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Trader Joe’s Greek Whole Milk Yogurt – Maple Brown Sugar & Trader Joe’s Greek Whole Milk Yogurt – Chocolate Mousse

Trader Joe's Whole Milk Greek Yogurt - Maple Brown Sugar and Chocolate Mousse

Non-seasonal, but still lovely, packaging. Nice work, TJ’s!

Trader Joe’s has never been afraid to “go there” – in terms of yogurt development and placement. Like most grocery stores they offer a virtual cornucopia of yogurt flavors, types, and fat content. Unlike most grocery stores, they’ve been known to put out holiday versions of their classic greek yogurt.

Ranking: 2 stars 

2 star rating

 

What it is: Greek yogurt in two new flavors.
Price: $1.29 for an 8 oz. cup
Worth it: Not really. Both new flavors are only mildly interesting.

Last year we saw the debut of their Pumpkin Greek Yogurt over the October Pumpkin Madness. It must have worked well, because this year Trader Joe’s has debuted two new flavors for the winter holidays – Maple Brown Sugar, and Chocolate Mousse. Those might not be the flavors that come to mind when you first think “Christmas”, but that’s why we love Trader Joe’s isn’t it? They zig when everyone else is zagging.

Unlike the pumpkin Greek yogurt last of last fall, these two new flavors are whole milk, full fat yogurts. 320 calories wait for you in each 8 oz tub, 12 grams of fat (7 grams of that saturated fat) and 37 grams of carbs.

3 gallons of milk go into 1 gallon of Greek yogurt, so this is the nutritional density you’re paying for – not to mention the whopping 16 grams of protein. If you eat both of these, you’ve basically had a pretty heft meal. So, are these novel yogurt flavors worth it?

What you certainly can expect is what you always get from a whole milk Greek yogurt – thick, smooth, velvety and thick again. A greek yogurt needs to be eaten slowly, regardless whether you enjoy the flavor or not.

The flavors, in this case, are intriguing, but not incredible. The Maple Brown Sugar Greek Yogurt has a wonderfully evocative name, but doesn’t taste particularly special. It’s a combination of real brown sugar and real maple syrup (naturally, this being Trader Joe’s). Sugar and syrup, however, even brown sugar and maple syrup, are just your basic sweeteners. Basic sweetness is about what you get out of them here. The more nuanced notes of the sugar and syrup are lost in the generally yogurtiness of the yogurt. However, the sweetness is a nice counterpoint to the considerable tang of the yogurt cultures. Overall, a nice, fatty yogurt.

The Chocolate Mousse Greek Yogurt is a more complex matter. Some time ago, I reviewed Trader Joe’s European-style chocolate yogurts, and found them intriguing and sophisticated, but ultimately a bit off-putting. This chocolate greek yogurt is a lot thicker than those little yogurt pots, but hte flavor is the same – tangy chocolate. If you can hold those two words together in your head at the same time and not shudder a little, then you will probably enjoy this yogurt. The chocolate flavor comes courtesy of cocoa powder touched up with some sugar and vanilla extract, and it’s done well. The chocolate is strong tasting, bold and verging on the bitterness of dark chocolate, but it comes paired with the strong, undeniable tang of active yogurt cultures. Tangy chocolate folks – it’s here again.

I love novelty, and for some reason I really love novel yogurt flavors, but these two yogurts left me underwhelmed. The Maple Brown Sugar was too generically sweet for me to buy again, and if I wanted to try chocolate yogurt again I’d go with the European versions that are still on the shelves.

I’m tempted to recommend these as a desert surrogate, but honestly if you have room in your dietary budget for 300 calories of sugar and fat, just eat a real chocolate mousse. Aside from that, I think only Greek yogurt fans in desperate need of a little variety can really justify making this purchase.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Only in the faintest of terms.

Would I Buy Them Again: Me? No.

Final Synopsis: Fatty yogurt available in a couple mildly interesting flavors.

