I tried 15 of Trader Joe's seasonal summer products, and there are only 2 I wouldn't buy again
I tested 15 of Trader Joe's seasonal foods. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I've reviewed 15 seasonal summer products from Trader Joe's as part of an ongoing series.
Foods like the Key Lime Tea Cookies and Bloody Mary Salsa are becoming my summer staples.
Next time I'll pass on the cucumber chips and dark chocolate watermelon sticks.
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From versatile crispy pieces of jalapeño to delicious southern-style peach ice cream, Trader Joe's has many seasonal items for the summer.
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As part of an ongoing series reviewing Trader Joe's seasonal products, I've decided to check out the chain's 2021 summer deals.
Read on to find out which products I keep coming back for and which ones I will pass on next time.
The chocolate chips have upgraded Trader Joe's Hold the Cone treats significantly
I was really happy to try this taste. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Just when I thought Hold the Cone couldn't get any better, Trader Joe released this one.
The chocolate chips were a welcome addition, adding texture and subtle cocoa notes that didn't overwhelm the creamy vanilla interior.
As with the other flavors of this iconic treat, the ultra-smooth, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate coating inside the bag was still one of the best parts. It reminded me of the magic shell jars I asked my mom to buy when I was a kid.
The chocolate cones took this treat to the next level. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Trader Joe's could have left it at that and I would have been more than happy, but the chain knocked this upgrade out of the park by making the cones of chocolate as well.
You'd think it was too chocolaty, but the chips inside the vanilla ice cream complemented the richer, darker cocoa notes in the cone and bowl to create a harmoniously delicious treat.
JUDGMENT: As a Hold the Cone enthusiast, I highly recommend adding this product to your summer ice cream rotation.
These cones are the perfect size for a light after-dinner snack, and this flavor will satisfy people who hate chocolate ice cream but happily cover their vanilla sundae with chocolate sauce.
The lemon arugula salad is a light and refreshing lunch
This salad contained a nice variety of textures. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I know arugula has a bad rap for its strong, slightly bitter taste, but give this salad a try.
The astringent green of this salad wraps every bite with a strong, peppery taste that goes well with the delicious blend of nutty roasted almonds, sweet carrot ribbons and salty Parmesan flakes.
There weren't tons of toppings, but enough for you to notice the structural contributions.
All of this was tied with a lemon and basil vinaigrette, which tasted more like mustard dressing than either of the two ingredients mentioned, but somehow went perfectly with everything else.
I wish it had come with two packs of dressing. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
However, the salad could certainly have used more dressing. That's me again and I ask Trader Joe's to give us two packets of vinaigrette with each packaged salad.
Still, this salad tasted like something I'd pay $ 14 for in a swanky brunch restaurant.
Plus, it's available as an all-in-one meal set with no additional shopping, chopping, or cutting required.
Goodbye, boring mixed green salads - I've found my counterpart.
This salad would be perfect for a picnic. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
JUDGMENT: If I had a cool box, I would throw in this exact salad and take it with me for an outdoor lunch.
Given how much it would cost to buy each ingredient in this salad - like the almonds alone - it's worth $ 3.99.
The combination of powdered sugar, shortbread, and citrus in these lime tea biscuits was absolutely divine
Key Lime is an iconic summer flavor. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Trying these tea biscuits was a sensory snacking experience.
When I opened the box, I was greeted with the fresh, invigorating scent of Florida Key Limes - a nice preview of the bright, aromatic and all-round delicious snack experience.
The biscuits themselves were about the size of a silver dollar and just a bit thicker than a traditional waffle treat, giving them a delicate quality that would make them perfect for an outdoor picnic or afternoon tea, as the name aptly suggests.
These cookies tasted just like the middle of their cake of the same name. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Trader Joe absolutely nailed the shortbread texture.
Key-lime pie is often paired with a honey-sweet graham cracker crust, but the simple, buttery shortbread popped the citrus flavor and gave the cookies a soft but crumbly mouth feel.
Every bite was bursting with a refreshing lime flavor that tasted just like the center of the famous cake, and the dusting of powdered sugar enhanced the subtle sweetness of the citrus fruits.
CONCLUSION: These key lime tea biscuits were such a nice change from the usual chocolate or strawberry sweets that I enjoy in summer.
With their delicate texture and delicious lime flavor, these cookies will become my shopping cart staple for years to come - no tea party required.
