summer

We Taste-Tested a Random Assortment of Trader Joe’s New Summer Groceries (and Have Mixed Feelings)

updated Jun 12, 2019
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Credit: Lauren Masur

Every single time I complete a TJ’s New Item Haul (in order to share my very official opinions with Kitchn readers), I swear the contents of each basket get wackier and wackier. It’s a good thing the crew members there are always so nice because I never feel judged for leaving the store with nothing but an assortment of condiments, limited-edition sauces, and chocolate-covered snacks. Trader Joe’s is a judgement-free zone!

Here is the not-at-all-cohesive selection of items I picked up this time … and my honest thoughts!

Credit: Lauren Masur

1. Honey Pale Ale Mustard, $2 for 7 ounces

Mustard is one of those things that TJ’s always seems to get right. Remember the limited-edition Blue Cheese Mustard they launched around the holidays? I know I do. It was then that I learned there is always room in the fridge for another mustard. (It helped that it was so good I ate it with a spoon!) This summery Honey Pale Ale version is super spoon-worthy too, although it’s sweeter and, when paired with carbs, it gives off giant-soft-pretzel-at-a-baseball-game vibes. I dipped pieces of a baguette into this jar and have zero regrets.

Credit: Lauren Masur

2. Spiced Chai Concentrate, $2.50 for 16 ounces

This chai concentrate might not seem super summery, but it is unreal. If your summer resolution is to cut down on your Starbucks habit, we guarantee that this ingredient will get you wanting to DIY your daily caffeine fix. I put a serving of this over ice along with a hefty pour of oat milk, and it was the iced chai latte of my dreams.

Credit: Lauren Masur

3. Creamy Pink Primavera Pasta Sauce, $4 for 16 ounces

I had a fully formed opinion about this hot pink pasta sauce before I even tasted it, and it was not a good one. Don’t get me wrong — I love all things pink, but pasta sauce probably shouldn’t look like my grandma’s favorite shade of lipstick. Alas, I gave it a try over a bed of whole-grain gnocchi pillows.

Credit: Lauren Masur

As you can see, I was not exaggerating about the pink situation. Despite my snap judgment, this tangy sauce actually makes for a yummy pasta topper. It contains beet, carrot, ginger, onion, and cauliflower purée, plus heavy cream and a hint of citrus, making for an unexpected flavor combo. Give it a try at least once — even just to say you tried pink pasta sauce.

Credit: Lauren Masur

4. TJ’s Ghost Chile BBQ Sauce, $3 for 19 ounces

My love for spicy food is fairly tepid. I enjoy it when I happen to be confronted with a spicy situation, but I’m not what you’d call a “heat seeker.” Enter: this extremely spicy barbecue sauce — so spicy that my cashier even warned me about its heat level before ringing it up! After tasting, I can confirm that while it is SUPER spicy, that heat is balanced by a ton of sweetness. This would be great to zhuzh up grilled chicken or a rack of ribs. Use it sparingly.

Credit: Lauren Masur

5. Dark Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels, $3.50 for 12 ounces

Trader Joe’s has always offered chocolate-covered pretzels, but they recently announced that they switched producers for this salty-sweet snack and claim that they taste even better. I did not do a side-by-side comparison (because the old version is no longer available), but can confirm that they tasted great.

These are super chocolatey and I couldn’t limit myself to the serving size (five pretzels!). My one criticism? These are not mini. Not that I have a problem with that. Just know that they’re regular size!

Credit: Lauren Masur

6. Green Tea Mochi, $4.50 for six

Because my last Trader Joe’s mochi experience (mochi CAKE mix) was such a pleasant surprise, I fully expected to love the green tea mochi — a new addition to the freezer aisle. If you love green tea or its stronger sister, matcha, you’ll love this green tea ice cream encased in sweet rice dough. I’m new to mochi and am still getting used to the texture, but my guess is that hardcore mochi fans will be all over this newcomer.

Credit: Lauren Masur
Credit: Lauren Masur

7. Cold Pressed Organic Green Juice, $6 for 32 ounces

Out of everything in my latest haul, this green juice was the biggest dud. And before you accuse me of implicit bias against green juice, I will have you know that I have a green smoothie for breakfast every single morning, so I am not afraid of drinkable kale!

Credit: Lauren Masur

I know that this is not unique to TJ’s green juice in particular, but the separation of the little juice solids from the liquids was pretty unappetizing. (See above.) Once I shook it up and gave it a try, I felt like I had to plug my nose to swallow it down! This is a super-virtuous green juice: It has only 4 grams of sugar per serving, and the only thing to cut all that greenery is a hint of apple juice, a small squeeze of a lemon wedge, and a SINGLE TEASPOON of mint tea. Here are the ingredients as listed on the side of the bottle.

Credit: Lauren Masur

Point is, I’d rather eat a salad than drink one, so I’m going to sit this one out.

Which of these are you most excited to try?