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The Really BIG List of Lactose Percentages

"Just the facts, ma'am."

Sergeant Joe Friday knew his audience.

Busy people in a busy world. Like you.

So here are the facts. And a few hints and reminders.

  • As a rule of thumb, the higher the fat content, the lower the lactose content.
  • Anything below 2% lactose can be tolerated well by the majority of those with LI. As long as you don't really overdo it.
  • Ranges are important because there are huge variations from brand to brand in products like yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream. I don't know of any way to determine the lactose content of a particular brand, sorry to say.
  • A tenth of a percent here or there doesn't really make any difference. Don't sweat the small stuff.
  • Aged cheeses always have lower lactose than younger cheeses. Look for the amount of aging on the label.

If you want the deeper dish on these products, be sure to go through my SuperGuide to Dairy Products really carefully.

Dairy Product Lactose %
Fluid Milks Range Average
Regular Whole Milk3.7-5.1%4.8%
2% Lowfat Milk3.7-5.3%4.9%
1% Lowfat Milk4.8-5.5%5.0%
Nonfat (Skim) Milk4.3-5.7%5.2%
Chocolate Milk4.1-4.9%5.0%
Light Cream3.7-4.0%3.9%
Whipping Cream2.8-3.0%2.9%
70% Lactose-reduced Milk 1.6%
80% Lactose-reduced Milk 1.1%
100% Lactose-reduced Milk0.0-0.5% 
Cultured Milk ProductsRangeAverage
Sour Cream3.0-4.3%3.9%
Yogurt, commercial lowfat1.9-6.0% 
Yogurt, commercial whole milk4.1-4.7% 
Sweet Acidophilus Milk 4.4%
Kefir, commercial part-skim 4.0%
Concentrated MilksRangeAverage
Sweetened Condensed Milk11.4-16.3%12.9%
Evaporated, whole and skim9.7-11.0%10.3%
Frozen MilksRangeAverage
Ice Creams3.1-8.4% 
Ice Milks 7.6%
Milk FatsRangeAverage
Dry MilksRangeAverage
Nonfat Dry Milk49.0-52.3%51.3%
Instant Nonfat Dry Milk49.5-54.0% 
Dry Whole Milk36.0-38.5%37.5%
Dry Buttermilk46.5-50.0% 
Dry Buttermilk Product48.0-55.0% 
Dry Whey (sweet-type)63.0-75.0% 
Dry Whey (sour-type)61.0-70.0% 
Reduced Lactose Whey (dry)52.0-58.0% 
Reduced Minerals Whey (dry)70.0-80.0% 
Dairy Product Solids65.0-85.0% 
Whey Protein Concentrate (dry)10.0-55.0% 
Whey Protein Isolate (dry) 0.5%
Cheddar-type Whey (liquid)4.5-5.1% 
Cottage Cheese Whey (liquid)4.5-4.9% 
Lactose (dry)over 98.0% 
Lactose Product (dry)93.0-97.0% 
American (pasteurized processed)0.0-14.2% 
Cheddar (mild)0.0-2.1% 
Cheddar (sharp)trace-2.1% 
Cottage Cheese (uncreamed)0.0-3.5% 
Cottage Cheese (diet) 3.4%
Cottage Cheese (2%) 3.6%
Cottage Cheese (1%) 2.7%
Cottage Cheese (creamed)0.6-3.3% 
Cream Cheese 0.4-2.9% 
Feta 4.1
Liederkranz near 0%
Limberger 3.6%
Mozzarella (part-skim)0.0-3.1% 
Parmesan (grated)2.9-3.7% 
Parmesan (hard)0.0-3.2% 
Quarg 3.0%
Romadur 2.5%
Roquefort 2.0%
Stilton 0.8%
Swiss (pasteurized processed)0.0-2.1% 
Velveeta 9.3%

If you must know:
  • The ranges are taken from from Nevin S. Scrimshaw and Edwina B. Murray: "The Acceptability of Milk and Milk Products in Populations with a High Prevalence of Lactose Intolerance," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1988;48:1080-1159,
  • Except for the whey ranges, which were in the Ingredient Description Brochure, American Dairy Products Institute: 1992,
  • And the cheese numbers, found in Samuel A. Matz: Ingredients for Bakers, McAllen, TX: Pan-Tech International, 1987.
  • The averages, however, are taken from Newer Knowledge of Milk and Other Fluid Dairy Products, rev. ed., National Dairy Council: 1993.
  • And I've supplemented the list with a few percentages I could only find elsewhere.

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