When it comes to low histamine cheeses, the key to tolerating more options is the same as with all other low histamine foods: freshness. That’s right! There are a few low histamine cheese options out there.
Most of them are made with the addition of some kind of acid rather than introducing a bacteria, usually made using vinegars or even lemon juice. However, most cheeses are fermented and aged, so most are considered high histamine ingredients.
Additionally, many people react badly to dairy early on in their diet, as processed forms of dairy can be inflammatory and lactose intolerance is common (I myself am lactose intolerant). It’s for these reasons that I’m a huge advocate of taking charge of your own health.
Try your best to understand what’s actually going on in your body rather than totally handing off your care to someone else. Take the time to learn your own triggers and limits so that you can safely eat (or avoid) foods like the low histamine dairy below.
Note that this cheese list only contains low histamine ingredients, but most people will still have a few random foods they know trigger a reaction and will need to avoid regardless of histamine content.
Why Is Some Cheese High Histamine?
Cheese is a fermented dairy product, and during the fermentation process, the bacteria introduced tot he milk naturally produce histamine. This is the same histamine that’s both a hormone and neurotransmitter, involved in the immune response and released by cells in response to an injury or allergen.
The histamine levels in cheese can vary depending on the type of cheese, the production process, and the aging time, as well as any other ingredients used. Generally, aged and fermented cheeses have higher levels of histamine compared to fresh cheeses.
This is because histamine also accumulates over time as the cheese undergoes fermentation and ripening, as there’s nothing present in the cheese that’s able to break it down. Additionally, some types of bacteria used in the cheese-making process are known to produce higher levels of histamine than others.
For example, certain strains of lactic acid bacteria can produce significant amounts of histamine during cheese production. So just like with any other food, how a cheese is made, handled, and stored will affect its histamine level.
Tips to Choose Cheeses Low in Histamine
If you’re looking for low histamine cheese options, below I cover the 9 most common types of fresh cheeses you may be able to find in your area. When shopping for cheese, keep the following tips in mind to make sure you choose low histamine options.
- Look for fresh cheese varieties, like the ones below; the fresher, the better.
- Farmer’s Markets are a good source for finding fresh, locally-made cheeses, and you can usually sample them before buying.
- Choose cheeses made from pasteurized milk, to reduce sharper flavors and potential bacterial exposure beyond what’s needed to make the cheese.
- Don’t store cheeses in the fridge for longer than a week or so, and consider freezing them within 2 days of opening the package (individual portions work great; smooth cheeses like goat cheese and mascarpone freeze best).
- Avoid cheese that has mold on the surface or throughout, like bleu cheeses.
- Like with all processed foods, the cheaper it is, the cheaper the quality (with precious few exceptions), so look for short ingredients lists and pay a little extra for higher quality.
- Check the ingredients list for any additives, flavorings, or preservatives that may trigger your symptoms.
- Special Note: unless labeled as ‘lactose-free,’ all cheese contains some level of lactose, and if you have a lactose-intolerance like I do (confirmed by an upper endoscopy), then you’ll want to take a lactase tablet every time you have dairy.
9 Low Histamine Cheeses
Fresh cheeses are an excellent choice for people with histamine intolerance, and can even be made at home. One such example is a homemade paneer. These cheeses are typically made with milk that has been recently curdled and has not undergone any aging processes.
However, note that this is not the same as queso fresco, a common name for popular fresher cheeses consumed throughout Latin America, but which are often still aged or fermented to some degree (especially if imported or purchased in a supermarket).
Recipe: How to Make Homemade Paneer
Cream cheese is a versatile cheese that’s popular and easy to find in most parts of the world. It has a soft and smooth texture and a mild, tangy flavor, made by blending milk and cream with lactic acid bacteria (so look for fresher cream cheeses with a far-off expiration date).
Cream cheese can be found in grocery stores and in specialty cheese shops if you’re located in hotter climates or parts of Asia. Cream cheese is commonly used in low histamine cooking as a spread, a base for dips, or as an ingredient in desserts like cheesecake or a frosting for cake.
Recipe: Simple Cream Cheese Pasta
Mascarpone is an Italian cheese that has a creamy, buttery texture and a mild flavor. It’s made by curdling cream with citric or acetic acid (like those in citrus fruits), and often used in desserts like tiramisu.
