The Top 10 Worst Things I’ve Eaten at Trader Joe’s

Anna Goldfarb | February 14, 2017

Like why do they have microwavable tacos?

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Trader Joe’s is my favorite grocery store of all time. Between the friendly staff, the sample station in the back with its teensy cups of coffee and the fabulous deals on everything from olive oil to vitamins, it’s my happy place. I cannot leave without spending at least $60 on random salsas, an armful of frozen pizzas and a ginormous bag of trail mix.

But man, they have some legit losers. I’ve spit out everything from seafood dumplings to unpalatable canned goods. It’s a mystery how these items make it onto the shelves in the first place. Do the Trader Joe’s higher-ups think we TJ fans won’t notice? I can’t understand why they’re still for sale.

Here, the ten most regrettable things I’ve consumed at Trader Joe’s. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

1. Frozen Shrimp Tacos

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Soggy shrimp in a rubbery tortilla? NO THANKS. Not only is this the saddest food product ever produced — eating tacos by yourself is a little sad, no? — but microwaving a taco goes against my entire belief system and my belief system isn’t that strong to begin with! (For the record, I believe in playing Candy Crush Soda Saga while I pee and keeping my CD binders from college even though I don’t even own a CD player.)

2. Trader Joe’s sushi

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This is embarrassing to admit, but I’ve been swindled by Trader Joe’s sushi a few times. It’s always the same: I roll in around noon, notice the sushi display and think, “What the hell? I deserve a yummy lunch, right?” As soon as I take the first bite, I remember how disgusting TJ sushi is. It tastes like how running into your ex feels.

As if the imitation crab meat wasn’t offensive enough, the rolls always feature some gnarly mayo-heavy preparation and a ton of rice. There’s nothing fresh-tasting about it. It’s almost like it was made in a lab by people who have never tasted sushi but have seen pictures of it in magazines. Every time I go, I want to stand in front of the sushi shelf and yell, “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! How dare you?

3. Chicken-and-Vegetable Wonton Soup

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Trader Ming is on drugs if he thinks this frozen soup is anything people would want in their mouths. The thin broth tastes soapy and the limp wontons resemble wet, balled-up used tissue. The veggies are so lackluster it is like they’re actors hired to imitate actual vegetables.

4. Sriracha Shrimp-and-Crab Dumplings

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If you’re interested in cat food tucked inside a gross wrapper, this is the meal for you. Everything about this package looks fancy: the styled photo on the box, the fancy font, the trendy ingredients. But it’s a ruse! Everything about these dumplings is bullshit. I don’t know who is clamoring for a sour, unpleasant Sriracha seafood dumpling, but that person is a Grade-A ding-dong.

5. Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits

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Minuscule dried blueberry shards and a cheerful purple box can’t change the fact these biscuits taste like a fairy waved her magic wand and turned a heap of sand into a cookie. These make my mouth so dry, my tongue gets dandruff.

6. Whole Grain Crispbread

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This brittle, tasteless seed cracker is not only a mess to eat, but it also doesn’t play well with anything I pair it with. It cracks under a square of Pepper jack cheese and overpowers a spoonful of apple butter. Congratulations, Whole Grain Crispbread. I’m completely flummoxed about what to do with you! This compressed sheet of bird seed is the NordicTrack treadmill of crackers: something you buy to be healthy but ultimately ends up collecting dust somewhere in your house.

7. Thai Sweet Chili Burger

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One of my favorite condiments blended with one of my favorite meatless patties! What can go wrong? Answer: literally everything. It turns out the world does not need a sweet-tasting veggie burger.

8. Chili in a can

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This is the most depressing chili of all time. Nothing can improve the taste. Not a few aggressive shakes of hot sauce, not handfuls of sharp cheddar cheese, not a few salty, stiff tortilla chips — nothing masks the aggressive blandness of this canned chili. Nothing. It’s the Adam Sandler straight-to-Netflix movie of canned goods. (Did I mention a few bites of this slimy bean parade makes you toot non-stop for a fortnight? Because it definitely does.)

