Welcome back to It’s Time To Get Into, a snacking column all about spicing up your grocery list and finding no-cook/low-cook solutions to simply not having the time to make a whole ass complicated meal. We’ve talked pickled snacks, jerky snacks, and tinned fish treats (for more tinned fish ideas, check out my Fish Party series). Now, I’m here to talk to you about SOFT CHEESE recommendations. Especially marinated and infused varities!
Look, brie is popular for good reasons. It’s mild, adaptable, and crowd-pleasing. I love it! I especially have been into experimenting with different baked brie recipes lately, which I’m sure will end up being its whole own article at some point. But today, I want to talk to you about soft and spreadable cheeses you can find in your grocery store that aren’t the wildly popular brie. Brie’s great, but I usually like to combine it with some other stronger flavor to lift it. So the soft cheeses I’m highlighting today are ones that stand very well on their own. You can eat them spread on a simple cracker or a crostini or a hunk of bread, and they’re still gonna pack a lot of flavor even with a mild vehicle. Alright, let’s delve right into some specific products! Find dairy-free and vegan options at the end!
I know people usually save the best for last, but I am giving you the best first. If you only buy one cheese on this list, let it be this one. I found it at Publix, so if that’s your go-to grocery store, look for it in the cheese aisle near the deli department. It also can be found at Kroger, Von’s, Whole Foods, and — if you’re in NYC — Murray’s Cheese Shop. RUN DON’T WALK. Yes, in-store it’s still going to cost an exorbitant amount ($11). BUT the jar can last a while! A little of this cheese goes a long way. It’s a combination goat + sheep cheese, and it’s marinated in ultra garlicky oil. I recommend spooning it out of the jar as it’s very soft, so it breaks down quickly if you try to jab at it with a knife or fork. Spoon a piece onto some toasted bread and then spread it out into a thin layer. The most important thing about this jar of cheese is to not waste a single drop of its oil! The oil is delicious drizzled onto some roasted vegetables or on garlic bread. You could add a few cubes of cheese and some oil to a roasting pan with halved cherry tomatoes and pop it into the oven on 400 degrees for just about seven minutes for a very tasty side dish or spread! Seriously, I wish I was not so obsessed with this cheese, because it’s definitely one of the priciest things I get from Publix, but I can’t resist it!!!!!
Okay, I will admit that this is absolutely the most mild cheese on this list, and it is only SLIGHTLY less mild than a brie. But I just have long been trying to convince people that Port Salut is the NEW brie, and I want to keep that campaign going here, okay? Trust me, it’s so good. My grandma got me into it. I like it on a cracker with an anchovy on top. And it’s widely available at Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Publix, and more (thought def cheapest at TJ’s).
The best pimento cheese is homemade, but that’s not what this series is about is it! Store-bought pimento cheese doesn’t get much better than this one, and it’s easy to find and not to pricey for a large tub! I’m also a fan of MyThreeSons Gourmet, available in Harris Teeter, Publix, and Whole Foods. My favorite variations of MyThreeSons are Fiery Jalapeño (which doesn’t really live up to the name in terms of spice level, but the flavor is good) and Spicy White Cheddar (again, not really spicy, but tastes great!). Publix brand is solid but has fewer flavor layers than some of these other ones.
Literally just dump a tub of this into a huge bowl of mixed greens or 50/50 arugula + watercress, and you have yourself a big ol’ salad. You don’t even need to make a dressing, because the herby oil that the cheese is marinated in is a dressing on its own. Add some sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, and you’re golden. You can also serve these flavor-bursting mozzarella balls on their own on toothpicks as an amuse bouche at a dinner party!
I feel like everyone has a preferred grocery store spreadable cheese like this. Boursin is popular, and so is Rondelé. But I’m an Alouette Gal, and even though I most often get the garlic and herbs variation because it’s the most crowd-pleasing, my favorite is the smoky jalapeño. Elevating that super mild creamy cheese base, the smoky, spicy flavors create something so tasty I could eat it by the spoonful out the tub! It’s great with crackers, but I also like this one with a mix of stick-cut carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, because all of those veggies take on this flavor very well.
Okay, I’m really presenting a wide range of price points on this list, and like the Meredith Dairy cheese, Humboldt Fog is more of a special occasion purchase, because it’s harder to find and more expensive than most of the other cheeses on here. You can get it at most specialty stores with a cheese counter, and you can get it at Whole Foods. You can also order it online via Goldbelly (a one pound wheel runs you $25 + shipping). So yes, this cheese is an indulgence. BUT IT IS SO GOOD. The last time I treated myself with it was for the big, fancy cheese plate my girlfriend and I have during the day on Thanksgiving (one of the new traditions we started together!). I was introduced to Humboldt Fog via the watercress soup I used to obsess over, and it is indeed delicious to just plop a wedge of this in a warm springy soup like a pea soup or a white bean soup. It’s a super creamy goat cheese with a lot of layers of flavor, and it’s distinct for its dark line down the middle, which is edible ash. If you want to pair it with a wine, I recommend an orange pet nat like this one.
A Wisconsin classic! I always feel like a retro housewife when I serve port cheese, especially if I go with the log or ball variations.
Laughing Cow has been That Bitch for a very long time!!!!!!!!!!!! I can remember my mother eating these CONSTANTLY at her desk in her home office when I was growing up. Well, the original plain version at least. She was onto something!!!! Laughing Cow is a cheap and easy desk snack. I like this pepperjack version with everything bagel pretzel chips. You can also combine the tips from this It’s Time To Get Into and the tinned fish one and spread some super basic cheese like this on a hunk of bread and pop some tinned fish on top! It’ll feel fancy — trust me!
Spreadable! Smoked! Gouda! This cheese fucks!!!! Also, I’m here to tell you that you can absolutely make a grilled cheese with spreadable cheese, and this is the one to try it out with. Spread thick layers of smoked gouda onto slices of buttered bread and throw some kimchi or pickle chips in there as well. Pop it on the stove and grill until both sides of the bread are nice and toasty.The same brand’s spreadable aged cheddar is also a rich spread with a lot of depth of flavor.
Okay, this brand is known mostly for its standard brie, and we have established that that’s not what we’re talking about today. BUT, the creamy & blue iteration is a perfect marriage of the textures of brie and the punchy flavors of a blue cheese. So no, if blue cheese is not for you, then you’re gonna wanna skip this one. But if you want a good spreadable blue, this one can be found in most major grocery stores.
I love any and all flavor-packed goat cheeses. I like to get sweet ones like this or a honey log for super easy last-minute batchable desserts. Like just fill some premade phyllo shells with a sweet goat cheese, and you have yourself a sweet bite that will look cute on a platter at a dinner party! And if you have been following this column even just a LITTLE bit then you know that I love a lil heat, so this honey jalapeño goat cheese is also great and available at Publix, Kroger, Target, and more.
That’s right! The very popular Boursin has a nondairy spreadable “cheese” and it’s loaded with garlic, parsley, and chives. They sell large tubs at Costco!
Violife makes solid alt cheese products and is known in particular for their plant-based “feta,” which I can verify melts/roasts/crumbles just like feta.
Treeline makes these dairy-free spreadable cheeses that come in a bunch of different flavors, and they nail the creamy texture. The four-pack you can buy directly from their website comes with sea salt & pepper, herb garlic, creamy scallion, and my personal favorite chipotle serrano pepper. But Treeline is also sold individually at Kroger, Whole Foods, and more.
Happy snacking 🧀, and be sure to sound off with your own soft cheese recommendations in the comments!