American cheese – possibly the most polarizing cheese out there. Excellent on burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, but high in sodium and very processed, American cheese doesn’t float everyone’s boat.
So, what happens when you run out or want to try something different? You’re going to need a good substitute.
The best cheeses to substitute for American cheese, white or yellow, are Colby, young cheddar, or a softer, milder cheese such as gouda, Monterey jack, swiss, muenster, or Havarti.
What Can You Substitute for American Cheese?
American cheese is a processed cheese product made from Colby, cheddar, and full-fat milk. Many of the substitutes for American cheese below can be made into American cheese!
1. Colby Cheese
The main ingredient in American cheese, Colby is a mild cheese with a low melting point similar to that of American cheese.
Colby is by far the most popular substitute for American cheese given its similar versatility. Coby is great on both hot and cold sandwiches. It melts well and is relatively easy to find in your local supermarket.
2. Cheddar Cheese
Also used as a substitute for Monterey jack cheese, cheddar cheese comes in varying strengths and as such can be used as a substitute not just for American cheese, but for a number of different cheeses.
While cheddar cheese is just as creamy as American cheese, it has a slightly sharper taste. To avoid your cheddar tasting drastically different from American cheese in a dish, it’s recommended that you use young cheddar cheese. An aged cheddar has a stronger and sharper flavor, that, while delicious, doesn’t substitute well for American cheese.
Cheddar cheese is a great American cheese substitute on cheeseburgers and in macaroni and cheese.
3. Gouda Cheese
Young gouda is best used as a substitute for American cheese as it has a similar texture and flavor profile to American cheese.
Gouda and Colby cheeses are often substituted for one another, so it makes sense that gouda is an acceptable substitute for American cheese. Young gouda is preferred because as gouda ages it gets sweeter, and tastes less like American cheese.
4. Monterey Jack
Monterey jack cheese is so similar to Colby cheese that Colby is even known as “Colby jack” cheese.
Given its similarity to Colby cheese, Monterey jack cheese is a great substitute for American cheese. It has a great texture that melts well and is delicious on burgers and other hot sandwiches.
5. Swiss Cheese
Swiss cheese is a blanket term for any cheese that has originated in Switzerland. This includes Jarlsberg, Emmental, types of gruyere, etc.
The main features of Swiss cheese are all the same: large holes, smooth and semi-hard, and a mild, buttery flavor due to it being slightly aged.
Swiss cheese does not melt as well as American cheese melts, however its mild taste makes it a great substitute for American cheese. It’s particularly good on burgers.
6. Muenster Cheese
There are two main types of muenster cheese: European and American.
European Muenster cheese has a thick, smokey flavor. It’s somewhat of an intense flavor, more so than that of cheddar or swiss.
American Muenster cheese has a milder taste and is slightly lighter in color. Its flavor is less intense than European Muenster, which makes it an ideal substitute for American cheese.
American muenster melts similarly to American cheese and is particularly delicious when used in macaroni and cheese.
7. Havarti Cheese
Havarti cheese is a good substitute for American cheese because it tastes so similar. The two kinds of cheese have somewhat opposing textures, as Havarti has many tiny holes, and it can still pass for a good substitute.
Havarti melts well, but not like others on this list. We would use Havarti cheese as a substitute for American cheese when mixed with cheddar or gouda.
American cheese is most often used when you want a good melty cheese. If you’re looking for an alternative, any of the above makes for a good substitute. All have excellent melting properties and taste similar enough to American cheese that they’re sure to be a hit.