9. PB&J Bar

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When I saw this on the shelf last the summer, I figured it’d be a fun addition to my snack routine. But this tiny, dense bar is mealy and overly sweet. Next time I have the craving, I’ll just make a PB&J sandwich like a normal person, no need for a fussy bar substitute.

10. Herb Dijon Salmon

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I’ve been consistently let down by Trader Joe’s fish department. Their meager offerings never taste fresh, which is pretty much the only requirement for fish. If it doesn’t taste fresh, it’s failed. You’d be better off taking your money, slathering it in mustard and herbs and tossing it in the dirt.

All that said, I’m off to TJs for lunch! What’s your least favorite Trader Joe’s product? Tell us in the comments!

Anna Goldfarb is the author of the humor memoir, Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through. She lives in Philadelphia with her three-legged cat, Eleanor. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaGoldfarb

Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

  • Anne Dyer

    Ahhaaa. Adjectives galore. Love this piece. I am lured in by their tortillas once a quarter only to be met by serious amounts of mold after day 2 of opening. I’ll never learn….

  • Betsy

    This was hilarious and so, so true. (Curse you, TJ sushi!)

    My kids were so excited about the PB&J bars but my four year old spit hers out all over herself and the backseat it was so gross. I think she felt betrayed.

  • Lyric

    I’m just here to make sure no one says Pastry Pups. They are a tasty gift from TJ heaven

  • Annie

    Great Blog post! In the UK we have a selection of ‘supermarkets’ like Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose etc and as nice as a lot of the food is, I would never venture near the sushi department for the fear of getting some kind of stomach bug! hahahahah

    https://annieslondon.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Miss J

      Yes! Supermarket sushi is just one step away from gas station sushi. I’m more of a Whole Foods and farmer’s market’s girl, so I’m not in the position to judge.

  • tmm16

    Um I’m so embarrassed to admit but I’ve bought the canned turkey chili before.. and liked it? Shriek

  • I too love Trader Joe’s and feel obligated to mention the let-downs.

    1. Breakfast Burrito: Eggs that taste like they’re the powder kind, and in lieu of actually bacon of any kind, they’re doused in some chemically tasting bacon “flavor. Worse than airplane food.

    2. I agree, the Chili is boring which is unfortunate because I’ve been trying to figure out how to make quick frito pies when the craving strikes without picking up some dusty-canned Hormel

    3. I don’t know what is up with their chicken wings (like raw chicken wings that you cook yourself) but they’re gross. Black stuff comes out of them, they’re dry, they burn really quickly.

    And there’s something else that now I can’t remember.

    • Abby

      I know they’re gross but I actually really love those breakfast burritos.

    • Amelia Diamond

      “And there’s something else that now I can’t remember.” this just made me laugh so hard for some reason

    • J

      I love Frito Pies…so I would suggest making a regular sloppy joe or taco seasoned meat ( turkey or beef) and freeze it in single serving freezer bags. Buy the lunch size Fritos and you have a quick frito pie for when the mood strikes you. You could save up taco sauce and sour cream from Taco Bell runs, so you have fixings for your Frito Pies.

      J.

      • Tanna Bruce

        You, ma’am, are a genius!

  • Leslie

    I am Trader Joe’s biggest cheerleader but I can’t even discuss the “sushi.” No raw fish product but a mouthful of scrambled egg and carrot chunks?? I’ve learned this the hard way. Also, thumbs down to the sandwich bread and tortillas, which stick together and go moldy in 36 hours, even in the fridge. FWIW, my 2-year-old loves those PBJ bars.

    • Abby

      I bought the tortillas this week (couldn’t make it to Whole Foods) and when I tried to take them out of the package they all completely split in half! So now I have to eat tiny tacos.

      • Meg S

        Weird. I’ve never had a problem with their tortillas and I buy them all the time. There was some eggplant lasagna I bought last year. It was awful. Also shrimp toast. Those blueberry breakfast biscuits were awful. Never again.

    • Kattigans

      Forget about their regular flour or corn tortillas. Instead you have to get the flour & corn mixed tortillas – its the best of both worlds. Downside is they are on the small size, upside is that they don’t get moldy like the others do (even in the fridge). Also for sliced bread stick with the Milton’s brand which they carry at TJs. A million times better and again no mold when stored in the fridge. I like the one with the purple labeling

    • Ed

      I buy the Daily Bread and love it, but I keep my sliced bread in the freezer ’cause I only ever use it for toast.

