The Ultimate Shredded Cheddar Taste Test (Slideshow)
October 29, 2013
We put 13 different cheeses to the test
This "deliciously dairy-free" product came in dead last, and more tasters spit it out than actually ate it. It contains no dairy, lactose, casein, gluten, or soy, and is made primarily from tapioca flour and oil. One taster called it "wet, greasy, and rotten," and another called it "slimy and rancid." It had little to no actual Cheddar flavor, and reminded another taster of "overcooked macaroni and cheese that’s been sitting out overnight."
Price: $4.69/8 ounces
12) Trader Joe’s Mild
A couple of tasters thought that it might go well on a taco, but for the most part Trader Joe’s mild Cheddar just didn’t stack up. Several tasters thought that it tasted "fake," and the thin shreds were more crumbly than creamy. It was lacking real Cheddar flavor, and was overall deemed to be pretty bland.
Price: $4.29/12 ounces
11) Nice! Sharp
Sold at New York’s Walgreens and Duane Reade, this store brand was decidedly nothing special. While it was applauded for not being afraid to be sharp and strong, it was a bit rubbery in texture, and our tasters were put off by an odd, sour aftertaste. It’s certainly inexpensive, though.
Price: $2.50/8 ounces
10) America’s Choice Mild
Bought at the local A&P, this store brand had a slightly rubbery texture, and an oddly artificial flavor even though it contained essentially the same ingredients as the rest. Most tasters agreed that it "doesn’t taste like real Cheddar," and one guessed that it might be low-fat, even though it isn’t.
Piece: $3.29/8 ounces
9) Sargento Mild
A surprisingly middling product from a brand that sure hypes itself up a lot. Sargento’s offering was unfavorably compared to "generic lunchmeat cheese," and tasted much more like deli-style American cheese than quality Cheddar. It was certainly "cheesy," and could be a good option for those not looking for real Cheddar flavor, but in the way of flavor it sat squarely in the bottom half. It was also far more expensive than most of its competitors.
Price: $6.79/8 ounces
8) Trader Joe’s Sharp
Trader Joe’s sharper offering didn’t fare much better than its mild one. It had a strong, sharp flavor, but it veered a little too close to sour and bitter for our liking. It was clear that high-quality milk went into it, though, and it did taste like real cheese.
Price: $4.29/12 ounces
7) Essential Everyday Sharp
This cheese is available from Fresh Direct and supermarkets including Albertson’s, and fell squarely in the middle. "Just not very much flavor," said one taster, and it had an odd, grainy mouthfeel. It was creamy and gave the impression that it was made with high-quality milk, however, and one taster considered it his favorite.
Price: $2.79/8 ounces
6) Cabot Sharp
Cabot is best known for its Cheddar, so it struck us a surprise that it wasn’t ranked higher. That said, it was generally well-liked. Tasters hailed it as "classic" and tasting like real Cheddar, but it did have a slightly weird aftertaste. Many agreed that it would be good in macaroni and cheese, and it had a nice creamy texture. It was obvious that this is "real" cheese.
Price: $5.49/8 ounces
5) 365 Mild
A solid, mild Cheddar. While not coming across as incredibly creamy, the flavor was there, although it was a bit sharper than advertised, even veering toward bitter. It was clear that high-quality milk was used, however, and the lack of chemicals in the ingredients list is always nice to see.
Price: $6.99/12 ounces
4) Foodtown Mild
Sold at supermarkets including Foodtown and D’Agostino, this cheese performed surprisingly well. The Cheddar flavor was pronounced and not overwhelming, it had a good, smooth texture, and "would make a great salad cheese," according to a taster. While a couple felt that it tasted "cheap," it still hit just about all the right Cheddar notes.
Price: $5.39/8 ounces
3) Great Value Sharp
The highest-performing store brand is the one that’s sold at Walmart. "A great crowd-pleaser," according to one taster, it tasted milky and creamy and not off-putting in the least. Its flavor veered a little toward the Velveeta department, but at the same time it was pleasant, mild, and agreeable. It was also a steal, price-wise.
Price: $2.18/8 ounces
2) Organic Valley Mild
This cheese is made with organic milk from their cooperative of family farms, so the high quality of the cheese and milk obviously came through. But it was also creamy, packing real Cheddar flavor, tasted fresh and with a bit of aging, and tasters agreed that it would go great in pasta, or as the main component in a killer macaroni and cheese. With organic comes a higher price tag, though, and this was the most expensive of the bunch, by far.
Price: $7.29/6 ounces
1) Kraft Sharp
Kraft has been pushing its "natural cheese" recently, which it promotes as "straight off the block," and it’s not a gimmick. Their shredded sharp Cheddar was a near-unanimous favorite, hailed as "very flavorful," "delicious," and “freshly grated." "It just tastes like real, good cheese," said another. The shreds were larger than most, which allowed the slightly crumbly, authentic texture of Cheddar to come through, and while it was sharp, it was balanced so as not to be overpowering, but pleasantly tangy. So congratulations, Kraft, you’ve won us over with your shredded Cheddar!
Price: $5.99/8 ounces