This dill pickle mustard would add value to almost any summer sandwich
Trader Joe's dill pickle mustard was both flavorful and hot. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
This dill pickle mustard has it all. The herbaceous dill unfolded its full effect, almost relentlessly, and dominated every corner of my nose and taste buds, with a dash of spicy vinegar in tow.
Although dill was the dominant flavor, it didn't completely bury the hot, hearty mustard that was the perfect combo for this herb and made the whole mixture even spicier.
This mustard is flavored with dill and contains cucumber pieces. I liked the added texture.
It worked well on my barbecue chicken sandwich. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
It tasted great on my barbecue sandwich and I can imagine it will add value to any hot dog or hamburger, especially if you are a cucumber fanatic.
In and of itself, it's a little too spicy and strong, but most people don't just eat mustard by spoons.
JUDGMENT: This mustard was pretty good, but I can't see myself buying it more than every year or two.
However, the fun combination of pickles with aromatic dill and hot mustard makes this a great seasoning for any summer barbecue.
Trader Joe's pulled chicken in smoked hickory sauce was perhaps the best instant barbecue I've ever had
This chicken is ready to eat straight out of the box. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Not sure if it gets any better than tender chicken doused in a slightly smoky but sweet sauce.
Each pack of this item comes with a pound of ready-to-eat chicken in pieces just the right size to add to any dish, which I have appreciated as a working individual who doesn't always have time to prepare meals.
Everything is pre-cooked, but you can microwave the meat for two minutes if you prefer it warm.
This chicken was tender and moist. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
The tender and flavorful results made this option so much better than Trader Joe's year-round offerings that I don't even know why I'm cooking this summer.
Better yet, there was plenty of sauce, and this stuff tasted like liquid gold and stuck well to any piece of meat. It wasn't overly cute and had a refined woody, peppery profile with subtle notes of molasses.
This product is the absolutely perfect completion of a comfortable meal. Bravo, Trader Joe's.
This meat has become a versatile staple of mine. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
JUDGMENT: As someone who loves barbecuing but doesn't own a grill or smoker, I'm sure that pulled chicken will be a staple in my house.
It can be easily thrown together and is also super versatile - the tender pieces of meat would be the perfect addition to sandwiches, pizzas and salads.
The spicy-garlic dill pickle hummus would be an excellent summer snack
I was skeptical of this combination of flavors. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
At first I was a little confused by the combination of dill pickles and hummus.
Amazingly, this dip had the same creamy texture as the other hummus options on the chain, so you would never guess there are real cucumbers and could even confuse the green dill pieces with other herbs like basil.
That said, you can absolutely taste it, but the vinegar taste was light enough to be pleasant.
The flavors of tahini, chickpea, and garlic pair well with the dill, which makes sense since the herb is a common ingredient in tzatziki, which is usually eaten with hummus.
Dill and hummus go well together. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Also, given the sodium content in cucumbers, this dip managed not to be too salty. It went almost too well with savory chips, too.
At the same time, the salty cucumber flavor gave the dip a slightly sour undertone, which I surprisingly liked.
Just thinking about how this spread would taste smeared on the inside of a turkey sandwich.
JUDGMENT: This dill pickle hummus convinced me to embrace the "don't knock until you try" mantra and the snack section of my fridge will forever be grateful.
Plus, for just $ 1.99 per tub, this dip is worth every dollar of it.
The Bloody Mary Salsa was packed with tomatoes, spices and everything nice
Trader Joe's Bloody Mary salsa reflected the iconic flavor profile of the cocktail. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I know there's no vodka in this Bloody Mary salsa, but this delicious, peppery dip got me up for a boozy brunch.
Spicy, tangy and bursting with the sharp bite of horseradish, black pepper and bitter celery salt, this product includes all the flavors of its cocktail of the same name.
Really, the only thing that made this mix different from the actual Bloody Mary mix itself was the texture, but this one was so good that I could probably mix it up to drink on my own.
Trader Joe's Bloody Mary salsa was chunky. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
It was undoubtedly a chunky salsa with chunks of tomatoes of different sizes floating in a sea of peppers and flavorful juices.
It tasted so much more complex than many of the chain's other jarred salsas, and I'm actually shocked that most restaurants don't already have a version of it on their menu. I really wouldn't change that.
CONCLUSION: I recently learned that this is not a seasonal offer for 2021, but rather a 2019 comeback. This time I hope it stays here.
If you haven't picked this up yet, you should go to your local Trader Joe's ASAP.
These gluten-free cauliflower chips are a must-have summer snack
These would work as a gluten-free substitute for chips or crackers. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I'm not gluten sensitive, but I appreciate that Trader Joe's makes snacks that I and my gluten-free friends can enjoy.
