What's Good At Trader Joe's?

Nathan Rodgers, of the review site What's Good At Trader Joe's, gives his top five product picks in five categories.


What's Good at Trader Joe's? Devotees of the popular chain might respond with, "Everything!" Since last August, one blog has taken the question as its name and mission: to systematically review every product. It isn't the only Trader Joe's review site. As Nathan explained, "We noticed there were some other webpages rating Trader Joe's products, but many hadn't been updated in a long time. Most of them weren't very in-depth, and they were boring to read. The most popular site that rates Trader Joe's foods is Trader Joe's Fan, but they focus more on recipes and cooking."

Since starting What's Good At Trader Joe's in August Nathan Rodgers, his wife Sonia, and their friend Russ Shelly, have reviewed about 75 products in more than 60 blog entries. While the reviewers are fans of Trader Joe's, they take reviewing seriously — their first review was even negative. They rate products on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the best. For any post, two people rate the product, giving their overall impression and up to five points each.

So, after six months of reviewing Trader Joe's products, what is good? "My all-time favorite product is probably the strawberry kiwi juice," Nathan said. "I am a sweet beverage fiend. And Russ, the snack expert, likes the peanut brittle best of all." As for their least favorite products, Nathan noted that "Russ was most disappointed with the whole grain hard pretzel sticks. My least favorite product was the no-tomato chicken lasagna."

Here are the site's the top five picks for Trader Joe's products in five categories — beverages, desserts, sauces and soups, international entrées, and snacks — with explanations for their top picks.

 

Beverages:

1. Trader Joe's Strawberry Kiwi Juice (10 points): "This beverage lets the natural flavors of both the kiwi and the strawberry through. The taste is complex enough for an adult to enjoy, but it's sweet enough for a Kool-Aid-craving kid."

2. Trader Joe's Pomegranate Limeade (10 points)

3. Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon Cider (9 points)

4. Trader Joe's Pomegranate Green Tea (8.5 points)

5. Trader Joe's Organic Strawberry Lemonade (8.5 points)

 

Desserts:

1. Trader Joe's Peach and Blueberry Panna Cotta (9 points): "Trader Joe's managed to mass-produce a frozen version of a classic Italian dessert that's served in five-star restaurants, and very little is lost in their adapted version."

2. Trader Joe's Old-Fashioned Donut O's (9 points)

3. Trader Joe's Caribbean Fruit Floes (9 points)

4. Trader Joe's Mini Eclairs (8 points)

5. Joe-Joe's n' Cream Flavored Ice Cream (8 points)

 

Sauces and Soups:

1. Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Bisque (10 points): "Most of Trader Joe's sauces and soups do a good job of meeting or exceeding the quality of comparable products from other brands, but the flavor and consistency of their tomato bisque beats that of any tomato soup I've ever had, hands down."

2. Trader Ming's General Tsao Stir Fry Sauce (9.5 points)

3. Trader Jose's Chunky Salsa (9.5 points)

4. Trader Joe's Vegetarian Chili (8.5 points)

5. Trader Joe's Jalapeño Pepper Hot Sauce (8 points)

 

International Entreés:

1. Trader Ming's Mandarin Orange Chicken (9.5 points): "Orange chicken is the quintessential Chinese dish. Trader Ming's version not only beats other frozen varieties, but it rivals what they serve in many sit-down Asian restaurants."

2. Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala (9.5 points)

3. Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo (9.5 points)

4. Trader Joe's Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons (9 points)

5. Trader Ming's Chicken Shu Mai (8.5 points)

 

Snacks:

1. Trader Joe's Peanut Brittle (10 points): "Again, Trader Joe's not only met expectations by offering their own version of a product, but they gave us a natural peanut brittle at a reasonable price, with a texture and taste that's actually an improvement over other brands."

