozzarella sticks: Mozzarella sticks are breaded in flour or breadcrumbs and fried, so they’re not Keto-friendly. You can make your own low-carb version for a Keto-friendly appetizer, though.

For many of these products, it’s tricky to give a blanket “Yes, it’s Keto-friendly” or “No, it’s not Keto.”

Instead, you’ll need to check the net carbs and ingredient list to be sure it meets your macro and food quality preferences. You can check carb counts on Carb Manager by looking up a food manually or scanning the barcode.

Be sure to pay attention to the portion size on the label. Generally, if a food is less than 5 grams of net carbs per serving, it can fit in a Keto diet — just make sure it's worth it for you!

Is Cheese Healthy?

Although many types of cheese are perfectly Keto-friendly, it’s probably not the best idea to eat as much cheese as you want — especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Cheese is pretty high in calories, which can derail you quickly if you’re eating too much or not measuring your portion sizes.

Additionally, nearly 70% of the world’s population is thought to be lactose intolerant to some degree. While many cheeses are low in lactose, some higher lactose cheeses — like cottage cheese or ricotta cheese — may cause gastrointestinal symptoms in these people[*].

Carbs in Cheese

Check below to see if your favorite cheese is Keto-friendly. (Hint: it probably is!)

Cottage Cheese

  • Net carbs: 4 grams per ½ cup
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Cottage cheese is a high-protein snack that’s really great paired with strawberries and a sprinkle of Keto-friendly sweetener. It’s a little bit higher in carbs than most other cheeses.

Cream Cheese

  • Net carbs: 2 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Cream cheese is a great way to add both tanginess and creaminess to sweet and savory dishes. It’s a key ingredient in Keto “fathead dough.”

Cheddar Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Cheddar is available in flavors ranging from mild to extra sharp. It’s a favorite for snacking and cooking, with ideal Keto macros.

American Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Although “pasteurized processed” American cheese gets a bad rap, it’s just a blend of cheeses and other ingredients (typically whey, salt, and milk proteins) designed for melting — and perfect for a cheeseburger. That said, there can be some variance in carb count between brands depending on how they process their American cheese.

Feta Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Feta is a tangy, crumbly, soft cheese made from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk.

Mozzarella Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Mozzarella cheese is responsible for the “cheese pull” on a pizza. It’s melty and stringy and has a very mild taste.

String Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1-2 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Individually wrapped string cheeses are a great on-the-go snack on Keto. They come in a variety of types, so carb counts can vary slightly.

Parmesan

  • Net carbs: 1-4 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Parmesan is ideal for finishing off an Italian dish, and on Keto, it can be used as a low-carb flour/breadcrumb substitute for fried food and meatballs. Fresh, hard parmesan is much lower in carbs than the dry, grated stuff that’s sold on the pasta aisle — so if you can, grate your own.

Swiss Cheese

  • Net carbs: 0 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Despite its mildly sweet taste, Swiss cheese is very low in carbs. Although it’s 0 grams per ounce, it does technically contain a small amount of carbs — so they will add up if you eat too much.

Ricotta

  • Net carbs: 4 grams per ¼ cup
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Ricotta cheese is a staple ingredient for many pasta dishes and desserts and a must-have if you want to make Keto-friendly lasagna. Still, it’s higher in carbs than others so you need to be careful with how much you eat.

Blue Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Blue cheese — so named because of the blue mold cultures throughout the cheese — has a strong, funky taste that people tend to either love or hate. (But don't worry, it’s totally safe to eat.)

Goat Cheese

  • Net carbs: 0 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Goat cheese is made from goat’s milk rather than cow’s milk. There are nearly endless varieties of goat’s milk so carb counts may vary a bit — but for the most part, they are very low in carbs.

Pimiento Cheese

  • Net carbs: 3 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Pimiento Cheese isn’t actually cheese at all — it’s a sandwich spread from the Southeastern U.S. made with shredded cheddar, mayonnaise, and pimiento peppers. The spread itself is perfectly Keto-friendly, but you’ll need a Keto-friendly bread to enjoy a nice pimiento grilled cheese.

Velveeta

  • Net carbs: 3 grams per ¼-inch slice
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Velveeta is a large block of processed cheese, similar to American cheese, used for cooking. It’s often added to soups or used to make cheese dips. It contains added starch, so while a small serving is technically Keto-friendly it’s very easy to go overboard.

Provolone Cheese

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Provolone is an Italian cheese with a fairly mild taste. It’s great eaten cold, but it also melts really well.

Brie

  • Net carbs: 0 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Brie is a soft cheese that’s a common addition to appetizer spreads. The cheese itself is Keto-friendly, but it’s often served wrapped in puff pastry, covered in jam, or with crackers — none of which are Keto-friendly unless you make or seek out specific Keto-friendly versions.

Babybel Cheese

  • Net carbs: 0 grams per piece (roughly ¾ ounce each)
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Babybel is a brand name for small, semi-soft cheeses that come individually wrapped. They’re great for tossing into your lunch box for a quick, on-the-go snack.

Gouda

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Gouda cheese is a hard cheese that’s similar in texture to cheddar, although it has a natural rind. Gouda is also sweeter than cheddar cheese. Smoked gouda is a really popular choice with a unique, smoky taste.

Pepperjack

  • Net carbs: 1 gram per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Pepperjack cheese is a Monterey Jack cheese made spicy with the addition of chili peppers and spices. If you like your food with a little kick, Pepperjack is perfect.

Colby Jack Cheese

  • Net carbs: 0 grams per ounce
  • Keto-friendly? Yes

Colby Jack cheese is a combination of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. It’s very mild because it’s aged for just two weeks, but it’s great for sandwiches or snacking.

Concerned about carbs in cheese? For the most part, you don’t have to be! Cheese is Keto-friendly as long as you stick to a reasonable portion size.

Still, if you want to “check before you cheese,” you can quickly look up any variety of cheese on the Carb Manager app.