When it comes to cheese, Kraft seems to have a pretty loose definition. What’s in those Kraft Singles slices, anyway? But perhaps the most overly-processed and the least cheese-like product Kraft sells is Cheez Whiz: an imitation cheese product that gets a lot of love from people serving Philly cheesesteak and a lot of skepticism from most everyone else. Why the suspicion? First off, it spells cheese with a z. And cheese is nowhere to be found om the ingredients list. So, yeah. We know it's not all-natural dairy cheese. But what is Cheez Whiz actually?
Cheez Whiz is the jarred, shelf-stable cheese sauce sold by Kraft — not to be confused with the spray cheese called Easy Cheese sold in an aerosol can. When Cheez Whiz got its start, it was made mostly of cheese — albeit extremely processed. As ridiculously American as the product may seem, it was actually manufactured with Brits in mind.
The British dish called Welsh rarebit is made using a difficult-to-make cheese sauce. Kraft searched for a simpler solution. In 1952, Cheez Whiz was born, introduced solely to the British market. In 1953, Cheez Whiz made its way across the pond to the United States.
Since the 1950s, the Cheez Whiz formula has changed juuust a bit — at some point the cheese was removed entirely. And while actual cheese does have some real health benefits, Cheez Whiz has little to boast of in terms of nutrition. It’s got 80 calories per two tablespoons (that’s more than you’d get eating spoonfuls of full-fat sour cream) and 450 milligrams of heart-straining sodium. When you take a look at the ingredients, it’s easy to see why.
Here are the ingredients of Cheez Whiz, according to the Kraft website: whey, milk, canola oil, maltodextrin, milk protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, contains less than 2% of modified food starch, salt, lactic acid, whey protein concentrate, mustard flour, Worcestershire sauce (vinegar, molasses, corn syrup, water, salt, caramel color, garlic powder, sugar, spices (contains celery), tamarind, natural flavor), sodium alginate, sorbic acid as a preservative, color added, cheese culture, enzymes, natural flavor.
In layman’s terms, Cheez Whiz is made of whey (a protein byproduct of milk), oil, sodium-heavy flavorings, and a concoction of ingredients that help make it bright yellow and shelf-stable. Yum!
Despite all the long chemical names on its ingredient list, many Americans still rave over Cheez Whiz. It’s often eaten on Philly cheesesteaks, poured over french fries, and warmed up to use as a creamy cheese dip. Some adventurous eaters even pour it over their hot dogs.
Others disagree. One former Kraft employee admitted in 2001 he thinks the product “tastes like axle grease.” But if he didn’t know what was in Cheez Whiz, would he still feel the same way?
Cheez Whiz isn’t the only Kraft product with secrets — here are some things you probably didn’t know about Kraft’s boxed macaroni and cheese.