How to Make American Cheese

As our regular readers know, I’ll go to my grave defending processed, pasteurized American cheese. I understand your objections to this position. I’ve heard all of the arguments. It’s bland. It’s lowbrow. Heck, it’s not even technically cheese, but more of a sciency slurry of milk, whey, milkfat, artificial flavorings and oil, dyed orange and laid flat in individually-wrapped squares of cellophane. That’s why “Kraft Singles” aren’t called “Kraft Cheese.” It can’t legally be sold that way, and must be referred to as “processed cheese” or “cheese food,” and that upsets consumers and reminds them that robots are in charge of the majority of the nation’s food supply. It’s terrible stuff, devoid of any of the qualities that make cheese so much fun, leaving behind nothing but cynical, flavorless slabs of institutional runoff from a food production system run amok. It also happens to be the only cheese I’ll consider for a cheeseburger.

Why? Processed American cheese outshines its more natural cheese ancestors in one key area: texture and meltability. Sliced American cheese behaves quite unlike actual food, when you expose it to heat. It’s difficult to burn, yet it melts almost instantly (in fact, it will start to melt at room temperature), oozing and flowing over the crusty outside of a perfectly cooked burger, filling all of the nooks and crannies in the surface and imparting a creaminess to the finished product that you just can’t get from a cold shellacking of Swiss. It may not taste like much, but on a cheeseburger, that’s appropriate. The beef gets to be the star of the burger, while the cheese contributes only smooth, silky texture and melt.

Homemade American Cheese

To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day today, we wanted to pay special tribute to processed cheese, the childhood classic that for many of us, formed the basis of our relationship to the grilled cheese sandwich. Our version uses Colby Jack, with a bit of gelatin to help firm the cheese but also allow it to melt instantly when it comes in contact with a griddled cheeseburger. Pressed into a mold and refrigerated for a few hours, the resulting block of smooth, mild cheese is like a “Super-Single,” but made with actual ingredients and perfect for grilling between two pieces of bread and dunking into canned tomato soup. Not exciting enough? Feel free to customize the recipe by adding in chopped pickled jalapenos, coarsely ground black pepper, or sliced olives before you press the mixture into the mold.

Homemade American Cheese


Homemade American Cheese

  • Author: Meal Hack


  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1Β½ teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 12 ounces Colby Jack cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • β…› teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Β½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk


  1. Line a small 4Γ—5 loaf pan (disposable pans work fine) with plastic wrap, letting the excess hang over the sides.
  2. In a small bowl, combine water and gelatin and stir. Let sit for five minutes.
  3. Combine cheese, milk powder, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine.
  4. Meanwhile, heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. When milk begins to simmer, remove from heat and transfer hot milk to a measuring cup to make pouring easier.
  5. With the food processor running, slowly add hot milk through the feed tube at the top of the bowl. Add prepared, thickened gelatin mixture.
  6. Stop food processor occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, and continue whirring until the mixture becomes perfectly smooth (about 1-2 minutes).
  7. Working quickly, transfer mixture to prepared mold, pressing mixture down into the pan with a rubber spatula to remove any large air bubbles. Smooth surface of cheese, and cover with the overlapping plastic wrap.
  8. Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or overnight. Slice as needed and use as you would individually-wrapped processed American cheese.

Homemade American Cheese


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


    1. You can TOTALLY feel less guilty, using this version. Mainly because this version is made from real food. πŸ™‚

  1. I have always loved and followed your website for many moons now and have pinned many of your recipes. But you have stolen my heart with this one! Thank you for this recipe for homemade processed cheese! I will be making this straight away. πŸ™‚

    1. Awe, thanks Crystal, that means a lot. Thank you so much for the kind words…and be sure to let us know how the cheese turns out!

  2. Awesome, this opens the door to a world of amazing cheese creations nature never intended for. Thank you! Also I remember that commercial too.

  3. I feel less guilty about the American Singles in my fridge as I type this. My husband makes fun of me – we have plenty of REAL cheese, why use the horrid processed florescent orange stuff?! Because it’s magical. I buy the organic kind to ease my conscience a little bit. But I’ll have to try this recipe – that picture of the orange cheese goo in the food processor is making me swoon (in a good way). Thanks for this recipe! And I totally remember that commercial!

    1. There’s no better melter on the face of the planet. And when you make it yourself, you get to have super thick slices, too. It’s a win-win!

  4. You can’t imagine my excitement upon finding this post. Just wondering how long this will keep in the fridge, since it’s actually made with real ingredients. Is it possible to freeze some and be able to thaw and reuse it later?

    1. Hi Jennifer! It should be fine in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks. I am not sure about freezing it, though I don’t have a good feeling about it. If you try it, please stop back by and let us know if it survived!

  5. During my first trip to New York when I was all of ten, we ended up at the Stardust Diner and my mom ordered a grilled cheese for me along with my preferred black-and-white milkshake. I hated the sandwich, and for years I blame Kraft Singles for almost ruining cheese for me. But there’s at least something honorable in making your own–at least you control the inputs and so the final product is going to be better than something out of cellophane. And it does look like a pretty tasty sandwich…

  6. I always wonder why American cheese tastes awesome until I fold it up and try to eat it quicker… totally ruins it for me. But I won’t be giving up my stash of Kraft Singles as a fridge staple any time soon. Kudos for taking on this home made version.

  7. Malcolm…I am so with you on the tomato soup and grilled cheese combo!! And the thought of a slice as thick as I want…well that’s Heaven! Gotta share this recipe with my daughter as well. Thanks.

  8. I always have these cheese singles in my fridge, I just love them and don’t know why LOL even with real cheese in the fridge too!!!!

    Don’t know that I could be bothered to make my own though but nice to know I can if I want to, thanks.

