Red Leicester
Other namesLeicestershire, Leicester
Country of originEngland
Source of milkCattle
Fat content33% total (48% as FDM)
Aging time6 to 12 months
Named afterLeicester, Leicestershire[*]
Related media on Commons

Red Leicester (also known simply as Leicester or Leicestershire cheese)[1] is an English cheese similar to Cheddar cheese, but crumbly in texture. It is typically aged 6 to 12 months. The rind is reddish-orange with a powdery mould on it. Since the 18th century, it has been coloured orange by the addition of annatto extract during manufacture.[2] It is a cow's milk cheese, and is named after the city of Leicester, or the ceremonial county it is located in, Leicestershire.

Traditionally made wheels are fairly firm and dry, with a friable texture and a slightly sweet, mellow flavour that becomes stronger as the cheese matures. Block-made cheeses are moister, and they have a slightly sweet aftertaste and a creamy texture.[3] The cheese has a slightly nutty taste. Versions sold in supermarkets are typically coloured with annatto, although it is possible to obtain Red Leicester without it.

Red Leicester is aged anywhere from four to nine months. "Young" Leicesters, at the beginning of that range, will be very mild; it is usually after six months that a Leicester begins to develop enough of a tang to be classified as "old". The modern industrial method for ageing is with vacuum packing. Smaller "farmhouse" makers usually still use the traditional way of maturing it in cloth, for a better flavour development.


The cheese was originally made on farms in Leicestershire, England, with surplus milk, once all the Stilton desired was made. It was originally coloured with carrot or beetroot juice.

It used to be called Leicestershire Cheese but came to be called Red Leicester. This was to distinguish it from "White Leicester," which was made to a national wartime recipe in the 1940s due to rationing.[3]

When fresh, the fat content of Red Leicester cheese is generally 33 to 34%. Regulations require that minimum fat levels to be stated in terms of the "fat in dry matter" or FDM. This is because moisture levels decrease as cheese ages. FDM measures the amount of fat present in the solids, which includes protein, minerals, vitamins and salt. The minimum FDM listed for Red Leicester is generally 48%.


  1. ^ "Red Leicester". BBC Online. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  2. ^ "History of Red Leicester". British Cheese Board. Archived from the original on March 18, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Red Leicester". British Cheese Board. Archived from the original on November 14, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2018.