I Tried Trader Joe’s Best-Selling Pasta — And I Have Some Thoughts

published May 16, 2022
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I buy a new package of pasta every time I go to the grocery store, even though my cabinets are already overflowing with boxes and bags of specialty noodles. I can’t help it; pasta is a delicious, quick, and relatively affordable base for many weeknight meals. I prefer traditional semolina wheat pasta, but I’ve been known to dabble in gluten-free options, like pasta made from lentils, peas, or brown rice. Which brings me to this Hearts of Palm Pasta from Trader Joe’s.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta, $3.49 for 9 ounces

I recently learned that Trader Joe’s best-selling pasta isn’t a pasta at all. Well, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s made from hearts of palm (not dough), which means it’s naturally gluten-free. I’ve been shopping at TJ’s for years — and yet I’d never tried this offering. How did I miss this?

Let’s back up a quick second: Hearts of palm are the tender inner core of palm trees. I’ve eaten them before, and in those cases, they were seared and served like scallops. I couldn’t imagine how they would translate to pasta, or if they’d actually satisfy my need for noodles. So naturally, I decided to cook a package. In the name of research! 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Luckily, my local Trader Joe’s had plenty of packages (apparently the hearts of palm pasta is so sought-after, it routinely sells out). I tossed a 9-ounce box in my cart and $3.49 later, I was the proud owner of one of the hottest-ticket items at TJs. 

The box notes that unlike most dried pastas, this should not be boiled before cooking. Simply add it to the sauté pan with a sauce of your choosing, and mix it all together for a few minutes. Voilà: pasta! I decided to keep things ultra simple and toss it with olive oil, fresh parsley, and a bit of aged cheese. I wanted the noodles to really shine. So did they?

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

My Honest Review of Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta

There are definitely some positive qualities to this pasta, but there was also plenty in the cons column. For starters, I found the vacuum-packaging to be a little off-putting. These noodles are basically ready to eat — unliked dried semolina pasta — so this airtight packaging makes sense. But they oozed from the bag into the pan in, well, not my favorite way. (I would recommend cutting a small hole in the bag and draining the excess liquid out over the sink before adding the pasta to the pan.)

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

Now on to the taste: My favorite pastas are cooked al dente, with a slightly springy texture. In contrast, the hearts of palm noodles are fibrous and tough. (Which wasn’t surprising; a 3-ounce serving contains 7% of your daily fiber. All that rough stuff comes at a cost.) They required a lot of chewing, which caused my brain to associate the experience with “not pasta.”

They’re also pretty sweet, with a scent and flavor that dominates the rest of the ingredients. TJ’s says it’s a “mild” tasting pasta, but I don’t agree. I do think that olive oil was a bad choice and I could see this being more palatable with a heftier sauce, like marinara.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

I am happy to report that the noodles did hold their shape well, and passed my fork-twirl test. Calorie count is not a consideration to me when choosing food, but if it’s important in your meal planning, you’ll want to know that these contain 20 calories per serving (before sauce, of course).

Overall, I do understand the hype. The hearts of palm pasta is vegan, gluten-free, and easy to prepare. But with so many other amazing pasta options available — both traditional and gluten-free — this is not the first box I’ll be reaching for the next time I want a plate of spaghetti. 

Have you tried these? Do you agree or disagree with my review?