    1. Ditto that for the Americans in Germany! (Heck, I wouldn’t mind a recipe for how to “make” Colby Jack if it isn’t terribly hard….It’s astounding how many varieties of cheese they have here, but not the 2 I loved growing up)

  9. Oh wow! I still love “plastic” cheese on burgers and grill cheese. But I LOVE this idea. I bet you could use this in place of velveeta in the rotel/sausage dip . . . wheels are turning…

  10. I have been searching for recipes for my kids favorite foods. I am very excited to find this one!!! My kids love love grilled cheese and tomato soup. We are growing our own tomatoes and herbs, made our own bread and butter and now we can make the best cheese for grilled cheese!! Thank you so much!!! I found you through Pinterest and will def bookmark you for future recipes πŸ™‚

  11. I love white American…do you happen to have tried with just Jack cheese? Does this still work, or is the colby jack necessary. Thanks!

  12. Oh my word! I’m a Texan living in Australia! I am so excited about this post! Now, I can make Velveeta-style queso. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your post on the web site. I live in England and when I lived in the states I just loved Chili Con Queso but we can’t get Velveeta either. I know the Rotel is not available either but I think i can make that with tinned tomatoes and a couple of chilies.

  13. Like you, I am a cheese connoisseur and yet I adore plasti-cheez! Nothing is as melty and fun. Love the stuff! People make fun of me all the time for having brie, gruyere, and American slices all next to each other in my fridge, but cheddar just won’t work in a homemade egg McMuffin or grilled cheese.

  14. oh wow! I have googled this before, but never found anything that seemed worthy of trying. I have a recipe for chicken, Ro-Tel pasta and Velveeta, but who wants to pay so much for Velveeta, not to mention that it has all the bad stuff in it! I will definitely use this for that recipe, as well as delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. It is decidedly the best sandwich on the planet, and I ALWAYS use 2 slices – now I can just cut it extra thick. THANK YOU!!!

  15. Ok, this is kind of genius. I personally usually just use good old cheddar for stuff like grilled cheese, but there are certain recipes (usually those old-school “retro” ones from my grandmother’s recipe box) that you just NEED processed cheese for! This is definitely the answer. Love it.

  16. Just put this into my refrigerator, we’ll see how it turns out! It all looks like yours with the exception of one thing: It didn’t fill my loaf pan up all the way! Not even a third of the way. But I’m okay with that as long as it tastes good πŸ™‚

  17. I know that at our local deli if i wanted to make some white american homemade cheese i would have to pay about 5.50 for #1 of cheese to make this. So for the amount of cheese product you end up with would it be cheaper to just buy velveeta??? lol.

    1. Maybe, but cost wasn’t my primary concern, here…it was to find a way to turn junk food into actual food.

  18. I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest (Thank the heavens for Pinterest!) and decided I just had to try and make this. I don’t have a food processor, so I used my good ol’ fashioned beaters in a bowl. I had a little trouble getting the gelatin to mix in and the cheese kind of looked a bit “glumpy” while mixing it, so I tossed it in the microwave for 30 seconds and started beating it again. Repeated the 30 seconds in the microwave again. It came out looking like yours. I did sample a bit as I was putting it in the fridge, and was a bit salty? I’m wondering if the salt will mellow a bit as the cheese ages? I can’t wait to try it on a grilled cheese sandwich though!

    1. Any time I’ve had a piece of processed ‘cheese product’ it was salty but the end product was far more mellow πŸ™‚ maybe this is the same

      1. well, its in the fridge, the gelatin got hard and bouncy on me, so i took about 1/2 cup shredded cheddar and put the gelatin in there, then blended it in my magic bullet until it was grainy, i dont have a large cup blender or a food processor so i used the MB for the whole batch. it was a tiny bit grainy but im waiting on the finished product

        1. It’s normal for the gelatin to firm up, but I haven’t had a problem with graininess…maybe a problem with doing it in batches?

          1. well the finished product turned out perfect as far as texture, nice and smooth, heavy, creamy and slightly rubbery like i remember velveeta lol. its a bit pale but i expected that without adding food color. im going to try it in ‘mac cheese’ today to test the taste, melt and mouthfeel

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with us. What a perfect time to find this with all the fresh produce coming out of the garden.

    Thanks again!!

  20. Just made this cheese, it worked out great. I used monterey jack and mild cheddar, and it came out perfect. My only suggestion is to cut down on the salt. I added the teaspoon and thought it was way too much. I would do maybe half that and adjust to taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take any out! I also added cracked pepper and garlic powder, yum! Can’t wait to make grilled cheese with this and some bacon jam!

  21. I want to know if this recipe is freezable? When I am cooking I like to cook in large batches and freeze for future meals…Thanks, Andi

  22. My husband thanks you!! Velveeta rotel cheese dip is his favorite but I’ve started only making it for his birthday when we stopped buying fake food. So he is beyond excited! But I’m wondering why you need powdered milk and milk. I’m sure there’s a reason, I’m
    Just curious! Thanks!!

    1. Try your rotel dip with these 3 ingredients and you’ll never want it with velveeta again: a roll of Jimmy Dean sausage (cooked first), a can of Rotel and a brick of cream cheese…. warm in your crock pot…. soooooo delicious!

  23. I honestly cannot wait to try this. It looks so stupidly simple. I will not buy Velvetta, although I do like the stuff :), and it’s not just the cost that keeps me away. I’ll start with the original recipe as is (with the possible exception of using a little less salt) to get a good base. From there, I’ll play. Having recently come across a copycat Rotel recipe, I can see that poor, old and tired dip get new life into it πŸ™‚

  24. Thank you so much for this recipe! I live in Germany but I grew up in the US. Velveeta and American cheese are two items from “home” I can’t seem to get in Germany (unfortunately Colby Jack is also on that list… Any suggestions for a substitute? I can get cheddar). If I can find a good substitute for Colby jack I can make my mom’s Mac and cheese and nacho cheese dip again!! This is awesome!

    1. Use a 50/50 combination of Cheddar and a white farmers cheese, Butterkasse or similar. That should get close if not spot on. Any simple, mild white cheese should be a viable substitute. I’d also say you can play with it if you like with any similar texture cheese. I’d worry about any super wet or very dry/hard cheeses.

