Attention cheese lovers: Ranking 24 grocery store frozen appetizers full of cheesy goodness

Attention cheese lovers: Ranking 24 grocery store frozen appetizers full of cheesy goodness

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Whether you are laying out a food spread for a big bash like the Super Bowl or a quiet evening at home with your family, cheesy appetizers are a winner.

Savory, melty and versatile — and dare we say comforting — they are a crowd pleaser for all ages, including the kiddos.

In preparation for the Super Bowl, cleveland.com reporters Brenda Cain and Yadi Rodriguez have been scouring grocers and big box store freezer aisles, where they purchased every frozen appetizer they found — a whopping 95 appetizers in all for a giant taste test.

Below is a breakout of all the cheese apps they ate. They are ranked worst to best so be sure to scroll down to see their favorites, which include breaded cheese curds, bacon & white cheddar macaroni bites and grilled cheese sticks.

Whether you stick to the tried and true mozzarella cheese sticks or mac and cheese balls, or reach for something a bit more daring like brie and berry bites or cream cheese wontons with a sweet chili dipping sauce, there is a ton of variety below.

Three Cheese Bites, Feel Good Foods

No. 24 Three Cheese Bites, Feel Good Foods

Where we bought it: Whole Foods

Price: $5.69

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 220 | Fat 9g | Cholesterol 20mg | Sodium 430mg | Carbs 29g | Protein 7g

First ingredient: Cauliflower

Box says: Cauliflower crust. Filled with tomato sauce, mozzarella, romano and provolone cheese.

Our thoughts: Despite the cauliflower crust and the three-cheese billing, this one sailed wide right and tasted more like a Totino’s pizza roll.

Buy it at Target $5.49

Mozzarella Sticks, Snapps

No. 23 Mozzarella Sticks, Snapps

Where we bought it: Walmart

Price: $1

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 430 | Fat 19g | Cholesterol 30mg | Sodium 920mg | Carbs 49g | Protein 15g

First ingredient: Bleached wheat flour

Box says: Real mozzarella cheese nestled in a crispy, golden coating.

Our thoughts: These crunchy shells get so hard and some “exploded” in the oven, leaving a small puddle of watery, salty cheese and a hollow shell.

Buy it at Walmart $1

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Appetitos

No. 22 Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Appetitos

Where we bought it: Aldi

Price: $2.49

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 300 | Fat 15g | Cholesterol 25mg | Sodium 640mg | Carbs 30g | Protein 13g

First ingredient: Low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese

Box says: Mozzarella cheese sticks – real mozzarella cheese coated in crispy breading.

Our thoughts: Dry and bland. The crispy outer shell broke open during cooking, allowing the cheese to spill out. There was not much left to nosh on.

Buy it on Instacart $2.75

Cheese filled Cheese Balls, Utz

No. 21 Cheese filled Cheese Balls, Utz

Where we bought it: Walmart

Price: $4.76

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 300 | Fat 18g | Cholesterol 35mg |Sodium 840mg | Carbs 23g | Protein 10g

First ingredient: Water

Box says: Now your favorite cheese ball is available in the freezer aisle! Utz cheese filled cheese balls are made with three cheeses and coated with a savory crust made of crushed Utz Cheese Balls.

Our thoughts: The kids will like these more than the adults. The crust tastes more like Doritos and the inside more like a creamier version of cheddar cheese balls. Like some others, these did not hold the filling while cooking. A bonus: No orange, cheesy fingers you get with the crunchy snack.

Mozzarella Cheesesticks, Market Pantry

No. 20 Mozzarella Cheesesticks, Market Pantry

Where we bought it: Target

Price: $3.49

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 280 | Fat 15g | Cholesterol 20mg |Sodium 660mg | Carbs 24g | Protein 11g

First ingredient: Low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese

Box says: Mozzarella sticks, serve with pasta sauce for dipping.

Our thoughts: Crunchy and bland standard mozzarella stick. It offers a nice cheesy flavor but it gets dry and falls far short of a first down. Needs some kind of dipping sauce.

Buy it at Target $3.49

Cream Cheese Wontons, Pagoda

No. 19 Cream Cheese Wontons, Pagoda

Where we bought it: Target

Price: $2.89

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 640 | Fat 37g | Cholesterol 80mg | Sodium 1070mg | Carbs 65g | Protein 11g

First ingredient: Cream cheese

Box says: Crispy shell stuffed with cream cheese. Made with 100% real cream cheese.

