The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's Volume 2

Readers weigh in with their favorite product picks


The team behind What's Good at Trader Joe's? have been reviewing and rating the store's best and worst products since August of 2010. Twice this year, they ranked some of the 130 products they reviewed in different categories from Top 5 Vegetarian to "Worst. Stuff. Ever."

The rankings set off comments from fans and haters alike who weighed in with their own picks. Favorites include nut mixes, dips and chips, chocolate nut candies, soups, smoked fish, olives, pre-cooked grains, and frozen food. Things that didn't fare so well? Asian food, cheese, and fish.

Highlights have been noted below along with tips and readers' ideas for using some of their favorite products. There's also a list of products that readers wish Trader Joe's would bring back. Think some great or terrible products were missed? Join the debate. For more reviews of Trader Joe's check out the following articles.

The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's

What's Good At Trader Joe's?

 

Readers' Favorite Trader Joe's Products

Cheese Puffs: Not too much air, and good for making casseroles.

Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips: Unless you get a rare bag without enough tasty orange powder on the chips, they're waaaay better than Doritos! I don't know how they do it without the MSG. It's good that i don't live a block from a Trader Joe's anymore or I'd eat a bag or two every week!

Lime and Chili Mixed Nuts: Truly great, I am addicted and have addicted many other people.

Dark Chocolate Almonds: To die for! Big Time.

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark: Their Dark Chocolate Almond Bark is a treat I look forward to during the winter season each year.

Gluten-Free Cranberry/Maple Granola: Really delicious. I go to Trader Joe’s just to buy this and the Lime and Chili nuts!

Bohemian Lager: It’s great, try cooking your beef with it.

Spicy Ranchero Egg White Salad: Low enough stats to be "diet food" but addictively delicious!

Broths:They have the best, best, best broths of anyone. Believe me, I used to make my own.

Sweet Potato Fries: The sweet potato fries are great! You almost have to overbake them and they will be light and crispy.

Frozen Teriyaki Chicken and Asian Veggies: A must for a quick freezer meal.

Turkey Bolognese: A handful of mushrooms, some fresh basil, and a half can of tomatoes stretches it to feed four people.

Precooked Wild Rice: Sauté mushrooms in butter, add the rice, and a quarter cup of chicken or veggie stock, stir until the rice is hot and the liquid absorbed, and add a handful of chopped cilantro and a chopped scallion. It makes a nice side dish.

Smoked Fish Products: These are the trout fillets, sardines, herrings in the cans. They are wonderful products. You can’t beat them for high food that’s high in protein and of great quality.

Precooked Brown Rice: Amazing, perfect, and only takes TWO minutes in a microwave to prepare. Can’t beat it with a stick.

Gluten-Free Brownie Mix: Is VERY good, especially for a gluten-free product.

Frozen Fruit: Is very good quality and can almost pass for fresh when thawed.

Frozen Chocolate Croissants: Amazing.

 

 

Readers' Most Reviled Trader Joe's Products

Dried Pistachios: Pieces are hard and are such a poor quality I'm afraid my teeth will chip.

Seaweed Snacks: Thought they were disgusting, even if the price is appealing.

Cheese: Cheese is scary as all Trader Joe’s. They tend to mold after a week, which I've complained about for 10 years because it means that they're NOT cleaning their cutting surfaces. There's nothing like a little Stilton mold in your Cheddar or Swiss. The employees agree, but nothing's ever been done about it.

Seafood: I'm delighted with all the smoked-fish products. The red salmon is great too, but I didn't like the pink boneless salmon -- no flavor and overcooked. Please keep working on no-salt-added foods. Half the world needs more of them.

Japanese Food: Generally sucks, as their vendors overuse rice vinegar (sushi) to keep the rice moist while refrigerated and the fried pieces are well, soggy and over fried (greasy).

Hold The Cones: A mini ice cream cone, is horrible.

 

Readers’ Wish List: Bring Them Back

Honey Wine: I wish Trader Joe's would stock it again. According to my local store, they did so briefly and no one seemed interested. In this case, Trader Joe's was ahead of its time.

Lemon Pound Cake: I miss their lemon pound cake which has been gone for a year or so!

Marsala Sauce: I MISS their Marsala sauce (they discontinued), but I remain hopeful they bring it back!

Tri-Tip: Don't get the tri-tip. It was horrible. Any site that rates food is going to be subjective to the authors taste. Why bother?

Peach and Blueberry Panna Cottas: They have discontinued the Peach and Blueberry Panna Cottas (at least on the East Coast), with "no plans to bring them back." I am very sad, have registered my complaint with the company and hope others will do the same.


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594 Comments

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I miss the Sharon's Sorbet they used to have!!!
The COCONUT was heavenly and NO CORN SYRUP ...YUK!

bccesq's picture

Love:
Soft plain goat cheese
Lowfat string cheese
Prepared lentils, roasted beets, brown rice
BBQ Hawaiian potato chips
Peach salsa
Greek yogurt - just wish they carried large sizes in 2% instead of just 0%
Vegan gelatin cups!
Dilettante chocolate covered cherries
Sunflower seeds
Crunchy chocolate chip cookies
Nut butters

Hate:

Jams: Very serious quality control issues - I got a 2" piece of blackberry thorn and didn't know it until I pulled it out of my mouth - and - do you even know how hard it is to dig a thorn out of a 3 year old's tongue? Now I get apricot & cherry ONLY.

English Toffee: it was over-the-top amazing until they changed the recipe now it's just ho-hum.

Arancini made with chicken stock: make more things vegetarian!