    1. I wonder if you could use arrowroot? You would probably have to experiment with that though.

      I’m having a housewarming party next weekend and I’m excited to make my favorite “queso” (Velveeta, chicken and salsa). My friend makes it all the time but I hate consuming that much Velveeta in one sitting. Happy to serve my guests real food.

    2. I actually made this a few days ago with Agar flakes, and it worked really well. You use as much as the gelatin, let it soak in the same amount of water. When you put it in the hot milk, you do have to continue cooking the mixture just to get the Agar to melt. It worked really well and no fishy taste (it’s seaweed). Good luck!

  25. I. hate. velveeta. It’s so dadgum salty – not to mention the sodium content – and just has a plastic-y taste, after you get past the salt. But the only substitute when making queso or something that needs to be intensely creamy is the store brand… which amazingly tastes better. Anyway, I am excited about this recipe, although a little intimidated at the use of gelatin….

  26. This recipe makes me a happy camper…
    I have trouble getting cheddar to that nice melty/gooey consistency and I have always believed that /nothing/ beats the texture and mouth feel of american cheese on burgers and in grilled cheese sandwiches or macaroni and cheese. My favorite mac and cheese growing up wasnt that blue boxed crap, it was velveeta mac and cheese…which isnt much better than the boxed, but the texture was amazing lol.
    Thank you soooo much for posting it!!
    I know what I’m making next week πŸ˜‰

  27. This is probably the freakin’ coolest recipe I have ever seen. So simple, yet so totally amazing. I am in awe of that log of cheesy goodness and cannot WAIT to try it myself. I run a frugal website, and I featured your post/recipe/tutorial of melty awesomeness in a little segment I call the Frugal Pin of the Day, where I share awesome “Pins” from Pinterest that benefit my frugal readers, and today I featured your post! Thank you SO much for sharing this recipe with us, and if you’d like you can check out the post I wrote about your recipe here:
    Thanks again for the cheaper, better, healthier “less-processed” cheese-food! YUM!

  28. I’m curious how important the powdered milk is in this recipe, its a “stay away from” product for us….also what is the function of the Cream of Tartar?

  29. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? This is amazing! I always feel so yucky going to the store and seeing only processed foods. I DID have to use processed cheese in recipes that call for it, but now I don’t have to. So happy to have at least one thing I can make on my own, and feel good about feeding it to my family.

      1. The only problem I think you might run into using already sheddred store bought cheese is they add an anti-clumping agent to it, so not sure how it would melt down?

  30. There’s something lacking in this sentence: “Why? Processed American cheese outshines its more natural cheese ancestors in one key area: texture and meltability. ”

    What is it? FLAVOR!!! Like an old commercial once said, “what do you want, good meltability or good taste?”. Okay, so I dated myself. Big deal.

    When I was a kid and thought that American “cheese” was the only kind there was (besides that weird Swiss stuff), I rarely ever ate cheese because I didn’t like the taste. The “texture and meltability” weren’t of the slightest concern. I never ordered cheeseburgers and on rare occasions would eat a grilled “cheese” if it were offered to me.

    Now that I’m a mature adult, “texture and meltability” are, at best, very tangential isses, at least as far as I’m concerned. I want FLAVOR! After finally becoming of cheddar and how delicious it is when on a hamburger or grilled chicken breast, or even simply toasted on some bread, as I customarily have broken fast every day for at least the past 2 decades, or even served shredded on a baked potato, my faith in cheese (REAL cheese) was renewed.

    I recall an absolutely ludicrous commercial that featured a jingle with the lyrical hook “use Velveeta instead of cheddar it melts better”. Okay, it also rhymes better, but only with cheddar. They were actually presenting this as the one and only reason to use it on a wonderful and highly nutritious vegetable like broccoli! Whatever nutritive value this relative of the cabbage and cauliflower may have had was thoroughly drowned in a yellow, sticky mass of processed cheese food, robbed forever of its innate value as a source of vitamins and other good stuff.

    But it does MELT better, so who cares if it tastes like things best omitted from this posting? That being said, if you choose to eat American “cheese”, knock yourselves out! After all, it leaves more cheddar for me. I would be remiss if I were to neglect mention of the many other cheeses in the world, even if some I’d never permit entry into my mouth.

    In closing, I note the considerable pride I had in my then 10 year old nephew when he ordered a cheeseburger with CHEDDAR, asking for it by name. Smart kid (some say it runs in the family) . . .

  31. In France we don’t have powdered gelatin, only sheets- what’s the substitution rate?
    Also, is there a good sub for the Co-Jack? Or the Jack? 400 cheeses and no Jack! I’m eyeing this recipe as a sub for velveeta for NACHOS! I’ve cloned the ro-tel perfectly, and it works with the ‘American cheese’ here, but it’s just enough off to notice…

  32. Personally I can’t stand processed cheese and always swore I’d never feed it to my children. But I ended up with a sweetie pie boy with severe autism who will eat almost nothing. But boy does he love spray cheese (Cheese Whiz). It figures! I think I’m going to give this recipe a try and see if I can convert him. I’d feel so much better about him eating this version! Thanks!

  33. You have no idea how happy this makes me. I’ve started making homemade mac n cheese for my son because the idea of the powdered cheese grosses me out. The only problem is using the Velveeta processed cheese really isn’t much better for us (at least health wise). I’ve been wanting to make my own cheese but am too intimidated with all the special ingredients and additional equipment needed. This seems very simple. I can’t wait to try it. I think I’m going to get a really good Irish cheddar to make this with. So happy πŸ™‚

  34. I need to find a way to make this without a food processor πŸ™ My processor is just one of those little jobbers. But, I really like the idea of making ‘velveeta’ at home. It’s so expensive to buy. Just paid $6.00 for a loaf of it yesterday, but it’s melty goodness in soups, especially, makes it a staple in my refrigerator. Will pin recipe now, hope for processor later. Thanks!

