After reviewing Trader Joe’s fantastic new Sweet Sriracha Bacon Jerky the other day, I was more than eager to give Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ sauce a shot. Trader Joe’s obviously has it in their mind to revolutionize the sriracha game. Not content deal with the Hoy Fong foods status quo, TJ’s started off by shaking things up with their own brand of tangier sriracha. The sweet sriracha bacon jerky escalated things to a whole different level entirely – setting the stage perfectly for an organic, sriracha based BBQ sauce. However, while this BBQ sauce is good, it’s not going to knock your socks off or anything.
The first thing I should point out is, despite getting top billing in the name, this sauce doesn’t taste like sriracha at all. Oh, sure, it’s spicy – very pleasantly spicy without being too hot in fact. However, that spiciness simply doesn’t have any of the signature fire or tang of sriracha. In this case, it really feels like Trader Joe’s simply decided to replace the generic word “spicy” with a more buzz worthy keyword.
The second thing I should point out is that it isn’t really all that garlicky. There is definitley garlic in it, but the garlic is hidden beneath the much stronger flavors of the BBQ sauce, mostly noticeable just as it touches the tongue, then just peaking up around the edges after that. Much stronger than the garlic taste is the sugary sweetness of the sauce. In fact, the sauce is about a third molasses and sugar, so when it comes to the aftertaste there’s not really any zing, just the cloying, lingering aftertaste of syrup.
So I praise this BBQ sauce with a caveat. For a BBQ sauce, it really is pretty good – spicy, sweet and bold, with just a subtle hint of garlic to mix things up. For a “sriracha and garlic” BBQ sauce, however, it doesn’t really deliver on the billing. If you’re looking for a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce, you’re not going to regret picking his one up. If you’re looking for something with a garlic kick, however, or something that pays homage to the South East Asian fire of real sriracha, you’re probably better off just picking up a bottle of the rooster sauce by itself and whipping up a glaze on your own.
Would I Recommend It: I might – it’s a good sweet and spicy sauce, if that’s what you like.
Would I Buy It Again: Too sweet for me – I prefer something more like Trader Joes’s Carolina Gold.
Final Synopsis: Not much sriracha or garlic, but still a good BBQ sauce.
I’m sorry, what? Can you repeat that please? Did you say, Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Cofffee and Garlic? Does that make any sense at all? This one is truly mind boggling. I knew Trader Joe’s didn’t give a flying fig about convention, I knew that the second I saw them stocking Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil on their shelves, I knew that when I picked up their Avagadro’s Number themed guacamole, but even I didn’t dream they were this dangerously unhinged.
I’d like to put myself in the mindset of the Trader Joe’s food scientist who dreamed up this insane blend of seasonings, but I’m afraid to do so would be to permanently wrench my psyche from it’s bearings. Coffee grounds and garlic – blended together, for the sake of rubbing on your meat. It’s got to be a stunt, right? Maybe there isn’t that much coffee in it, or maybe it’s, like, a type of coffee that isn’t really coffee. Let’s just check out the ingredient label.
Ingredient #1: Coffee. Period.
Okay, we’ll, there’s a bunch of other stuff in here too. Look – brown sugar, salt, garlic, um… paprika… and, uh, clemengold rind,? Which is apparently the skin of the Nandorcott mandarin orange? Okay, that’s a new one. At any rate, it must, like, all blend together in a way that sort of hides the strong coffee taste amid many flavors. Let’s just open it up and take a whiff. Wow – nope, that’s coffee. That is straight up coffee. I can’t imagine this is going to be any good.
And this, folks, is where it gets even crazier. After all that, when you really get down to it, this seasoning is spicy, flavorful, intriguing, nuanced, and totally worth your $1.99.
Crazy though it may sound to me, coffee rubs are not a wholesale invention of Trader Joe’s. Many in the hardcore slow-cooked meat world have experimented with the intriguing addition of robust coffee grounds to otherwise ordinary rubs. Despite the intense coffee smell of the rub, the taste is actually much more diverse and interesting. Coffee, being coffee, has a smell that tends to overshadow everything around it. On the tongue, however, that bold, bitter coffee taste is joined by a medley of other equally strong flavors that stand out on their own. The coffee gives way, in turn, to sparks of sweetness, sudden notes of saltiness, and the simmering, low key spiciness of the garlic and paprika.
These flavors do not blend, but tussle for position on your taste buds, and that’s what makes this rub work. It’s not a single flavor, or polite union of similar flavors, it’s a raucous dust up of competing tastes. It’s a tour of the whole tongue, with fun flavors for every taste bud. I’d be interested to see how this stuff would taste without all the coffee in it, to be honest, but having the coffee is what makes it really stand out. While other rubs commonly play up to saltiness, Trader Joe’s Coffee and Garlic Rub plays up the boldness, and it’s this strong base note that gives the riot of other flavors the grounds to go wild.
Trader Joe’s also suggests that you can use this rub as a seasoning on veggies, fish, etc. I’m not sure I’d recommend that myself. While it isn’t bad, per se, the rub is so intense that it can only really be used in tiny amounts, and even then you probably want to mix in another, more traditional seasoning to round out the taste.
One final caveat – make sure you leave yourself plenty of time for the flavors of the rub to permeate your ribs, steaks etc. Trader Joe’s recommends at least an hour – but the longer you wait the richer the flavor in the end. Give this rub as much time as possible on your meat, and apply it generously, for the full effect. Just don’t wait until too late at night to eat. This is real coffee in the rub and, as I discovered, a late dinner might leave up for hours.
Would I Recommend It: Absolutely. This will shake up your life a little.
Would I Buy It Again: I think I’ll stock up on a little more.
Final Synopsis: A bold, mix of bitter, salty and sweet flavors that you should try at least once.