  • Trader Joes is my favorite grocery store on the planet, but I am not surprised it has taken some serious Ls.

    Laila from Townhouse Palette

  • I bought a middle of the road frozen pizza from TJ’s and it was awful. The crust was thick and crunchy and flavorless.

  • I’m sorry, the sweet chili burger is DELICIOUS and no one can tell me otherwise!

    They dehydrated broccoli chip-things were definitely a miss, but that’s on me for being fooled.

    • Jessica Duckworth

      I am also here for that sweet sweet thai chili burger, but maybe only because burg + bag a frozen stir fry vegetables microwaved at work is my go-to lazy lunch.

      • Sounds like a winning combination. I personally throw it on some romaine and drizzle that sweet chili sauce on top.

  • Omg I had a similar experience with some kind of marinated chicken there. Still love TJ though!

  • Lauren

    I LOVE TJs as well and feel obligated to share that I just had the most disappointing lunch item – do not get the falafel wrap! The falafel was so dry it was pretty much inedible – not even huge dashes of hot sauce and tahini sauce could make it palatable. Steer clear!

    • Kattigans

      The falafel wrap is terrible! Saddest wrap ever

  • RaquelT18

    Okay, wait. The herb Dijon salmon is kind of good, come on.

  • Lindsey

    OMG the sushi is THE ACTUAL WORST!! I’ve never tasted anything so awful. But I gotta stand up for the seed crackers! I love them so much! But, I am the type of person who makes homemade seed crackers and things, and these are always better than my homemade ones. I like them with hummus and cheese, or sometimes just plain. Judge me if you will!

  • Krusty the Kat

    I too love TJ’s and will defend it’s honor with the fire of a thousand burning suns. But: the salmon jerky. Friends, it’s straight up cat treats.

    • Veronica Wilkins

      CAT. TREATS.

  • Devon Cansada Wade

    My co-workers and I were just discussing that shrimp taco the other day. I haven’t tried it because shrimp makes me uneasy. I completely agree that the PB&J squares are too sweet. I think the worst thing I’ve ever had was the breakfast burrito. The eggs in it taste weird and have a terrible mouth-feel. Otherwise, I consider myself a reusable grocery bag carrying member of the TJ’s cult.

  • Court E. Thompson

    The roasted veggie pizza – I was so excited to find a substitute for the Amy’s version but it was soooo bad! And not just due to lack of cheese.

    • Sophie McCurley

      Yes!!! It is the worst.

  • Amelia Diamond

    “It tastes like how running into your ex feels.” and “Every time I go, I want to stand in front of the sushi shelf and yell, ‘I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! How dare you?'” are my favorite things ever

    • ‘Becca’lise Deveaux

      Any reference to Tyra’s ANTM meltdown is appreciated at our house.

  • Samantha s

    I thought I was the only one who thought TJ’s sushi was awful!!! Thank you for validating this opinion.

  • ADN718

    You should do an interview w/ the freegans who hang out at the Atlantic Ave TJs when they put the night’s stuff out on the curb. It’s a scene.

    • Does that actually happen? That’s weird considering they donate everything that doesn’t look decent.

    • Julia del Chico

      Atlantic Ave in the LBC? god, i miss that TJ’s, even though it has the most dreadful parking situation of any TJ’s i’ve ever been to!

  • Tina Barcello

    Their hummus & veggie wrap could not be any worse. It’s completely flavorless. A tortilla filled with glue might taste better.

    Also, the seasonal pumpkin oatmeal sucked. Way too sweet and smelled like potpourri. I still finished the box but it brought me no pleasure :/

  • Kattigans

    Their warm chicken wrap with the pesto sauce is actually the shit. Been eating that thing since high school lolz. The frozen pad thai, scandanavian swimmers and corn salsa always make it into my basket. Oh and I can’t deny myself from stopping in the olive oil section and examining all the different options.