      1. @C,
        I just tried making it today WITHOUT the milk powder and it turned out perfect! I also used 3/4 tsp. Xanthum Gum instead of the 1 1/2 tsp. Gelatin. No problems there! Worked like a charm. Was a little too salty for me so next time I will try using a little less salt. Thanks Malcom Bedell for these recipe! I can now start making my old recipes that call for Velveeta again! πŸ˜€

      2. I read that plain coffee creamer can be used as a powdered milk substitute. I’m not sure what the powdered milk does so I didn’t want to leave it out and since I didn’t have any I used the coffee creamer. Waiting now for it to set. I am so excited to try it. I think next time I will leave out half the salt.

  35. My 12 year old son was diagnosed with high blood pressure (thanks genetics!) and we have switched to a low sodium diet. I am thrilled to find this recipe that I can adjust the amount of sodium in so that we can have the option of velveeta type cheese again! I do not have a food processor, do you have another suggestion in place of it?

  36. You have no idea how happy you’ve made this transplanted American! I’ve been overseas for 9 years and it’s been that long since I’ve had Velveeta, or in fact ANY American cheese. Thank you!

  37. Could you cut this in strips and make it into snacks? You know like the pull-apart cheese, but not really pull-apart? This would be good cubed too to have with crackers and fruit!

    1. Hi Mary! You could certainly cut this cheese into sticks, but it’s not going to “pull apart” the way string cheese does. But it will still be delicious. Thanks for writing!

  38. Only in America would you be happy with processed cheese slices and food grade product out of a can. I was looking for how to make real hard cheese. Like cheddar for example and I caught wind of this blog. #3 ingredient was Colby Jack. So that isn’t really “Making American Cheese” if you are just shredding up a block of the good stuff and adding a bunch of other things to it. If I had Jack cheese here in France I wouldn’t be needing to try and find a recipe on making American cheese. I’ll keep looking! But this is not for me.

    1. Steff, if you had read you would see this is not for making cheddar and the like. It is a healthy substitute for (over) processed single-wrap slices and Velveeta. These cheeses are used mainly for smooth melting recipes…cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese dips. I feel that you do not understand what American cheese is, exactly. I, for one, am very happy to have come across this recipe and know that I can make a healthier (and less expensive) version at home. I do wish you the very best in finding the right recipe for you.

    2. Why would you even leave a comment like this? And why would you assume that American cheese is hard cheese? Keep your negative comments to yourself, and stop with the “only in America” discriminative harassment. You’re only making yourself look bad and proving your own ignorance. Disgraceful!

  39. This sounds great! I am a terribly homesick yank living in Ireland. I want to make this BUT no such think as Colby Jack here… Or Colby…or Jack. HELP! I need to make this! What would you recommend as a substitute cheese? I don’t know about cheddar, I mean I love it, but, it does that greasy likes to separate thing when melting. Let me know, I’ll be waiting! Thanks.

      1. I would look for a cheddar and just get the most mild or young you can find to substitute for Colby, since it is a smooth, mild yellow cheese. I would also look for any soft farmer’s cheese made from Cow’s milk. I would suspect any goats milk cheese would just bring that earthy ‘goaty’ flavor you don’t associate with Velveeta. If you can only find one of these (cheddar, or farmers cheese) go for it. I’m betting this recipe will still be edible. πŸ˜‰

  40. I’m a total cheese lover, but I’m wondering why go through the effort of making your own American cheese when it’s so easy to purchase it at your local supermarket? I’d much rathar put that time and effort into preparing an actual delicious & nutricious meal for my family……really!

    1. Angela, let me try to explain why I do this. Yes, you can buy this in the store…but it is not anywhere near the quality of making your own ingredients when possible. This recipe is quick to make and you have fresh, for less. You have control over what goes into it. I also no longer make ‘cream of’ soups. I have a base recipe in my pantry that works very well when canned soup is called for. While the savings there aren’t as great, what I do save in sodium and other stuff is well worth the effort (which is minimal). While this type of…hmmm, what do I call this? cooking? is not for everyone, there are those of us out here that embrace it for healthier food.

      1. Thanks for answering my question, Malcom. I now see what you mean. I like to cook ‘healthy’, and I’d love your base recipe (substitution) for ‘cream of’ to use in my casseroles. How can I find it?

        1. LOL, hi Angela. I’m not Malcolm (Debra), I’ve just hi-jacked his thread I guess. Sorry Malcolm πŸ™‚ The recipe I used is here – – but it is all over the internet posted by many. Just flavor the soup accordingly (if you choose to do so) by adding whatever flavor of soup is called for – mushrooms, onions, etc. You might also be interested in making your own pancake mix, taco seasoning, etc. The list is endless. They pop up all the time on pinterest, which is where I found this great American cheese recipe. What has saved me the most money so far is making my own laundry detergent. Hope this has been of some help to you πŸ™‚

          1. Thanks for that link, ala-kat!! I’ll be using it.
            I also think your explanation for the reasons for making your own ingredients whenever possible is well stated. I also do that whenever I have the time and means to do so.

  41. Malcolm, I found this blog posting through Pinterest and am so VERY glad I clicked on the link. This is a fantastic idea. You’re a genius.
    I grew up on real cheese, and was thoroughly grossed out by the cellophane wrapped, “processed cheese food” when my (then new) hubby & I bought it while unable to afford the real stuff. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. Now, I am addicted to the “good stuff” they sell at the special cheese counter.
    One note, it seems a disgrace to dunk this cheezy goodness into canned soup. I’ll be using this on my onion bread and dunking it into homemade tomato & blue-cheese soup. Yummy!!!
    (I’ll admit that I used the Campbell’s Tomato Soup liberally until about a year ago. –grin)

  42. Thanks for the recipe. I just made it and put it in the fridge to chill- can’t wait to see how it turns out. We’re lucky enough to live near an Amish community where we can buy good cheese really inexpensively. I just bought a whole log of cheddar for $2.49 / lb. The same stuff you get in the deli for $5.99/lb. So we always have really good cheese, but sometimes I just get a hankerin’ for velveeta, and it’s been literally years since I have gotten any because I just can’t bring myself to pay so much money for so many preservatives. You’ve solved my problem. Thanks again!

    1. I would stick with the whole milk…but if you try it using skim, please be sure to circle back and let me know how it turned out!

