Photo: Darcy Lenz; Styling: Sara Tane

Are you ready to build the most amazing and inexpensive cheese board of your life? Of course you are. Here are the unique finds and exceptionally smart buys from Trader Joe’s you need to make it happen. 

Darcy Lenz
May 04, 2017

The mighty cheese board: A perfect low-effort, no-cook, highly photogenic contribution to any party spread. It is the OG of what we around this office have affectionately deemed the ultimate meal plan—snack dinner. While you can go as fancy-pants or as rustically relaxed as you like when building your cheese board, this classic crowd-pleasing appetizer play can end up costing more than you’d expect to construct if you’re not careful—so what do you actually need to include, anyway? The answer to any and all anxieties you may have about committing to live your best cheese plate life can be found at none other than Trader Joe’s. TJ’s happens to be a one-stop goldmine of a shop when it comes to picking up every element you need for the perfect platter—from the baseline essentials to tasty specialty items that will give your array an extra touch of personality, they have it all (and at a reasonable price). Here are my top Trader Joe’s picks for building your best cheese board yet. 

Cheese

Darcy Lenz

Let’s start at the very beginning, the very best place to start… if you’re planning to make a cheese board, you need cheese. As an appetizer for a small group of folks, three cheeses should be sufficient—you’ll want a soft cheese (something like a milky Brie), something funky (like a blue cheese), and a semi-firm cheese (like a cheddar or Gruyere). If you have a larger party or just feel like balling out, go for five to six cheeses and bring some fun wildcards into the mix. 

Trader Joe’s Goat Milk Brie
$2.79, 4.4oz

Kid you not, this little wheel makes an appearance on most every cheese board I make. I love to include a goat and/or sheep milk cheese along with the cow’s milk options, and while I know it seems absurd to suggest that classic, creamy Brie could have room for an upgrade, goat milk’s gentle tang really does give it one. Rich, but not overwhelming, this also happens to be one of my favorite cheeses to find myself with leftovers of after a party—spread a few wedges over a slab of warm, crusty toast with a slather of your favorite jam, and you’ll understand why. And coming in under 3 bucks, how can you resist? 

Trader Joe’s Blue Stilton
$10.99/lb

Produced in the district of Nottinghamshire, England, this rich and creamy Stilton is a solid pick to get a funky blue on the board. That said, I especially dig this cheese for an appetizer platter because it’s not too funky. Delicately smoky and mellow funk flavor makes this cheese a general crowd-pleaser. Any leftovers would be welcome crumbled over salads, pizzas, or stirred into a homedmade blue cheese dressing

Trader Joe’s Creamy Toscana Soaked in Syrah
$7.99/lb

What’s more appropriate for a wine and cheese night than a cheese that’s literally soaked in wine? This semi-firm cheese offers the nutty notes of an aged Parmesan with a softer, more luxurious texture. Subtle dark fruit flavors give this satisfying cheese an added layer of depth. 

Trader Joe’s Pesto Gouda Cheese
$9.99/lb

Bring a pop of cool color, backed with herbaceous, garlicky goodness, to your cheese board via this basil-infused Gouda. Despite its dramatic appearance, this cheese’s flavor is well-balanced, making it a perfect pick if you want to include an unexpected, but delicious, surprise in your cheese buffet. P.S. find a way to pair any leftovers with ripe summer tomatoes, and you will be very happy with yourself. 

Trader Joe’s Espresso Melange Cheddar Cheese
$9.99/lb

Coffee and cheese… sure, sounds weird, but as we’ve discovered in past cheese adventures, it happens to be an amazing match. The base of this eye-catching cheese is actually a blend of both cheddar and Gouda (so, I’d recommend grabbing either this or the Pesto Gouda above to act as your “cool kid” cheese, rather than buying both, if you’re aiming to keep costs down)—meaning you have some extremely creamy and delicious teamwork happening here. The bitter-sweet espresso flavor rippled throughout the cheese adds an almost dessert-like decadence, but is by no means aggressive or overpowering. Beyond being uniquely tasty, this hunk of cheese’s beautiful marbled appearance makes for a stunning visual addition to any board. Also, this particular cheese is what grilled cheese dreams are made of... remeber that.  