Trader Joe's Whole Milk Greek Yogurt - Maple Brown Sugar and Chocolate Mousse

Trader Joe’s Whole Milk Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse – Nutrition Facts

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Trader Joe’s Tzatziki

Trader Joe's Tzatziki Sauce

Spackle?

Is it just me, or is the packaging for Trader Joe’s Tzatziki Creamy Garlic Cucumber Dip really weird? The big red “LOW FAT!” flag, the serving suggestions awkwardly crammed over to one side, the semi-unreadable font on the gray background of the low-grade Photoshop job. It reminds me of their weird chocolate-covered banana packaging.  It’s the sort of packaging that leaves you wondering what you’re looking at “What’s in there?” you ponder, “Modeling clay? Deck varnish?” Nope, it’s food.

Most of the time, TJ’s does a good job repackaging the third party products that they source. In this case however, even the “Trader Joe’s” brand name looks shoehorned in. Nevertheless, this is a classic case of judging a book by its cover, as the tzatziki sauce within is quite nice.

Let us spend a moment on the truly awesome word that is “tzatziki”. It’s one of those dynamite cuisine words that not only sounds cool, and is spelled cool, but also makes you feel really cool to drop casually into conversation. Like “shwarma”. Throw some tzatziki on that shwarma. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Yo – buddy! Throw some tzatziki on that shwarma! The word itself is popularly attributed to Turkish, but like many foods of shared Greek/Middle Eastern/Balkan origin there’s a considerable amount of bickering over who developed it first/best.

At any rate, as we all know, tzatziki is a somewhat zesty dip/sauce made from plain yogurt and flavored with a variety of seasonings – in this case, salt, garlic, dill, mint, white pepper and, of course, lemon juice. The result is a smooth, cool mixture that comes on mild, then surprises you a moment later with a complex burst of citrus and herbs. Tzatziki exists through out the Mediterranean and Middle East in a variety of forms – extending even as far out as India where the classic yogurt side dish raita can be considered a close relative. The type Trader Joe’s is serving us up here is the familiar Greek variety, prepared with thinly sliced cucumber mixed directly into the herbed yogurt.

In fact, Trader Joe’s tzatziki is one of the better varieties I’ve had. The dip is quite loose, but it doesn’t lack in flavor. Trader Joe's Tzatziki Sauce 2The lemon juice comes through clearly alongside the mellow, long tones of the creamy yogurt. The dill and mint come through clearly in the after notes , but the dish isn’t overloaded by their flavors, and they leave room for the tail note of languid, cool cucumber and mild garlic to linger on the tongue.

 As appealing as that is, it’s made better by the extremely reasonable nutritional profile. Each 30 gram (two teaspoon) serving has only 30 calories, and two grams of fat. Even the sodium content isn’t that bad, at 65 mg per serving. For such a healthy dip you’re getting a surprising, and satisfying, amount of flavor.

The go-to applications for tzatziki sauce are gyros and pitas, but it goes awesome with pita chips as well. Even if you’re not whipping up Mediterranean food very often, it still makes an awesome side dish for any meal that could do with a little spread on top, or cooling down on the side. In other words – throw some tzatziki on that shwarma!


The Breakdown 

Would I Recommend It: Yes, so long as you don’t mind cucumbers in your food.

Would I Buy It Again: Definitely – I’m always in the market for good dips.

Final Synopsis: A solid version of tzatziki with plenty of pep.

Trader Joe's Tzatziki Sauce

Trader Joe’s Tzatziki Dip – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Soy Yogurt – Strawberry and Peach Flavors

 

Trader Joe's Soy Yogurt - Strawberry, Peach

It’s amazing that you can get so much sugar in something for such a low price.

The cavalcade of gluten free, vegan food continues! My stars, but aren’t we having fun? Trader Joe’s Soy Yogurt is yet another entry in their huge wall of yogurt variations. This one leaped out at me in particular for it’s soy nature. After having such a good time with the non-ice cream, Soy Creamy, it seemed like a natural follow up. The results were similar – tasty, if you’re willing to accept a certain level of soy bean aftertaste.

