Trader Joe’s NEW ZEALAND GRASS FED SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE


This is a Trader Joe’s STAFF PICK favorite and I completely agree. TJ’s New Zealand Grass Fed Cheddar is an excellent cheese, a sharp cheddar aged from 6-12 months. This cheese is one of my favorite cheeses that TJ’s carries, and I buy this almost every time I go to Trader Joe’s as it goes rather quickly in our house. This cheddar has just the right amount of tang if you are a fan of a sharp cheddar, good for both adults and kids. The other standout cheddars at TJ’s are the CABOT VERMONT EXTRA SHARP and of course UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR. You can not go wrong with any of these cheddar cheeses but I do like the fact that this New Zealand cheese is “grass fed” meaning from milk from those contended Kiwi cows munching away on grass if they anything like the ones in this picture! This cheese is great by itself, on a cracker, in a sandwich, with fruit, and it’s superb melted. Grilled cheese sandwich, omelets, in a pizza, tacos… it’s especially fantastic melted. You can just give me a Granny Smith apple, a hunk of this cheese and a knife and I will be almost as contented as one of the Kiwi cows.

Update: It used to be 5.99 / lb but unfortunately the price has gone up 50 cents to $6.49 / lb (April 2022)

Trader Joe’s UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR


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RAVE

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.