If you thought Trader Joe's had a lot of pumpkin-flavored stuff for fall, it might not surprise you to learn that the grocer has even more themed stuff for Thanksgiving. In addition to general ingredients you'd expect (turkey stock, turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, etc.), there are also tons of more surprising snacks, side dishes, and desserts. There's even a frozen Turkey & Stuffing en Croute (a Beef Wellington-like turkey tenderloin with sweet cornbread stuffing, rolled into puff pastry)!
I decided to try five of the most Thanksgiving-themed groceries ahead of time to see if I'd want to serve any at my family's celebration. (Note: I skipped the Turkey & Stuffing en Croute because I figured we'd want to have our traditional turkey.)
Here's what I tried — and what I thought.
1. Turkey & Stuffing Kettle Chips, $1.99 for seven ounces
"First you taste the turkey, then comes the stuffing. If you close your eyes, you'll swear you can taste the creamy gravy … even as you crunch," says the Fearless Flyer. I'm really not sure I agree. The chips smell slightly meaty and not in an off-putting way. After the first bite, though, I didn't want a second. It wasn't bad — I just didn't love. But then. Then! I just kept eating them. I ate this entire bowl. While I didn't get all those stages, as advertised, the chips did taste decidedly like Thanksgiving.
I would buy these again, if for no other reason than to use them as a little party trick to keep us occupied while the turkey grills (yes, we grill the turkey in my house ... well, technically, we do it outside).
2. Turkey Cranberry Meatballs, $4.49 for 16 ounces
I microwaved these in the interest of time (I needed to eat lunch before 3 p.m.) and think they'd be even better if I had actually baked them in the oven. They're hors d'oeuvre-sized and made with roasted turkey, dried cranberries, and a stuffing-like breadcrumb mix with chopped celery, onion, and herbs. I could actually see the pieces of onion and the cranberries! I ate a bunch plain for lunch (the glamorous life of an editor!) but will be buying another bag and plan on serving the meatballs with toothpicks and some Turkey Gravy. They actually don't feel THAT Thansksgiving-y to me, so I'm also considering bringing them to an annual Secret Santa party with all my friends.
3. Cornbread Stuffing Mix, $3.99
Usually I make my stuffing from scratch (using challah) with all sorts of mix-ins including butternut squash, walnuts, and salami (trust me, it's better than it sounds). So I was hesitant about this stuff. I made it on the stovetop (because I feel like that's the whole point of having boxed stuffing!) and it was incredibly easy to pull together. It had more flavor than I thought it would — thanks to the plentiful seasoning packet — and it was totally fine, although the cornbread doesn't really come through.
I'm sure I could add in some mix-ins and fun it up, but at that point I may as well cut up my own stale bread and do it my usual way. If you like boxed stuffing, this is better than most of the stuff we grew up with — it just doesn't feel special enough for Thanksgiving. I'd pass on buying this again.
4. Broccoli & Cauliflower Gratin, $3.99
This was so good! It was creamy and nutty, and the veggies tasted pretty fresh. We have a small Thanksgiving crowd and I'm still not sure this would be enough to serve all of us. It's okay, though, because I'd really rather keep this in the freezer and use as an emergency side for a weeknight dinner. I suggest you do the same.
5. Nantucket Style Cranberry Pie, $5.99
For a girl from New Jersey, I'm pretty into this New England dessert. It's part cobbler, part cake, and part pie — with cranberries on top! While the cranberries don't actually look anything like the picture on the box, the nutty pie tastes way better than it looks. Perhaps what I like about it the most is that you just have to take it out of the freezer and let it thaw (you can heat it in the oven — and serve it with ice cream — if you want). I'm actually headed to my friend's house for dinner tonight, so I'm going to bring this. Hopefully he won't mind that I snuck a little, er, decently large piece already.