And I sure wish they'd give their employees holiday pay - it's not fair to make them work late the night before a holiday and early the morning after - and not pay them for major holidays like Christmas -- shame on you TJ's.

G. Thelen's picture

All the cheese at Trader Joe's is NOT scary. I buy the parmesan cheese in wedges to grate and it is delicious. Also, I've bought fresh mozzarrella and it is also good. My favorite items at TJs are the frozen croissants, regular and chocolate. They are fantastic.

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Would really dig bringing back the Soy Peanut Butter.... been requesting it for a while.

DLC's picture

Please bring back starter sauce! I used it a lot.

theyogababy's picture

Actually, if you are eating Gluten Free, the brownies are pretty bad, not VERY good. They are grainy as all get out. Pamela's Brownie Mix is quite yummy, and scratch brownies are far superb. Also, TJ's GF rice bread (aka "the brick") is the worst thing I've ever tasted.

The Mediterranean Hummus though, it's the dang bomb. MMMMM yum. And the best chips are the Vegetable Medley. So addictive.

kathleen McMahon's picture

Vons/Safeway carries the same Panna Cotta, blueberry peach, as Trader Joe's used to, here in California.

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The Nutty Amican trail mix (dark chocolate, raisins, almonds and cashews) was great. Why did they discontinue it?

JJ's picture

Haven't been to Trader Joe's for a long time as I live so far away. I see they have discontinued my three favorite TJ products: masala sauce, lemon pound cake and panna cotta. I'm very disappointed. I was looking forward to buying them the next time I was there.

shopper77's picture

Mintz's Blintzes was a tasty low calorie treat - box of six. TJ stopped carrying the product - employees give different excuses - "seasonal" product is my favorite; in reality TJ doesn't want to support another name.

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Not a bad list of goods. What do I miss? I miss what Trader Joe's was back in the early 80's...weird European sweets, liquor close outs of all sizes ('Valencia' a wannabe-Cointreau comes to mind----they had every size from super-mini airline to "Needs a Fork Lift to the trunk)", oddball cheeses at fantastic prices, all kinds of small CA winery batches....I miss all that since TJ's went national.

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Not a bad list of goods. What do I miss? I miss what Trader Joe's was back in the early 80's...weird European sweets, liquor close outs of all sizes ('Valencia' a wannabe-Cointreau comes to mind----they had every size from super-mini airline to "Needs a Fork Lift to the trunk", oddball cheeses at fantastic prices, all kinds of small CA winery batches....I miss all that since TJ's went national.

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Have you had a toddler? Hold the Cones are brilliant! They are the perfect sized ice cream snack for a toddler. Not too mention anyone who is watching calories and portion sizes but is craving ice cream. I rave about these cones!

ColesKnappin's picture

I cant believe someone gave a bad review to Hold the Cones! They are great snacks for toddlers and dieting women with cravings for ice cream. LAME.

Thyme's picture

Sorry, Bovina, baby. I purchased some of those products you considered as good: The Orange Mango Granola cereal. Not! I tried one small bowl, suffice to say, I returned it to the store. The falafel....okay, I have it...in case of a snack attack....but, the falafel, I reiterate, is not restaurant quality. I do like their frozen fruit...which is good for making your own smoothies.....To be continued....

Thyme's picture

What I do like about, Trader Joe's, are their spices......sea salt, pepper, et al are at a very reasonable price...only one drawback; they do not carry enough spices. In addition, the Spanish Olive Oil is really good...it has a nice smooth, peppery, taste to it.

One More Bite Blog's picture

Sad to see Tarte d'Alsace didn't make the list of favs - it's insanely good for a frozen flatbread, french-style with ham, caramelized onions, gruyere and creme fraiche. Yum.

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I wish they would bring back the apricot sauce imported from France. But now all the products are packaged by Trader Joe and carry the name. I presume so they can get a bigger piece of the pie, i.e. bigger profit. What is so unusual about that?

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Best departed items:

Chocolate-mint covered almonds
Key lime cookies

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Seaweed Snacks: If you like sushi you will love these! Satisfies the urge until the next visit to the sushi bar!

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i agree! the roasted seaweed snacks are incredible!! i'm so tired of people saying they are bad, when the reality is that those people just don't like seaweed!!! if you like seaweed, you will love these. people should not be rating food that they don't even like in the first place.

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TJ has the habit of introducing good items and then quits for no reasons except I think due to supplier raising price? Items disappear once they become popular with customers.

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Please bring back the honey sesame sticks.

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There's one in Pittsburgh...near Shadyside,East Liberty area. In a few months another will be in the South Hills

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Where is trader joe,s in pennsylvania

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One of the very fabulous items Trader Joe's stopped growing??...is the long...red sweet peppers...fresh...sweet...almost seedless...3 or 4 to a bag...Why in the world they stopped this item, I'll never understand...Sure wish we could still get this delicious pepper...

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The green tea yogurt. It's been years, and I still miss it. And the cranberry and brie appetizers. Loved them and still always hope they'll be back for the Holidays.

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Bread and coffee rock.

Worst product: a pecan pie with floury, tasteless, half inch filling. Gross, and all for 6.99. Stick to Waldbaums, their pecan pie is awesome.

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I haven't seen the cocoa dusted almonds in awhile, and hope they will be brought back. Best treat ever! I also mourn the loss of a tomato feta salad dressing from a few years ago, which was kept in the refrigerated section and was absolutely luscious.
My current favorite is the Turbot from the frozen section, it is so tasty.

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Confusing and highly subjective article. Most of what this article claims is "great" is actually garbage, IMO, and the "bad" stuff is our favorites!

Hogwash.

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