Kitchn Love Letters

The $4 “Beloved” Trader Joe’s Grocery I’ll Never Buy Again

published Jul 11, 2024
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trader joes bag with goods on kitchen counter
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling; Tom Hoerup

One of my favorite things about working at Trader Joe’s probably won’t surprise anyone who’s shopped there. It was the many — I’m talking hundreds of — free samples! On any given day, just beyond the swinging doors to the employee-only area, there’s a gaggle of TJ’s crew members snacking their way through an assortment of samples mostly to familiar themselves with new or returning items.

On any odd afternoon, you might have found me eating four kinds of meatballs, three different popsicles, and a few slices of deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey. (To this day, you’ll find a ton of the grocer’s best items in my kitchen.) There is one thing you’ll never catch me eating from Trader Joe’s ever again: the store’s wildly popular Speculoos Cookie Butter. Allow me to explain.

I’ve witnessed more than a few customers drive across state lines to load up on the viral favorite, after hearing about it from social media or friends lucky to have Trader Joe’s nearby. The Speculoos Cookie Butter also holds a significant space in the hearts of resellers, too —  I’ve seen whole shelves of the $4 jars cleared out by solo shoppers who then charge more than triple the price for a single jar online.

So let me say it: Step away from the shelf (or your online shopping cart). The sweet spread does not deserve the hype! 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

Why I’ll Never Buy Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Again

I once really loved experimenting with it, particularly while baking when I was in college (roughly when Cookie Butter became a cinnamon-spiced, decadent phenomenon). I’d fold the crunchy, ginger-spiked paste into cake donuts (topped with a cookie butter icing, obvi), layer it into cakes, and eat it off a spoon when debating what to make for dinner. For a time, we lived in harmony. But one jar was more than enough. 

The idea of cookie cutter makes sense to me, of course (spicy-sweet Speculoos cookies crumbled into a nut butter-esque paste along with oil and sugar). It just could be so. much. better.

My critique of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter boils down to my gripes about most sweets in the U.S.; it’s a very one-note experience. I taste overt sweetness and nothing else. In fact, this is a thing I’d love to consult Trader Joe’s on specifically (I’m available. Call me!). 

I want to taste something besides sugar when I’m eating dessert. And, before you think it, I’m not afraid of sugar! It’s crucial when amping up — or mellowing — a bit of brightness, richness, or spice. The Speculoos Cookie Butter, in my humble opinion, lacks the dimension (a bit of tart lemon would be amaaaaazing) to keep this exciting bite after bite. And for that I’m out.

Is there a Trader Joe’s item you’ll never buy again? Tell us about it in the comments.