Is Velveeta actually real cheese?

Okay, so maybe Velveeta doesn't have the sophistication of an aged Gruyere, but the stuff is pretty delicious when it comes to whipping up a bowl of queso. This smooth and creamy cheese has been a grocery store staple for over 100 years, but let's get real for a minute... is Velveeta really cheese? It certainly looks like cheese with its yellow texture and relatively cheese-like taste, but calling it 100 percent certifiable cheese is a no-go. 

Technically, Velveeta is more of a cousin of real cheese and is what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration refers to as a "pasteurized processed cheese food." USDA research chemist Michael Tunick told Business Insider that this is because Velveeta is made with a combination of older cheeses mixed in with fresh ones. An emulsifier is added to the ground up cheese mixture to bind the two together and help with the melting process. Yes, it's a cheep way of creating a cheese product that's not 100 percent cheese, but it sure tastes pretty good when melted over some shell pasta.

As for how this cheese impostor came about, well, that all began at the beginning of the 20th century when the Monroe Cheese Company in New York needed a productive way to make use of all its broken cheese (via Organic Authority). Swiss immigrant and cheese hero Emil Frey found a rather simple solution to the problem when he took all those old cheese bits and combined them with whey, a cheese byproduct, to hold the leftover dairy mixture together. The name Velveeta, of course, came about from the word "velvet" in reference to the smooth texture of this new Frankencheese.   

In regards to the ingredients in Velveeta, let's just say it contains a few more than the typical block of cheddar. Delish rounded up what goes into Velveeta and while cheddar is usually just "pasteurized milk, salt, and enzymes," Kraft Velveeta has milk and salt plus... milk protein concentrate, milkfat, whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, lactic acid, sorbic acid, sodium citrate, sodium alginate, enzymes, apocarotenal, annatto, cheese culture." Phew, that's a lot of stuff to make some liquid gold.

Hey, if you enjoy some sodium alginate and apocarotenal in your shells and cheese, dig in. Just don't fool yourself into believing Velveeta is the real deal.