Trader Joe’s annual Pumpkin Madness in October is always my favorite time of the year, if just for the sheer thrill of seeing which products Joe decides to green light – but I also love it because once those gates are thrown open they stay open for the rest of the year. With the pumpkin products receding into the distance behind us, we now find ourselves fording the wild rapids of Holiday product season.
|What it is:||Gyoza filled with seafood paste.|
|Price:||$3.99 for a 7.6 oz. bag|
|Worth it:||No. There are tastier potstickers out there.|
We don’t usually see anything quite as crazy as we do in October over the holidays, but Trader Joe’s still manages to slip one or two out there products in when no one is looking – like chocolate milk mixed with wine.
What surprised me most, as I was perusing the aisles, was this extremely unusual holiday (???) offering – Trader Joe’ Seafood Sriracha Potstickers with Shrimp and Crab.
Seafood potstickers don’t generally scream “Christmas”, but hat hasn’t stopped TJ’s from wrapping these dumplings up in red and green dough. Let the festive, merry colors of crimson red and evergreen greet you in this mixed meat, Asian-style, seafood dumpling. It’s a weird choice, sure, but there’s no denying they’ll fit right in at the annual Christmas potluck. The rest of the year, assuming these stay around the rest of the year, I guess they’ll just be weirdly out of place.
These potstickers are very similar to Trader Joe’s many other gyoza offerings – namely they are cheap, tasty and easy to cook. Despite the difference in color, each dumpling is filled with same filling – a combination of shrimp, crab, mung bean noodles, and water chestnuts. These flavors all blend into each other, however, so don’t go expecting big, tasty pieces of either crab or shrimp. Instead, the ingredients have been blended into a uniform paste that has been pumped into each casing. This makes these gyoza much less substantial than their pork and chicken brothern, and gives them a consistency much closer to a classic, mashed potato filled potsticker. Presumably, that’s why they left “gyoza” off the label and went with “potsticker” – although it makes the choice to call the whole-wheat and squash version “gyoza” even more bizarre.
In any case, if you don’t mind the soft texture, and weird coloration, these potstickers are reasonably tasty and a welcome return to form over the dreaded wholewheat version debuted last month. The inclusion of some sriracha spice in the filling is a nice touch, although TJ’s is careful to keep the heat in the mild range band. If you want to spice these up, you’ll want to bring some TJ’s Sriracha hot sauce or cilantro Green Dragon hot sauce – or even a nice chili sauce of your own.
Personally, I thought these were fine, but nothing to write home about. The seafood doesn’t really standout in the prepared product, and without that it’s just a sort of mildly, inoffensive dumping. Trader Joe’s has a LOT of gyoza varieties to choose among nowadays, from the mundane to the adventerous. Once you get past the eye-catching colors, there isn’t anything to set these potstickers ahead of the pack.
Would I Recommend Them: Not really. They’re fine, but there are better gyoza on the shelf.
Would I Buy Them Again: No, I prefer the chicken and pork versions.
Final Synopsis: A good appetizer for a holiday-themed party, but not much more.
Just a quick post today to talk about Trader Joe’s Sriracha Potato Chips. After really bringing down the hammer about Trader Joe’s underwhelming Ghost Pepper Potato Chips, I was surprised to see that they immediately doubled down and released another spicy potato chip.
|What it is:||Mildly spicy, tangy potato chips.|
|Price:||$2.29 for an 8 oz. bag|
|Worth it:||Yes, these are great to snack on.|
Obviously that raised too many questions to avoid picking it up. Would this chip actually be spicy? Even if it wasn’t, would it still be spicier than the Ghost Pepper chip? Would it capture Trader Joe’s uniquely tangy take on Srircha sauce?
The answer to all these questions is a firm yes. While I can think of a dozen brands off the top of my head that are much spicier than these, they are at least spicy enough to actually make it into the “Spicy” category – even if it’s only under the heading for “Mild”.
These chips actually manage to be a little spicier than their disappointingly mild Ghost Pepper brethren, and they do so delightfully – replicating the full, zippy flavor profile of Trader Joe’s Sriracha Hot Sauce. While that hot sauce is far milder than the more widely known Hoy Fong Rooster Sauce, it makes up for it by actually being flavorful – a tasty, vinegary-blend of all sorts of spices. That same flavor is replicated in miniature on these chips, making them a pleasure to munch on. That’s much better than the dull exercise that eating the Ghost Pepper chips ended up being.