But it can also be used in savory dishes like pasta sauces or as a topping for fresh fruit. This low histamine cheese can be found in specialty cheese shops and some grocery stores, but tends to be a bit harder to find than others.
Recipe: Chestnut Flour Crepes with Mascarpone & Berries
Fresh Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Fresh sheep’s milk cheese is similar in texture and taste to fresh goat cheese, but with a slightly richer and creamier flavor and a bit more funk. It’s made by curdling sheep’s milk with an acidic agent, similar to goat cheese.
Fresh sheep’s milk cheese can be found in some specialty cheese shops, but is rarely available in grocery stores. It’s often used in salads, sandwiches, or on pizza.
Recipe: Potato Gratin With Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Fresh Goat Cheese
Fresh goat cheese, also known as chevre, has a tangy flavor and a creamy texture. It’s made by curdling goat’s milk with an acidic agent, and tends to be well-tolerated by those who otherwise tolerate dairy.
Fresh goat cheese can be found in specialty cheese shops and some grocery stores. It’s often used in salads, on pizza, or as a spread on crackers or bread.
Recipe: Baby Kale Salad With Pomegranate Dressing
Ricotta is a fresh cheese with a mild, slightly sweet flavor and a smooth texture. It’s made by reheating the whey left over from making other cheeses, such as mozzarella or provolone. Ricotta can be found in most grocery stores, as it’s most often used in pasta-based Italian dishes like lasagna, stuffed shells, or cannoli.
Recipe: Grilled Peaches with Honey Ricotta
Cottage cheese is a high-protein fresh cheese with a mild, slightly tangy flavor and a lumpy texture. Similar to cheese curds, it’s made by curdling milk with an acidic agent, and then draining off the whey.
Cottage cheese can be found in most grocery stores, as it’s become popular in recent years as a snack for those trying to build muscle or stick to a keto diet. Thankfully there’s also often an organic version available, though remember not to leave it in the fridge for too long.
Recipe: Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Mozzarella is a mild and stretchy cheese with a slightly sweet flavor, and is arguably the most popular cheese in America. It’s often used shredded on pizzas or in salads, or as thick slices in sandwiches.
Mozzarella is made by curdling milk with rennet (animal bacteria), and then stretching and shaping the curds into balls or blocks. This cheese may be the easiest to find, too, as it’s available in most grocery stores and all specialty cheese shops.
Recipe: Kale & Sweet Potato Grilled Cheese (use tolerated bread)
Cheese curds are small chunks of fresh cheese that have a mild, slightly tangy flavor, and a firm texture. They taste most similar to mozzarella cheese, and are made by curdling milk with an acidic agent and then draining off the whey.
Cheese curds can be found in specialty cheese shops and some grocery stores, particularly in Canada and the Northern US, as well as any other areas where cheese curds are particularly popular.
Recipe: Spring Vegetables Poutine
High Histamine Cheeses
Some types of cheese have higher levels of histamine and should be avoided by people with MCAS or histamine intolerance. These mostly include hard cheeses (basically anything aged, such as parmesan or gouda), but moldy and processed cheeses can also pose a problem.
- Blue Cheese – a moldy cheese that’s common in salads and dressings.
- Parmesan Cheese – one of the most popular for topping pastas, parmesans are usually aged for at least a year.
- Roquefort Cheese – a French cheese that’s made from sheep’s milk.
- Processed Cheeses – American Cheese Slices, Velveeta, etc. are all so heavily-processed and stored for long periods of time that they tend to build up high levels of histamine.
- Gouda Cheese – a hard cheese that’s often aged for several months, and comes in several varieties.
- Cheddar Cheese – possibly the most popular cheese in the US, just behind mozzarella, cheddar is aged and often for along period of time, making it unsuitable for a low histamine diet.
Saturday 13th of May 2023
This is very helpful. Is feta cheese classed as low or high histamine? Thank you!
Saturday 13th of May 2023
I haven't done much research into feta, but it's usually aged in a brine, so I'd guess high histamine or at least moderate. Fresh goat cheese might be the closest replacement.
Sunday 19th of March 2023
Great and helpful article! I love cheese and I always wondered which ones are "low danger" but didn't want to risk. I was just sticking to cottage cheese, so I am happy to expand the list, thank you!
Sunday 19th of March 2023
It's my pleasure, Ines! I'm a big cheesehead, myself, so learning that my main issue with dairy is lactose-intolerance has hugely widened my options. Happy to do the same for someone else! <3