Frequently Asked Questions


Is the milk used to make your cheese pasteurized?

Some of our cheeses are made from pasteurized milk and some are made from heat-shocked milk. Unlike pasteurization, heat-shocking raises the temperature just enough to kill any bad bacteria, while preserving the milk’s beneficial enzymes. This is an important step in the cheesemaking process, as the cheddar’s flavor, body, and texture depend upon these enzymes.

Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Spicy Habanero Jack, Muenster, Provolone, Garlic Chili Pepper Cheddar, Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar, Mozzarella, Baby Swiss, Swiss and Havarti are made from pasteurized milk.

Medium Cheddar, Medium White Cheddar, Kosher Medium Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar, Sharp White Cheddar, Hickory Smoked Cheddar, Hickory Smoked Extra Sharp White Cheddar, English-Style Cheddar, Extra Sharp White Cheddar, Extra Sharp Cheddar, Extra Sharp Aged Cheddar, Extra Sharp Aged White Cheddar, and all of our Maker’s Reserve Cheddars are made with heat-shocked milk.

What is rennet? What types of rennet do you use to make your cheese?

Rennet is an enzyme that helps coagulate the milk during the cheesemaking process. Since 2016, we have utilized fermentation-produced rennet that has Kosher and Halal certification and is vegetarian. We believe it closely mimics the flavor and quality profiles of a traditional bovine rennet. 

Fermentation-produced rennet is very common in the cheesemaking industry due to its ability to minimize the risk of a bitter flavor profile.

The exact method of making this fermentation-produced rennet is proprietary. However, it is important to note that our rennet is classified as “not genetically engineered” by USDA bioengineered food labeling regulations. Furthermore, we do not use rennet that is produced by any pharmaceutical company.

If you are looking for cheese made with animal rennet, we recommend our Maker's Reserve Cheddar in the 2014, 2013, 2012, or 2010 vintages.

Where can I find Tillamook Fried Cheddar Cheese Curds?

Starting April 9th, our classic Tillamook Fried Cheddar Cheese Curds are at select Burgerville locations! Crispy-on-the-outside, melty-on-the-inside, you won’t want to miss out if you’re local. Find them on the menu in Oregon and Washington here:

-Aloha, OR

-Salmon Creek, WA

-Vancouver/Central Park, WA

-Woodland, WA

This limited run ends on May 5th. Can't make it to these locations or missed the boat? You can always visit us at our Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon, or at our Tillamook Market at the PDX Airport.

Why is my cheese moldy? Should I throw it out?

Exposure to air causes cheese to mold. If you see mold on your loaf of cheese, don’t worry. Most molds are harmless - all you have to do is cut it off. Cut away at least a half inch of cheese on all sides of the visible mold. We recommend keeping your knife out of the mold spots as you are cutting. The remaining mold-free part of your cheese should be fine to eat, but it’s best to use it up as quickly as possible. We do not recommend eating your sliced or shredded cheese if any of it is moldy. It’s best to use your sliced and shredded cheeses within 3-5 days of opening to prevent mold contamination.

Can I eat the cheese past the best by date?

It depends on the type of cheese. Cheese is a perishable dairy product, so if it isn’t stored properly, it will mold. Though we always suggest using Tillamook products by the best by date printed on the packaged, our naturally-aged cheddar cheese will continue to age and sharpen in your fridge if stored properly. It must be stored in an unopened package in the coldest part of your refrigerator (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Once opened, however, cheddar should generally keep for a few months. Be sure to check for mold, odor, a slimy texture, or sour flavor before digging in. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Stirred curd cheeses (also known as granular cheeses), such as Tillamook Monterey Jack, Colby, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, and Hot Habanero Jack, don’t age well because they’re higher in moisture. If stored properly, they should keep up to their code date, but they shouldn’t be eaten after the code date has passed.

Why is there an extra slice of cheese added to my loaf?

Every loaf of Tillamook Cheese is cut from a 40-pound block of cheese. After being cut from this original block, each loaf is weighed to make sure it fits in its appropriate loaf size category (an 8-ounce, 10-ounce, 1-pound, 2-pound, 2.5 pound, or 5-pound loaf). If a loaf is overweight, cheese is sliced off. If a loaf is underweight, a slice of cheese is added to increase its weight – this is the “extra” slice that you found in your loaf. Usually this extra slice adheres back to the loaf over time, but occasionally it is still visible when the cheese is purchased.

