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ATK Reviews

We Try the Most Popular Cheeses at Trader Joe’s

A former cheesemonger and seasoned taste-tester tells it to you straight.    
By Published Oct. 5, 2022

When I moved to Boston, I got a job as a cheesemonger. It was a great gig. I loved trying new cheeses and helping people shop. Whether you’re nursing a heartache, celebrating a new job, or watching 12 hours of Netflix, having the right cheese makes all the difference. 

I’ve now spent the past eight(ish) years reviewing supermarket ingredients (including lots of cheeses!) for the ATK Reviews team at America’s Test Kitchen. 

And now? I’m focusing my attention on something the internet (and a lot of my coworkers) can’t stop talking about: the cheeses at Trader Joe’s. 

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We’re no strangers to Trader Joe’s—we’ve written about everything from hot sauces to pasta, we’ve penned love letters to its cookies, and included one of its offerings in a recent taste-test of brownie mix.

For this story, I polled my coworkers on their favorite TJ’s cheeses and did some research into which ones were internet favorites. A small panel of tasters and I sampled them each plain at room temperature (cheesemonger tip: Cheese tastes better when it’s not fridge-cold.) 

Trader Joe’s is notorious for quickly turning over its inventory. The cheeses included here were purchased at a Boston-area Trader Joe’s in September 2022. If anything here looks good to you, go get it before they stop selling it! 

1. Unexpected Cheddar

Judging from the description on the package, the unexpected thing about this cheddar is that it “tastes like an aged premium cheddar with hints of Parmesan.” It’s actually not unusual for cheddars to be reminiscent of other aged cheeses. 

By using cultures usually used to make Parmesan or Gruyère, you can make a cheddar with the nutty sweetness and crystalline crunch we love in those aged cheeses—which is exactly what you find with this cheese. 

Supercreamy and smooth with just a hint of crunch, Unexpected Cheddar is a delight. It’s not as complex as a really great artisanal cheddar, but it has the sharpness I want in cheddar with a pleasant milky sweetness. 

  • Style: Cheddar 
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, microbial enzyme
  • Price: $3.99 for 7 oz ($0.57 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Buy it now. It’s a versatile crowd pleaser. 

2. Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah 

This would be a hit at any party. To the best of my knowledge, “toscano” is not a style of cheese. The caramelized sweetness and firm, sliceable texture of this wedge reminded me of a good cheddar. 

Like the superpopular Drunken Goat (which we included in our round-up of goat’s milk cheeses), this cheese is washed with red wine and has a dark purple rind. Because it’s made with mild cow’s milk instead of slightly funky-tasting goat’s milk, the cheese itself is milder and the wine flavor really comes through. It’s slightly musky and fruity.  

  • Style: Cow’s milk cheese washed with red wine 
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese cultures, salt, microbial enzymes, syrah wine (grapes, water, yeast) 
  • Price: $10.99 per lb ($0.68 per oz) 
  • The Verdict: Buy it now. This slightly sweet, slightly fruity cheese will be a hit at any party.

3. Italian Truffle Cheese

If you’re the person who always orders truffle fries or pizza with a drizzle of truffle oil, you’re in luck. This delivers BIG truffle flavor. The actual cheese part of the cheese is nondescript. Its mild flavor and soft, squishy texture are similar to a run-of-the-mill block mozzarella. 

That soft texture means it melts well—but some of the truffle flavor gets lost. If you’re ambivalent about truffles and the in-your-face flavor of truffle oil in particular, skip this one. 

  • Style: Cow’s milk cheese with truffles
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese cultures, animal rennet, salt, black truffles
  • Price: $12.99 per lb ($0.81 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. If you’re an extreme truffle fan, you’ll probably love it. If not, this cheese isn’t for you.
Watch Lan Lam put together a simple charcuterie board.

4. Wild Blueberry and Vanilla Chèvre

I wanted to love this cheese. It’s beautiful. The tiny blueberries on the exterior of the log look like they came from a roadside farmstand in Maine. Those berries tint the outer edges of the goat log, so each slice fades from dark purple to snowy white.

My heart broke a little when I took my first bite. This cheese is very, very sweet. If you close your eyes, it’s a dead ringer for vanilla yogurt with blueberry jam. And because the chevre is so dense, it’s got an awful lot in common with blueberry cream cheese as well. 

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll gobble this cheese right up. But if you’re looking for goat cheese tang and funk, you’ll be happier buying a plain log of goat cheese and pairing it with a jar of wild blueberry jam. 

  • Style: Fresh goat’s cheese with blueberries and vanilla 
  • Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized goat’s milk, sweetened dried wild blueberries (wild blueberries, sugar), salt, vanilla extract (water, ethyl alcohol, vanilla beans), microbial enzymes, natamycin (natural mold inhibitor) 
  • Price: $4.99 for 8 oz ($0.62 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Skip it. It’s cloyingly sweet and tastes more like dessert cheese.