Unexpected Cheddar Cheese “tastes like an aged premium cheddar cheese with hints of Parmesan”.

The hype is justified in this case

Year in, year out, Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar is one of their best selling products. For good reason. It’s a knock it out of the ballpark item. If you put this out on a cheese plate for company you are almost guaranteed to get, “Wow, this cheese is amazing. Where did you get it?”.

Now while I have not tried every cheese that Trader Joe’s sells (I wish!) I have to say Unexpected Cheddar is one of the best cheeses I have gotten there, or anywhere frankly. I’m a huge fan of a good Cheddar cheese, and for my taste, the sharper the better. Is it because I’m a damn Yankee (well a New Yorker) and Sharp Cheddar has always seemed to me to be a very “Yankee / East Coast” cheese? On this side of the Atlantic at least, as Cheddar cheese is quite English in origin. Now, historically in my taste memory the Sine Qua Non of a classic Cheddar, that was in our house since we were kids, is CABOT CHEDDAR from Vermont.  If we didn’t have a piece of CABOT Extra Sharp in our fridge we would at least have a package of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp. The reason being my dad’s favorite cheese was by far Cheddar. TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar is quite different from these classic cheddars. Cabot Extra Sharp is wonderful – in fact it’s sold at TJs (and I recommend trying it)! But “Unexpected Cheddar” is unique, its got a texture unlike most any Cheddar you’ve tried. As Trader Joe’s own description is so perfect I’ll simply quote it:”Unexpected Cheddar has been a best-seller since it first hit our cheese cases, back in 2011. It presents itself as an aged Cheddar, and tastes like one as well. Until, it doesn’t. That creamy Cheddar takes an unexpected flavor turn, the texture seems to change as you eat – you might swear you were enjoying an aged Parmesan. On first try, it’s an unexpected pleasure. With subsequent purchases, the only unexpected part of the experience is that it continues to be such a great value. Then again, you’ve come to expect great values at Trader Joe’s, so our price of $3.99 for each seven ounce piece may not be so unexpected after all.”

Ignoring the marketing, the description of the taste and texture is exactly right. The texture is more crumbly than a regular cheddar. It may crumble apart when you slice it, not unlike a piece of Parmegiano Reggiano. There are flavor profiles in the Unexpected Cheddar which have that same “umami” overtones of a Parmigiano, Grana Padano or an aged Pecorino. I’ve tasted this with wine, and it pairs wonderfully with both whites and reds. Or beer for that matter. I can see this as a good pick for a wine tasting or a beer tasting.

At $4 for 7 oz. figure this costs a bit under $10/lb. for a super premium cheddar, a very good deal as usual from Trader Joe’s. Once you buy this you may find it makes it onto your “Always Buy” list. To be honest in our house, the biggest problem with UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR is it goes so damn fast. Its too damn tasty, way too easy for a package to get eaten in one day. Be warned.

Be sure to try this melted. If it’s possible, it gets even better melted. A slice on top of a cheeseburger, gets a WOW. Grilled cheese? OMG, yes. This makes the best grilled cheese you may ever have made. In an omelet? On pizza or as quesilladas… They are all fantastic with this cheese. Want some ideas for foods to pair this with? While it is excellent on its own of course, I find it goes exceptionally well with fruit such as apples, grapes, pears or figs, say added to a cheese plate. In particular, the ENVY or FUJI apples that TJ carries pair very well with this cheese. It is a little tricky to slice this cheddar perfectly as it tends to crumble a bit but that’s OK as I promise you every last crumble will be consumed. If you serve this to guests, you will get praise. Seriously, try this if you never have. You will love it and realize what everyone is talking about.

By the way, TJ does now carry CABOT EXTRA SHARP VERMONT CHEDDAR. Also worth trying if you’ve never had it, Cabot Extra Sharp is THE classic East Coast cheddar cheese.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bob Farrell
    Aug 23, 2018 @ 22:13:12

    Now you got my wife the cheddar freak in the
    House adding that to the list!



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  3. Gene
    May 14, 2019 @ 21:58:29

    Is Unexpected Cheddar Cheese vegetarian, made w. vegetable rennet?



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  5. nancy demartino demartino
    Apr 22, 2020 @ 12:22:44

    trying to trader joe’s unexpected chedder cheese to be ordered on line or who else carries this particular cheese.?



    • Dizzy
      Nov 03, 2020 @ 00:39:24

      Publix has a Boar’s Head brand of cheddar that looks like the same shape. It’s just called “Aged cheddar with Parmesan notes”.I think it’s the same cheese that Trader Joes just gets to relabel. So look anywhere they sell Boar’s Head.



    • Dizzy
      Nov 03, 2020 @ 00:44:19

      Sorry, it’s Black creek cheddar with parmesan notes. Not Boar’s Head. Frigo also makes sticks like this.



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