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Trader Joe's: Perfectly-Rated, Overrated, and Underrated

A look at the beloved grocery chain’s unique products

Written by: Abigail Preiszig

A combination of beautifully-painted signs, intriguing food displays and the sometimes overly-friendly employees are all a part of the Trader Joe’s experience that we have come to know and love. Trader Joe’s has become a phenomenon in our culture and their grocery stores provide a unique and fun alternative to the standard grocery store. What is normally considered to be just a weekly trip to the grocery store becomes exciting with their collection of quirky products. They bring together unique food combinations alongside their food items from around the world.

The grocery chain began in 1967 with the first location in Pasadena, California. The mastermind of Trader Joe’s was the titular Joe himself. According to CNN, Joe Coloumbe was a Stanford graduate and convenience store owner in Los Angeles who sought to reach a “well-traveled,” and “well-educated” crowd that would appreciate the unique products that the grocery chain had to offer. Now, over 50 years later, TJ’s has grown to 500 locations in 42 states and has also become the culprit of internet virality, with many of their products “going viral” on social media platforms such as TikTok.

I personally have become a huge fan of the grocery chain. My semi-weekly trips to TJ’s have become an essential in my life. I always have a plethora of frozen meals and snacks in my kitchen for convenient and tasty meals throughout the week. I suppose you can say I have been “influenced” by the trends and grocery hauls I have seen on social media to try many of the varying products that TJ’s has to offer. I do not claim to be an expert, but I would like to say that my passion for their products allows me to have a say in what products are a bop and which ones are simply a flop. Here we discuss some of TJ’s perfectly rated, overrated, and underrated products.

Side note: This is all based on personal taste and preference. I suggest trying new things and all of the goodness that Trader Joe’s has to offer!

Overrated items:

Orange Chicken

  • I know this one is gonna make people mad because this item is so hyped up on social media. To compare this to Panda Express Orange Chicken is a crime. The chicken is dry with a strange texture and I didn’t like how overly sweet the sauce is. Please don’t hate me!

Outside-in Stuffed Gnocchi

  • I have not seen much talk about this product, but what the package promises is far from what you are getting. What we have here are large mushy balls filled with cheese in a mediocre sauce. Don’t buy these unless you want to be disappointed.

Chili Onion Crunch

  • The eggs cooked in Chili Onion Crunch, a chili oil that also features onion and garlic, that I saw all over TikTok had me sold on purchasing this product. Upon trying it, I wasn’t met with the flavor I hoped for and the texture it adds is unappealing. Perhaps I have not yet used this product to the best of its abilities, but I was generally underwhelmed by this item.

Hash Browns

  • People speak very highly of these hash browns and even compare them to McDonald’s hash browns, one of the crown jewels of the hash brown hierarchy. These hash browns do not even come close. I never seem to get the crispy and savory experience I want from these, but they are good to have on hand in terms of convenience.

Bamba Peanut Snacks

  • I don’t have much to say about these besides that they are boring in comparison to all of the other snacks TJ’s has to offer. They just taste like peanut butter, which is not particularly a bad thing, but I almost wish there was a hint of sweetness or just something else to them.

Perfectly-Rated items:

Unexpected Cheddar

  • The characteristics of aged cheddar and parmesan come together to make the perfect cheese! This cheese is an essential to any charcuterie board and is absolutely deserving of the hype it has earned.

Everything But The Bagel Seasoning

  • Although I do not believe Trader Joe’s invented EBTB seasoning, they most definitely popularized the pantry staple. I always have a bottle of this seasoning on deck to amp up my breakfast.

Chicken Soup Dumplings

  • I have seen these dumplings spoken about quite a lot on social media and they are no joke. The dough is tender and chewy; the broth in the center is rich and flavorful. They serve as a foolproof hangover cure and warm the soul on a cold day.

Chili Lime Rolled Corn Tortilla Strips

  • I think we can all agree these are superior to Takis. Although I love the kick that Takis bring, these are spicy without being too spicy and the lime flavor packs a punch.

Chocolate Croissants

  • These allow you to experience a freshly baked croissant in the comfort of your own home. Sometimes I forget that I left them out to rise overnight and I wake up to the most sweet surprise. Flaky, buttery and chocolatey is all you need to know.

Underrated items:

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

  • This gnocchi has become one of my favorite quick and easy dinner meals. The gnocchi is pillowy and chewy, and I like to jazz up the sauce with some seasonings and grated cheese. All around it is a delicious experience and a freezer staple.

Ghost Pepper Potato Chips

  • The waffle cut on these chips give you a different experience from the usual kettle-cooked style potato chip. The ghost pepper flavor is definitely there and they almost have a bit of smoky flavor. Spicy snack fans will not be disappointed with these.

PB and J Snack Duo

  • These have become one of my favorite snacks for a quick fulfilling snack on a busy day. The crispy peanut butter-filled wafers paired with the sweet raspberry jam is nostalgic and downright delicious.

Asiago Cheese with Rosemary and Olive Oil

  • This cheese has become one of my favorites to add to a charcuterie board. The taste of rosemary alongside the salty and flavorful cheese make for a wonderful pair.

Gyoza Dipping Sauce

  • This dipping sauce alongside the frozen gyoza pot stickers that TJ’s has to offer is a match made in heaven. It adds so much flavor to something that is already delicious on its own. I have even contemplated taking a little sip of it because I like it that much.


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