    The worst item I’ve personally encountered was this mint hot chocolate mix. Absolutely disgusting. Tasted like dirt

  • The salmon burgers! You take them out of the box and it’s like they carved a hockey puck from the insides that Leo took out of that horse carcass.
    Also, they taste worse.

  • pamb

    I literally have the Shrimp Tacos in my freezer as we speak! I thought it would be a fun lunch for my work-at-home husband. I won’t tell him, so he won’t be prejudiced.

    I was constantly buying the fish ‘burgers’ (mahi mahi, salmon) and then forgetting if I liked them or not. Finally, after having TJ’s salmon frozen dinner (don’t remember the name) we’ve decided that any salmon product is simply off limits. They always taste fishy, which is not what you want in a fish.

    On the positive side, the unsalted peanut butter filled pretzels are LIFE, and you can’t go wrong with a jar of cookie butter in the house!

  • Jessica Milligan-Ancheta

    “…slimy bean parade” HA!!! And this is why you learn how to cook. 😛

    • LEM

      Here here. Real chili is so embarrassingly easy to make, no one should ever have to buy the canned stuff.

  • good thing they have that amazing return policy

  • Sydney Stewart

    I will never know the worst foods at TJ’s because I never will wait in those 5pm lines!

  • Horst Hansen

    Big Mac was the worst thing I ever ate.

  • Rachel

    That nasty sushi one with the thick heavy chunk ‘o raw carrot that just slides right the fuck out.

    Nah. That carrot does not want to be there and I can’t blame it.

  • Amy Sumisu

    the Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter… absolutely VILE. all the oily garbage pools to the top and it looks like red food coloring just sitting there. then when you stir it up, it smells horrifically sweet. and then when you taste it……… *shudders* I tried to eat it with apples and that was one of the worst ideas I’ve had recently. tried it on toast… nope. 0/10 would not recommend.

  • Emilia

    I had some luck spicing up the turkey chili with fried green onions, extra sharp cheddar and lots of seasoning but the er, side effects, are just as you say. Never again.

  • Kristina Burkey

    I regret to inform you that my love for this article and you stems not from the hilarious descriptions of all the foods, but from the usage of an America’s Next Top Model reference. Bravo!

  • Janine

    the whole grain crispbread is actually the holy grail for those of us on a low-carb diet! i buy a pack every week 🙂

    • lvginclp

      YES! I hope they never stop carrying it. lol.

  • julia

    I bought some cupcakes once that were amazing, so next time I tried the whoopie pies– dry, horrible, inedible. And all the bread I’ve tried is stale and moldy within days, even in the fridge.

    • Meg S

      Have you tried the Canadian White? I’ve never had any problems with it, and it takes me a while to get through a loaf. Desserts are hit or miss, but I’ve always had good luck with their pies. If it’s a “pi day” year, I bring a TJ’s pie to “pi(e) day” at work.

  • Meg S

    I just got back from TJ’s and may have side-eyed someone buying sushi. I wonder if it’s inappropriate to slap sushi out of a stranger’s hands and yell “No!” If I had, I might have saved this poor guy’s dinner. Or I could have been thrown out, and then where would I be? Not eating my favorite $5 salad for dinner because I don’t want to cook, that’s what.

  • M K

    The brown rice crispie bars. To be fair, I should have known.

  • Blair Vigil

    We love Trader Joe’s too! The worst thing I have had there was the bacon breakfast burritos we bought to eat on the way to Disneyland a few months ago. They tasted like sneeze wrapped up in a tortilla. Bleck!

  • Amelia

    I work at TJ’s and I have to say….. this is all spot on lol. Some stuff I’m just like, why do we carry this?

  • Hannah

    UGH I’m so glad someone else was righteously indignant over the horrid shrimp tacos. Dude, they are so gross. The grossest.
    Also, their salmon jerky is a terrible affront to salmon lovers and jerky lovers everywhere.

    On the flip side:
    Cookie butter is insanely good.
    The mini croissants are completely impressive(frozen section).
    The three seed bread in the bakery section is divine.
    The whole milk French villages style yoghurt is sublime.

  • Sydni Jackson

    Actually I love those PB&J bars!

