I got an email today from Trader Joe's about their annual survey of most loved food items. In fact, they do this every year. That had me thinking: Where is the list of things we don't like and don't care for? In the spirit of "out with the old and in with the new", here is my take on the worst things I've tried at Trader Joe's. I've done nearly 1,000 Trader Joe's reviews. No, I haven't tried it all. Not even close. But from what I have tried and written about I've got enough to choose from.
This is completely unscientific and my own humble opinion. It is also the opinions of those who shared their thoughts with me as well.
While I have liked, if not loved, most of what I've tried here on this blog, there have been some that have stood out in all the wrong ways. I did also put it out there to my followers on Instagram to see what they said. Their thoughts and commentary follow. If you have something you would like to add, then feel free to leave a comment at the end. I can't wait to see what made your "Trader No" list.
The Worst Things I've Tried
This list is presented to you in no particular order. As they popped into my mind, they were added to the list.
No surprises here with Trader Joe's Beef Cabbage Rolls. Here is something that I wished I could have un-smelled and not tasted the soggy cabbage leaves here. Most cabbage rolls I've had had a sauce. This one needed something. And with microwave only directions it did super weird things to the cabbage here. They also looked like a certain overused brown emoji.
The holiday season so often brings Trader Joe's A-Game. This year, this Spicy Shrimp Appetizer Duo just didn't measure up. The flavors were out of whack. I managed to consume two of these before they found their final resting place at the bottom of the trash can.
Now, when I posted this review I heard from a lot of employees of Trader Joe's that something had gone terribly wrong with this product. So bad that it appeared in the Fearless Flyer and then had to be pulled from shelves. Here are the undercooked balls of dough that had so much potential. Sorry Donut Bites, the ones I tried earned you a seat here. But I'm totally open to re-reviewing at a later date. I have a soft spot in my heart, tummy, and thighs for a rematch with any donut.
Sushi. The beauty of sushi is its freshness. No matter how many times I feel weak (read hungry) and the wrap section has been cleared toward closing time, I find myself reaching for sushi. This tale almost always ends up with regret and a trip to the drive through afterwards. You can see my review of Trader Joe's Tempura Shrimp Crunch Rolls here.
In the same section as the sushi, are a series of wraps. A series of calorie heavy, under-flavored and mildly soggy wraps. I always wondered why the tarragon chicken salad wrap was sitting there at the end of the day. I wonder no more. On a side note, it does seem that they are "redoing" the wraps at my store, so some of these might need to be re-reviewed.
In fact the ONLY wraps I'll pick up these days are Trader Joe's Cubano Wrap and the Bean and Cheese Burrito. Otherwise, I don't want to be bothered with them until they make the wraps better. I'm happy to eat my words, if the end product is better.
The bar that bites back. This one is on the list on sheer design flaws. I think they wanted a bar for Jaws and not one that actually fit into your jaw.
It ain't easy being green. And this combo of Pesto and Gouda just didn't work.
Here is another item where the combination didn't work and the picture from the box couldn't be further from reality. This must have been a talented food stylist to pull off that photo. You can read my review of the Wild Salmon in Yogurt and Mint Sauce here (and see some real pictures of the product).
Another case of poor execution. The cheese here is fine, but tread lightly with the marinade. There is nothing quite as taste deadening as a bunch of black peppercorns freshly ground. In your mouth. As you chew. You can read my review of Trader Joe's Goat’s Milk Cheese Medallions Marinated in Herbs here.
And yes, there have been failed desserts. This molten salted butterscotch macaron had so much potential. But it left molten and just had a burnt sugar taste to it.
Apple Pie Cheddar Cheese. Who approved this? Thankfully, I haven't seen it on shelves since.
The now discontinued Clams and Mussels are another item that just didn't make the grade. Too many broken shells. It just didn't work.
Look at those shrimp on that bag. Boy are you going to be disappointed when you open the bag. So much heat, so little shrimp in this Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice.
Chicken Piccata. There are some people who love this. I can not be counted among the fans. It looked terrible. For me, the taste wasn't much better. And yes, most chicken in the refrigerated aisle leave something to be desired. Even basics like Chicken Parm have been somewhat rubbery at best.
This had so, so, so very much potential. I had dreams of carrot cake cookie butter. I felt lied to. Ok, maybe if i had read the jar before sticking it in my mouth, I wouldn't have felt that way. Who am I kidding? This was NOT my thing.
The Time the Comment Section Clearly Felt I Got Things Wrong
There are times as the author, your readers send you a resounding message in the comments section that you got things egregiously wrong. Now, I never tried the original product and that is where the conflict is. Originally, the product that preceded this one required it to rise overnight. The new bag doesn't require that. Which product is in question? Trader Joe's 8 Mini Croissants. You can read the full review here (and all the comments too).
Readers Respond with their Worst of List
Right before the holidays hit (ok, before Halloween) I put it out to my followers on Instagram to get a feel for their thoughts. They were very generous in sharing their thoughts (many of which were completely unfiltered). Because of the holidays and all the new items hitting shelves, this article did get pushed off. Here is what those who responded shared with me. And there were lots of green, sick emojis on some of the comments people sent me:
This little box also got an honorable mention from a few commenters. It was ready in two minutes and tasted like it was. It was mushy noodles with a not so great pad thai sauce. In fact, one follower wrote in, "They used to have these fake Asian take out boxes in the dry good section that SUCKED."
Another reader wrote in, "Teriyaki Chicken from the frozen area-I look one bite and threw it out." I've only bought Trader Joe's BBQ Chicken Teriyaki once. For the review.
This veggie panang curry had its share of haters too.
The dislike was real for this Seafood Paella too:
One reader chimed in about the Honey Walnut Shrimp and said, "The shrimp alone were great but the sauce was disgusting!"
Even the humble silver dollar pancakes weren't safe. One reader called them "yucky."
And then some readers admit to an unpopular opinion
And yes, this hit my inbox and made me laugh, "The Cauliflower Gnocchi! I know everyone loves it but it tastes like a ball of paste!" I love it, but there is a solid crowd who don't care for it one bit. And yes, having an unpopular opinion of a Trader Joe's product could be an article all by itself.
While I've tried nearly 1,000 items at Trader Joe's (and no, I'm not sponsored, paid, affiliated, or work for them), this list is pretty short all things considered. Trader Joe's has brought us a lot of value, easy, affordable and tasty items.
But they just all can't be winners. I still applaud them for trying and can't wait to see what they bring us this year. And yes, 2018 did bring us a fair share of winners too.
Cheers to 2019 and (hopefully) not adding anything to this list.
Did I miss anything? Sound off about what you've like the least over the years. I haven't tried or reviewed everything (yet), so I'd love your take on things!