Kitchn Love Letters

The Extra-Special Cheese I Was Surprised to Find at Costco

published Oct 13, 2022
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Credit: Heather McClees

As a frequent traveler, I always look forward to trying the local cheese. I’ve noshed my way across Wisconsin on a cheese tour, sampled pimento cheese in a variety of recipes throughout the South, and spread fresh goat cheese on warm, handmade tortillas in Mexico. The only problem with this love affair is the heartbreak of knowing I probably won’t get to have more once I return home.

I was having these pangs after I toured the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon. I was in cheese heaven as I toured the facility to watch the production process, tasted a variety of cheeses (like the vintage 10-year-aged Makers Reserve Cheddar), and later enjoyed a luscious bowl of tomato soup with cheese curds. (And, yes I had the famed Tillamook ice cream for dessert.)

I purchased the Extra Sharp White Cheddar to take home with me, but when I was checking out I experienced a wave of sadness knowing that once this tasty souvenir was gone I wouldn’t be able to easily restock. So imagine my surprise when, cruising the cheese aisle at Costco, I discovered my favorite Extra Sharp White Cheddar. I nearly yipped with joy in the store while adding the two-pound block to my cart. (Costco also sells 2.5-pound blocks of the Medium Cheddar.)

Credit: Jill Dutton

What’s So Great About Tillamook’s Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese?

The Extra Sharp White Cheddar is naturally aged over two years, giving it a distinctive sharp flavor. It’s firm and holds up well in a sandwich, but also melts nicely for cooking. The company prides itself on the quality of its products: All of the milk used for making Tillamook cheese is locally sourced and the cattle are raised without artificial growth hormones. The cheese is made using just cultured milk, salt, and enzymes.

I later searched Tillamook’s website and discovered that some grocers near me in Kansas carry a selection of the company’s products, although the bulk of the distribution is in the Pacific Northwest. Most carry Medium Cheddar and Sharp Cheddar, and Target has the largest variety, selling 24 different options, but none of those are Extra Sharp White Cheddar. 

Credit: Jill Dutton

What’s the Best Way to Use Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar?

Succulent, stringy, and sharp, this is the perfect cheese for a gooey grilled cheese on sourdough. Ever since watching the movie Chef, I’ve sought out the perfect cheese for the sandwich and feel like I’ve found it with Tillamook’s Extra Sharp White Cheddar.

Beyond the best-ever grilled cheese, the Extra Sharp White Cheddar finds its way into many recipes I make at home, and goes especially well in a spinach and artichoke dip or fondue. It’s also a great addition to a charcuterie board or as an ingredient for macaroni and cheese for dinner with the family.

No matter how it’s served, though, these large blocks of cheese keep my love affair going because I know it only takes a quick jaunt to Costco — rather than a flight to Oregon — to restock my supply.

Find it in stores: Tillamook County Creamery Extra Sharp White Cheddar, $12.99 for 32 ounces

Let us know some of your favorite cheeses and what you pair them with in the comments.