Trader Joe’s pizza bread cheese is as delicious as I feared

Bread cheese is a buttery Finnish treat. Add pizza flavoring and Trader Joe’s? I’m in . . .

Published February 7, 2022 12:59PM (EST)

 (Margaret Eby / Food52)
(Margaret Eby / Food52)

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Maybe you've never heard of bread cheese, let alone pizza bread cheese. Maybe before you saw the package in Trader Joe's you assumed it might mean cheese on top of bread, or bread stuffed with cheese, or maybe bread that has been somehow transmogrified into cheese. But no: Bread cheese, also known as juustoleipä, a Finnish delicacy, is a mild, buttery cheese.

What makes bread cheese really special is its texture. Like Halloumi or paneer, it's a cheese that you can griddle without melting. That means you can get a delicious crispy crust on the cheese before you eat it.

Last year, Trader Joe's made its first foray into bread cheese territory by launching a garlic bread cheese, one that was meant to taste like garlic bread without the bread. This month, they dropped another version: a pizza bread cheese that, yes, compresses that pizza flavor — that is, oregano and other dried Italian herbs and spices — into a block of cheese. The internet, predictably, went wild.

Listen: I do not need more cheese in my life. I have an entire shelf in my fridge that my partner and I affectionately call "cheese Jenga." I currently have no fewer than five kinds of cheese, not including the string cheese I eat as a snack or the grated pecorino for cacio e pepe or the sliced cheddar for tuna melts. But I am powerless to resist the clarion call of Big Dairy. And so I went to my local Trader Joe's to pick up a few blocks of pizza bread cheese. Per the instructions, I microwaved the block for 30 seconds, cut it into chunky slices, and ate it, dipping it into tomato sauce. It tastes like mozzarella sticks, minus the breaded outside, and with a pleasing firmness inside rather than the gooey melt of mozzarella. The squeaky texture reminded me of fresh cheese curds.

A block of it, split with my partner, made a perfect afternoon snack, but I could see using pizza bread cheese in all kinds of ways. Cut it into cubes and griddle it, for example, and you have gluten-free pizza croutons for a big bowl of tomato soup, or a fun addition to a salad. Sliver it and air-fry it for a mozzarella stick-ish snack. Eat it with a little soppressata for a sophisticated Lunchables vibe. Why not? What January needs is more cheese.

By Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Salon and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in New York City.

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Bread Food Food52 Pizza Trader Joe's