Accouterments 

Darcy Lenz

You need to pick up a couple of accessories to your rich, savory, salty cheeses in order to create balance for the board. I’d recommend at least one fresh fruit, one jam, and one nut.

Trader Joe’s Medley Seedless Grapes
$5.99, 32 ounces

In terms of getting the most for your money, I’m a big fan of this packaged trio of red, green, and purple grapes. You get a range of flavor options (from sweet-tart to sugary sweet) and 3 pops of rich color to disperse on your board, all in one convenient tub. 

Trader Joe’s Granny Smith Apple
$0.69 each

Because, aside from being my go-to cheese board sourcing shop, Trader Joe’s is a normal grocery store…they have apples. And a sliced up Granny smith is a reliable, go-to fruit option for any cheese board. 

Trader Joe’s Fig Butter
$2.29, 11 ounces

If you’re going with only one jam-like accouterment, let this smooth and richly sweet Fig Butter be the one. This incredibly versatile Trader Joe’s favorite is a perfect touch-of-sweetness pairing to all types of cheeses. It’s also just a pretty delightful spread to have living in your fridge. 

Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic and Onion Jam
$2.99, 10 ounces

If you wanna include a jam that’s not afraid to walk on the savory side as well, this is the jar to go for. Fair warning though, if you’re staunchly opposed to garlic (I don’t know if that person even exists, but just supposing…), this spread delivers a fairly pronounced garlicky punch. 

Trader Joe’s Sesame Honey Almonds
$7.49, 16 ounces

OK, straight up, I am obsessed with these almonds that have toasty sesame seeds glued to them with honey; they're addictive. They ended up being the most expensive charge on my recent cheese-focused TJ’s run, but considering I still have half a bag left for snacking, they’re so worth it. Even if you don’t want to put them on your cheeseboard, I’d highly recommend you #treatyoself to a bag anyway. 

Meat

Darcy Lenz

Obviously, since we’re not talking charcuterie boards, meat isn’t required. Of course, a little cured pork action does make for a nice addition if you feel so inclined. 

Daniele Inc. Gourmet Deli Selection
$5.49, 6 ounces

This isn’t a Trader Joe’s branded product, but it’s definitely a great find available at Trader Joe’s. Again, it isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you’d like to arrange a few piles of salty cured meat on your cheese board, most folks aren’t going to complain about it. And this multi-pack of meats is, again, a great budget-friendly option. I prefer the Italian selection, which includes salami, prosciutto, and capocollo, but there's also a Spanish trio available. 

Crackers

Darcy Lenz

Even if you plan to pick up a baguette to slice up and serve (one item you probably don’t want to source at TJ’s), you should have at least one type of cracker for your board. Go with a neutral flavored option for sure—and if you wanna get fancy about it, pick up another variety that offers a little more pizzaz as well. 

Trader Joe’s Brioche Toasts
$1.99, 5.26 ounces

This is a prime pick for your primary cracker as these little crispy brioche slices are incredibly light and airy, which is a nice partner for an indulgent feast of dairy. 

Trader Joe’s Fig and Olive Crisps
$3.99, 5.3 ounces

Bring a little more fun and flavor to the party with these tasty fig- and olive-studded, crunch-tastic cheese vehicles. 

Related: How to Make Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto 

 

Bonus

Just in case you’re looking for wine to go with this most glorious of cheese arrangements, here's my suggestion. 

La Ferme Julien Rosé
$6.99

Again, it’s not a Trader Joe’s branded product, but a fab buy to find there. This crisp rosé rings in at a major bargain price, but isn’t packing bargain flavor. Perfect for any summer occasion, this blend of blend of Cinsault, Granache and Syrah is delicately fruity and incredibly refreshing. 

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