Never let "having to do something" stop you from eating cheese
Credit: Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Cheese. Just saying the word makes you smile—and not because photographers ask us to say it when we pose. No, cheese is the miracle that makes pizza and quesadillas and cheeseburgers so delicious and, frankly, it’s even better on its own. But, unfortunately, we can’t stay home all day and gnaw on a half-pound wheel of gouda or emmentaler (or, wait, can we?). Thus, we need portable, snackable cheese. Here are 12 widely available snack cheeses—some are string cheese, some not—ranked from worst to best.

12. Pinkie Pie Strawberry Jack Cheese

How many horrors can we inflict upon younger generations? Because apparently it’s not enough to give them a crippled economy and a debilitated environment, we want to teach them that cheese is bad. For that is the intent of this “cow candy,” which takes the miracle of cheese, tints it the color of bubble gum, and makes it tastes like Play-Doh. Or, well, how I imagine Play-Doh would taste—it’s been a long time since Kindergarten.

11. Frigo Cheese Heads

There’s a big leap between 12 and 11, basically going from inedible to bland. Kids love string cheese, largely because it’s food you can play with and not get yelled at. Frigo string cheese is fantastic as string, not so much as cheese. Not that it’s bad, it’s just… not anything.

10. Sargento Colby Jack Cheese

Meh. It’s weirdly rubbery in texture and feel. You bite into it and immediately envision hundreds of gallons of cheese being squirted into plastic tubes in a vast stainless steel warehouse. And neither Colby nor Jack are doing much to liven up the party.

9. Galbani Whole Milk Mozzarella String Cheese

This adds an educational moment to the lunchbox string cheese staple by putting trivia questions on the wrapper, like "which state is also known as the Keystone State?" It's a very toned-down cheese. As far as flavor profiles go, it's a weak chin and not much of a nose, but it does have a pleasant texture. And I did not know that Mozzarella is the most popular cheese in the world, so thanks for the lesson, Galbani!

8. Cracker Barrel Cheddar & Colby Jack

The texture is off. I’m finding this to be a common complaint with snack cheese, maybe something about the process of getting it into the little packages. This Cracker Barrel cheese comes on a bit flavorless, but then you get some cheddar sharpness—perhaps a bit blunted, but it’s still there.

7. Kroger Pepper Jack

For when you want the excitement and interaction of string cheese, but also desire something that doesn't taste like nothing. It’s pretty basic in flavor, but there’s a decently spicy kick from the pepper.

6. Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Wedge with Garlic & Herb

It’s like garlic bread without the bread. While it’s designed to be spread on something, it also works on its own as a soft chunk of cheesy goodness. If we’re ever going to create a cheese gum, this wouldn't be a bad starting point.

5. Horizon Organic Colby Cheese Sticks

A good, solid snack cheese that is recognizably cheese. Unlike some other entries on this list, my cat actually showed an interest in it. The texture isn’t plasticky like some snack cheeses, and it’s got a solid flavor that somehow evokes grilled cheese sandwiches.

4. Babybel Original

Extra points for the visceral satisfaction of pulling the thick white paper tab on the red wax rind and watching it fall away in two perfect halves, revealing a harvest moon of dairy goodness within. The cheese itself has a nice, smooth creamy feel and low-key but present flavor.

3. Ile de France Mini Brie

What could be cuter than a Barbie-sized wheel of Brie? Its small size conceals an abundance of richness: You’ll have the urge to pop the whole thing into your mouth. But you'll more likely wind up nibbling on it like a mouse, one morsel at a time. It’s not as rich and flavroful as a full-sized Brie, but it’s still a definite step up from a standard cheese stick.

2. Kerrygold Dubliner Soft Cheese Wedge

I want to get a thousand of these, dump them in a bathtub, and roll around in it. This wedge is creamy and buttery and cheesy and all the good things. I bet this would be the bomb on a burger, but it’s also delicious solo.

1. Tillamook Sharp White Cheddar Cheese

The flavor starts smooth, then has a nice sharp finish, enough to make you want to take another bite experience it all over again. The small, thick slice format is preferable to the stick or wedge and offers the taste and texture of a cut off the block rather than something that’s been extruded into a wrapper. Tillamook wins the snack cheese battle royale!