Those chips looked pretty disappointing. With a slightly hazy shade of brown and the thickness of a waffle, they looked like flat biscuits - mark them clearly as you lay out unless you want confused partygoers.
Biting into these cauliflower chips was a pleasant surprise.
These cauliflower chips were sturdy enough for dipping. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Like most gluten-free products, they were thicker than the standard chips because of the brown rice and cauliflower base, but their texture was both crispy and tasty.
They were sturdy enough to withstand hummus and bloody mary salsa without breaking or falling apart, which is better than some of the regular chips I buy.
They also carried a neutral onion and garlic seasoning that would make them tasty with a range of different dips, but still tasty enough to eat on their own.
I definitely noticed a cauliflower aftertaste, but it was so light that I got used to it after the second bite. Plus, the chips were so well salted that I didn't mind.
JUDGMENT: Even though I wish these came in a slightly larger bag, I still think $ 2.99 is a solid deal on delicious, gluten-free chips that almost anyone can enjoy.
If you hate coconut milk, don't be put off by the label that lists it as a main ingredient - I couldn't see the slightest hint of it.
The watermelon sticks in dark chocolate are a unique summer snack
Trader Joe's didn't quite hit the watermelon flavor. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I expected these sticks to taste like a jolly rancher, but Trader Joe's opted for a jelly filling instead.
When I tried this for the first time, I said audibly, "Oh, that's different!"
As I ate more, I got used to the feeling of biting into the chocolate and tasting this sweet, fruity center.
The filling didn't taste like fresh watermelon, but I've learned that this type of flavor is rare. In this case, it was more of a mix of everything in the chain's chocolate-coated powerberries and toaster pastries with added watermelon juice.
Combined with the dark chocolate colored exterior, these flavors made an OK combo, but I think it would have been more satisfying with citrus or sweet and sour fruits like oranges and strawberries.
I wasn't in love with the combination of the flavors of chocolate and watermelon. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
The chopsticks are cute, but they're not as flashy as they would be if Trader Joe made them into crescent-shaped mini watermelons.
I find that salty or spicy flavors go better with the sunny sweetness of melons, so I hope the chain will use these flavor profiles next year.
JUDGMENT: I didn't like these chocolaty watermelon chunks enough to buy again, but they would be a great addition to a snack table.
My roommate absolutely loved them and finished the bag after trying it.
The pineapple barbecue sauce was deliciously sweet and hot
I was very excited to try Trader Joe's pineapple barbecue sauce. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
As long as I live I will loudly proclaim and defend my love for all things pineapple, and I will continue to rave about how great this barbecue sauce is.
Tomatoes, molasses, pineapple, and other notable flavors come together to create a sauce that is spicy, peppery, and sweet in equal parts.
I would call it restaurant quality. It tasted a lot like Trader Joe's standard barbecue sauce with a sweet touch of pineapple. The main difference is the texture as there were some pieces of crushed fruit in the jar.
This is the perfect sauce to give summer dishes a taste kick. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
But this sauce stood out because it absorbed all of the natural sugar flavors and the subtle kick of citrus without tasting fruity. It's the kind of encore that makes grilled dishes come alive.
If I had a grill I would cover everything with it, but for now my frozen fries and nuggets need to be enough.
CONCLUSION: This item is absolutely worth buying for the summer. While I can't imagine using it all the time, it's a fresh take on the standard barbecue sauce.
These crispy pieces of jalapeño would add value to pretty much any summer meal
I had heard great things about the crispy jalapeño pieces. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
After finally getting my hands on a can of these crispy jalapeños, I can imagine them becoming a contender for the chain's next Customer Choice Awards.
Somewhere between a fluted potato chip and a nacho topping with a scent almost identical to jalapeño cheese bagels, these crispy pieces have that "it" factor that would make them the perfect snack as well as the sandwich.
They're crispy, salty, hearty, and spicy, but not overwhelming. I had eaten them in handfuls and found that the burning sensation crept pleasantly onto my roof of the mouth, but quickly dissipated.
These crispy pieces of jalapeño would make a versatile topping. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
They reminded me of a cooler version of the onion strings that you would put on a green bean casserole with an added kick, so I hope this product becomes a staple all year round.
Best of all, these pieces seemed to go with everything. I sprinkled a few on a barbecue chicken sandwich and was overwhelmed by how well they amplified the hearty flavors.
They would probably taste great crumbled on tacos, nachos, or in a burger, but they're just as delicious straight out of the can.
