The pros: Trader Joe's Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels has returned to the frozen section.
The cons: Does not live up to the previous bag that looks so strangely familiar to this one. Consider this a review 2.0. Unless you are serving this with rice the package of sauce will drown the morsels.
The verdict: Welcome to a very rare review of a product I've already tried. Normally, I wouldn't post stuff like this. I would perhaps take updated pictures like I did for the Blueberry Waffles. Yes, the ingredients changed, but the overall product remained pretty close to the original. Not here. No way.
Previously, I had tried Trader Joe's Chickenless Mandarin Morsels. I loved them. They mimicked chicken very well. They were delicious. I personally preferred them over the non-vegan Orange Chicken. Now, I'd reach for the orange chicken any day over this new variety.
When I first saw on social media that these were going to be returning I was so excited. They had been off of shelves for about a year. It's one of those foods where I had some solid food memories because I had bought it so many times. When they finally appeared at my local Trader Joe's I grabbed a bag and couldn't wait to pop them into my toaster oven. When I opened the bag, I knew something was different.
These were smaller. Less chicken nugget like. They were greasier too. A lot of oil was sitting there on the parchment paper. I took my first bite. It was like biting into chicken that had been microwaved, but it was vegan chicken. I immediately came to the conclusion that these are different.
A quick glance over the ingredients confirmed what I had suspected: they ingredients are different. Thus, the recipe has changed. Yes, the picture has been updated and yes, the new ones look like the picture. But oh the taste. Rubbery greasy vegan chicken. The sauce was alright, but no where nearly as good as I remembered. I remember it being much thicker to coat. This sauce needed to be a bit thicker like a glaze.
Yes, the glaze had a touch of heat and had an orangey flavor to it, but it just isn't the same. Worse, the packaging looks just too close to the original. I don't mind freshening up a package, but please, it should be close to the original. Otherwise, pick a new design. Let me know that what I'm getting isn't what I remember.
For $3.29, the price did rise slightly and I would be ok with that if they were the same. They're not. They aren't inedible, but they aren't great either. I'm sure this will have a following in the vegan community, but if you tried the previous rendition in the extremely similar packaging back in 2016, then brace yourself to be disappointed in these. If you remember original you won't be saying to yourself "winner, winner vegan chicken dinner." They're not terrible. They just are not the originals.
Here is the visual run down of what you get if you buy this product:
The bag of Trader Joe's Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels:
The nutritional information:
How to prepare:
After being cooked you get:
Would I buy this again? No, I would not buy Trader Joe's Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels again. They've changed the recipe. I'll be willing to repurchase these if/when they go back to the old recipe.
Want to see more items I've reviewed from Trader Joe's? Click on Thoughts & Reviews of Trader Joe’s for a searchable list.
Did you try it? Let me know what you think in the comments section!
Thanks so much for doing this 2.0 review. As I mentioned recently on the review you did on this product a while back I was thinking about trying the vegan version. Phew- I'm glad I didn't and now won't. I'll stick with the cluck cluck if I get a hankering for Mandarin Chicken.
Why mess with the original? Should had kept the original recipe.
Hey Alek! I much agree, I saw rumors online that these had a new manufacturer and therefore a new recipe (which might explain the hiatus), but I can't neither confirm or deny that.
TJ's should go back to the drawing board and get a better manufacturer that can nail the original recipe. I just had it for lunch and did not like the new recipe. Slightly more chewier and missing that crispness.
Hey Alek! I'm bummed out that you had the same experience I did. Wish it were the old ones 🙁 Thanks for getting back to me so soon!
I just got these to try this week, and was hoping they would be good 🙁
Hey Carson! If you've never had them before, they're ok. But I'm not sure if you had the original ones back in 2016. These aren't inedible, but they just did not live up to the originals for me. I'd still love for you to share your thoughts!
When Trader Joe's stopped selling these I switched to Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n and I think they taste like the old TJ's version.
Hey Britanee! Good to know! Any suggestions for a sauce to make up for that missing element?
I think the previous version actually was made by Gardein for TJs. The chickenless tenders that TJs sells are literally Gardein.
I’m vegetarian and don’t eat a lot of faux meats but once in a while that mandarin orange chickenless bag would hit the spot- there is no such thing as a faux meat option at my neighborhood chinese take out.
The new version certainly isn’t the same, but without anything to compare it to and using less sauce (maybe they give you extra to have this over rice?) it still works for a quick cheap vegetarian chinese take out kind of meal. Although next time I’m thinking to buy the chickenless strips, cut into chunks and toss with that sweet chili sauce...
Hey Ttrockwood! I love the Sweet Chili Sauce. Interestingly enough, TJs sauce has about half the calories of the ones I found at my local Asian grocery store HMart. Plus it did not seem as sweet. In either case, that sounds like a better suggestion. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!