In fact, that vinegary, spicy side of the sriracha sauce makes these chips taste more like a hybrid between Salt & Vinegar chips and Jalapeno chips than a simple spicy chip – something I’ve never had before.
The better flavor of these chips also helped me to appreciate the great waffle-cut texture of these kettle-baked chips. Thick, crispy and big, these chips stay crunchy and hold up in dips remarkably well – certainly far better than your run-of-the-mill Lays would.
That, plus the fact that they aren’t saddled with trying to fill impossibly large shoes (as was the case with the ghost pepper chips) made them pretty damn enjoyable.
Looking at these Sriracha chips alongside the Ghost Pepper chips actually made me wonder if this isn’t all some marketing scheme gone wrong. Is it possible that the “Ghost Pepper” chips were simply supposed to be the “Plain” variety of potato chip – laying the ground work for more interesting flavors, like this Srircha variety. Did the marketers find themselves struggling with a mental block, unable to conjure up a tasty sounding way to pitch bland, barely spicy chips? Did they panic? Was the product rushed out, some executive making the decision to stick “Ghost Pepper” on the label, hoping all would be forgiven when the more flavorful varieties were rolled out?
Extremely likely – in this blogger’s opinion. Watch out, you shadowy figures of the Trader Joe’s Marketing Department…I’m on to you.
Would I Recommend Them: Yes, they’re good if you’re looking for something not too spicy.
Would I Buy Them Again: Yes – these are some of my favorite chips I’ve had at TJ’s.
Final Synopsis: Crispy potato chips that faithfully capture the tang of Trader Joe’s Sriracha sauce.
Ever since they introduced their own brand of (rather delicious) sriracha sauce last year, Trader Joe’s has been actively working it into as many different products as possible. We’ve seen spicy sriracha ranch, sriracha BBQ sauce and, not to be overlooked, sweet sriracha glazed bacon jerky. These have been heady months.
What better time, then, to introduce a brand new form of hot sauce to the shelves – Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce – a bolder, hotter variation of their tasty sriracha.
|What it is:||A spicy, jalapeno-based hot sauce|
|Price:||$2.99 for an 18 oz. bottle|
|Worth it:||Yes, spicy and bold!|
I should note, just in passing, that this is a pattern that exactly follows what Trader Joe did with their amazing cookie butter. First, filling the shelves with as many cookie butter infused products as they could spin out (seriously, there’s a ton), then introducing a brand new member of the cookie butter family with their “Oreo” based cookie butter.
Although packaged in nearly identical bottles, and emblazoned with a similar dragon logo, there isn’t a lot of family resemblance between these two hot sauces. What’s different? For one, the green dragon looks a lot wussier than the rad red dragon – but more importantly the Green Dragon Hot Sauce dispenses with the flavorful, sweet tang of the red sriracha sauce in favor of a bolder, more herbaceous, and overall spicier taste.
The green color in the Green Dragon comes from replacing the ground chili peppers in the original sriracha sauce with a jalapeno and tomatillo pepper puree. You’ll find the same vinegar and garlic base in both, giving them that slightly acidic zing – however the new Green Dragon sauce also adds a strong dose of cilantro to the mix. This results in a very strong, earthy flavor that lingers long on the tongue.
The difference between these two sauces is almost like the difference between those famous, commonly related seasonings salt and pepper. The red sriracha sauce is more like salt – zippy, very flavorful and, for all intents and purposes, the more popular choice for putting on everything. On the other hand, the green pepper sauce is better for adding a more complex, heavier and spicier dimension to your food – and because there’s so much cilantro on board, a few dashes is probably all you need of it.
In fact, cilantro has such a strong presence in this hot sauce, that I’ve found that it makes it particularly suitable for spicing up Mexican dishes – tasty with eggs (ranchero-style or otherwise), tacos, burritos… the whole enchilada. Combined with the distinctive taste of jalapeno and tomatillo peppers, this sauce feels as Mexican as it does Thai.
Trying them both back to back, I can’t help but prefer the red sriracha sauce. It’s still my go to hot sauce from Trader Joe’s – improving on Hoy Fong Foods famous rooster sauce by sticking closer to the authentic Thai recipe. However, while it may not get as much use as the red sauce, the green dragon sauce is still a welcome tool to have on the spice rack.
Would I Recommend It: I would – there aren’t a lot of sauces out there like this right now.
Would I Buy It Again: This bottle should last me a while, but I might pick up another one in a year next year.
Final Synopsis: A bold, spicy hot sauce with plenty of jalapeno and cilantro.