  43. This cheese was awesome on grilled cheese sandwiches. So much flavor! And I loved that I knew exactly what went in the final product. I did have one question though. I tried using it to make mac-n-cheese and it kind of clumped when it melted. I haven’t tried it with Rotel yet, but do you have any tips on melting it for purposes other than a grilled cheese? Thanks! Once again, awesome recipe.

    1. You know Andi, I really haven’t tried cooking with it in this way. It might be that once it firms up, it never truly becomes a liquid ever again. I’d be interested in hearing your results using it in a dip with Rotel.

      1. I’ve read that clumping can happen with re-heated gelatin. I’m going to try to make it into a sauce (not in the microwave) and see what happens. The good thing is when you do melt it and it becomes stringy/clumpy you know there is actual real cheese in there. I’ll let you know how the rotel turns out.

        1. I started making this recipe and got interrupted. By the time I got back to it several hours later, my gelatin was totally set and rubbery. But I decided to go forward with the recipe anyway. It turned out just fine.

          Tonight I used it in mac and cheese, made with a standard bΓ©chamel. Once the bechamel had thickened, I turned the heat down low and added the cheese which I had cut into small cubes, stirring occasionally. It did take a couple of minutes to completely melt, but the sauce was smooth & velvety with no clumping whatsoever. I think the key is letting it melt slowly over low temp.

  44. I can’t wait to make this to surprise my husband. He grew up never having real cheese on a regular basis and still loves Velveeta and Kraft Singles. We never have either one since I get migraines when I eat processed cheese foods.

  45. I was wondering what the purpose of the cream of tartar is… Because I have searched my city and cannot seem to find it anywhere. Any suggestions what I could substitute? Or could I omit it? Thanks

  46. I preach and preach and preach!! I don’t eat american cheese becaues it’s not ‘real cheese’….. people don’t understand what I mean by that. “What do you mean it’s not real cheese, if it’s not cheese, then what is it?” It’s a ‘cheese food’, read the package, it’s full of oil. I use real cheese for grilled cheese.

  47. My husband is against “cheese food”, but I {like you} really like it! And I’m a HUGE Velveeta fan! Thanks so much for this! I’m soooo excited about trying it! πŸ™‚

  48. Had to let you know how great mine came out. I was looking for mine to be a little sharper than the “v”. Used New York sharp and 2{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} milk (my son drank the coveted red milk). Even messed up a little on measuring the milk (used 1 cup and scrambled to hurry and double everything else while it was in the food processor) I lined the bottom box of the name brand stuff with plastic wrap and set in the fridge and went shopping. My daughter and I returned to wonderful cheese stuff that sliced nicely with a old fashioned cheese slicer and went directly on soft, spongycheapo white bread and into the skillet for AWESOME, gooey grilled cheese sanwiches. I will let you know that I omitted all added salt… cheddar is salty enough on its own. Next to try mac-n-cheese!!

    HI, I’m Joanne, and I am a velveeta junky no more!

      1. Came back to let you know how the mac-n-cheese experiment went. Not as good as the grilled cheese. I heated milk and a little butter up in a saucepan on the stovetop. I had the same experience that someone else had. It was gritty. Seemed more gritty than just regular cheddar, but Iwe (my daughter and I) ate it anyways. then a good ol’ burger was fantastic. with it melted on top. I just will not use it for creamy dips or mac-n-cheese. I have room in my fridge for both.

          1. I have decided that it doesn’t work as well because it is made with REAL cheese, which is excellent of course. I am the other person that tried it with mac-n-cheese and I really think it just reconstituted to stringy melted cheese, which makes it good to melt, but just doesn’t work great in a “liquid” form like regular velveeta. I think there has to be a trick, so I’m going to keep working on it. It otherwise is excellent cheese. My kids love it. Thanks again for posting the recipe!

  49. Thank You! My son can’t eat cheese with high amounts of milk protein, so he can only tolerate American and Mozzarella as it is. I love that with your post, I can now make them both on my own!

  50. I am thinking that the problem with using it in queso dip/mac and cheese is exactly what makes it different from the commercial stuff… that stuff has oil in it that will keep it smooth – this does not.

    I have a batch in the fridge right now – but I am thinking that it might be very nice to add in stuff like seasonings/use other cheeses. Has anyone tried that? I see someone used sharp cheddar – I actually used a bag of the pre-shredded mexican blend that I had on hand. Has anyone tried Swiss? Or tried putting stuff like garlic salt (instead of regular salt), garlic powder, cayenne pepper, or ??? Has anyone tried making pimento cheese with this?

    1. I see this as a very fluid recipe and would take on whatever flavors you want to throw into it. I would not hesitate to try different flavors πŸ™‚ I, personally, would not use pre-shredded cheese. It is treated in some manner that escapes me, and doesn’t perform like fresh shredded cheese.

        1. Thanks πŸ™‚ I knew it was something benign, it just escaped me. Pre-shredded cheese works beautifully in many, many recipes, but when the cheese it the biggest component like this, it needs to be fresh shredded and pure πŸ™‚

  51. ah ha! An explanation re: what makes “cheese food” melt better than regular cheese! It’s not the oil content at all… Hmm…. A little more digging and I came across this… – there is link under the video for the text of the recipe. I have no idea if/when I will get a chance to try (I know I will never find sodium citrate when I live) this but maybe someone else will and will report back!

    1. Interesting. I googled the differences and while there is not much info to be gleamed on the subject, I did come across this little tidbit….

      Sodium citrate and citric acid are both natural components of many foods, particularly fruits. Common food additives, both increase the tartness of foods and beverages — especially soda — and act as preservatives. They are nearly identical substances; citrate is simply the form in which citric acid exists in the body and at neutral acidity.

      Read more:

      I do have citric acid, and may have to play with this some πŸ™‚

      So, if I am understanding this correctly, the recipe as written is perfect for melting on hamburgers, grilled cheese, and the like. To make it more suitable for cheese dips and such, the citric may be necessary?

