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

The hype is justified in this case

Year in and year out, Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar is one of their best selling products, and 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 guaranteed to get, “What is this cheese, and 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 and for my tastes, the sharper the better. Is it because I’m a damn Yankee (well, a New Y’awkah that is) 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 cheese 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 Cheddar. by far.

TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar is different from these classic cheeses. Cabot Extra Sharp is wonderful, and in fact it’s sold at TJs (and I recommend you try 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. When you slice this, it might crumble on you, not unlike a piece of Parmegiano Reggiano. Unexpected Cheddar has some flavors which have that same “umami” overtones of a Parmigiano, Grana Padano or an aged Pecorino too. 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 as it is fantastic melted. A slice on top of a burger gets OMG. Grilled cheese? This makes the best grilled cheese you may ever have made. In an omelet? On pizza or as quesilladas… They are all fantastic. While it is excellent on its own I find it goes exceptionally well with fruit such as apples, grapes, pears or figs on 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.

This is a must if you’ve never tried it.

TJ does carry CABOT EXTRA SHARP VERMONT CHEDDAR. Worth trying if you’ve never had it, Cabot Extra Sharp is THE classic East Coast sharp cheddar. Both are in my fridge.


17 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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