2. Trader Joe's Baked Jalapeño Cheese Crunchies (8
points)

3. Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snack (8 points)

4. Trader Joe's Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks (8 points)

5. Trader Jose's Super Seeded Tortilla Chips (8 points)


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143 Comments

Aaron Morphet's picture

don't know what category it fits but cookie butter needs to be on here

becfin's picture

we never leave a Joe's without Thai green sauce in a jar, Tuscan bread, their butter, Greek yogurt,great coffee - coffe's how they got their start. Very good olive oil, the Silician is great. and the wonderful (not to eat) lavender sachets to throw in the dryer. When they've had a few rides, you sprinkle on the carpet and vacuum it up. Trader Joe's O's - their take on Cheerios - are good, not as salty as the originals. The frozen gyoza are good. Frozen pizza isn't bad with a little doctoring up.

Not good at Joe's: the frozen fish. No flavor. The meat - I don't want all that gloppy sauce. They stopped carrying US lamb a couple of years ago. NZ and Aussie lamb is too sheepy. It's hard to buy a simple piece of beef that hasn't had a bath of icky "sauce" or marinade, most of them too sweet.Their produce is generally unpleasant and picked over, not kept well. It is not a store for cooks.

Cookie's picture

Check out the Fooducate App on your Smartphone. It rates products by nutritional value. TJ Chunky Salsa is rated a B- for having low Vitamin C compared to other Salsa like those from Tostitos. So where are those tomatoes coming from?
I really like TJ products but will be scanning them in the future to compare to other products for nutrition as well as taste.

goodfriends's picture

the pumpkin butter on waffles with greek yogurt is to die for!!!!

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unfortunately that site doesn't have any photos of what the food actually looks like - I know it won't be anything like the box so please take a photo and show it thank you.

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I'm fortunate to be a vegan, and I buy a number of prepared plant-based foods at TJ's, including desserts, like their scrumptious cherry chocolate frozen soy cream and a variety of their dark chocolate bars. However, I'm not pleased that they use palm oil in some of their vegan sweets, like those filled maple leaf cookies I used to eat. Palm oil production involves the destruction of elephant habitat. There's also a health question about whether palm oil is good for you.

In the area of entrees, I highly recommend their frozen masala burgers, corn and black bean burritos and vegan tamales as well as the kung pao noodles that come in a cute little red cardboard package, and their Indian spicy chickpea concoction that's packaged in a metallic envelope. I even like TJ's instant coffee, and my dogs love the peanut butter cookies and the canned dog food. My cats eat the canned tuna, and the dog kibble's not bad either. My husband buys their sourdough bread; I prefer their whole wheat pita. I could go on . . .

I'm happy TJ's exists, although it's always a hassle to shop there because of the crowds.

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While I deeply respect the bloggers work sampling and rating items at TJ's, why don't they just pour a bottle of chili sauce over everything and just call it quits?

Their rankings, ratings, and palate have all been burned out on the chilis and are unable to savor more subtle flavors. There are other flavors that excite the tongue and palate, but they are difficult to discern when your mouth is burning from chili heat.

Some day the chili fad will be over, and we can all go back to enjoying the flavors of food, rather than their heat.

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Must. Try. TJ's. Turkey Chile. In a can. Awesome. Jsut add a couple squirts of Tabsaco and it's good to go.

maureenparziale's picture

Looking forward to the Daily Meal postings!

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I love that they have lots of gluten free items

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one of my favorites were the frozen seeded rolls. they've been discontinued. we recently went to Germany and they were served for breakfast everyday. wish they would bring them back.
** gotta try the dark chocolate peanut butter cups**

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love the jalepeno humus!

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THE CORN SALSA IS THE BEST ! I ADD IT TO EVERYTHING.
MIX WITH CREAM CHEESE AND CRABMEAT FOR A FAB DIP

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The Dijon mustard is great -- very pungent, so only a little is necessary for great flavor. Kerrygold Irish butter sells for a very reasonable price. Milk is very inexpensive and the TJ's Greek-style yogurt is a good value.

I don't buy any of the prepared foods.

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TJ'S should have their frozen products reduce the sodium. They do have reduced sodium soups and they are quite good. Everyone has salt at home so why overload your products?

