9 Cheeses You Can Eat Even If You're Lactose-Intolerant

Not all dairy is created equal.


Vikif/Getty Images

For those who are lactose-intolerant, eating ingredients that have high levels of lactose can cause some very uncomfortable digestive woes, from bloating and gas to cramping and serious stomach pain. Fortunately, not all cheeses are forbidden on a low-lactose diet. In fact, there are several types of cheeses that those sensitive to lactose can still enjoy in moderation.

As a general rule, keep this in mind: the fresher the cheese, the more lactose it contains. So those with particularly sensitive stomachs will want to avoid creamier varieties such as ricotta or cottage cheese at all costs. Sugar is the primary component of lactose that makes it difficult to digest, which means that aged, hard cheeses—which have a lower sugar content—are easier on the stomach.

According to lactose intolerance expert Steve Carper, author of Milk Is Not For Every Body: Living With Lactose Intolerance, there are nine cheeses that contain less than 5 grams of sugar per serving, clocking in at about 2 to 3 percent lactose. For reference, whole milk has around 4.8 percent lactose, making it one of the worst offenders for sensitive tummies.


Muenster has a 0-1.1% lactose range. The semi-soft cheese from the United States is mild, slightly nutty, and is typically made with cow's milk. Use it sliced on a sandwich, or in cubes as part of a cheese platter.


This popular French cheese has a 0-1.8% lactose range. Camembert is known for its soft, creamy, texture and milky, grassy taste. The cheese's white mold rind is edible, which makes it a popular charcuterie board choice.


Though Brie is very similar to Camembert, it has a slightly higher lactose range of 0-2%. The soft cow's-milk cheese with a creamy taste has plenty of uses, including baked in a pastry, paired with apple slices, and the star of a charcuterie board.

Cheddar (mild and sharp varieties)

The cheese with English origins boasts a 0-2.1% lactose range. Cheddar is a nutty, crumbly cheese that works well in macaroni and cheese, as a cheese sauce, or nestled inside a cheese puff.


Use buttery provolone in sandwiches, casseroles, and on homemade pizza. With a 0-2.1% lactose range, it's suitable for people who are lactose-intolerant.


This cheese, which is often sold smoked, has a 0-2.2% lactose range. Gouda, which can be slightly sweet, is great in a grilled cheese, as part of a cheese platter or in a cheese puff.


Blue cheese has a 0-2.5% lactose range. Crumbled, the pungent, salty cheese is great in a salad or grain bowl, and can be used to make a cheesy dipping sauce.


Pasta lovers, rejoice! Parm has a 0-3.2% lactose range. The popular cheese adds tanginess to a bowl of spaghetti and is also great on pizza, mixed into scrambled eggs, or blanketed over a breaded chicken cutlet to make chicken Parm.


Swiss boasts a 0-3.4% lactose range. The yellow, medium-hard cheese originated in Switzerland and shines in a sandwich or wrap, in an omelet, and in a chicken bake.

Of course, some people with lactose intolerance simply cannot tolerate any milk products without discomfort. It's always best to err on the side of caution, so if that sounds like you, avoid cheese entirely and go for one of the varieties of non-dairy options instead.

Was this page helpful?
Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Gille D, Walther B, Badertscher R, et al. Detection of lactose in products with low lactose content. Int Dairy J. 2018;83:17-19. doi:10.1016/j.idairyj.2018.03.003

  2. Facioni MS, Dominici S, Marescotti F, et al. Lactose residual content in PDO cheeses: novel inclusions for consumers with lactose intolerance. Foods. 2021;10(9):2236. doi:10.3390/foods10092236

  3. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. F002405: Cheese, blue vein. Accessed February 9, 2023.

Related Articles