You may have noticed that I review a fair number of yogurts. The rather mundane reason is that I habitually have one for breakfast, Monday through Friday, and have done since before I can remember.

In fact, my yogurt habit is rather more than habitual. A not insignificant part of my life is run off of what I like to call the “yogurt clock”. As the most modular food in my diet, I use the yogurt clock as a fail safe to remind my stupid bachelor self that I have to go buy more food on a regular basis. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s, I buy six yogurts. I eat one yogurt a day, Mon – Fri, and when I run out I go shopping again. The extra, sixth yogurt is my emergency back up yogurt so if a friend asks if they can have a yogurt, I don’t have to say, “No, those yogurts are a precision instrument, and only I can eat them.” This situation has never actually occurred, but I’m ready for it.

Planning out a good shopping trip, given the crazy state of life that is modern city living, is more than a trivial consideration, requiring numerous harrowing encounters with all sorts of biological and mechanical foes. As such, the steady, daily ticking of my yogurt clock is probably the third or fourth most important consideration in my daily life – below the internet and my girlfriend, but above the car.

That brings me back, more or less, to Trader Joe’s Soy Yogurt. A yogurt that, like so much vegan food, is not legally a yogurt. Trader Joe’s is forced to concede this point several times on the packaging with the subtitle, “a yougurt-style non-dairy food”.

The last yogurt I reviewed from TJ’s, the European-style chocolate-infused yogurts, we’re strikingly off-putting in their zesty taste. There’s no such non-American trickery at play here. Despite the fact that no milk has ever gone into this soy yogurt, it tastes very very similar to your ordinary Dannon or Yoplait.

The yogurt is smooth and thick, with a heavy “whipped” style texture and nice bits of chopped up fruit in it. It’s a remarkably close approximation to ordinary, dairy based yogurt, and at first bite you’d never suspect it’s vegan. Both types of the yogurt are also very sweet – too sweet for me in fact. The peach yogurt has 18 grams of sugar per serving, while the strawberry version has a considerable 21 grams of sugar in it – the equivalent of 6-7 packets of sugar in each yogurt. Considering that you can polish off a yogurt in about 6-7 spoonfuls, that’s a serious sugar load for first thing in the morning. While this amount of sugar is certainly not unusual in the super sweet world of grocery store yogurt, it’s more than I like to eat over breakfast.

The other consideration, as I hinted at above, is the soy bean-y aftertaste you can expect. Trader Joe’s does their best to keep this under control, but once you’ve finished one of one of these pots you won’t have any doubts that you’ve just had some soy beans. The soy aftertaste is still mild, a gentle graininess of beans on the tongue, but slightly stronger than the Soy Creamy aftertaste. It certainly wasn’t enough to ruin the overall tastiness of the yogurt, but as a guy used to dairy it did give me pause from time to time.

Even if I was dedicated to the vegan lifestyle, I probably wouldn’t replace my yogurt clock with Trader Joe’s Soy Yogurt. Though tasty, there’s just too much sugar in guys to eat on a daily basis. I’d much rather swap in fruit or something else a little better for me. The yogurt is a fine and tasty treat, just not a particularly healthy one.


 

The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Yes to vegans, but not in general.

Would I Buy Them Again: No, they’re too sweet for me.

Final Synopsis: A good yogurt, and a great vegan option, as long as you don’t mind a lot of sugar.

 

Trader Joe's Soy Yogurt - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Soy Yogurt – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus European Style Low Fat Yogurt – Mocha and Chocolate flavors

Trader Joe's Coffeehaus Lowfat Yogurt

Possibly the most unwieldy name Trader Joe’s has unveiled to date. I’m not even sure I’ve got it right.

Tangy coffee – do you like it? If you can answer that one question for yourself, there will be no need to read the rest of this post about Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus “European style” low fat yogurts. I will repeat it once again – do you like the taste of tangy coffee?

