Ingredients

We Try the Most Popular Cheeses at Trader Joe’s: March 2023 Edition

Our resident cheesemonger tastes some all-time favorites and a seasonal booze-infused cheddar.
By

Published Mar. 16, 2023.

Wondering which Trader Joe’s cheese should you buy right now? You came to the right place. 

We’re back with the latest installment of our guide to Trader Joe’s cheeses. (Curious what we’ve written about before? Check out volume one and volume two of this series.) This time around, we’re focusing on boldly flavored cheddar, unique spins on staff favorites, and seasonal cheese.

A group of cheese lovers with strong opinions sampled each one. Some cheeses had the entire group coming back for seconds. Others proved controversial. 

Everything highlighted here was purchased at a Boston-area Trader Joe’s in March 2023—and it’s likely that some of them won’t be in stores for long. If something piques your interest, go get it now! 

Read on to find out what we think about Cheddar Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese, Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper, and Pizza Bread Cheese. 

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

1. Cheddar Cheese with Caramelized Onions  

When I asked my coworkers about their favorite Trader Joe’s cheeses, this cheddar was at the top of many lists. They’re in good company; the Caramelized Onion Cheddar earned the spot as “#1 Cheese” in Trader Joe’s 14th Annual Customer Choice Awards

The cheese is soft, not quite sliceable and not quite spreadable. Some people found that texture odd, but most didn’t mind because they were so smitten with the flavor. A peek at the ingredients list shows that the caramelized onions have a lot of unexpected ingredients and spices. (Have you ever heard of putting red currant juice in onions? We hadn’t.) We never would have known they were there. All we tasted was deep, rich, pleasantly sweet onion flavor and mildly sharp cheddar.  

Tasters noted that it was “reminiscent of a bite of French onion soup or a more sophisticated French onion dip,” both of which are very popular foods in the test kitchen. Another noted simply, “Wow, this is extraordinary.” 

  • Style: Flavored cheddar
  • Ingredients: Cheddar cheese (pasteurized cow’s milk, salt, microbial rennet, starter culture), caramelized onion (onion, cane sugar, pectin, cider vinegar, red currant juice, olive oil, lemon juice, clove, cinnamon, ginger) 
  • Price: $9.99 per lb ($0.62 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. If you love caramelized onions and supercreamy cheese, you’ll adore this cheddar. Fans of firmer, crumblier cheddar might be less impressed. 
Taste Test

All About Artisanal American Cheddar Cheese

From California to Vermont, cheesemakers are producing some top-tier cheddars by hand.
Read Our Review

2. Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese

Timed for St. Patrick’s Day, wedges of this porter-flavored cheddar have striking brown marbling. They also get a boost from a little caramel coloring. 

It mostly tasted like mild, slightly sweet cheddar. But the unique flavors of porter built and lingered on the finish. Like the beer, it was pleasantly “roasty” and “malty.” We also picked up on coffee-like flavors and a little bitterness. 

The cheese was too soft and crumbly for most people, but a few tasters thought it would make a great addition to a cheese board. 

  • Style: Flavored cheddar
  • Ingredients: Cheddar cheese (milk, salt, animal rennet, starter cultures), Irish porter (barley, hops, water, yeast), caramel color, natural flavors 
  • Price: $11.99 per lb ($0.75 per oz) 
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. The porter flavors and soft texture are polarizing. 

3. Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper

We’ve written before about how much we love Trader Joe’s Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah. This riff on that popular cheese also won us over. 

Like the other Toscano, this cheese is reminiscent of a good cheddar. It’s firm enough to slice but also slightly crumbly. It’s nutty, sharp, and sweet in equal measure. 

While the Syrah version is washed with red wine, this iteration is rubbed on the exterior with ground black pepper. Bites from the interior of the wedge are bright, creamy, and generally pretty mild. It’s only when we ate the rind that we tasted pepper. That pleasant “peppery punch” added a “slight bite” and “zing” that we loved. It enhanced the cheese and did not overwhelm it. 

  • Style: Cow’s milk cheese rubbed with ground black pepper 
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized cow’s milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, coarse black pepper
  • Price: $10.99 per lb ($0.69 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Buy it now. Especially if you like the cacio e pepe-y combination of sharp cheese and black pepper. 
Article

How Does Trader Joe’s Cascatelli Compare to the Original?

The Sporkful’s Dan Pashman licensed his pasta shape, cascatelli, to Trader Joe’s. In the ultimate showdown, which version comes out on top?
Learn More

4. Pizza Bread Cheese

If you’ve never heard of bread cheese, you might not be sure what to make of this option. 

Bread cheese, which originated in Scandinavia, doesn’t actually have bread in it or taste especially like bread. The cheese owes its name instead to its appearance. As part of the cheesemaking process, the blocks of cheese are baked, which caramelizes the exterior and gives it a brown, charred-looking crust that resembles toasted or broiled bread.  

Texturally, it’s similar to halloumi. It’s rubbery and a little squeaky—and as all lovers of cheese curds will tell you, that’s not a bad thing. You just need to know what to expect. For best results, follow the instructions on the package and warm it in the microwave (just for 30 seconds) or on the stovetop. The cheese won’t melt, but it will get a little gooey and less bouncy. 

Trader Joe’s “pizza”-flavored bread cheese does indeed contain a lot of the seasonings and ingredients you’d find in pizza or standard-issue tomato sauce. The dominant flavor is dried spices, which no one particularly cared for. Those flavors also made it a little harder to pair with jam or crackers. 

  • Style: Bread cheese
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized milk, contains 2% or less of salt, tomato flake, fennel seed, oregano, sugar, garlic, black pepper, basil, onion, red pepper, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, microbial enzymes 
  • Price: $7.98 per lb ($0.50 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. Bread cheese can be great, but the dried spices in this version were too strong for most people.

This is a members' feature.