Grocery

The 15 Best Cheeses to Buy at Trader Joe's

Grocery-store whisperer Katie Workman here, reporting for duty.

December 23, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

There is no easier way to kick off a party than with a sprawling cheese board with all the fixings. You can pull together just a few choices, or go to town and put out half a dozen or more different cheese varieties, maybe add a few other players (hello salumi, olives, nuts, veggies, and fruits), and in no time you’ll have a plentiful platter that looks utterly beautiful and completely inviting.

But good cheeses can be pricey, and choosing which cheeses to serve can be a bit daunting for many of us. At times the stuff with the higher price tag might feel like a worthy splurge, but if you’re entertaining a crowd, it can get very expensive very fast.

Trader Joe’s has a fairly compact, but thoughtful, selection of excellent cheeses. So while the choices might not be as varied as those of a cheese shop, you can be assured they’ve done a lot of the thinking and culling for you. Not to mention, their prices are quite reasonable if you’re a quality cheese lover (you know prices can quickly soar to $20 or $30 per pound, even higher). Also, TJ’s inventory turnover is high, which means what you’re getting is fresh or ripe or aptly aged, depending on which cheese we’re talking about.

Here are some of the cheeses that should be vying for a spot on your cheese board this season, or working their way into your holiday recipes.

Read More: 26 Things to Make With Leftover Cheese


Best Trader Joe’s Cheese

1. Brie

You just can’t go wrong with Brie: It’s a mild-tasting classic and everyone loves it. You can choose the Trader Joe’s Double Cream, or the richer (higher-butterfat) Triple Creme version from France ($7.89 a pound). If you like yours by the slice, pick up a pack of their block-shaped Brie. For a less traditional option, go for the Triple Creme German Brie with Wild Mushrooms for $10.49 a pound, or the goat’s milk Brie (only $2.99 for a little 4.4-ounce round).

Recipes: Baked Brie en Croute With Raspberry Jam, Pasta Shells in a Creamy, Cheesy Sauce, Air Fryer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

2. Camembert

I had an uncle who loved this cheese so much, we called him Uncle Camembert. The slightly funkier cousin of Brie you can get at TJ’s for $7.99 a pound, or if you’re a fan of the cute, archetypal little wooden container it comes in, the Le Rustique variety for $10.99 a pound.

3. Port Salut

Also from France, this semi-soft cheese is very delicate in flavor (so a good mild offering for the less cheese-curious in your life), and available at Trader Joe’s under their own label for $9.99 a pound.

4. Parmesan Reggiano

The Crown Jewel of cheeses, for a few reasons: TJ’s hawks it for $12.99 a pound, which is a darn good price for real Italian Parm (and there are a lot of cheeses labeled Parmesan out there, which are not the real deal). Parmesan is DOP/PDO classified, which means it can only be called Parm if it comes from Italy, from a particular type of cow, grazing solely on grass and hay, made using specific practices. Looking for Parm shavings? You can get them for $17.57; they’re pricier but irresistible additions to salads and pastas (not to mention terrific for snacking while you are cooking).

Recipes: Best Parmesan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Kale With Parmesan, Green Salad With Pears, Parmesan & Puff Pastry Croutons

5. Grana Padano

Another hard, crumbly raw cow’s milk cheese that you can add to a cheese board in chunks, or use in cooking much the way you would use Parmesan. Grana comes from Latin for “grain” and Padano indicates it is “of the Po River.” It has a nuttiness, butteriness, and salty-sweetness to it, with a dense, granular texture. Like Parmesan, it’s DOP/PDO-classified—though more affordable.

6. Gruyère

Yet another raw milk cheese, Gruyère is from Switzerland and probably one of the most famous cheeses from one of the most famous cheese-producing countries. It’s nutty and firm, but not as hard or crumbly as Parmesan or Grana Padano, and AOC-protected (another type of government protection for individual foods produced in specific ways in specific places). Trader Joe’s carries a few varieties which start at $13.99 a pound, which is really reasonable. Not all Gruyères are created equal (the producer and the age of the cheese affect price), but I have seen it sold at near $30 a pound.

Recipes: Scalloped Sweet Potatoes, Classic Swiss Fondue

7. Manchego

A DOP Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, aged for 6 months, Manchego is another crowd-pleaser and cheese-plate favorite. TJ’s sells it at $9.99 a pound (again, a great price, as I’ve seen 6-month Manchego selling for way north of $20). The flavor is nutty, grassy, sheepy, and kind of caramelized. It’s hard yet still creamy and holds together when you slice it.

Recipe: Spanish Lamb Burgers With Manchego

8. Cheddar

A classic you’re sure to be acquainted with. Trader Joe’s has lots of cheddars, but one special pick is the Tillamook Kosher Cheddar for $7.58 a pound. Tillamook Creamery makes some terrific cheeses out of Oregon, and this is a super solid cheese with all of the flavor and texture you look for in a “good” cheddar. It’s vegetarian as well (did you know that lots of cheeses contain rennet, which is not a vegetarian ingredient?).

