We Asked 3 Pastry Chefs to Name the Best Store-Bought Croissants, and They All Said the Same Thing
Any way you slice them (or rip into ‘em), croissants are a thing of a beauty. Those light, laminated layers are a genuine work of art. At any point in time, we all should do ourselves a big favor and be dusted in flaky croissant crumbs, wrapped up in a rapture of butter, flour, and dedication.
Making croissants from scratch is a decidedly different story. Not many of us, including pastry chefs, are huge fans of the task. “I am not a proponent of making croissants at home,” says Miroslav Uskovic, the executive pastry chef for Gramercy Tavern. “I encourage everyone to do it once — for most people, that is the last time they ever do it.”
In the interest of tracking down the best croissants you can pick up like that (imagine me snapping my fingers here), I tracked down all the pastry chefs and recipe developers I could find to suss out which grocer has the most “homemade” hook-up. Like you might expect, it was a passionate debate amongst the chefs, but ultimately they landed on two beloved retailers: Trader Joe’s (for frozen croissants) and Costco (ready-to-eat in the bakery section).
Best Frozen Croissants: Trader Joe’s
“Trader Joe’s croissants are delicious for a frozen croissant if you’re willing to put in a little work to enjoy them [— they require overnight proofing],” says Michelle Palazzo, the director of pastry operations at Frenchette and Frenchette Bakery in New York City.
No matter the size or filling, TJ’s croissants more than prove they’re worth the proofing time: “Trader Joe’s Mini Croissants are also pretty good but small, as the name indicates,” says Uskovic. “This is a great option for a family dinner if you want to upgrade your crescent roll game.” Another popular pick? The chocolate croissants (I’m particularly fond of the double chocolate variety). “I *LOVE* Trader Joe’s frozen croissants — especially the chocolate ones! They’re as good as any from a bakery,” says Michelle Lopez, the baker and blogger behind Hummingbird High.
Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s 8 Mini Croissants, $5.49 for 8 mini croissants at Trader Joe’s
Best Ready-to Eat Croissants: Costco
And if you needed a croissant yesterday? Costco’s pastry chef-approved croissants have you covered. “For store-bought, ready-to-go croissants, you can’t beat the Costco ones,” says Palazzo. “They’re amazing for the price and you can freeze any leftovers or turn them into other treats, like bread pudding or French toast.”
For some, Costco’s croissants satisfy a different feeling. “It’s a nostalgic thing for me,” says Uskovic, who is also a fan of Costco’s pre-baked croissants. “I grew up in former Yugoslavia, where croissants were very popular, but different from the fancy butter versions found in French artisanal bakeries. Croissants of my childhood were soft and squishy, often enjoyed alongside cured meats and cheese or as a sandwich bread. That is still how I prefer my croissant.”
Chrissy Camba, a pastry chef and Top Chef alum who is also team Trader Joe’s/Costco, even has her own favorite hack to achieve bakery-perfect croissants at home: the steam function on her Tovala smart oven (which conveniently bakes with a short steam cycle after it scans a product’s barcode, like magic). “I used to work at a bakery,” Camba explains. “And what I noticed is if you do a hit of steam at the beginning of a baking cycle for a short amount of time, it helps it rise.” Of course, standard ovens don’t have their own steam function, but you can mimic this by placing a small pan of water in your oven for about a minute at the beginning of your bake.
From there, Trader Joe’s or Costco’s croissants become the ultimate canvas for filling with Nutella, brushing with butter, or topping with something savory (like everything bagel seasoning) or sweet (like chocolate sprinkles). As for me? I’m taking this advice for my next batch: “I really enjoy making twice-baked pistachio croissants with day-old pastry. I fill the pastry with a pistachio frangipane filling and rebake it,” says Palazzo.
Find it in stores: Kirkland Signature Butter Croissants, $7.49 for 12 croissants at Costco
Are you team Costco or Trader Joe’s (or both)? Tell us about it in the comments below.