Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread

Trader Joe's Eggplant Garlic Spread

A Bulgarian spread? I’ll allow it, but I think I know some Serbs and Macedonians who will take issue with that.

Continuing my foray into the popular world of Serbian/Bulgarian/Macedonian food stuffs comes Trader Joe’s Eggplant and Garlic Spread. Unlike its very close cousin and shelf neighbor, TJ’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic, this condiment is hands-down delicious – like a thick, savory pasta sauce made with eggplant rather than tomato.

I got into this already with the craptacular ajvar, and I don’t want to kill it all over agian here, but TJ’s is really wrecking their own house with these name games. These two products, Trader Joe’s Eggplant and Garlic Spread (with peppers) and Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic, could not be positioned to confuse the casual shopper more. One delicious, one awful, both Bulgarian, of similar packaging and nearly identical names. It’s like having an evil twin and a good twin and naming one George T. Riley and the other George D. Riley. What’s that? Did you say T. Riley? You did? Well too late, because now I’m dead and/or my chicken tastes awful.

Let’s rectify the situation right here – this product, like it’s compatriot, is proudly Bulgarian, and is known in that country as ljutenica. The name might roll off the tongue, but it’s hard to say what exactly a proper ljutenica is supposed to taste like. As with many folk foods (kimchi, etc) it’s taste, consistency and composition varies widely between households. Some are much spicier than cousin ajvar, some sweeter, and so on. This ljutenica is actually milder and more savory. Whatever it was that Trader Joe’s did to its red pepper spread to make it so they avoided it here – nothing harsh or mealy comes through from the garlic or eggplant. Instead, both blend together with the fefferoni pepper to make an intriguing new taste – a full-bodied, broad, tongue-pleasing taste. It is somewhat salty, but not overly so, and very slightly piquant. It worked excellently for me as a condiment for chicken dishes, vegetables and meatballs.

How this ljutenica stacks up against the real Bulgarian stuff I couldn’t venture to say – and if any Eastern Europeans out there want to weigh in please do so – but I personally couldn’t be happier with what I’ve got. If ajvar threatened to turn me against Bulgarian condiments, this spread has rectified all wounds.

The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Yes – try it with your chicken or pasta, or slathered on bread and topped with goat cheese.

Would I Buy It Again: I already killed my first jar, so it’s pretty likely I will.

Final Synopsis: A ljutenica that will do you well from Sofia to the Black Sea.

Trader Joe's Eggplant Garlic Spread - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread – Nutrition Facts


7 Comments on “Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The red pepper spread is more like lutenitsa. This one is closer to what is called kyopolo.

    • Thanks for the input! These are new condiments and new terms for me, but I’m doing my best to get them right.

      I understand that these relishes have different names in different regions of the Balkans – can I ask where kyopolo comes from?

  2. Terry Hanley says:

    I recently picked up a jar because it sounded interesting. Going back for another….it’s crack in a jar addictive !!!! I used the 1st jar like a dip with pita chips & can see it in a wrap, chicken…anything really. Very happy with this find & out new Trader Joe’s has a BIG fan here.

  3. Dee says:

    Oh one of my favorite spreads! It is tasty with salmon too. My husband doesn’t like eggplant but does eat this sauce on pasta. Of course he doesn’t know what kind of sauce it is and I never tell.

  4. Jane Doe says:

    I’m just wondering how long it’s good after opening…

  5. Jen says:

    I just came across this for the first time, and I agree- it’s like crack!!! I’ve gone through almost a whole jar in two days. I started eating it on their mini-wheat crackers, and then just started diving in with a spoon! It just ate some for lunch on a flatbread with spinach, veggies, and feta. You really can’t go wrong with this!

  6. Donald Whalen says:

    Many of the nutritional benefits gained from consuming eggplants are obtained from the skin. Does this spread include the skin in its contents?

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