    1. AHA!!! I posted too soon! the next site I went to had this… (Zoinks – serious chemistry here! My brain is hurting and I am having flashbacks to high school)

      ” Also, dumb question time, is citric acid the same as sodium citrate?

      Not the same, but you can use it to make sodium citrate. It’s basically a matter of adding baking soda, water and heat.

      The reaction is: C6H8O7(aq) + 3NaHCO3(s) -> 3H2O(l) + 3CO2(g) + Na3C6H5O7(aq)

      Basically, to get 100g of trisodium citrate:

      Dissolve 74.45g anhydrous* citric acid in distilled water. You’ll probably need around 125 mL of water to fully dissolve it (more is fine, but it’ll take longer to boil off).
      Add 97.66g sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) slowly. It will produce a fair amount of carbon dioxide (about 2 soda siphon chargers worth). Citric acid+baking soda+water is the reaction behind many fizzy bath bombs.
      Boil off the water; what remains is sodium citrate. This can be done in a 175C/350F oven (though it should be possible to use higher temperatures as sodium citrate is apparently stable below about 300C/575F). Breaking it up periodically while it’s solidifying seems to help the result end up closer to a powder.

      * If you don’t know if your citric acid is anhydrous (for what it’s worth, my unlabeled citric acid was), you can convert it to anhydrous with heat. Wikipedia says this occurs above 78C (and citric acid decomposes at 175C) so baking it for an hour or so at 135C/275F should probably convert whatever you started with to anhydrous citric acid (which is weakly hygroscopic so it’s probably best to keep it in a sealed container).

      If you know you have the monohydrate variety, you can measure out 81.43g of it instead. Or if you don’t want to bother, you could just use 74.45g of whatever citric acid you have and stop adding baking soda when it stops foaming (somewhere between 89.29 and 97.66 grams) or when the pH is neutral/slightly basic.

      I ran this by a chemist friend of mine and he said a quick and dirty method would be to add baking soda saturated water to solid citric acid until it fully dissolves and stops bubbling (might have some overshoot, but you can add more acid to fix this). He pointed out that distilled water is useful because citrate will preferentially bind to Ca2+ over Na2+ if there is calcium present in the water, though slight impurities probably aren’t a big deal. Lastly, he mentioned it should be possible to avoid making the sodium citrate beforehand (i.e., add the citric acid and baking soda in the cheese recipe, which is more or less what emannths suggests).
      And this…

      Re: citric acid vs. sodium citrate. Citric acid is just hydrogen citrate, and since it’s the citrate ion that’s doing the emulsifying legwork, they should both help emulsify the cheese. The problem is that citric acid is acidic (duh) and sodium citrate is basic, so your pH will be off. The pH definitely affects carrageenan’s gelling qualities, and it may affect the emulsifying properties of the caseins in the cheese as well. Also, acids tend to prevent cheeses from melting by increasing the interactions between the caseins.

      If you can, measure the pH of your cheese. If it’s below ~5.4 or so, increasing the pH may help.

    2. This is all very interesting. What little I found pretty much indicated they were interchangeable, and pretty much the same thing – sodium citrate to be citric acid with sodium (salt) – although this was in general, and not specific to any recipe. I’ll give it a go and let you know, but it may be a while before I get to it πŸ™‚ I have no plans to buy sodium citrate, but if I come across a small, inexpensive box of it, I’ll pick it up just for this. I’m pretty flush on citric acid at the moment πŸ™‚ Cracking this code just may end the hunt for the perfect mac-n-cheese πŸ™‚

      1. Thanks for that update!! I’m no chemist, don’t know any and didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but my reading comprehensive skills are pretty good. I can work with what you posted. Thanks again πŸ™‚

  52. Very interesting post. As a cheese lover extraordinaire, I must say however that there is a difference in American cheese, and the “cheese product” which comes wrapped in cellophane. American cheese, well, it is cheese. Made similarly to cheddar or other types. The processed cheese foods are plasticky in mouth feel and taste and are more an amalgamation of oil and flavorings and some chemicals. Still a very interesting article and recipe.

  53. Why not just buy the Velveeta? Also I buy house brand singles because they’re cheaper. Also Velveeta doesn’t get moldy so fast. My wife always throws out my expensive real cheese when it gets moldy on the second day open. And do you know the stuff that’s in gelatin? Bones and ears and hooves. Ugh! Best wishes, JBK

  54. Would love to try this but alas no Colby/Jack cheese here in Spain; any suggestions for a substitute would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. I was about to ask the same question. I’d like to use reduced fat cheese and non-fat milk but I can’t stand the thought of wasting all that food if it turns out terrible. I’m not a fat-o-phobe but if it tastes just as good and it’s lower in fat, why not? Problem is, generally “tastes just as good” and “lower in fat” are mutually exclusive terms.

  55. I am so happy to have found this recipe that I cried!!!

    I LOOOOVVVEEE my oooeeey goooeeey processed cheese – thank you for making it a little healthier in a whole bunch of ways <3

  56. hi, i am “computer illiterate”, but some how came across your blog on pinterest…and after looking into it…i think i love you. :0) I dont know how blogs work, or if i can get “updates” but i will for sure be adding your blog to my “favorites list”

  57. Hi, I live in Europe. We don`t have such Colby Jack cheese here. What kind of cheese could be the substitute for Colby Jack?? Thanks.

    1. Where in Europe are you? The slices ‘toastinette pour Hamburger’ by La vache qui rit are pretty darn close to US Kraft Singles.

      As a sub for velveeta (when I want to make blue collar nachos- the kind you overpay for in a stadium OR the rotel/velveeta variety) I have worked out the following: 2T butter, 2T flour whisked together in a frying pan. When combined, whisk in ~1.5 cups warm/hot milk to make a bechamel. Then, add your cheese. I’ve started by using one whole package of sliced cheese (vache qui rit) and have since added 2-3 oz of cheddar for a ’rounder’ flavor. We add in some peppers/salsa for heat, but that part’s up to you. This stuff stays ‘melty’ even when cold and is pretty addictive…

      1. Thank You Cheryl from France for your recipe and advices. We live in eastern europe and the assortment of cheese here is very poor (except of our cottage cheese but its not suitable for soups). I`ve already tried this soup with cheddar. Even without it the soup was briliant, but after adding cheddar it was amazing- thick and yummy and it looked like the stew πŸ™‚ Thank so much for sharing the recipe!!!

