Babybel cheese is a popular snack for both kids and adults alike.
The little wax-wrapped wheels are portable, tasty, and fun to peel open.
However, the packaging creates a lot of unnecessary waste.
If you love the flavor of Babybel but want a more eco-friendly option, there are several good alternatives out there.
What Makes Babybel Cheese Different?
First, let's talk about what distinguishes Babybel from other cheeses. Here are some of its defining qualities:
- Mild flavor - Babybel has a fresh, creamy taste without being too sharp or tangy. It's a good introductory cheese for kids.
- Smooth, rubbery texture - The cheese has a springy, semi-soft consistency. When chilled, it doesn't crumble but has a pleasant bite.
- Sweetness - For a cheese, Babybel is sweeter than you may expect. This makes it appealing, especially for children.
- Shape and size - The mini wheel shape and single-serve portions are part of the charm. Unwrapping the wax coating is fun.
- Edam origins - Babybel is often compared to an Edam cheese. However, many report it being sweeter and milder than traditional Edam.
So in your search, prioritize cheeses that match this flavor profile and texture. The shape and wraps are secondary.
Key Takeaway: Babybel is a mildly-flavored, semi-soft cheese with a touch of sweetness. Finding alternatives means looking for similar taste and texture.
Try Bulk Edam for a Classic Cheese Option
Since Babybel gets compared to Edam a lot, let's start there. Edam is indeed a Dutch cheese made from cow's milk. It has a mild, lightly salty flavor with hints of nuttiness and fruitiness.
The traditional shape of Edam is a ball covered in yellow wax, similar to Babybel. And it can have a comparably creamy texture when young. The aging process firms it up over time.
However, there are some key differences. Edam tends to be more savory and less milky-sweet than Babybel. And when bought pre-packaged, you won't get the tiny rounds. But many cheese experts recommend it as the closest readily available option.
You can often find bulk Edam at grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and cheese shops. Buying a block instead of singles removes the excess waste. And you can portion out just what you need for lunches or snacks.
For families, Edam is an economical Babybel swap. Just be aware that the flavor won't be an exact replica. Try introducing it to kids as a new variety if they are particular. And stick to young Edam for optimum creaminess.
Gouda is Another Mild Cheese in the Dutch Tradition
From the same Dutch cheesemaking tradition as Edam, Gouda is another possibility. It is one of the most popular cheeses worldwide.
Like Edam, Gouda gets covered in a yellow wax rind when aged. And it has a similarly light, creamy taste and smooth texture. There are even smiley-faced Goudas marketed for kids just like Babybels.
However, Gouda tends to be more buttery and savory, whereas Babybel leans sweet. So the flavors won't align exactly. But for a mellow alternative, try sampling the many varieties of Gouda widely available.
Young, mild Goudas offer the mildest flavor and creaminess. Meanwhile, aged Goudas become more crumbly and develop crunchy crystals. Look for wheel cuts at the deli counter or block options to avoid unnecessary packaging.
Try Other Semi-Soft Cheeses Like Brie and Camembert
Beyond the Dutch cheeses, there are other semi-soft varieties worth trying. Brie and Camembert offer creamy textures and mild flavors reminiscent of Babybel.
Brie is a soft French cheese with notes of cream, mushrooms, and grass. When ripe, the interior becomes ooey-gooey. The edible rind provides earthiness. And the overall taste is mild, making it a good Babybel sub.
Camembert is also French - a creamy cow's milk cheese with a white rind. It has a rich, buttery flavor that becomes stronger as it ripens. Young Camembert is mildest.
For both of these cheeses, try buying a whole wheel or wedge rather than pre-sliced portions. This reduces waste and cost. Slice off what you need for snacking. The interior creaminess makes them satisfying nibbles for kids and adults.
Port Salut is a versatile Babybel stand-in
Port Salut is a semi-soft, mild cow's milk cheese invented by Trappist monks in the 19th century. It has a subtle, nutty and buttery flavor with smooth, springy texture.
This French cheese melts well and doesn't overpower other ingredients. That makes it versatile for snacking, appetizers, or cooking. For a Babybel swap, stick with young Port Salut. Its fresh, mild taste and creamy texture closely mimic the mini wheels.
Look for Port Salut in bulk deli sections or large, unpackaged cuts. Using this flexible cheese eliminates waste. Kids are likely to enjoy Port Salut's simplicity. You can introduce it as a fun new snack cheese.
Try Other Cheese Varieties for Unique Flavors
While not flavor twins with Babybel, other cheese types can make tasty, low-waste swaps. Here are a few to put on your shopping list:
- Mozzarella - Fresh mozzarella, or Mozzarella di Bufala, is a moist, mild Italian cheese that pulls apart in strings. Kids often enjoy this soft texture and milky taste. The flavor is different than Babybel but approachable. Buy fresh mozzarella balls or logs rather than pre-sliced to reduce packaging.