Very probably you have never had tangy coffee before, you might be confused by these words – angered by them even. No problem, friend. Just relax, sit back, close your eyes… and imagine. Imagine sipping a cup of coffee, imagine that unmistakable coffee aftertaste, that bold, full-roast dark coffee flavor that sits on the tongue like burnt toast. Now imagine it’s also real tangy. Tangy like a glass of Tropicana orange drink. Tangy, tangy coffee, sitting on your tongue, and also it’s cold. Do you like that idea?

If you’ve said yes, hold on tight because we are going to get into this. If, and I’m guessing this is more likely, you said no then you can feel free to navigate away from this browser tab right now. You sir, will not like Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus yogurts because if there’s one thing they have, it’s a serious tanginess.

Let’s unspool this for a moment. There’s about five different things going on in the name of this product alone, and it could do with a little unpacking before we start laying into if I, personally, enjoyed this thing or not.

To begin, let’s start with what a “European style” yogurt might be, and why Trader Joe’s feels they need to single that notion out for some reason – not just by name, but by packaging, iconography and font as well. How, in fact, is European yogurt different from the Greek yogurts, French yogurts and Swiss yogurts which can all also be found in Trader Joe’s yougurt aisle? The straight forward, if basically uncorrect, answer is that “European style” yogurt is called as such because it isn’t going to sit well with the average American. More specifically, it’s much less firm than standard grocery store yogurt, and much more tangy due to the presence of the many live, active bacteria cultures fermenting it full of lactic acid.

Now, every yogurt in the world is a product of bacteria cultures – that’s just the basic nature of its existence, but it’s not a fact that the big commercial yogurt companies like to play up on TV here in the States. The “now full of more live bacteria colonies than ever before” pitch is just not one that appeals to the standard demographic. As such, the bacterial nature of yogurt has been downplayed to the point where it’s almost totally overlooked. For the same reason, your usual grocery store yogurt varies between “slightly tangy” and “not tangy at all”.

Much more common in the US are the standard, “custard” style yogurts where fruit and thickening agents have been blended into a firm, sugary, low-bacteria yogurt. Confusingly, custard style yogurt can also be called French or Swiss style yogurt, despite the fact that they are much more American than European in sensibility. In fact, real Swiss yogurt (yogurt made by the Swiss in Switzerland) must, by Swiss law, contain a certain minimum number of bacterial colonies to even be considered yogurt.

So, to summarize, by saying “European Style” Trader Joe’s is singling that this is going to be some bacteria-filled, tangy yogurt, and you’d better be ready for that. They are as good as their word as well – each type of their coffeehaus yogurt comes packed with four different live and active cultures: S. thermophillus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Aciodphilus, and Bifidus. I don’t know quite enough about biology to expound on what all the important differences are between these, but I can tell you that you can sure as hell taste them in every tangy, zingy bite.

The other unusual aspect of these European style yogurts are their rather continental flavors. Dannon and Yoplait may have turned every type of cream pie and sherbet into a yogurt flavor, but even they haven’t yet done a straight up mocha or dark chocolate yet. While that might not go over very well in a custard style yogurt, it makes for a very nuanced bite here. The subtle bitterness of the dark chocolate and the mocha both play against the sourness of the yogurt, the tang of the lactic acid and the gentle sweetness of the added sugar. The result is a yogurt that challenges the tongue to a unique flavor experience, not merely a confection of high sugar content sweetness that passes the gums unnoticed.

So do I like tangy coffee? In this case, yes. I’ve had sweet yogurt, and I’ve had unsweetened yogurt, but I’ve never had yogurt that takes a path separate from sweetness all together. Tangy, bitter yogurt is an intriguing development, and one that I could easily see myself enjoying on my classier mornings.

 


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Yes – if you’re willing to give a whole new yogurt experience a chance.

Would I Buy It Again: I’d like to think that I’m just cultured enough to do so.

Final Synopsis: A very tangy, somewhat bitter, somewhat sweet, sophisticated yogurt.

