ATK Reviews

We Try the Most Popular Cheeses at Trader Joe's: January 2023 Edition

We’re back with more expert recommendations from our resident cheesemonger. 

Published Jan. 13, 2023.

The new year is here! Celebrate with cheese. 

After reviewing four of Trader Joe’s most popular cheeses, I’m back with another installment. This time I’m covering Triple Cream Brie with Mushrooms, 1000 Day Gouda, and Syrah Toscano Cheese Spread—plus a soft, spreadable version of one of TJ’s most popular cheeses, Unexpected Cheddar.  

I portioned the cheeses according to their style and shapes (see this guide for more on why how you slice cheese matters) and served them at room temperature. Some cheese-loving editors, test cooks, and equipment testers shared their unvarnished opinions and provided tasting notes.

The verdict? Some of these cheeses are surefire hits whether you’re having a fancy dinner party with friends or hunkering down for a movie marathon in your sweats. Others miss the mark a little…or a lot.  

The cheeses included here were purchased at a Boston-area Trader Joe’s in December 2022. You might find that the selection at your local store varies slightly. If there’s something you want to try, don’t wait! Go get it now. 

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1. Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread 

We sampled Unexpected Cheddar for the first installation of these reviews of Trader Joe’s cheese and we loved it. Like many of our favorite extra-sharp cheddar and artisanal cheddars, it’s slightly sweet, nutty, and pleasantly crumbly. Coworkers stopped me in the hallway and asked if we could try the Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread next.  

I grew up near Wisconsin and love pub cheese and other spreadable cheeses. When I say that I had high hopes for this stuff, I mean it. 

Unfortunately, the Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread is a disappointment. It’s made by mixing the cheddar with butter (among other things) and the result is overly soft and oddly glossy—almost like frosting that’s been spread on a cake while it’s still hot. 

It was also much sweeter than the original Unexpected Cheddar. It doesn’t contain sugar, but it has a downright saccharine flavor that had us double- and triple-checking the ingredients for sweeteners. 

  • Style: Cheese spread 
  • Ingredients: Cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, microbial, enzyme), water, reduced lactose whey, butter (cream, salt), whey, sea salt, lactic acid, guar gum
  • Price: $4.99 for 9 oz ($0.55 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Skip it. Spend that 5 bucks on regular Unexpected Cheddar instead. 
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2. Triple Cream Brie Cheese with Wild Mushrooms 

Another example of Trader Joe’s riffing on its most popular products, the ultrapopular Triple Cream Brie now comes flecked with big bits of mushrooms. According to the label, the mushroom mix includes mild champignon (button mushrooms) and expensive, delightfully fruity chanterelle. 

The Brie itself is mild and milky with a supersmooth, buttery consistency. (The designation “triple cream” means that it contains upwards of 75 percent butterfat, compared to 60 to 75 percent for “double cream” options.) There are so many mushrooms that each bite tastes distinctly mushroomy. For many of our tasters, that deeply savory, earthy flavor offered pleasant contrast to the cheese’s natural richness. 

Brie is always a hit on a cheeseboard. People who want a mild, ultrafamiliar cheese and those who gravitate towards more unusual options will both be pleased—as long as they like mushrooms. 

  • Style: Brie
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized milk, champignon mushrooms, boletus mushrooms, white chanterelle mushrooms, salt, cheese cultures, microbial enzyme, natural flavor, penicillium candidum 
  • Price: $12.99 per lb ($0.81 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Buy it now. The pleasantly earthy flavor is a welcome twist on a classic. 

3. 1,000 Day Gouda Cheese 

Young gouda is soft, creamy, and mild. As the wheels age, they become firmer, drier, and crumblier and develop incredible complexity. 

Aged nearly three years, this import from Holland delivers the textures and flavors we expect from a good aged gouda. It’s firm yet fudgy with bits of crystalline crunch. It’s nutty and has a delightful caramelized sweetness that doesn’t taste cloying or dessert-like.

The 1,000 Day Gouda will shine on a cheese board, but we love to cook with aged gouda too. Use a vegetable peeler to shave it into wide, thin strips and add to a green salad. Shred it on a grater and stir into quinoa pilaf with pistachios or fold into gougères

  • Style: Gouda 
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized cow’s milk, salt, cheese cultures, animal rennet, annatto extract (for color) 
  • Price: $12.49 per lb ($0.78 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Buy it now. Aged Gouda is popular and versatile, and this is no exception. 

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4. Syrah Soaked Toscano Cheese Spread & Dip 

Another riff on a popular cheese we’ve previously tested, this spread is made from Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah. 

And just like the Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread highlighted above, it fails to retain the magic of the original. It’s more successful overall though. 

Instead of butter, the cheese is mixed with cream cheese. There are big bits of cheese some people found off-putting. That said, the spread is soft enough to easily scoop out and spread in a thick layer on crackers or bread. But instead of sweet, fruity wine—a flavor we loved on the original cheese—we mostly tasted garlic and parsley. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it didn’t taste at all like the Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah. 

  • Style: Cheese spread 
  • Ingredients: Toscano cheese soaked in Syrah wine (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, microbial enzymes, syrah wine [grapes, water, yeast]), cream cheese (pasteurized milk, cream, cheese culture, salt, guar gum, carob bean gum, xanthan gum), water, reduced lactose whey, sea salt, garlic, parsley, lactic acid, guar gum
  • Price: $4.99 for 7.5 oz ($0.67 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. Buy it if you love cheese dips, but don’t expect it to taste anything like Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah.

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