Recipes: Cheesy Beef & Hash Brown Casserole, Pimento Cheese Spread, Stovetop Macaroni & 4 Cheeses

9. Harbison Cave Aged Cheese

This cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont has become a cult-favorite amongst cheese lovers. It’s wrapped in a spruce band that ages and flavors the cheese in a particular way (it was also named 2018’s Best of Show by the American Cheese Society). TJ’s sells the 9-ounce round for $12.99 (it sells for $20.00 elsewhere).

10. Mascarpone

Spoonable (with a texture like sour cream), silky, sweet, buttery, and slightly tangy, mascarpone features in many dessert preparations, perhaps most famously tiramisu. You can get it for a very attractive $5.98 a pound at TJ’s.

11. Crème Fraîche

The French cousin of Italian Mascarpone, crème fraîche is a tangy, velvety mixture of heavy cream and buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt. You can use it to garnish savory foods like soups, but it also appears often on desserts as a richer version of whipped cream, sometimes sweetened with a bit of honey or sugar. It’s nicely priced at $8.09 a pound.

Recipes: Smoked Salmon & Crème Fraiche Puff Pastry Tartlets, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

12. Goat Cheese

Trader Joe’s carries many choices of goat cheese, many clearly geared for a festive cheese board twist. I’m more of a classicist and head for the plainer variety, but if you’re game for something different, you can try the fig, blueberry, and cranberry versions, all around $4.49 for an 8-ounce log. Or there are 5-ounce plain, honey goat’s milk, or fine herb-crusted logs for $2.99. They also carry Silver Goat Chèvre for $4.99 for an 11-ounce log, which is a steal.

Recipes: Bistro Salad With Warm Goat Cheese, Leek, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Quiche, Creamy Goat Cheese & Spinach Linguine

13. Gouda

They have a couple of versions of this rich, tangy, creamy-but-firm cheese, made in the Netherlands (the home of Gouda). One is aged for 1,000 days ($11.99 a pound) and is briny and sharp (like a cheddar, but amped up); another is an interesting double cream version ($7.99 a pound). Fun fact: Gouda apparently accounts for about half of the cheese eaten in the world today!

14. Blue Cheeses

Trader Joe’s carries Stilton, one of the most loved blue cheeses of them all, selling at $11.99 a pound (compared to $22 or more at other shops). You can also pick up a 60-day cave-aged blue at a really affordable $6.99 a pound, or a 90-day aged crumbly cow and sheep milk–blend gorgonzola (another core blue cheese) for a delightful $5.99 a pound. Or how about white Stilton with cranberries or apricots for a serious dose of holiday cheesiness? Both are from England, for $9.99 and $10.99 a pound, respectively.

Recipes: Blue Cheese Dip, Roasted Winter Vegetables With Blue Cheese, Prosciutto, Asian Pear & Blue Cheese Crostini

15. Truffle Cheeses

When it comes to adding truffle flavor, there are a few choices! Pick up an Italian Truffle Cheese, a cow’s milk cheese speckled with black truffles for a layer for added earthy flavor. It’s $11.99 a pound, which is quite good for something that has the word “truffle” attached. There is also a cute little hexagonal Brie with truffles for $15.04 a pound and a hard sheep’s milk cheese with truffles, Moliterno al Tartufo—which won some prestigious World Cheese Awards—for $22.99 a pound.

What's your favorite thing to buy in the Trader Joe's cheese section? Let us know in the comments below.
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Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.

8 Comments

Steve D. January 9, 2020
I second Berni H with the shout-out to Unexpected Cheddar. A sharp, grainy white cheddar that's not quite as dry as parm.
 
ruth January 9, 2020
Toscano with black pepper! It's awesome.
 
mini January 9, 2020
I like their goats milk Gouda! And yes, their double and triple creme are delicious!
 
Kathleen M. January 9, 2020
What?!? No mention of Creamy Toscano soaked in Syrah?!? It’s outrageous - a cross between a great Cheddar and a great Parm. Only $9.99 a pound.
 
Moni January 9, 2020
Yes!!! That is my favorite cheese from TJs!
 
Katekooks December 25, 2019
I love TJs cheese with truffles, which you don’t find in many other places for such a good price. First thing I dig into when I get home. Meant to be enjoyed in snacking. Creme fraiche very nice as well.
 
Smaug December 24, 2019
I've had some trouble lately with some of the more common cheeses from TJ's (asiago, Monterey jack) growing mold within a week or two of opening. I wrap them carefully, and haven't experienced. this problem with the same cheeses from other sources.
 
Berni H. December 24, 2019
UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR!!! So yummy! Went yesterday and they were all out...it's going to be a blue Christmas!