 

Trader Joe's Coffeehaus European Style Lowfat Yogurt - Mocha

Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus European Style Lowfat Yogurt – Mocha

 

 

Trader Joe's Coffeehaus European Style Lowfat Yogurt - Chocolate

Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus European Style Lowfat Yogurt – Chocolate


Trader Joe’s Non-fat Pumpkin Greek Yogurt

Trader Joe's Non-fat pumpkin greek yogurt

Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.

Of everything that Trader Joe’s has attempted to cram pumpkin into, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Green Yogurt has surprised me the most. Pumpkin in waffles? There’s precedent for that. But pumpkin in yogurt? Any member of the squash family, really, has no place being blended into thick, protein laden yogurt. Of course we’re talking about the food engineers at Trader Joe’s labs who didn’t shy back from merging pizza and veggie burgers so it was unlikely their hand would be stayed here either.

To get right into it – pumpkin does not marry well to the tongue-enveloping cloak of greek yogurt. I like pumpkin as much as the next man, and I’m certainly a lover of greek yogurt, but they simply do not play well together here.

Let’s start with the first issue – what does pumpkin really taste like? The squash family as a whole isn’t known for overwhelming people with blasts of flavor. While pumpkin does have it’s own sort of mild, intriguing charm it isn’t really a natural candidate to jazz up plain, unflavored yogurt in the same way that, say, strawberries and pineapple are. What people generally respond to, when you’re talking about pumpkin are the spices and sugar that get mixed in with it – pumpkin pie, more than pumpkin.

Trader Joe’s tries very hard to deliver this – in addition to the pureed pumpkin (the second ingredient), they’ve also added nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. So really what we’re talking about is not pumpkin flavored greek yogurt, but pumpkin pie flavored greek yogurt. This doesn’t really seem like all that daunting of a task to deliver on – Yoplait manages to pull off a huge number of pie flavors in their yogurts, from Boston cream to lemon chiffon. But yoplait isn’t interested in delivering you a healthy, non-fat, greek yogurt like Trader Joe’s, and it’s in pursuing that course that TJ’s managed to trip themselves up.

This yogurt tastes, first, strongly of the slightly sour yogurt cultures you’d expect, then a bit of generic pumpkin spice, then very faintly of pumpkin. And that’s about it. None of the jazzy pep of the more flavorful, fruit variety yogurts you offer. Just a long, lingering, slightly sour taste in the mouth.It’s possible that if this were not a non-fat yogurt, if it had a richer, fuller body, there might have been more room for the pumpkin pie spices to play out, but that’s nothing but conjecture at this point.

I get it, Trader Joe’s, you love pumpkin! But let’s take a good look at just the non-fat greek yogurts you already offer – honey, mango, blueberry, vanilla, strawberry and pomegranate. Why are you adding pumpkin to the mix? To impress people with your boldness? What if you succeed and people buy it, just out of curiosity? Don’t you think it’s important that the yogurt tastes at least as good as your other yogurts? I’ve tried all of your other non-fat greek yogurts, and I can safely say this is the least enjoyable of them all. Worse than pomegranate, TJ, worse than pomegranate.

You know me, I’m all for boldness. I’m all for embracing the wild and unknown. But you also have to know when you’re challenging the status quo and when you’re just peeing into the wind. Trader Joe’s Greek Pumpkin Yogurt is, despite all their enthusiasm and good intentions, the latter.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: To no one but the pathologically motivated Trader Joe’s pumpkin perfectionist.

Would I Buy It Again: Not this year, not next year.

Final Synopsis: Non-fat greek yogurt is just one of those things that doesn’t need pumpkin in it.

Trader Joe's Non-fat pumpkin greek yogurt - nutrition facts

Trader Joe’s Non-fat Pumpkin Greek Yogurt – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Cultured Coconut Milk – (Blueberry & Vanilla Flavors)

Trader Joe's Cultured Coconut Milk (in Blueberry and Vanilla)

Cultured coconut milk, not yogurt. How could you even begin to confuse the two?

