It Doesn’t Get Better Than the 7 Best Cheddars

I grew up in a cheese household. Munster and mozzarella were always on the menu. We basically bled bleu. But for some reason, cheddar never really made an appearance in our fridge. It always seemed boring to me; sort of basic. Well, this Sporked taste test officially opened my eyes to the virtues of cheddar and, lord, I have seen the light.

There’s a whole world of cheddar out there that goes beyond those big, orange hunks in the dairy aisle that look government issued. Some cheddars are super nutty and taste almost like less hard parmesan. Some even have those delicious little salty crystals. For this taste test, the Sporked team grabbed a knife and a cutting board and hacked away at some of the most popular and best reviewed cheddar cheeses at the grocery store. We found seven that were just better than other cheddars (sorry).

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best cheddar cheese

Best of the Best

Old Croc Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Prior to this taste test, my experience of sharp cheddar consisted almost exclusively of store-brand blocks or bags of shreds. There’s certainly a place for that kind of sharp cheddar, but this is something so completely different it’s kind of hard to believe the two things share a name. This is elevated sharp cheddar. Special-occasion sharp cheddar. Sharp cheddar for when you’re hosting company you actually like. Aging cheese intensifies its flavor, and this cheese was aged for a full year. Aging also gives cheeses like parmesan those tasty little crystals (which I learned from the internet are made up of an amino acid). Well, Old Croc has crystals and incredible bite (hey, kind of like a crocodile). This cheese came home with me after the taste test.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best cheddar cheese

Best Multitasker

Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar

Trader Joe’s might be onto something here insofar as we don’t necessarily expect for Trader Joe’s products to knock our socks off. This crumbly, delicious white cheddar was an awfully nice surprise. The package advertises “hints of parmesan,” but I think you could argue that “hints” is a bit of an understatement. Because of its shape-shifting nature, this cheese struck us as a multitasker. Sure, you could shred it between a couple slices of rustic bread to make a grilled cheese, but you could also shred it on top of pasta, crumble it onto a salad, or cube it up and toss it into antipasto.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Trader Joe’s

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best cheddar cheese

Best for a Board

Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar

Kerrygold is kind of like the king of cheddar. We tried three of their fancy varieties—in addition to Reserve, we tasted the Skellig and Dubliner cheddars—but this one really delivered what you expect from a good Irish cheddar. Aged for two years, Reserve has a super bold flavor that might be too much for some people, but it’s so fancy you can imagine a minuscule portion of it being served alongside dried apricots and a finger bowl of almonds on a $30 cheese board at a really nice restaurant.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Target

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best cheddar cheese

Best Spicy

Cabot Wickedly Habanero Cheddar Cheese

There’s nothing more disappointing than a product that claims to be spicy but doesn’t set your mouth on fire. This habanero-infused cheddar from Cabot promises spice and absolutely delivers on that promise. As the label advertises, this was a first place winner at the Scovie Awards, a celebration of the spiciest foods, and its heat is no joke. It has a marbleized appearance thanks to red veins of peppery oil that infuse the whole block. But in addition to heat, it also has the nice, fruity flavor of real habanero peppers.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Walmart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best cheddar cheese

Best Floral

Organic Valley Raw Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Organic Valley is a massive grocery store brand, but this cheese tastes like something you’d pick up at a small-town farmers’ market. It’s made with milk from grass-fed cows, and I swear some of that floral, grassy flavor comes through in this complex, delicious cheese. It’s salty and sharp, but not so sharp that it’s not versatile. I can imagine this being really good shredded and broiled on top of a crock of French onion soup in place of gruyere.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best cheddar cheese

Best with Crackers

Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White

Cracker Barrel cheddar is a total grocery store classic (launched by Kraft in 1954) that just happens to be shaped so that when you slice the brick, you get little squares that are perfect for piling on top of crackers. If you’re wondering if that’s why it’s called Cracker Barrel, well, not exactly: “Our name comes from the 19th century practice of general store customers gathering around ‘cracker barrels’ full of soda crackers to engage in conversation.” Very quaint! This Vermont sharp cheddar struck me as completely quintessential. Like, every popcorn company that releases a white cheddar variety is trying to channel this exact flavor. It’s delicious.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best cheddar cheese

Best for Beer Cheese

Tillamook Sharp Cheddar

One of my most prized possessions is a miniature crock pot that’s meant to keep dips warm when you’re entertaining, cheese dips in particular. For the Super Bowl this year, I even made homemade soft pretzels (thanks, Alton Brown) to go with the crock of molten beer cheese. Now, this Tillamook cheddar is certainly versatile—it was aged for nine months, which means it’s sharp, but not aggressively so—but it would be an especially great base for a nice, creamy, rich beer cheese or a cheese sauce for drizzling on broccoli. Honestly, I’m getting hungry as hell just thinking about it.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Target

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Boar’s Head Vermont Cheddar, Happy Belly Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Boar’s Head Canadian Cheddar, Great Value Medium Cheddar, Sargento Extra Sharp Cheddar, Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Yellow Cheddar, Tillamook Medium Cheddar, Kerrygold Dubliner, Kerrygold Skellig, Cabot Vermont Sharp

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About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • I recognize everybody gets to have their opinions, but Cabot only being recognized for their habanero is a travesty! Their Farmhouse Reserve is simply the BEST!

    Maybe I should take a different attitude and try some of these supposedly superior cheddars…

    Reply
    • I treat a lot of these as shopping lists. I looooove me an Old Croc bite, but there is other stuff here I’ve never tasted, and now I want to try them.

      Reply
      • That makes me so happy to hear! I promise not to steer you wrong!