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

What cheese should you buy for the holidays? Our resident cheesemonger compares truffle Brie, a microwavable fondue kit, and more. 

Published Dec. 14, 2023.

The holidays are here. Whether you’re looking forward to a festive party or a lazy night at home, you’re probably asking yourself one question: What cheese should I buy?

In this December 2023 edition of our guide to Trader Joe’s cheeses, we’ve got you covered. (Want a refresher on our earlier recommendations? Check out volume one, volume two, and volume three of this series.) From ooey-gooey soft cheeses to a microwavable fondue kit, we’re focusing on cheeses that scream, “this is a special occasion!” and then whisper, “but I didn’t break the bank.”

The four cheeses highlighted here were purchased at a Boston-area Trader Joe’s in November 2023—and it’s likely that some (or all!) of them won’t be in stores for very long. If you want to try something, go get it now! 

Read on to find out what we think about Double Crème Brie with Truffles, Fromage Pavé, Gran Capitan Hard Cheese with Black Olive Paste, and La Fondue. 

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1. Double Crème Brie with Truffles

If you’re a truffle lover, this small, hexagonal Brie from France is sure to catch your eye in the Trader Joe’s cheese case. We liked it. But we were puzzled by it. 

Despite the label’s promise of truffles and the many black flecks in the cheese, we were left hunting for truffle flavor. The sentiment among tasters was unanimous: “Tastes like normal brie to me” and “I wouldn’t know there were truffles in here if you hadn’t told me.” It’s too bad because the Brie itself was quite good—super, super creamy,” ”really buttery,” “rich,” and “lush.” 

Truffles generally increase the price of cheese (or any other food). There are so many exceptional types of Brie. Why potentially pay extra for something you can’t smell or taste? 

  • Style: Brie
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized cow’s milk, cream, lactic starters, salt, truffle, truffle flavor, rennet
  • Price: $9.99 for 8.5 oz ($1.78 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Skip it. Buy a great unflavored Brie instead. (Hint: See Fromage Pavé below.) 

2. Fromage Pavé

This petite little cube of cheese has a soft, feathery white rind with pronounced ridges. Anyone who loves Fromager d’Affinois will find those ridges familiar. Both cheeses are made exclusively by the French company Guilloteau, based in the Côtes du Rhone region of France. Outside of Trader Joe’s, you’ll see this cheese called Pavé d’Affinois. 

Like Fromager d’Affinois, it’s sure to be a hit with any crowd. Our tasters loved its “velvety,” “silky smooth” texture. They also raved that it was both “mild yet rich” and had lots of “fresh dairy flavor.” If you usually skip the rind on Brie, give this one a try. It’s delicate in both flavor and texture and contrasts nicely with the luscious interior of the cheese. 

You might want to buy two. We bet this cheese will disappear from a cheese board very quickly. 

  • Style: Brie 
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized milk, cream, salt, cheese culture, microbial rennet 
  • Price: $6.99 for 7 oz ($1.00 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Buy it now. This lush, meltingly smooth soft cheese is a delicious crowd pleaser. 

3. Gran Capitan Hard Cheese with Black Olive Paste

Like Manchego and Campo de Montalbán, wedges of this semi-firm cheese have an inedible, ridged rind that’s very distinctive. Made from a combination of cow, goat, and sheep milk, this cheese is nutty, creamy, and both slightly sweet and slightly tart. The ivory-colored cheese has gorgeous black veining from the black olive paste that’s mixed into the curds before the cheese firms up. 

Unlike the truffled Brie, this one did indeed have extra flavor. It was polarizing. People who like olives generally enjoyed the olive paste’s “briny acidity” and thought the cheese had the “perfect amount of olive flavor.” But a few dissenters said that they would prefer to buy a great cheese like Manchego and serve a bowl of olive tapenade on the side. 

  • Style: Semi-firm mixed-milk cheese 
  • Ingredients: Pasteurized cow, goat, and sheep milk, olive paste (black olives, olive oil, thyme, oregano and salt), salt, calcium chloride (stabilizer), rennet, cheese cultures and enzymes, potassium sorbate (preservative) and natamycin (natural mold inhibitor) in the rind 
  • Price: $13.99 per lb ($0.87 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. This marbled cheese is striking but its olive flavor is too much for some. 


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4. La Fondue

On a cold day, few things are as delightful as a pot of hot, melty cheese and crusty bread to dip in it. We were intrigued by the convenience of this tub of fondue. Instead of shredding multiple kinds of cheese by hand and combining them with garlic and wine on the stovetop, you peel back the container’s foil lid, poke the cheese a few times with a fork, and toss it in the microwave. Six minutes later, you have fondue. You just need to give it a vigorous stir to re-incorporate the oil that separates. (Take care when doing this! It’s hot.)  

Made from a fairly traditional mix of Emmenthal, Comté, and Gruyère, it sure tasted like fondue. The full-flavored cheeses tasted slightly “funky” and nutty. It had big “boozy” and “fruity” notes courtesy of the kirsch cherry brandy, but it didn’t taste like brandy specifically. Many people assumed it was flavored with white wine. 

Although this kit solves the problem of preparing fondue, it offers no solution for keeping it hot. Within minutes, the cheese cooled into a solid, if slightly grainy mass. We could easily coax off small bits with a knife, but we couldn’t dip bread into the fondue. For some, this was a deal-breaker. For others, it was a very reasonable thing to expect when you spend 8 bucks for melted cheese inside a plastic tub.

  • Style: Premade fondue 
  • Ingredients: Emmental, Comté, and Gruyère cheese (cow milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), water, white wine, modified corn starch, garlic, sodium citrate, salt, kirsch cherry brandy, sodium phosphate, white pepper 
  • Price: $7.99 for 17.9 oz ($0.45 per oz)
  • The Verdict: Not for everyone. It’s convenient and tasty, but fondue enthusiasts may prefer to make it from scratch and keep it hot in a fondue pot.

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