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The "no Artificial flavors or preservatives" is where your salt problem comes in. What is a natural preservative they have available to use? Salt. :/

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What's good - NOTHING!

Except the staff who are all wonderful.

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Re: cheese: buy recently packed aged cheese (eg cheddar) then remove shrink wrap, rinse, wipe, them rewrap. Only way I can afford yummy cheddar. Makes me so angry to see rows of moldy cheese in their cases!

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I cut the cheese into 1 1/2 oz pieces that I freeze. I always have one piece defrosted and ready to use. Works great for me.

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What I loved when I lived close to a Trader Joe's (OKC is not close - there's not a TJ in the state of Oklahoma. Heck, we even have some liberals, but not TJ):
Vanilla meringue cookies, red bell pepper spread, seedy little something cookies, honey soy sticks, gingersnaps with pieces of crystallized ginger...

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What about the sea salt brownies???? tThey are by far the best thing at Trader Joes!

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This doesn't say a lot about their international products being reviewed by white people.

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lots of kosher products - great! but almost ALL of the drinks dont have a kosher symbol.... please get them on the kiwi strawberry... the lemonade... etc. best product there? their chocolate chips!!

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What about Jo-Jos?! The TJ Oreos equivalent!? My English teacher used to reward students with a Jo-Jo if we answered a really difficult question/gave an interesting answer in class discussion. YUMMMMM.......

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I personally prefer the Joe Joes over Oreos. I didn't think I would find a sandwich cookie I like more then Oreos let alone one I would like more. yum

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I wish Trader Joe's still carried the little chocolate chip cookies called "Righteous Rounds." They were made using a low-heat process and actually had nutritional value and not much fat.

They were crunchy, had a good amount of little chocolate chips, and satisfied that cookie/sweet/dessert craving.

Trader Joe's, bring back my Righteous Rounds! Or at least publish recipes/sources of your discontinued products!

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Never had a problem with ripened triple or double cream cheeses, just think ahead! We have no proper cheese shops (that I know of) like London, NY, Europe. But they do have great selection at a great price. Stilton, Irish & NZ cheddars, ridiculously cheap compared to elsewhere. Pie crust great, cottage cheese, the only one in LA I like (Winn Dixie still all time best). Wine, frozen Mexican stuff, pasta (Italian & cheap), European chocolate and biscuits, OJ, eggs, bread, I get everything there at much less than Ralphs. The mushroom truffle flatbread pizza is fabulous, and frozen chocolate bananas! Artichokes all year, love TJ's! Only thing weird was that Thai green curry simmer sauce! But their frozen green curry tastes like it should, that sauce just has no Thai flavors at all> Strange.

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Coffee is boring at best. Cheeses are abundant and the chevre is a good buy, however, I dare anyone to find a good ripe piece of brie. There is no such thing as ripe cheese at Traders. I hate veggies that are prepackaged and wrapped tighter than the skin on a babies rear end. I do love Plugra butter. It's a good deal. Beer pricing seems pretty good , but the thing I detest about Trader's is that you cannot rely on them for a specific product. It just isn't always there. And again, you may think they have a wonderful cheese selection, but you get unripened, springy, sometimes rubbery cheeses. Gimme' French unpasturized properly ripened cheese and I will love you.

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I love TJ! Meats are pricey BUT organic and no preservatives/hormones. I have found many items that my son likes and he does have a peanut/wheat/corn/soy allerg. Love their greek yogurts, all natural wheat bread, onion rings (funyuns a better version), cheese puffs, mini pizzas, soyaki teriyaki sauce, sunflower butter, organic peanut butter and jams. Eggs are greatly priced. Also, love the baked goods such as frostings, cake mixes and pancake batter.

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I Love Trader Joes in LA while visiting my sister we went there 3 X a week
PLEASE BRING ONE TO SOUTH FLORIDA.

MAE IN COCONUT CREEK FLORIDA.

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