        1. Oh, sorry, the sentence about soup was supposed to be posted to another food blog πŸ™‚ While not having the american cheese I replaced it with cheddar.We use a lot parmesan as well. But we don`t have velveeta or Colby Jack cheese here. Thanks again.

          1. Thanks! I have NO clue about the cheeses of Eastern Europe… Interesting that they don’t have many.

          2. Here is how you may find a cheese that would work no matter where you live:

            You want a cheese that does not spread (like Brie or Camenbert), does not crumble (like Feta). If you have cheeses that require shredding or slicing and they melt well…this would be a good option. No hard, aged cheese (like Parmesan).

            In Germany and Austria they have a cheese called Butterkase. It is a mild Farmhouse cheese. This would be a very good option. If you know of a local cheese that is similar, this would likely be a good choice.

            I found some Eastern European cheese descriptions. These cheeses might be close…but I have not had them so you may know better: Koldamer, Ardalena, Abertam.

  58. I don’t know you, but I love you. I never realized how much I love American “cheese” until I moved out of the country. I have searched Norway high and low looking for that beautiful, radioactive-looking little orange square to no avail. I once had a craving so bad, I went into a Burger King (which they do have here, shamefully) and convinced the manager to sell me three slices of cheese. I promptly skipped home and made myself the most glorious grilled cheese ever. Ever.

    The moral of my story is that you have saved me the humiliation of degrading myself in Burger Kings for the rest of my life, as I am going to make this cheese tomorrow. I’ll report back with the results πŸ™‚ Thanks a mill!

    1. Sarah – Where in Norway? I moved to Norway 3 yrs. ago. I have never seen Colby or Colby-Jack cheese here, so thought I’d try this with half cheddar/half Muenster. SO glad I brought back some Cream of Tartar from the States, as I haven’t found that here either. (next time you’re at BK – you might want to ask for some dill pickle slices, lol – they also don’t seem to exist here).

      Malcolm – thanks so much for this recipe. Will soon get to putting it together!! BBQ season is upon us and looking forward to melting this on a moose burger!!

  59. I am new to the whole Pinterest thing and the whole food blog thing – I have little kids, computer time has been low on the priority list for the last few years. But here I am and on my very first day I find this.
    Holy cow!
    I love processed cheese food on a burger or grilled cheese but I have such guilt over it’s non-foodness. You have solved that and not in a way that is overly difficult, complicated or snobby. This has totally made my day. Thanks!

  60. I love your site! Just found it doing a search on how to make things I love from America as I am now living in Mexico. While I love all Mexican food…sometimes you just want a good bacon and cheese burger (ok alot)…problem I only have a blender here will that work and if so now I have to hunt down ingredients(aka looking for translations). Can you or someone please tell me what Mexican cheese will be a good substitute? I live 2 hours away from Mexico City where there is almost (no) American population. Thanks for this wonderful site.

  61. Sandra: I am an American living in Mexico, only I live near Iguala, about 4 hrs from Mexico City and about 3 hrs inland from Acapulco, in the state of Guererro. There’s no Mexican cheese that I know of that would be close to Colby Jack (based on what’s available in my area). However, if you have access to a Sam’s Club, they carry some Sargento cheese, which is an imported American brand. In our Sam’s they have the Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Cheddar, and Mozzarella. I would stay away from cheeses like Cheddar or Mozzarella that are made in Mexico as the flavor and textures can be quite gross.

    Malcolm & Jillian: Is there any way you can pass my email address to Sandra so we can talk further? Thanks!

  62. So you’re making one kind of cheese…by starting with another kind of cheese?

    Thanks, but no thanks. When I get around to making cheese (far less often than I’d like to), I start with whole unpasteurized milk, rennet and citric acid…

  63. Has anyone tried using skim or 1{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} milk yet??? For health reasons I have to eat a low fat diet and would absolutely just die for one grill cheese with this stuff!!!! Please let me know!?! Fyi I have chronic pancreatitis… :(((

  64. The picture in the article prior to the recipe shows cheese that is more white than yellow. Did you use a different cheese in that photo? Any knowledge you can share about making white American cheese?

    1. ATK is a little fussier about using whole milk powder (which you often have to special order). I’ve had plenty of success using regular ol’ nonfat milk powder, which is available almost everywhere. Thanks for writing!

  65. I dont have a food processor, but Im going to buy one just for this.. I dont do velveta or singles if i can help it. Just a side note, if you wrap a block of cheese in papertowel that is damp with white vinegar then in plastic wrap, it lasts a long, long time without moulding. I would think you could do the same with this. I will have to test. *it doenst change the flavour at all* ALSO… i find you can freeze a block of cheese and avoid the ‘crumble’ if you let it come to a warm room temperature before putting in the fridge, again, I wonder if you freeze this, if you could do the same.

    I look forward to making many flavours… thank you!

  66. I like that you took one of America’s most processed foods and made it yourself! That’s totally wht I am all about. I have a question for you. What plugin are you using to put the Pin It when you roll over your images?

  67. This is interesting. I’m a little paranoid about putting plastic wrap next to foods that contain fat. All cheeses have butter fat, so can anyone suggest a substitute for the plastic wrap in the loaf pan? I’m wondering if I could just butter the pan. Then after the cheese is firm I could maybe wrap it in a paper towel that has been soaked in vinegar. Any opinions on whether the cheese would come out of the pan with just a butter coating of the loaf pan? Thanks!

  68. This recipe was awesome and not difficult at all!! I don’t normally like American Cheese, but I’ll be making this again! Thanks!

    I’m SO NOT a fan of Malcom Bedell!

    It’s my opinion, but I am a purist!

    Once I melted some Aged Swiss, Aged Cheddar, REAL Colby, whole milk mozzarella cheese on my burgers I NEVER WENT BACK TO THAT PROCESSED CRAP!