  • Lizzie

    The whole wheat English muffins taste like cardboard and mold had a baby. Because they inevitably get moldy after 24 hours. Microwaveable eggplant parm? Cheesy soggy garbage. And the dried green bean chips. My fault for trying to be healthy.

    Also I’m really not a fan of the dried mandarins or the chili mango. I may be hanged for that last one?

    On the other hand, there are so many other things I love! Pizzas (and pizza dough), burrata, cheddar/gruyere, tomato/red pepper soup, tomato basil hummus, speculoos cookies, chili lime cashews (plus all nuts), greek yogurt, pesto, pistachio toffee with dark chocolate, crunchy pb, inner peas…I could go on!

  • Everly Brown

    Soup dumplings are the best and only 250 calories

  • Veronica Wilkins

    Sometimes I feel like I’ve loved Trader Joe’s TOO hard to the point where if i actually hate something i’ll just continue to pretend I sort of like it as to not hurt little Joe’s feelings.

  • Kathy Aydin

    After browsing the new flyer I was curious about the Honey Walnut Shrimp. So I blew the $6.99 to try it. Very disappointing. A couple of weeks later I mentioned my thoughts to my check out guy. Without my asking he processed a refund for me. I was floored. I didn’t expect that at all. At least they do have many products that I still love.

  • Marie A.

    Wow! After reading this and the comments, I now know that TRADER JOE’S is the place to buy edible “pranks” for the upcoming APRIL FOOL’S DAY 🙂 That is amazing!

  • Janet Hasselblad

    Hilarious! Thanks, I needed that.

  • Aidan

    Hey now, the turkey chili isn’t THAT bad

  • Mykaela

    The Thai sweet chili burger is my jam! I can’t believe it’s on this list.

  • Ok I gotta disagree with you on the shrimp tacos- that is the perfect lazy girl’s dinner. I douse ’em in salsa to get a little flavor (ha)!

  • JAH

    The reality is that enough people or their spoiled pets like this stuff otherwise they’d drop it in a heartbeat… Or many of the patrons outside of PA TJs are loaded on 2 buck Chuck 😉

  • JAH

    If TJs took steroids and went to the gym it would be Wegmans.

  • Maggie

    I can’t eat the Orange Chicken. So soggy and flavorless. Ugh. I do like that chicken and vegetable wonton soup though!

  • bicoast

    Your descriptions are so funny, I hope you make more lists for more stores (Sprouts, Whole Foods?). The only item I’ve eaten on this list is the flatbread. I thought it was a valiant attempt at a healthy cracker, but it’s definitely not a keeper. I’m still mourning the loss of the chocolate-mint UFO’s, and the ginger-wasabi rice crackers – from 15 years ago! Why don’t they do away with the nasty stuff and bring back the yummy stuff?

  • b_rose96

    OK BUT HAS ANYONE ELSE TRIED THEIR SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP, ITS AMAZING.

  • Emelia Pitlick

    Nooo! I love the Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burgers!

  • Laura E. Galiher

    Funny! Most of these things, I have never tried. But the Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burgers are a weeknight staple for my guy and myself. In fact, I had one for dinner last night. We put them in Trader Joe’s whole wheat pitas slathered in sriracha mayo, and top them with red bell pepper, red onion, avocado, and some sort of greens (usually microgreens or baby spinach). Oh my gosh, they are amazing. Perhaps it is all just about personal taste and preparation, but I think these veggie burgers, as I prepare them, are fantastic.

  • Annabanana

    There’s actually this really good wild mushroom sushi roll that they carry at a TJs near me. I’ve never seen it in any of the other TJs stores but damn it’s good. Has anyone else tried this?

  • mandle

    This was very funny! I love/hate those shrimp tacos. I want them to be better than they are. Your description of the sushi is spot on. I don’t understand why they put cooked carrots in it. They should just make brown rice avocado rolls.

  • DanaLaLa

    OMG those shrimp tacos are hands down the worst thing I’ve ever purchased from TJ’s. They might be the worst frozen food I’ve ever eaten. I saw those Sriracha Potstickers last week and was tempted to pick them up – glad I passed. Their frozen Black Bean & Corn enchiladas are amazing though if anyone is looking for a quick frozen meal.