The Italian Cheese You Should Always Buy At Costco

Costco has a reputation for offering cheap but quality alternatives to high-priced items. The chain's in-house Kirkland Signature brand gives branded wine and vodka a run for its money, for example, and several products under the Costco label are actually branded items in disguise, including the Kirkland Signature house-blend roasted coffee that's really from Starbucks. Costco's fromagerie is no different.

Considering the price of milk and the time and labor that goes into transforming and aging it, cheese doesn't exactly come cheap. Even cheese produced locally can be fairly pricey, let alone the likes of Pecorino and Grana Padano that come from Italy. Take Parmigiano-Reggiano (or parmesan), for example, which enjoys the Protected Designation of Origin status under Italian and European laws. It takes 131 gallons of milk and a year of aging to make just one 88-pound wheel of parmesan, which perhaps explains why it typically comes with a $1,000 price tag.

Unsurprisingly, then, a pound of parmesan can make a pretty big dent in your grocery budget, with some cheesemongers charging close to $35 for a wedge of the sought-after Italian cheese. This is where Costco's Kirkland Signature Parmigiano-Reggiano comes in as an excellent choice for Italian cheese on a budget. Priced at $10.99 for a pound, not only is it one of the cheaper Parmigiano-Reggiano options on the market, but America's Test Kitchen finds that Costco's version is of excellent quality, too.

Costco's Parmigiano-Reggiano is the real deal

Parmigiano-Reggiano's PDO status comes with stringent rules and a regulated manufacturing process, which explains why real parmesan is so expensive. On the contrary, there are no regulations as to what can be labeled and sold as "parmesan" in the U.S., which is why there is an abundance of counterfeit parmesan. In fact, the FDA found that a Pennsylvania-based company was selling Swiss and cheddar cheese bulked up with wood pulp as "100% grated parmesan" a decade ago, with nothing even close to parmesan inside it (via Foodbeast).

America's Test Kitchen finds that Costco's Parmigiano-Reggiano is no such bogus dupe. Kirkland Signature's wedge of cheese is aged for two years and carries the Denominazione di Origine Protetta (or PDO) logo, which is why it's labeled as Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of parmesan. A good Parmigiano-Reggiano has little crunchy flecks of the amino acid tyrosine sprinkled throughout, with a complex sweet and umami flavor as well as fruity and nutty notes. Costco's $10.99-pound wedge, it turns out, has all these tell-tale characteristics of real Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Redditors too vouch for Costco's Italian cheese. In a since-deleted post, shoppers who found that Costco had discontinued the Parmigiano-Reggiano wedges a few years ago hilariously called for a cheese riot against the wholesaler. Some even joked about stocking up on entire wheels of Costco's $950 Parmigiano-Reggiano as an alternative because it was just that good, and a quality investment at that. Considering its enthusiastic fan following and credible quality, Costco is a safe bet if you ever want to buy reasonably priced but legitimate Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Nutritional information about Parmigiano-Reggiano

While cheese is one of life's great pleasures, many cheeses aren't exactly beaming with nutrition. Because they can boast high levels of sodium and saturated fat, Livestrong says that eating too much of the wrong kind of cheese can increase your risk of cardiovascular distress, raise your cholesterol, and increase your blood pressure. Parmigiano-Reggiano, on the other hand, can be enjoyed without these worries thanks to its low calorie content and surprising array of health benefits.

Despite any health risks, some cheeses are an excellent source of protein, and Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of them. In an interview with Insider, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Leah Silberman said that parmesan is one of the healthiest cheese options not only for its high protein content, but also thanks to its abundant makeup of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. Just a small amount of quality parmesan cheese can help you meet your daily protein intake; one serving of Costco's block offers 9 grams, or 18% of the daily value. Pair a few pieces with other high-protein foods like turkey and chicken, and you'll hit your protein goals in no time! 

In addition to Costco's block of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, the supermarket also offers a shredded version that's convenient for salads, soups, or a savory indulgence right out of the jar. Packed with flavor, this is the ideal cheese option for incorporating richness and umami into a variety of dishes — without the heaviness and lactose load associated with fattier cheeses. If you thought cheese couldn't fit into your overall health goals, you may be pleased to know that it very likely can.