    Makes me want to VOMIT big time.

    I like pure foods in my belly not some chemical commercial crap! I can’t believe people eat Kraft Singles.

    Just for grins, on day, I bought some Philadelphia Cream Cheese singles.

    HORRENDOUS is the only word I could think of. Worst shit I have ever put into my mouth!

    Your recipe is not totally bad but I’m NOT a fan of cream of tarter or gelatin in my cheese.

    1. Aged Swiss, aged cheddar, REAL colby, and whole milk mozzarella will never melt into the nooks and crannies of your burger like American cheese. They just won’t. I do agree, however, that you should not be eating things that make you “want to vomit big time.”

    2. Don’t hold back. Tell us how you REALLY feel. Then invite us over to check out the rest of your fridge and pantry for the other things that are likely to make you vomit.

  70. I was going to say, if that’s the *worst* thing you’ve ever put in your mouth, you’ve had a pretty good run of it…

  71. While it is true that American cheese is no substitute for “real” cheese, real cheese is equally no substitute for the “processed cheese product”. There is no substitute for Kraft singles, Velveeta or Cheez Whiz if that is what you’re hankering for. I make amazing Macaroni and Cheese but sometimes I just want Kraft Dinner. Thanks for this recipe – now I can have home made Velveeta – and I intend to add the yellow food colouring because, for me, it does taste better.

  72. What purpose does the powdered milk serve? Can it be left out or substituted? I don’t like to use it because it is heavily processed.

  73. Would this recipe work without the teaspoon of salt allowing whatever sodium to come from the Colby Jack for those of us with sodium problems?

  74. Just to mention, you don’t have to use yellow food coloring (really, it’s probably not good for you, especially the #5 and #7) Turmeric will turn anything yellow. I find it doesn’t have a lot of “flavor” as a spice, but it colors like a champ and has anti-inflammatory benefits to your body.

  75. Thank you for posting this recipe! It sounds easy and awesome! I’m going to have to make a trip to the store and try it soon! One question, though…what do you think needs to be added to it in order to make the Mexican version? I have used that more lately than the regular, especially my favorite soup. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  76. I will never buy velveeta again. Thank you Malcom!
    On another note, I work for an airline that just recently began flying in to Portland. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it and I can’t wait until my first layover there!

  77. Has anyone tried to make this in a Vitamix? I got my food processor out, but the blade is missing. Ugh. I’ve ordered a replacement blade, but I want to make this NOW!!

  78. Months ago, I pinned (and properly cited) your post on homemade Chick-Fil-A sandwiches. Ever since, I’ve been a fan of yours.

    Tell me, would this real American cheese also be a good substitute in recipes calling for Velveeta?

    1. Thanks Bonnie! I think so, although some readers have reported some weirdness when you melt our version. Give it a try, and let me know how it works out!

      1. Many fondue recipes have you chop the cheese and soak it in milk overnight to soften so it melts better. I’ve also seen cheese ball/spread recipes that had you chop the cheese and soak it in milk so that it would blend to a smoother texture when you made the ball/spread. Also, hitting any cheese (and this is cheese because you started with cheese) with too high a heat will cause melting issues, whether it’s grease separating out or clumping or whatever.

        So, when you’re making the nacho cheese dip or mac cheese with this, maybe let it soak in milk for a while first, and don’t use too high a heat. The sliceability and meltability for cheeseburgers and grilled cheese is awesome, and these little techniques might make this all round perfect!

        Thanks, Malcolm. πŸ˜‰

  79. Oh no! Had this recipe saved and was so excited – didn’t realize it wasn’t vegetarian :/

    May have to try out some gelatin substitutes and report back! Anybody had any luck w that?

  80. G’day Malcolm, as a new like via Twitter, Facebook and your website, your posts always make me smile, true!
    Being American born and bred, now an Aussie, there are no words to explain the nostalgia this post created today and this is now on my list to do! πŸ™‚
    Cheers! Joanne

  81. I just found this recipe last evening and couldn’t wait to make it today. I just made it and have to say that the few tastes I had were delicious! Cannot wait to impress my husband with this when he comes home from work later and to use it my recipe’s! πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  82. I absolutely love Velveeta, and i buy the cheap store version. it makes the best Mac N Cheese if you ask me. I substitute the powdered cheese with some of my Velveeta, and i love it now! Thanks for this recipe!

  83. could i leave out the powdered milk? this is not something i use, and i would really hate to buy a whole box just for this recipe. also, would you say this “stretches” the cheese, by volume? I want to try it, cause i’m like the rests of yall and love processed cheese, and we are trying to “healthify” our life in a lot of ways, so cutting out the presevatives is a plus, AND we need to stretch our dollar. if I can take 12 oz of cheese and turn it into say… 18-20 oz.. that would be a super bonus!!.. what’s your opinion?

  84. Soo i have a question for you! Unlike Velveeta, since this is not processed it will not last forever. So how long do you think this cheese’s fridge life is?

  85. A couple of key points here I felt compelled to mention…
    1) I have been following your blog for awhile and am a proud supporter of your kick starter campaign, ‘Which Please. So happy for you and cannot wait to savor many of your sandwich concoctions (I, too, am a lover of the sandwiches)
    2) My heart is warmed by the fact that I decided to search on Pinterest for one of those random thoughts…(What the hell do you make with Velveeta?) specifically. Didn’t I get a unexpected amount of enjoyment from being led to your blog… This page… This bizarre, but inventful recipe.
    And now I must go make some homemade Velveeta. Why you ask? Fate, my friend. Fate.

  86. Oh and I also forgot that the ridiculous amount of time it took me to scroll past all the previous comments and fans you have earned warmed my heart. You’ve done well for yourself and am excited to see what you do next.

  87. This looks ridiculously good. I have become a recent grilled cheese fan (it’s not so popular in the UK where I grew up – we have cheese toasties but they’re kind of different). Bookmarking this to try at the weekend!

  88. The melt of these cheese is amazing. How much more American can you get? I don’t think much!

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