This $4.99 Trader Joe’s Fan Favorite Is Finally Back—I’m Stocking up While I Can

This highly sought-after item is back at Trader Joe's after a long hiatus. Grab some while you can!

This $4.99 Trader Joe’s Fan Favorite Is Finally Back—I’m Stocking up While I Can
Trader Joe's storefront
Simply Recipes / Adobe Stock

Late summer at my local farmer's market is a time of almost absurd bounty. All of summer's goodness is still pouring in—tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, you name it—and early fall crops like apples are starting to hit the market, but I'm bypassing all that and making a beeline toward the nose-pricking scent of roasted New Mexico chiles.

There's only one prolific local grower of these chiles, and they pull up to the market with a couple of giant metal barrel-like roasters and a truckload of half a dozen different chile varieties. Propane burners feed roaring flames that char and singe the chiles until the skins turn black and peel away from the now-tender flesh beneath. I buy bags and bags of roasted chiles and stack them in my freezer against the long, wet winter to come.

Because I associate these chiles with all things good—green chile and pork stew, green chile cornbread, green chile mac and cheese—I'll always jump at the chance to try a new Hatch chile product. That's why you could practically hear the screeching sound as I stopped in my tracks in front of Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread with Hatch Chile.

Trader Joe's cheese spread
Simply Recipes / Trader Joe's

Why I Love Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Cheese Spread

For this ultra-creamy product, Trader Joe's turns their fan-favorite Unexpected Cheddar into a smooth spread with butter and whey. The spread is studded with bits of roasted Hatch chiles and bell pepper, which provide a roasted and only slightly spicy flavor. While I like the regular Unexpected Cheddar spread, the Hatch chile version is a major upgrade in the flavor department.

This might surprise some folks with mild palates, but many New Mexico chiles, like Hatch chiles, aren't very spicy. Instead, they provide a rich chile flavor that is distinctly different from the flavor of a bell pepper (and, in my opinion, vastly superior). There is something warm and inviting about the flavor of the chiles used in this spread, but it doesn't quite cross over into spicy territory. In fact, Trader Joe's amps up the spread with a small amount of cayenne, which likely provides the little heat it has.

What Are Hatch Chiles, Anyways?

Hatch chiles are grown specifically in New Mexico's Hatch Valley. In other words, they can only be called "Hatch" if they're grown in this region. All so-called New Mexico chiles, including Hatch, are descended from heirloom chiles bred and grown by Indigenous peoples in the region and the descendants of Spanish settlers known as Hispanos. These heirloom chiles were used to develop the modern New Mexico chile (and its many varieties) starting around the turn of the 20th Century at New Mexico State University.

These days, New Mexico is practically synonymous with Hatch chiles, and if you visit you can sample them in everything from your eggs at breakfast to your cheeseburger at dinner.

How I Use Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Cheese Spread

This spread is ideal for snacking, preferably with something very crunchy. I've been spreading it on Wasa's sesame and sea salt crispbreads, but any very crisp cracker will do nicely. It's also an outstanding sandwich spread. Try it on soft white bread with sliced cucumbers and sprouts or microgreens (cilantro microgreens are elite).

I haven't tried this yet, but I suspect a short stint in the microwave would turn it into something like queso, and it could serve as a quick and dirty cheese sauce for pasta. I doubt you'll need a ton of creative ways to use it because it's so tasty that you'll have no trouble polishing off the nine-ounce container with a box of crackers.