Our thoughts: The wontons were crispy outside, but remained doughy inside. The cheese filling was a bit salty. Extra credit for the individual packets of sweet chili sauce.

Buy it at Target $2.89

Breaded Mozzarella Sticks, Farm Rich

No. 18 Breaded Mozzarella Sticks, Farm Rich

Where we bought it: Walmart

Price: $4.98

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 270 | Fat 15g | Cholesterol 20mg | Sodium 660mg | Carbs 23g | Protein 12g

First ingredient: Low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese

Box says: Our breaded mozzarella sticks are made with 100% real mozzarella and are a good source of protein and calcium. They are the perfect combination of gooey cheese and a “crispy” breading!

Our thoughts: Positive yardage, as these crispy shells held together better than many. You get plenty of gooey cheese. A tad on the salty side.

Buy it at Giant Eagle $5.99 | Buy it on Instacart $7.49 | Buy it at Target $5.29 | Buy it at Walmart $9.96 party size

Truffle Mac & Cheese Bites, Feel Good Foods

No. 17 Truffle Mac & Cheese Bites, Feel Good Foods

Where we bought it: Whole Foods

Price: $5.49

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 220 | Fat 10g | Cholesterol 25mg | Sodium 380mg | Carbs 27g | Protein 6g

First ingredient: Rice flour

Box says: White cheddar mac and cheese flavored with truffle oil in a crispy golden crust.

Our thoughts: A nice, creamy bite of mac and cheese amid a crispy outer shell. Our first “first down!”

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Trader Joe’s

No. 16 Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Trader Joe’s

Where we bought it: Trader Joe’s

Price: $4.49

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 260 | Fat 15g | Cholesterol 25mg | Sodium 480mg | Carbs 18g | Protein 13g

First ingredient: Low moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese

Box says: Breaded mozzarella cheese sticks.

Our thoughts: The seasoned breading crisps up but flattens during the baking process, making them difficult to pick up. Very cheesy!

Softstix, Superpretzel

No. 15 Softstix, Superpretzel

Where we bought it: Giant Eagle

Price: $2.69

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 130 | Fat 3g | Cholesterol 10mg | Sodium 260mg | Carbs 20g | Protein 4g

First ingredient: Enriched wheat flour

Box says: We took our signature soft pretzel and packed it with delicious, creamy cheddar cheese. Half pretzel, half cheese, all super!

Our thoughts: When cooked just right, you have the perfect combo of pretzel and creamy cheese without the inconvenience of having to dip. Be careful of that first bite though since the cheese is piping hot.

Buy it at Giant Eagle $3.79 | Buy it on Instacart $4.49

Mozzarella Bites, Farm Rich

No. 14 Mozzarella Bites, Farm Rich

Where we bought it: Giant Eagle

Price: $5.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 300 | Fat 15g | Cholesterol 35mg | Sodium 610mg | Carbs 28g | Protein 13g

First ingredient: Low moisture mozzarella cheese

Box says: Mozzarella cheese in a pizzeria style crust.

Our thoughts: It is hard not to love this one. Plenty of rich bready crust surrounds a nice sizable bite of mozzarella. If you over-cook it, the cheese can ooze. Reminiscent of a stuffed pizza crust.

Buy it at Giant Eagle $5.99 | Buy it on Instacart $7.49 | Buy it at Walmart $4.98

Mozzarella sticks, TGI Fridays

No. 13 Mozzarella sticks, TGI Fridays

Where we bought it: Walmart

Price: $4.98

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 290 | Fat 15g | Cholesterol 25mg | Sodium 640mg | Carbs 30g | Protein 10g

First ingredient: Part-skim mozzarella cheese

Box says: Real mozzarella cheese coated with a crispy garlic seasoned panko breading.

Our thoughts: The most unique of the mozzarella sticks we tried, the flat shape keeps the garlicky breading crisp and the large slices of cheese intact during the baking process. The cheese stays firm and chewy with just a slight, pleasant saltiness. The tangy marinara dipping sauce that’s included really ramps up your snacking experience.