- Monterey Jack - This American favorite has a creamy texture similar to Babybel. Mild Jack cheese comes in smooth, semi-soft blocks. The flavor is more cheesy and less sweet than Babybel, but kids tend to like it.
- Muenster - A semi-soft cheese with a smooth, supple texture. It has a mellow flavor with notes of butter and nuts. Whole Muenster wheels or deli slices can replace Babybel rounds.
- Colby - Resembles cheddar but has a milder taste. The creamy, smooth texture melts easily. Buy blocks of Colby and slice it yourself instead of getting pre-cut pieces.
Don't be afraid to try out new cheeses until you find ones your family enjoys. Tasting different varieties can be an adventure!
Shop Cheese Alternatives at Health Food Stores
In addition to traditional dairy cheeses, non-dairy options mimic Babybel's qualities. Many major health food chains now carry dairy-free cheeses made from:
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Cashew milk
- Coconut milk
These plant-based cheeses aim to deliver a similar creaminess, stretch, and mouthfeel to dairy cheese. Flavors tend to be mild with hints of nuts or coconut.
While not exactly like Babybel, these cheeses offer a better-for-the-planet alternative without animal products. They come in shreds, blocks, slices, and spreads.
Trying out some non-dairy cheeses allows you to reduce waste and support sustainable eating. Look for plant-based imitation cheese at stores like:
- Whole Foods
- Trader Joe's
- Fresh Thyme
Buy Cheese Curds for Squeaky, Fresh Bites
Cheese curds are a fun, kid-friendly way to get a cheese fix without packaging waste. These squeaky fresh cheese nuggets are a byproduct of the cheesemaking process.
Curds have a mild, milky flavor and chewy bite. Their texture falls somewhere between mozzarella and cottage cheese. Kids and adults enjoy their squeak against the teeth and fresh taste.
Look for cheese curds sold in bulk at the dairy or deli counter. Eat them as finger food snacks, pair them with fruit, or use them in cooking instead of shredded cheese. Discovering curds' popping texture can make healthy snacking more fun.
Check Out These Specific Brands and Products
To give you some direction in your search for Babybel dupes, here are a few specific brands and products to look out for:
- Kirkland Signature Mini Babybel Cheese - Available at Costco, these come in a pack of 32, providing bulk value. The flavor profile aims to replicate Babybel.
- Bel Brand Bonbel Cheese - From the same company as Babybel, these larger wedges offer similar taste without individual wrapping. Find them at European grocery stores.
- Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value Mini Cheese - These budget-friendly, store brand mini cheese rounds mimic Babybel. Sold at Whole Foods without the waste.
- ALDI Happy Farms Mini Babybel Cheese - ALDI offers their own version in six-packs for a fraction of the name brand's price.
- President Babe Mini Cheese - Like Babybel but without the individual plastic wraps, these mini cheeses come in five-packs.
- Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Cheese Snacks - For the lactose intolerant, these dairy-free, coconut oil-based rounds offer a similar snacking experience.
Don't limit yourself to just these options, but they provide some concrete examples to start your search. Read reviews and ask for samples whenever possible.
Make Your Own Copycat Babybel Cheeses
For the ambitious DIY-er, you can try making your own copycat Babybel cheeses at home. This allows total control over ingredients for a customized version.
While time-consuming, you can replicate the mini wheeled shape and mild flavor without waste. Use simple cheese recipes like:
- 30 Minute Mozzarella - Fresh, squeaky, mild tasting cheese perfect for forming into small balls or wheels.
- Quick Ricotta - Super easy creamy cheese you can shape by hand or press into molds.
- Queso Blanco - A fresh Latin American cheese that's milkier and less crumbly than paneer. Roll into balls.
- Farmer's Cheese- Soft, spreadable style ideal for small wheels. Customize herbs, spices, and flavorings.
Improvising your own cheeses takes some skill but makes for a fun science project. You end up with completely organic, preservative-free snacks the whole family can enjoy making.
Try Individually Wrapped Alternatives in Moderation
While the main goal is to avoid excess packaging, an easy transitional option is to buy alternative cheeses still individually wrapped, just in moderation.
- Laughing Cow Creamy Cheese Wedges - These mini cheese wheels offer a different flavor but similar snacking format to Babybel.
- Mini Babybel Plant-Based - Babybel now makes a dairy-free, vegan version of their classic cheese wrapped in wax.
When transitioning kids or just wanting an occasional treat, these can help satisfy the craving. Enjoy them as a sometimes food while focusing on bulk options for everyday.
