You haven't lived until you've had Unexpected Cheddar mac and cheese.

By Laura Fisher
October 01, 2020
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There’s always a lot of talk about the amazingness that is Trader Joe’s. The healthy snacks are uniquely delicious, they have the best seasonal releases, and don’t even get us started on how the premade sauces can change your weekday meal prep. But one thing that’s not getting enough air time is the Trader Joe's cheese section. Unsurprisingly, TJ’s curates the best imported cheeses for much better prices than you can find at traditional grocery stores, with most options coming in at under $10 per pound. The options are pretty incredible, with everything from your classic parms, cheddars, and bries, to more interesting and inventive options that incorporate herbs and dried fruit, as well as aged versions of your favorite varieties. 

Whether you are entertaining your family, making a cheese board for one, or just looking to up your grilled cheese game, TJ’s has a cheese for every occasion. Here are the 10 must-haves from the underrated cheese selection at Trader Joe’s to help you narrow down the options. 

You might already be familiar with the traditional semi-soft gouda that comes coated in red wax. This aged version has a texture similar to a block of Parmesan: crumbly and crunchy with a rich, caramelly taste thanks to the aging process. Pair it with nuts, olives, and some yeasty bread for a true Dutch cheese experience. 

Sweet honey with tangy, creamy goat cheese is a classic combination, and this version does not disappoint. This cheese is fantastic sliced into medallions in a salad, spread onto a sandwich, slathered on crackers, or even dolloped on figs and broiled for a few moments for a surprising appetizer or after-dinner treat.  

Manchego is a Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk, and it can taste quite different depending on how long it’s aged. Trader Joe’s Manchego Añejo is aged for a full year, which highlights the nutty flavor that Manchego is known for. This is a truly artisanal cheese that would retail for a much higher price anywhere else. 

When you hear stilton, you might think of stinky blue cheese—but white stilton is a lightly aged, fresh, and delicious cheese with a soft, crumbly texture. Think of it as an alternative to a feta cheese; the addition of apricot chunks takes it to the next level with just a hint of fruitiness and tang. It’s excellent crumbled on top of greens, added to a charcuterie board, or even served as a dessert cheese (if you’re feeling especially French).

If you’re a fan of brie, take things to the next level with this decadent alternative that has a slightly more pungent aroma, but a similar taste. If you leave it out to soften before eating, you’ll end up with a creamy mouthful that has the consistency of whipped butter, ideal for spreading on crusty bread or crackers.  

Don’t let the complex name fool you—this is a savory and surprisingly mild, semi-soft cheese with excellent (but not overpowering) flavor from the added onions and chives. It has a similar texture to a classic American cheese, which lends itself well to an elevated grilled cheese sandwich or melted on a burger. 

RELATED: These Are the Best Cheeses for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

An alternative to Swiss, this versatile fromage is equally at home on a cheese board or in a turkey sandwich. Gruyere can only be named as such if it’s produced in Switzerland and aged by a certain process (similarly to how Champagne is name protected) so you can rest assured that you are getting the authentic experience—all at a fraction of typical cheese shop prices.

I’ll be honest: the vanilla in the name of this goat cheese threw me off at first glance. Vanilla cheese? No thanks. But don’t rule this chèvre out—it’s perfectly tangy, fruity, and creamy, with a very light vanilla essence that just serves to complement the other flavors. It’s a necessary addition to a festive cheese board, as a salad topper, or smeared on crackers. 

This has been TJ’s top-ranked cheese, as rated by customers, for the past six years in a row—and for good reason. What makes this otherwise basic cheese choice so “unexpected” is the nutty taste of parmesan woven throughout. Due to its immense popularity, Trader Joe’s just started offering Unexpected Cheddar sold in shredded form, making it even easier to use in all your favorite recipes.

Most of the feta cheese that you buy in the store is made from cow’s milk, which isn’t the traditional Greek style. Trader Joe’s does feta the authentic way, meaning it’s made from sheep’s milk and packed in a brine. It’s the quintessential addition to a Greek salad or mezze plate.