Buy it at Giant Eagle $4.29 | Buy it on Instacart $3.99 |Buy it at Walmart $4.98

Sausage & Kale Mac & Cheese Bites, Feel Good Foods

No. 12 Sausage & Kale Mac & Cheese Bites, Feel Good Foods

Where we bought it: Whole Foods

Price: $5.49

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 220 | Fat 10g | Cholesterol 25mg | Sodium 400mg | Carbs 25g | Protein 6g

First ingredient: Rice flour

Box says: White cheddar mac and cheese with chicken sausage and kale in a crispy golden crust.

Our thoughts: You can’t see the sausage in these bites, but the meaty flavor is definitely there, as is the kale. The noodles are firm and nestled in plenty of cheesy sauce. The outer shell is delightfully crispy.

Bacon & White Cheddar Mac Bites, Stouffer’s

No. 11 Bacon & White Cheddar Mac Bites, Stouffer’s

Where we bought it: Giant Eagle

Price: $5.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 220 | Fat 11g | Cholesterol 15mg | Sodium 450mg | Carbs 24g | Protein 7g

First ingredient: Water

Box says: Crispy breading stuffed with macaroni, bacon and creamy white cheddar cheese.

Our thoughts: Anything with bacon carries the ball, but we wanted more. The noodles are firm and nestled in creamy cheese and held together in a nice solid crust.

Buy it at Giant Eagle $5.99 | Buy it on Instacart $6.99

Mac & Cheese Bites, Stouffer’s

No. 10 Mac & Cheese Bites, Stouffer’s

Where we bought it: Giant Eagle

Price: $5.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 220 | Fat 11g | Cholesterol 15mg | Sodium 340mg | Carbs 23g | Protein 6g

First ingredient: Water

Box says: Crispy breading stuffed with macaroni and creamy cheddar cheese.

Our thoughts: Stouffer’s mac and cheese fans will be rejoicing over these cheesy bites. Traditional Stouffer’s mac and cheese wrapped in a crispy breadcrumb crust.

Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions, Trader Joe’s

No. 9 Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions, Trader Joe’s

Where we bought it: Trader Joe’s

Price: $4.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 240 | Fat 18g | Cholesterol 65mg | Sodium 300mg | Carbs 15g | Protein 5g

First ingredient: Enriched unbleached wheat flour

Box says: Pastry bites with feta cheese and caramelized onions. No preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors.

Our thoughts: Sweet onion and a creamy cheese in puff pastry is a delicious bite that stands out amid so many of the same ole, same ole appetizers. It is a delicious combo of flavors in a bite-sized treat.

Cream Cheese Wontons, Good & Gather

No. 8 Cream Cheese Wontons, Good & Gather

Where we bought it: Target

Price: $6.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 300 | Fat 18g | Cholesterol 40mg | Sodium 390mg | Carbs 30g | Protein 8g

First ingredient: Cream cheese

Box says: With real cream cheese wrapped in a crispy wonton with sweet chili sauce.

Our thoughts: While you don’t get a whole lot of sauce, you really don’t need it. But it does provide a spicy kick. The wontons are crispy and the cheese is smooth, sweet and creamy.

Buy it at Target $6.99

Mac and Cheese Bites, Trader Joe’s

No. 7 Mac and Cheese Bites, Trader Joe’s

Where we bought it: Trader Joe’s

Price: $3.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 190 | Fat 10g | Cholesterol 25mg | Sodium 280mg | Carbs 19g | Protein 7g

First ingredient: Cooked elbow macaroni

Box says: Imagine the cheesiest bite of macaroni and cheese encased in a crispy outer coating. We have created the ultimate appetizer inspired by our popular Diner Mac & Cheese. They’re compact, they’re comforting, they’re cheesy and they’re delicious.

Our thoughts: While other mac bites are covered in a traditional breading, these bites have a decidedly panko coating that take crispy to a new level. Inside, the noodles are firm and covered in a smooth sauce blended from several cheeses. Could have used a little salt though.

Pimento Cheese Puffs, Trader Joe’s

No. 6 Pimento Cheese Puffs, Trader Joe’s

Where we bought it: Trader Joe’s

Price: $4.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 330 | Fat 25g | Cholesterol 65mg | Sodium 370mg | Carbs 20g | Protein 7g

First ingredient: Unbleached enriched flour

Box says: Puff pastry filled with pimento cheese, uncured bacon and caramelized onion.

