Cheese Crystals: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever picked up a piece of aged cheese, and noticed that it looks like it has specks of salt on it? Don’t write it off. Those are cheese crystals and they taste divine! Read on to learn, and impress your friends the next time you get together and eat cheese.

  • The first thing to know about crystals is that they are not mold or yeast
  • Secondly, cheese that is crystallized is entirely safe to eat. Some people actually prefer crystals!
  • Lastly, crystals are a sure sign of an aged cheese.
What causes crystals?

Cheese crystals are formed over time by the breakdown of fats and proteins. Fats and proteins bond together in chains when cheese is formed. As the cheese ages, the protein detaches from the fat, leaving behind small crunchy crystals that you see.

Are all crystals the same?

There are two different types of crystals: Calcium Lactate and Tyrosine.

Calcium Lactate forms on both the inside and outside of cheeses. Typically found in moist, aged cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Parmesan and Gouda. This type of crystal is softer, paler and more common. When good bacteria in the cheese break lactose down into lactic acid, this lactic acid combines with calcium to form Calcium Lactate Crystals. These crystals are made from calcium lactate salts that precipitate out of the milk as it’s turned into curds.

Tyrosine crystals only form on the interior of cheese. They are firmer, bigger and brighter white than Calcium Lactate. They consist of the same proteins found in milk. This type of crystal is found in dry, mature cheeses such as Swiss and Romano.

What do crystals taste like?

Crystals add a crunchy texture, similar to sea salt, and contribute a hearty and complex flavor.

I’m intrigued and want to try crystallized cheese. What should I buy?

Since it takes years to form crystals, your surest bet will be our 15-year cheddar. Typically, crystals can be seen starting around 7 years on cheddar, but it will vary by each piece. Some of our other aged cheddars that would possibly have crystals would be our 7-year, 9-year and 10-year cheddar. Next time you’re browsing at the store and you spot crystallized cheese, take a chance and try it. You might get hooked on these crunchy tidbits!