Shop Bulk Cheese End Cuts for Affordability
Don't overlook the end cuts and irregular blocks of cheese at your grocery store deli. These chunks of cheese don't fit for nice packaging or slicing.
But for home use, they provide the same tasty cheese in a more affordable, low-waste form. Cheddar, Swiss, Colby, and other cheeses often come in bulk end pieces.
Ask at the counter if end cuts are available. They'll usually sell them at a discount since they're unattractive for displays. Then cut them up at home into your own snack sizes.
Buy a Cheese Shaver or Grater
A handy gadget for any cheese lover is a cheese shaver or rotary grater. These tools allow you to quickly shave hard cheeses into paper-thin slices.
Kids love peeling their own slices off the block. And you avoid the wasteful plastic wrappers that come with presliced cheeses.
Look for cheese shavers that catch and store the shavings for easy snacking. This allows access to ready-to-eat cheese slices without waste. It also works for slicing softer cheese like mozzarella into homemade string cheese.
Know What to Look for When Shopping Bulk Cheese
To get the best value and taste from bulk cheese blocks, look for these signs of quality:
- Minimal mold - Some mold on rind-style cheese is normal. But avoid excessive mold, which indicates spoilage.
- No cracks - Cracks allow air to penetrate and can lead to drying. Opt for intact blocks.
- Moist but not wet - A little moisture is normal for soft cheese. Too much indicates leaking preservatives.
- Clean, legible labels - Crooked, damaged labels may mean the cheese isn't adequately cared for.
- Not dusty - Cheese should not have a dusty texture or coating, which happens when stored incorrectly.
- No odd smells - Cheese should smell slightly tangy or sweet but not unpleasantly strong.
Take the opportunity to give cheese samples before purchasing so you get the flavor you expect. And pay attention to storage and expiration dates.
Key Takeaway: Proper handling, labeling, and limited mold indicate quality when buying bulk cheese blocks.
Store Bulk Cheese Correctly
To maximize freshness and shelf life, store your bulk cheese properly at home:
- Keep refrigerated at all temps below 40°F. Freeze extra for longer storage.
- Separate cheese from strong-smelling foods like onions which can impart flavors.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper if cut to prevent drying out.
- For hard cheese, wrap in breathable cheese paper or a loose cotton cloth.
- Place cheeses in individual zip-top bags or containers to avoid sticking together.
- Label cheese with name and date for easier identification.
- Position newer cheeses in back of fridge and use older ones first.
Proper cheese storage prolongs freshness and reduces waste. And cutting larger blocks into smaller portions helps them last.
Enjoy Creative Pairings and Cheese Boards
A final way to use up bulk cheese purchases is to create festive cheese boards and pairings. Arrange sliced cheeses with:
- Bread or baguette slices
- Dried or fresh fruits
- Meat charcuterie
- Pickled veggies
Use whole cheese wedges or cut into bite-sized chunks, cubes, or slices. Pair with other items that complement the flavors. For kids, provide apple slices, grapes, jams, and crackers they will enjoy.
Getting creative makes cheese more fun without requiring special small packages. And it encourages kids to try new flavors. Arrange a cheese board for parties, holidays, or even weekday snacks.
How can I find cheeses similar to Babybel without the waste?
Some great options include buying bulk blocks of Edam, Gouda, Brie, or Camembert. You can also try cheese curds sold in bulk at the deli counter. Non-dairy cheeses made from plant milks offer another alternative.
Are there any pre-wrapped mini cheese options besides Babybel?
Yes, brands like The Laughing Cow and President Babe make smaller wrapped cheese wheels. Enjoy them in moderation when you want the individual portions. Otherwise, focus on the bulk cheese options.
My child only likes the taste of Babybel - how can I get them to try new cheeses?
Introduce new cheeses slowly, starting with very mild, creamy ones like mozzarella or Monterey Jack. Offer just a small amount paired with crackers or fruit. Don't give up if they dislike the first few tries. It can take kids repeated exposure to acquire new tastes.
Can you make homemade cheese replicas of Babybel?
Yes! Make small batches of easy cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, or farmers cheese. Shape them into mini balls or wheels and flavor them with herbs and spices to taste. Wrap in wax paper if desired.
How can you tell when bulk cheese blocks are high quality?
Look for minimal mold, intact packaging, consistent textures, clean labels, and lack of off-smells. Samples before purchase help ensure you get the flavor you expect. Check expiration dates and storage guidelines.
While Babybel cheese is fun and convenient, the plastic wrapping on each mini wheel creates unnecessary waste. Thankfully, there are many flavorful, eco-friendly alternatives available at grocery stores.
Trying bulk blocks of mild cheeses like Edam, Gouda, Brie, and Camembert provides similar creaminess and fresh taste. Or go for squeaky cheese curds and creative cheese boards full of variety and flavors.