Our thoughts: Adults who remember when Frank Ryan was throwing the ball around Cleveland Municipal Stadium will also remember that delicious pimento cheese that graced every table in the 1960s. Younger folks may find a new favorite snack with these tasty little bites filled with a spicy pimento cheese atop a flaky puff pastry. Just spicy enough to provide a nice little kick. Good balance of toppings. Nice change of pace from typical appetizers.

American Grilled Cheese Sticks, Farm Rich

No. 5 American Grilled Cheese Sticks, Farm Rich

Where we bought it: Heinen’s

Price: $6.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 320 | Fat 19g | Cholesterol 15mg | Sodium 580mg | Carbs 29g | Protein 7g

First ingredient: Enriched unbleached wheat flour

Box says: Pasteurized prepared cheese product sandwiched in crispy white bread.

Our thoughts: If there are kids at your Super Bowl watch party — or just kids at heart — be sure to include these tiny grilled cheese sandwiches on your buffet. The original comfort food, the bread is battered and deep fried to provide a satisfying crunch. The American cheese inside is smooth, creamy and rich in flavor. The convenience of a grilled cheese in a single serve bite size treat. Cheesy and buttery with a crunch. Yum!

Buy it at Heinen’s $6.99 | Buy it on Instacart $6.99 | Buy it at Walmart $4.98

Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds, Farm Rich

No. 4 Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds, Farm Rich

Where we bought it: Target

Price: $5.29

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 340 | Fat 24g | Cholesterol 45mg | Sodium 670mg | Carbs 17g | Protein 12g

First ingredient: Cheese curds

Box says: Our authentic Wisconsin breaded cheddar cheese curds come from La Grander Hillside Dairy in Stanley, Wis. They have the perfect “squeak” and are great for snacking!

Our thoughts: Cheesy and gooey, with just the right amount of salt! A thick batter covers big chunks of cheddar cheese. Once warmed in the oven, the shell is crispy and the cheddar is rich and chewy — even in the smallest of curds. What’s not to love?

Buy it at Giant Eagle $5.99 | Buy it on Instacart $6.99 | Buy it at Walmart $4.98

Brie & Berry Jam Bites, Good & Gather

No. 3 Brie & Berry Jam Bites, Good & Gather

Where we bought it: Target

Price: $4.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 280 | Fat 17g | Cholesterol 45mg | Sodium 240mg | Carbs 22g | Protein 7g

First ingredient: Brie cheese

Box says: Berry jam blend of blackberries, raspberries, strawberries in a flaky phyllo cup and topped with brie cheese.

Our thoughts: Is this a dessert or an appetizer? Could be either. Whether you are looking for sweet or savory, you’ll find it in this unique appetizer. Savory combo of cheesy goodness covers bright, tart berries delivered in a flaky, easy to eat cup.

Buy it at Target $4.99

Macaroni & Cheese small bites, 365

No. 2 Macaroni & Cheese small bites, 365

Where we bought it: Whole Foods

Price: $5.29

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 210 | Fat 8g | Cholesterol 15mg | Sodium 340mg | Carbs 27g | Protein 8g

First ingredient: Cooked macaroni

Box says: Macaroni and cheese made with real cheddar cheese.

Our thoughts: These are some of the smallest mac and cheese bites we found, but they will stand up to any craving you have for a carb-heavy snack. Creamy, thick, and cheesy inside, wrapped in a crunchy outer shell. A real winner.

Buy it on Amazon $5.29 | Buy it at Whole Foods $5.29

Goat Cheese Bites, Pioneer Woman

No. 1 Goat Cheese Bites, Pioneer Woman

Where we bought it: Target

Price: $5.99

Nutrition per serving:

Calories 240 | Fat 14g | Cholesterol 20mg | Sodium 520mg | Carbs 21g | Protein 8g

First ingredient: Goat cheese

Box says: Creamy goat cheese covered in pretzel crumbs and served with a side of delicious marinara sauce.

Our thoughts: Speaking of unique appetizers, you must like goat cheese to appreciate this bite. But if you are a fan, you will love these little bites of creamy goodness. The seasoning in the cheese is A+. You get a mouthful of flavor from the crispy pretzel crust too. They are good dipped in the provided marinara sauce, but why mess with perfection? They are better without it!

Buy it at Target $5.99

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