Cheddar Cheese vs. Parmesan Cheese

Cheddar and Parmesan are two of the most popular types of cheese around the world. Both made from cow's milk and known for their hard textures, sharp flavors, and versatility in cooking, these cheeses share some common traits.

Cheddar Cheese vs. Parmesan Cheese

However, when analyzed more closely, several notable differences between traditional English cheddar and Italian Parmesan are important to understand.

Origins and Production

Cheddar Cheese

As its name suggests, cheddar cheese traces its origins to the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England. Records show it has been produced in this region since at least the 12th century. Over time, cheddar's popularity led to production spreading across the globe to countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Consequently, the techniques and flavor profiles can vary slightly depending on the source.

Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese refers specifically to Parmigiano-Reggiano, which carries a "Protected Designation of Origin" certifying its traditional production in certain provinces of Italy: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena, and Mantua. To be called Parmesan, this cheese must come from approved facilities in Northern Italy using time-honored local methods. This strict oversight safeguards Parmesan's quality and ties to Italian culture and cuisine.

Key Takeaway: Cheddar cheese originated in England while Parmesan comes from Italy, impacting their traditional production methods.

Texture and Appearance

Young cheddar cheese generally has a smooth, creamy texture. During aging, the texture becomes progressively firmer and can even develop little crunchy protein clusters, especially in aged artisanal varieties. Parmesan is also hard but is better known for its distinctive granular texture punctuated with tiny crystalline formations resulting from the lengthy aging process.

Standard cheddar ranges in color from pale yellow to a richer orange. Some producers add annatto, a natural plant-based dye, to deepen the hue. By contrast, Parmesan typically sports a pale straw color that remains quite consistent from wheel to wheel.

Flavor Profiles

Cheddar Cheese

The taste profile of cheddar cheese depends substantially on aging time. Young cheddar aged around 60 days tends to be mild, creamy, and subtle on the palate. As the aging extends to 6-9 months, sharper notes emerge, along with increased depth and complexity. Extra-aged varieties, some over 2 years old, deliver very pronounced, tangy, and often earthy flavors.

Parmesan Cheese

Thanks to its minimum one-year aging, Parmesan carries a powerful, umami-rich flavor, sometimes described as sweet and nutty with fruity hints. Each bite also provides a trademark salty punch that perfectly seasons the foods it accents. This robust taste stays impressively consistent across any authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Key Takeaway: The flavor of cheddar cheese can vary tremendously depending on aging duration, while Parmesan offers a consistently robust, umami-forward taste.

Melting Ability

Cheddar is prized for its excellent melting properties. When exposed to heat, it smoothly transitions from a solid to flowing state while retaining much of its flavor. This makes cheddar a superb choice anytime melted cheese is desired, like on burgers, sandwiches, pizza, pasta bakes, and dips. Parmesan's low moisture content and granular texture make it challenging to melt smoothly. Therefore, it is better utilized by grating or shaving over finished dishes rather than cooking it directly.

Culinary Uses

Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese enjoys well-deserved popularity owing to its incredible versatility in cooking applications. It melts beautifully in classic comfort foods like grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, cheeseburgers, and Welsh rarebit. Cheddar also shines in baked dishes, sauces, soups, dips, and more. Its varying sharpness across different ages accommodates multiple flavor preferences and recipes.

Parmesan Cheese

In Italian cuisine, adding Parmesan cheese just before serving puts the final touch on many iconic dishes. Its salinity, savoriness, and richness pair flawlessly with traditional ingredients like tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Parmesan works magic on top of pastas, risottos, polentas, and pizzas. It can also elevate salads, roasted vegetables, and soups. Eating chunks or shavings of extra-aged Parmesan makes for an exceptional snack or appetizer as well, sometimes accompanied by fruit, nuts or honey.

Key Takeaway: Cheddar works well in many dishes thanks to its melty versatility while Parmesan is best used as a flavor enhancer added at the end.

Nutrition and Health

Both cheddar and Parmesan offer nutritional value, being significant sources of protein, calcium, vitamins A and B12, phosphorus, and zinc. However, their compositions differ in a few key areas. Since Parmesan contains less moisture and ages much longer, each bite packs more fat and salt than cheddar. The density of these attributes allows deeply flavored Parmesan to be used more sparingly. For those monitoring sodium, cholesterol, lactose, or saturated fats, cheddar generally aligns better with health goals, thanks to its lower concentrations.


Pricing for cheddar cheese depends substantially on age, brand, and whether it is domestic or imported. Young, mild cheddar costs $4 to $8 per pound. On the higher end, specially aged or artisanal varieties fetch $15 to $25+ per pound. Parmesan pricing also varies but starts around $15 per pound for domestic and reaches $30 or beyond for the real Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy. Since a little Parmesan goes a long way, smaller wedges or grated packets make it more economical for everyday cooking.

Key Similarities and Differences


  • Made from cow's milk
  • Hard texture
  • Sharp flavor
  • Low lactose
  • High in protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc


  • Origins: Cheddar from England; Parmesan from Northern Italy
  • Texture: Cheddar is smooth; Parmesan is granular
  • Flavor: Cheddar ranges from mild to very sharp; Parmesan has consistent robust umami taste
  • Melting ability: Cheddar melts well; Parmesan does not
  • Uses: Cheddar is versatile in cooking; Parmesan is a finishing garnish
  • Nutrition: Cheddar is generally lower in fat, salt and calories

Cheddar and Parmesan do share some traits, but differences in their origins, textures, intended uses and nutritional values make each one special in its own right!


Is cheddar better melted or Parmesan?

Cheddar cheese melts very nicely, keeping much of its flavor and lending a creamy texture to foods like grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese or pizza. Parmesan does not melt well and is better when grated or shaved over items like pasta or salads rather than cooked directly.

What has more calcium, cheddar or Parmesan?

While both cheeses provide ample calcium, Parmesan contains more per ounce. An equivalent serving of Parmesan offers around 70% more calcium than the same amount of cheddar.

Can you use cheddar instead of Parmesan?

It's best not to substitute cheddar straight across for Parmesan as their flavors and textures differ quite a bit. However, cheddar can work instead of Parmesan in some recipes where cheese is not a dominant ingredient but adds a general savory, salty or textural element.

Is cheddar healthier than Parmesan?

Nutritionally, cheddar generally aligns better with health goals, having less fat, sodium and cholesterol per ounce than Parmesan. But Parmesan's intense flavor means a smaller serving provides ample taste. Both can play a role in healthy eating patterns when consumed in moderation as part of balanced meals that emphasize whole foods.


Despite some attributes in common like their hardness and cow milk base, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses boast unique identities.

Cheddar represents a pillar of English cheesemaking, bringing creamy melty goodness to all kinds of dishes.

Parmesan symbolizes generations of Italian cheese craft, adding an irresistible savory punch wherever used.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!