Kitchn Love Letters

The Trader Joe’s Cheese I Buy on Repeat All Year Long

published Mar 31, 2022
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Credit: Lauren Masur

Disclaimer for all my fellow cheese-lovers out there: I’m not usually excited by cheddar on a charcuterie platter. I most often reach for smoked Gouda or chevre or Brie if I’m craving a stinkier bite. So when I tell you that Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar is the MVP on any charcuterie board I make, you know it’s worth your attention.

Credit: Trader Joe's

This cheddar is sharp but not bitter, and has a slightly crumbly, Parmesan-like texture that I can’t get enough of. It doesn’t taste like the cheddars I’m used to seeing on grilled cheese sandwiches or in baked macaroni. The flavor profile and texture are, well, unexpected — as the name suggests.

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar, $3.99 for 7 ounces

Like so many Trader Joe’s products that are now staples in my kitchen, I can’t tell you how I decided to put it in my cart for the first time. If I had to guess, I probably saw it on the Black Girls In Trader Joe’s Instagram account, where I get so much of my shopping and cooking inspiration. Either way, it became a favorite almost immediately. 

Credit: Danielle Deavens

As any charcuterie-lover can tell you, the true test of any board comes down to the cohesion and deliciousness of your cheese-cracker-fruit-meat combinations. My personal best bite is a Trader Joe’s fig and olive crisp, raspberry preserves, thinly sliced salami, and a healthy cut of Unexpected Cheddar. Sweet and salty and creamy and crunchy — all the things a bite of charcuterie should be. 

Credit: Danielle Deavens

There are great uses for Unexpected Cheddar beyond the board, too. It melts like cheddar but has a hint of nuttiness that I haven’t been able to replace with another cheese. I like to melt it on a piece of buttery toast, add it to creamy pasta sauces, or fold it into eggs. You could grate the block of cheese for this, or grab the shredded pack of Unexpected Cheddar. Both versions clock in at less than $5, and they’re worth every penny.

The other night I was in desperate need of some dinner inspiration, and shredded Unexpected Cheddar came to the rescue. I made some spaghetti and chicken thighs, then melted some of the cheese in milk and garlic. There it was: I had a delicious riff on Alfredo. It was sharper than the original, but just as creamy — a sauce that coated the noodles and the chicken deliciously. This wasn’t the first time I was saved by the cheddar, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. No matter where you sprinkle or slice it, you can’t go wrong with this cheese.

Do you have a favorite Trader Joe’s cheese? Tell us in the comments below.