How To Spot The Best Trader Joe's Cheeses, According To TikTok

It is no secret that Trader Joe's is a cheese lover's dreamland with a selection that stands up against other grocers. Not only does Trader Joe's carry a number of locally sourced options from states known for producing great cheese like California, Vermont, and Wisconsin, the chain also imports selections from countries like France, New Zealand, and Greece. Even experts are impressed by the range, quality, and affordability of the TJ's selection, allowing you to score fancy cheese on a budget. But, with so many options, you might be asking — how do I pick the best options in the dairy aisle? Leave it to TikTok to provide some answers, including tips from a professional cheesemonger.

One of the biggest tips is to first look for at the ingredient list. High-quality cheese should have a very short list that includes not much more than milk, enzymes, salt, and rennet. Rennet is a compound extracted from the stomach lining of young mammals that contains the enzyme rennin, which causes the milk solids (curds) to separate from the milk liquids (whey). As well, choosing cheeses with simple ingredients is good so you can both identify what qualities you like and avoid additives that affect taste and texture.

That's not to say a cheese with more ingredients is necessarily bad — TJ's Caramelized Onion Cheddar, which also includes onions, sugar, red currant juice, olive oil, lemon, cinnamon, clove, and ginger, is a favorite of many has won first place at the Trader Joe's Annual Customer Choice Awards. 

Look at the labels, too

If you are after authentic representations of classic cheese, look for imports, which are usually in precut selections on the bottom tier of Trader Joe's refrigerated area. Also, keep an eye out for specific seals or stamps on the label. Ingredients for AOP labeled products, which stands for Appellation d'Origine Protégée, are both grown and produced in a specific region, like Switzerland for example, whereas IGP, or Indication Géographique Protégée, labeled products must be made in a specified region, but the ingredients can be grown outside of that area (as in France). In English, these two denominations are referred to as Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication, respectively.


Cheese shopping at trader joes! I decided to make a new account just for my cheese content, because i want to share and educate on the vast and wonderful world of cheese. Let me know what you want to see next! 😋 #cheese #cheesemonger #traderjoes #traderjoescheese

♬ original sound – Liz | at home cheesemonger

If you want a true gruyère cheese, look for the red and black AOP label and ensure that the cheese has indeed been imported from Switzerland. The same is true for French cheeses like Comté, which will have a red and yellow stamp. Trader Joe's also has a sheep and goat's milk PDO feta cheese straight from Greece and an authentic Italian PDO Parmigiano Reggiano.

These designations don't necessarily mean that they are better than domestic cheeses. A cheese could be made in a way that doesn't qualify it for one of these designations, but it could still be very tasty. These labels are helpful so that you can taste the most typical expression of a certain type.

More tips for choosing cheeses at TJ's

The good thing with cheese is that there is hardly a wrong answer, but that does not mean you want to waste money on something you might not like for its taste or texture. A good bet is to grab a piece of something you know you like, as well as a small piece of something new to try, each time you go shopping so you can start to identify what you like and don't like. Keep a note handy on your phone of the qualities you prefer — soft or firm, aged or young, country of origin, type of milk — so you can easily reference it while shopping and buy similar products.

You can also make a point to go to a local cheesemonger to try a few samples, ask some questions, buy a wedge, and then take what you've learned back with you on next Trader Joe's shopping trip. The staff members at the chain are also famously friendly, so don't be afraid to ask for a recommendation.