JUDGMENT: If you're a fan of crispy onion strings and aren't afraid of a little heat, you'll love these crispy pieces of jalapeño.
With their crispy potato chip texture and a zesty jalapeño flavor, these will be in many of my meals and snack bowls this summer.
The southern peach crispy ice cream was simply irresistible
This southern-style ice cream features peach puree and oat chips. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I don't write proverbs in my reviews, but I do admit that I uttered one - in the best possible way - when I first tried this peach crispy ice cream.
It was one of the best store-bought ice creams I've ever tried.
Every bite was full of decadent and milky sweet cream flavor. The presence of the peach was subtle enough to add a pleasant surprise to the dessert I had already enjoyed.
The same goes for the oat chunks - I definitely had to look for them, but when I found them I was a pleasure winning the lottery as they tasted like small, soft-baked oatcakes with undertones of cinnamon and brown sugar.
I used to add chocolate chip cookie dough to my ice cream, but it's time for me to move on to bigger and better things.
This ice cream was incredibly creamy. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
Also, this ice cream was so smooth it tasted like a single person was stirring it up.
If you told me I can only have one ice cream for the rest of the year and gave myself that option, I would be peach colored.
CONCLUSION: I enjoyed a lot of good candy in my day, but I can't remember the last time my taste buds were so happy.
No frozen treat is complete without one of these organic sugar cones
This sugar cone goes perfectly with Trader Joe's peach-crunchy ice cream. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
As a kid, I used to ask for ice cream in a mug to get more bang for my buck and less mess, but the older I get, the more I appreciate what the right ice cream cone can bring to the table.
This sugar cone was the perfect vehicle to enjoy Trader Joe's ice cream. It was sturdy enough to keep everything intact without losing its crispness and was a slightly sweet addition to the frozen treat.
It was just the right size too - I comfortably fit a decent ball on the cone with no ice running out the sides.
JUDGMENT: If you go to Trader Joe's to buy ice cream, you might as well get some ice cream cones. I'll have these ready to enjoy with cool treats and avoid sticky dishes all summer.
Those dill pickle flavored chips seemed unnecessary
These chips had a strange aftertaste. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
As a "pickle friend" in my group, I even admit that sometimes we just have to leave pickles as pickles. Not every food under the sun needs to be fortified with dill, and these chips are proof of that.
Even though they had all the right elements - the perfect crunch, lots of seasoning, and plenty of salt - something felt wrong about eating them.
They tasted just like a dill pickle but also left a lingering aftertaste in my mouth that I wasn't particularly fond of.
This isn't as noticeable when I eat regular pickles as they are usually dredged in a liquid brine solution, but the coming of a dry potato chip made it an uncomfortable experience.
I'd rather just eat a real cucumber. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I don't understand why these were made - if I wanted a crispy snack that tasted like a cucumber, I'd just eat one. And if I wanted a bite-sized variety, I could easily get this too.
You could argue that chips are better for dipping, but the dill flavor was so strong that I would only combine the cucumber hummus with it - which both components, admittedly, tasted really good.
That said, I certainly won't be dipping these into my caramelized onion dip anytime soon.
JUDGMENT: Sorry for my fellow cucumber fans, but these chips were a disappointment.
These ravioli are deliciously mixed with corn and creamy burrata
These ravioli looked adorable. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
With the aromas of fresh corn and slightly sweet burrata, packed in cozy bags, this ravioli captures the essence of the perfect summer pasta.
This may be even better than the lemon version of the dish I last tried and fell in love with. The corn provided a pleasant hint of fresh taste, while the burrata had a creamy, slightly buttery taste.
I cooked these ravioli until the pieces floated. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
These were the visibly plump Trader Joe ravioli I've ever tried, which is probably due to the pocket-like shape of each pasta.
Plus every piece held by the cooking process. The golden stripe on the surface, which I initially thought should give them a summery look, is actually an egg stripe that welds everything together.
These could be my new favorite trader Joe's ravioli. Savanna Swain-Wilson for insiders
I couldn't really taste the basil that was advertised on the bag, but I happily overlooked that because the ravioli were okay without them and I put fresh herb pieces on my dish anyway.
CONCLUSION: Thanks to the irresistibly delicious burrata and corn filling, this option could dethrone Trader Joe's lemon variety as my favorite ravioli.
It's perfect for midweek dinners when you want something filling, yet light. It will forever find recognition as a summer staple in my home.
Click here to read more of Trader Joe's taste reviews in this series.
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