As you may be aware, I have a thing for coconut milk. Maybe not a well thought through thing, but definitely a thing. Basically, if something is made of coconut milk, I go “Wuh? Gimme, somma dat!”

Thus picking up Trader Joe’s Cultured Coconut Milk in blueberry and vanilla flavors was an automatic grab for me. Coconut milk yogurt, awesome, gimme sommma dat. It wasn’t until later that day, as I was unpacking my bags, when the words on the label really sank in. Cultured coconut milk. Not coconut-blueberry flavored yogurt, in fact not even yogurt at all – but a blueberry yogurt substitute made from coconut milk. A vegan, kosher alternative to your dairy product breakfast. Now this was intriguing. Obviously the world is full of human beings, many of them wonderful human beings, who elect not to eat dairy products for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, the hankering for dairy products persists – an itch that one perpetually hopes to have satisfactorily scratched by innovative new products such as this one. Not an issue I personally have, but one that intrigues me none the less.

The first question, of course, is does this stuff taste like coconut?

No it does not, not at all. No more than your pot of Dannon tastes like milk. The coconut milk base here is effective obscured and overridden by the “yogurting” process, a process that is scientifically not actually referred to as “yogurting”, but which in this case seems to involve a great deal of flavorless seaweed extracts (our old friends agar and carrageenan among them), and some industrious bacteria.

A second question arrives hot on the heels of the first – how much like regular yogurt is this cultured coconut milk? Not more than a close miss, actually. Coconut milk “yogurt” falls squarely into the imperfect facsimile camp, alongside such not-quite-there simulacra as Tofurkey, Silk, and Fakon. Simply put, you won’t mistake this cultured plant fluid for Yoplait.

That said, Trader Joe’s does score points in two important arena. One, it doesn’t violently merge two words into a terrible vegetarian pun (“cocogurt”, perhaps), and two, cultured coconut milk tastes pretty good in its own right. Taken as a dairy yogurt supplement coconut milk yogurt doesn’t quite hit the mark, but taken as a new sort of breakfast item it’s not bad at all.

Trader Joe’s Cultured Coconut Milk differs from dairy yogurt in two chief ways – it’s much looser, fluidic almost to the point that threatens to spill from your spoon. However, it’s also strangely creamier than other yogurts, with an underlying velvety smoothness that coats your tongue in pleasant way.

The strength of this yogurt substitute depends almost totally on your enjoyment of this novel texture. Taste-wise the coconut milk culture tastes fine – the blueberry tastes like yogurt blueberry and the vanilla tastes like yogurt vanilla. Not much news there. Being able to enjoy the coconut milk culture is simply a matter of being okay with a loose, velvety yogurt over a firmer, less smooth one.

I’d be a convert, honestly, if it wasn’t for one thing. Quickly scroll down and check out the protein content – a single gram. Not much protein in those coconuts, evidently.

The main reason I turn to yogurt for my sustenance in the mornings instead of, say, a bagel or muffin, is because of the aura of healthiness surrounding the concept of yogurt. There might be just as much sugar in a little pot of Yoplait (27 grams) as there is in a whole donuts  but yogurt has protein, dammit! That has to count for something. Trader Joe’s Coconut Milk Culture has 20 grams of sugar in it per serving, a considerable payload in it’s own right. Take the protein out of the equation and all you’re left doing is slurping up a sweet, loose paste of dubious nutritional value.


Breakdown

Would I Recommend it: Tailor made form my vegan-Hasidic friend, less compelling for everyone else.

Would I Buy It Again: As an experiment for a smoothie base, maybe, but probably not.

Final Synopsis: An intriguing yogurt alternative, but no protein and plenty of sugar ultimately make it less than desirable.

Trader Joe's Coconut Milk Culture (in Blueberry and Vanilla) - Nutritional Information

Trader Joe’s Coconut Milk Culture (Blueberry) – Nutritional Information