The Sneaky Ingredient That’s Hiding in Your Shredded Cheese

From extra sharp cheddar to Italian blend, cheesy goodness is best when you spring for the good stuff.

If your fridge is anything like mine, pre-shredded cheese is a staple. Yes, I know block is better. But when the day runs long and I’m staring at a block of cheddar or a pre-shredded bag, the bag always wins.

I never thought much about this—it’s cheese either way—until I sat down to dinner with my parents. I was looking for mozzarella to sprinkle over my family’s famous shrimp marinara recipe and my parents only had blocks of cheese. Not a pre-shredded tub in sight! I wanted to know why, so I did some research.

What is Cellulose?

When you look at the ingredient list on the back of a bag of shredded cheddar, you’ll almost always find cellulose. It’s a common ingredient in pre-shredded cheese, valued for its anti-caking and moisture-absorbing properties. It’s not that cellulose itself is bad. In its natural state, the substance is a dietary fiber found in plant cell walls, and we consume abundant amounts of it anytime we eat whole fruits and vegetables like apples, strawberries, green beans and tomatoes. An insoluble complex carb, cellulose also helps us digest food.

Why You Should Shred Your Own

The trouble is that when it comes to cellulose in pre-packaged items, like cheese, there’s no clear cut way to know how much is real versus filler. It’s important to know what you’re feeding your family, which is why my parents buy blocks instead of pre-shredded bags.

The price for an 8 ounce bag or 5 ounce tub can be downright expensive, too. You’re better off buying a fresh block or wedge and shredding it yourself. You can shred cheese by hand or with a food processor, and store the shredded cheese in the freezer in heavy-duty plastic bags. (Here are more cheese storage options—all tested by a Taste of Home writer.)

Pro Tip: To shred cheese by hand, put blocks of softer cheese like mozzarella in the freezer for a half hour. It will make things much easier to shred. Your next meal should be pretty Gouda!

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Rebecca Walden
Rebecca C. Walden is a freelance writer with Deep South roots - an Alabama native now living in north Texas. Her writing has appeared in Reader's Digest, the Huffington Post, Southern Living, and many other regional publications, focusing on everything from health and wellness to parenting, family, and women's interests. Walden also provides freelance writing to corporate clients in finance, government, healthcare, and higher education. Check out her latest work @rebeccacwalden.com.