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How American Is Cheez Whiz?

Margaret Lipman
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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The United States’ longstanding affinity for processed, pre-packaged foods has sometimes made American cuisine the focus of ridicule from other nations. Lunchables, frozen dinners, sodas, fast food, salty potato chips, and sugary cereals are among the more questionable components of the American diet (though many of those items are also popular worldwide).

Many people would assume that Cheez Whiz belongs at the top of the list of ultra-processed foods developed for the U.S. market. After all, it’s a popular addition to many Philly cheesesteaks, though provolone was the original cheese of choice. But Cheez Whiz was actually developed for a very different regional “delicacy": Welsh rarebit.

If you’re not familiar with Welsh rarebit, you might assume it’s a dish involving meat. In reality, it’s a straightforward combination of toasted bread with hot cheese sauce that resembles an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich. However, getting the cheese sauce to just the right flavor and consistency is more challenging than it seems. Traditional recipes call for ingredients like butter, milk, ale or porter, mustard, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and lots of grated Cheddar cheese, melted together in a saucepan.

In the early 1950s, Kraft was already an icon in the processed cheese world. Kraft Singles were introduced to the U.S. market in 1950 and had already become popular among consumers. Keen to replicate this success in the United Kingdom, Kraft food scientists led by Edwin Traisman developed Cheez Whiz, a mild cheese sauce that could be easily spread on warm toasted bread right out of the jar, without the need for cooking on the stove. It was successfully introduced in Britain in 1952, with U.S. customers getting their hands on the bright yellow cheese dip the following year, where it has stayed as a staple of many American pantries for decades.

A cheesy business:

  • Cheez Whiz should not be confused with Easy Cheese. The former is a cheese sauce sold in a glass jar, while the latter is sold in an aerosol-like spray can.

  • These days, there’s very little actual cheese in Cheez Whiz, though you’ll find plenty of whey, milk, canola oil, maltodextrin, salt, flavorings, and preservatives.

  • The origin of the “Welsh rarebit” name is somewhat unclear. According to most sources, it originated as a joke in the 18th century, as the dish, which was originally called “Welsh rabbit,” contains no rabbit whatsoever.

  • The first U.S. patent for processed cheese was held by James L. Kraft. The 1916 patent, which sought to keep cheese “indefinitely without spoiling," coincided with Kraft supplying six million pounds of cheese to the U.S. Army during World War I.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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