Some Trader Joe's snacks are much better than others.
Shopping at Trader Joe's is unlike any other grocery store experience. With so many private-label products that are made exclusively for Trader Joe's and sold nowhere else, it can be a little daunting to try and figure out what's worth your money and what isn't. That's why we've partnered with the folks behind the popular blog What's Good at Trader Joe's? to bring you the low-down.
"Most people would agree you can't do all your grocery shopping at Trader Joe's," Nathan Rogers, who runs the site with his wife Sonia and friend Russ Shelly, told us. "But snacks is one category they've got down pat. Whether you're looking for something 'lite' and low-cal or something ultra-indulgent, there's no better place than TJ's for your unique noshing needs and get-togethers."
We've tackled Trader Joe's many times in the past with the help of the blog -- you can find our Trader Joe's review roundups here, here, here, here, and here (and one devoted exclusively to drinks here) -- but snacks are a very special component of TJ's that are deserving of some extra-special attention. Trader Joe's is renowned for its snacks, but some are definitely better than others.
The What's Good at Trader Joe's? team (who have recently launched a great new podcast) divided the snacks into five categories: Best Summer Snacks, Best Party Snacks, Best Non-Traditional Salsas and Dips, Best Oddball Snacks, and Worst Overall. They chose their five favorites in each category (and five least favorites overall), and assigned them a score from one to ten. Some are delicious, some are OK, some left them scratching their heads entirely. But hopefully their field testing will allow you to make some smart decisions the next time you head out to your local TJ's.
#1: Best Summer Snacks
It's summertime -- better hit up the snack aisle to spend it in style. Whether you're at the beach, the mountains, or the backyard, TJ's is bound to have some perfect snackage ready to go.
Summer Snacks: Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Gelato -- 9.5/10
The Lemon Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream will always hold a special place in our hearts, but sadly, it's no longer with us. The Salted Caramel Gelato is, though, and man... smooth, creamy, and cold, with a perfect balance. Perfect for a hot, sticky night.
Summer Snacks: Trader Joe's Key Lime Pie -- 9/10
In a pinch for a dessert to take to a cookout? We dare you to try to pass this Key lime pie off as your own. Bright and citrusy with an unexpected touch of a delicious gingery crust, this pie is worth every bite.
Summer Snacks: Trader Joe's Organic Strawberry Lemonade -- 8/10
Sometimes, the best summer treat is a tall, cold glass of iced refreshment. Trader Joe's offers several different terrific fruity lemonades, but take it from us, the Organic Strawberry is the best. Perfect for after mowing the lawn, we wish this would fill the pools at the local water park. Just hope the kids won't pee in it.
Summer Snacks: Trader Joe's Zucchini Fries -- 7.5/10
This frozen variety isn't quite as good as homemade fries right from the backyard garden, but the taste is just good enough to conjure some fond memories of doing just that growing up. There's a good mix of crispy and squishy, but an accompanying dipping sauce would have put these over the top.
Summer Snacks: Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars II -- 7/10
Some summer nights ain't right without a frozen treat on a stick. Featuring an unusual (but tasty!) mix of grape, tangerine, and blood orange, these bars are one summer sequel you don't need to experience the original to appreciate.
Dan Myers, The Daily Meal