What is this white substance outside of my cheese?

It’s likely that the white substance on the outside of your cheese is calcium lactate. Calcium lactate is common in aged cheese. It is basically a natural calcium buildup that occurs over time during the aging process, and it sometimes will become visible on the surface of the cheese. Don’t worry – it is completely natural and safe to eat!

What are these crunchy white specks in my cheese?

No need to worry - these tiny white specks are actually a good thing. They’re most likely calcium lactate crystals, also known as “cheese crystals.” They are completely safe to eat, and usually signify that a cheese is flavorful and well-aged. Calcium lactate crystals form naturally during the aging process and are most commonly found in aged cheddars, including Smoked Medium Cheddar.

What makes some of your cheese a yellow color?

The exciting answer: cheesy magic! The less-exciting truth: annatto, a natural, plant-based food coloring extracted from the seeds of tropical annatto trees. Without annatto, cheese is the color of milk. Coloring has been added to cheddar cheese for centuries to regulate color variations in milk that can come from seasonal changes in the cow’s diet. These days, annatto helps ensure that each loaf of Tillamook cheese is the same color that our fans have come to expect. If you prefer a cheese that does not contain annatto, we also produce several white cheddar cheeses, too! Annatto does not affect the flavor of the cheese.

Do you make a kosher cheese?

We sure do! Our Kosher Medium Cheddar Cheese has the same delicious, award-winning taste and ingredients as our traditional Medium Cheddar Cheese, but it’s produced and packaged under official rabbinical guidance. Like our traditional Medium Cheddar, our Kosher Medium Cheddar is made with a fermentation-produced rennet that has Kosher and Halal certification and is vegetarian-friendly.

Is your cheese vegetarian?

At this time, all Tillamook Cheese is vegetarian, with the exceptions of:

How long do you age your cheddar cheeses? What makes them “sharp?"

Tillamook Cheddar Cheeses develop their flavors through the natural process of aging. The longer they age, the “sharper” and more flavorful they become. Tillamook Cheddars are naturally aged in 40-pound blocks for a minimum of: Medium Cheddar – 60 days Sharp Cheddar– 9 months Extra Sharp Cheddar – 15 months Extra Sharp White Cheddar and Maker’s Reserve – 2-6 years, depending on the product

Though we always recommend eating Tillamook products by the best by date printed on the package, the aging process of Tillamook cheddar cheese continues even after you’ve brought your cheese home. Be sure to keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator until you are ready to enjoy it.

What are the ingredients in your Cheddar Cheese?

The Tillamook Cheddar recipe is based on over 100 years of cheese-making experience. Our Tillamook Cheddar Cheese recipe contains four natural ingredients: cultured milk, enzymes (rennet), salt, and annatto. Annatto is a natural coloring extracted from the seeds of annatto trees grown in the tropics; it is responsible for that beautiful Tillamook Cheddar yellow color! Tillamook white cheddars only contain three ingredients, as they don’t need the annatto.

What’s the best way to travel with your cheese?

Keep cheese in its original wrapper and place it in the coolest, darkest area possible. This is likely your checked suitcase if you’re flying. If you’re driving, this is not your trunk. For travel times longer than one day, an ice cooler is your best bet. When you arrive at your destination, refrigerate the cheese as soon as possible. Because of airport security restrictions, it’s a good idea to check with the airport before packing any cheese in your suitcase. It would be a terrible cheese-less tragedy if you had to leave your loaf with security!

Can I ship your cheese?

Tillamook Cheese is a perishable product that requires constant refrigeration. Although our little loafs would love to travel the world and experience exotic places, we don’t recommend that you ship our cheese very far. If you do decide to ship it, we recommend that you include one gel ice pack for every 2lbs of cheese and send it using no longer than USPS 2nd day mail. If you’d like to ship cheese overseas, we suggest using an insulated package, and surrounding the cheese with several gel ice packs. Make sure to check with the customs department of the country you’re shipping to for any restrictions they may have on sending food items into their country.

Can I freeze cheese?

(Hey, that rhymes!) Freezing Tillamook Cheese prolongs its life, but it also changes the texture of the cheese, making it dry and crumbly. Although freezing slows mold growth, it also stops the aging process of cheddar. Ideally, you should freeze the cheese in its original, unopened package. If you’ve already opened the package, wrap one pound or smaller portions in moisture-proof materials (like plastic wrap or aluminum foil) and then place it in an airtight bag. That way, you can maintain optimum flavor and texture. When you’re ready, thaw the cheese in the refrigerator with the wrapper on to prevent loss of moisture and flavor. Then eat it as soon as possible. Thawed cheese will shred easily, but it’s difficult to slice. If you plan on slicing the cheese, it’s best to do so before putting it in the freezer. Check out more tips for cheese storage here.

Do I have to store my cheese in the fridge?

Yes. Just like the milk it’s made from, Tillamook Cheese is a perishable dairy product and should always be stored in the fridge (ideally in the coldest part, around 40 degrees). You can take cheese out of the fridge up to an hour before you plan on using it, but it should be put back in the fridge immediately after you’re done. If you’re in a warm environment, cheese shouldn’t be left out for too long – the heat will change the texture and oil may develop on the outside of the cheese. Check out all our cheese storage tips.

What’s the best way to store my cheese?

All Tillamook Cheese should be stored in the fridge. To prolong the life of your loaf, follow these tips:

• Keep your cheese in its original package.
• Wash your hands before handling.
• Avoid touching the cheese that you plan on putting back in the fridge.
• When slicing your loaf, pull the wrapper back and cut off the desired amount of cheese.
• Tightly fold the original wrapper back over the end.
• Press foil or plastic wrap over the end of your cheese and place it in an airtight, sealed plastic bag or airtight container.
• Place your cheese in the coldest section of the fridge (less than 40° Fahrenheit).

To help prevent mold from developing on sliced and shredded cheese, follow these tips:

• Keep your cheese in its original package.
• Wash your hands before handling.
• Avoid touching the cheese that you plan on putting back in the fridge.
• Don’t put your hand directly in the bag of shredded cheese; remove with a clean utensil, or pour the cheese out of the bag.
• For 5-pound bags of shredded cheese, separate and store the cheese in several smaller resealable bags.
• Use within 3-5 days after opening (in other words, enjoy often!)

Where can I buy your cheese curds?

Our Tillamook Cheddar Cheese Curds are currently exclusively sold at the Creamery in Tillamook and the Tillamook Market at the PDX Airport.

Why is the price of Tillamook Cheese different at every store?

Grocery stores set the prices on products they sell. We don’t decide the selling price of our products in different stores. Prices vary depending on shipping costs, demand, and location.

Why isn’t your cheese available in my area?

We would love for Tillamook Cheese to be available in every city in every state! Unfortunately, the decision about what products are carried in what stores is decided through a partnership between Tillamook and our grocery retailers. The best way to get our products in your grocery store is to ask your store manager to carry them. 

Where can I find your cheese?

Tillamook Cheese is available at a variety of stores throughout the U.S. Currently, the full product line is most commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. To look for Tillamook Cheese and other products in your area, please visit Where to Buy. Because we sell our cheese to grocery stores through distributors, it’s sometimes difficult for us to know exactly which type of Tillamook Cheese is currently stocked in a specific store. If you’re looking for a particular flavor of cheese, we recommend that you call a store to check on their cheese inventory. You can also purchase most of our cheeses and cheese curds from our online store. If you would like to be able to purchase Tillamook products at a store that doesn’t currently carry them, we recommend speaking to the store manager and requesting our products. Please feel free to use our Product Request Template, which you can fill in, print out, and hand directly to a store manager.

What’s the difference between your fine cut vs thick cut shredded cheese?

Our new Farmstyle Fine Cut is a great option when you are looking for increased coverage and meltability. We recommend sprinkling it on salads, tacos, baked potatoes, and other dishes as a topper.

Our Farmstyle Thick Cut is great in baked dishes or can add some extra creaminess to your mac & cheese.

We encourage you to try both cuts in your favorite dishes and see which one you like the best! 

My Extra Sharp White Cheddar Farmstyle Fine Cut Shredded Cheese was crumbly.

Sorry for any disappointment! Our Extra Sharp White Cheddar is our longest-aged cheese that we offer in a shredded cut. It has the sharpest flavor but also the lowest moisture content, which leads to a crumblier texture than our other shredded cheeses. We hope that this is helpful, if you have additional concerns, please feel free to reach out to our team.

What’s the liquid on the outside of my cheese?

No need to worry – the liquid on the outside of your cheese is just excess moisture, or liquid whey. Wipe off your cheese with a napkin or paper towel and enjoy! It’s common for naturally-aged cheeses to develop a small amount of moisture inside their packaging.

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