I’ve seen some pretty shocking things appear on the Trader JOe’s shelves over the years – chocolate/wine drinks, pumpkin greek yogurt, chocolate bars made with bacon – but I’m usually able to take it all in stride. When you shop at Trader Joe’s you have to expect the unexpected. However, Trader Joe’s Srirach Ranch Dressing I was totally unprepared for. Ranch dressing? Available at Trader Joe’s? Holy crap!
Unfortunately, however, this new salad dressing offering is a mixed blessing.
|What it is:||Very spicy ranch dressing.|
|Price:||$2.99 for a 16 oz. bottle|
|Worth it:||Good for wings, but too spicy for salad.|
As you might have gleaned from the frequency I write about them, I’m a fan of salads. I’m a fan of salads in the same way that rats are a fan of untended grain silos – which is to say I eat salads with a ravenous, unstoppable intensity. With their plethora of fresh produce, Trader Joe’s is a real boon for salad lovers like me – except that they seemed to miss the memo on two important points.
One, for some reason Trader Joe’s refuses to sell reasonable quantities of croutons at reasonable prices. You can buy a small sachet of artisinal cheese bagel rounds for $4.99, and that’s it. How can you carry two types of salmon jerky, but no croutons, Trader Joe? Madness.
Two, Trader Joe’s refuses to expand their salad dressing line. The salad dressings they offer are good, sure. I love a little bit of Asian Sesame Seed Dressing or Balsamic Vinaigrette on my freshly washed greens, but the quantities are laughable. Only available in small, solid glass, 8 oz bottles, picking up salad dressing at Trade Joe’s feels more like picking through potions at a medieval apothecary than shopping for condiments.
So as exciting as a new flavor of Trader Joe’s dressing is – and being able to buy ranch dressing at Trader Joe’s is *very* exciting – what I was most shocked by was the new, full-sized, 16 oz. salad dressing bottle. The bulbous plastic bottle with screw on cap might seem weirdly plebeian by Trader Joe’s standards, but it’s nice to see Trader Joe’s do something like a normal person every once in a while as well.
So at $2.99 per bottle the price is right, the size is right, and since this is just spicy ranch dressing we’re talking about, surely the flavor is just fine as well. Right? Right? Well, no – not really.
Look, I’ve had spicy ranch dressing before. I know what to expect from spicy ranch dressing – that familiar buttermilk creaminess spiced up with some piquant red pepper. Trader Joe’s Sriracha Ranch Dressing may look like it’s taking this route, but they actually deliver something far more intense.
Taking the “Sriracha” part of the name seriously, they’ve loaded up this simple dressing with a mouth blistering blast of pure chili paste. I’m not kidding – this “ranch dressing” might even be spicier than Trader Joe’s own Sriracha knock-off. How does that even work?
Overall, the whole ranch dressing part takes a serious back seat to the sriracha. That means if you want to use this dressing to kick up your burger and fries, add flare to your tacos, or serve as a dipping sauce for chicken wings you’re in good shape. However, if you want to slather it on a bed of lettuce and carrots, you had better be ready for your lips to blaze with the fire of a thousand raging suns. It’s far more a hot sauce than a salad dressing.
As far as I’m concerned, I could maybe see incorporating this into an Asian noodle salad or similar, but this was way to spicy for my daily salad needs.
Would I Recommend It: Only if you like your salads hot.
Would I Buy It Again: Nope, too spicy for me.
Final Synopsis: A good hot sauce substitute, but not great on salads.
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.
Guys, you never know what you’re going to get in this world. Case in point, Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky. Just look at this stuff – it could so easily be the worst thing or the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life, and there’s simply no way to tell. I mean, let’s just look at the name for a minute here. “Sweet Sriracha”. Already we’re in trouble. Sweet sriracha? Sweet? I’ve had some sriracha in my time, I’ve even reviewed Trader Joe’s own take on sriracha, but I’ve never had sweet sriracha. We’re two words in and I’m already completely out to sea.
Let’s press on.
“Uncured Bacon Jerky”. Alright, that didn’t stick – let’s try it again. “Uncured Bacon Jerky”. Nope, nothing. I have no idea what that phrase means. Bacon jerky? Bacon? Jerky? Do they mean dehydrated pork slices? If so why don’t they say “pig jerky” or “pork jerky”. Do they actually mean dehydrated bacon slices? Isn’t that just bacon? Isn’t bacon already the crispy, salty, dehydrated form of bacon? What is going on here? Am I loosing my mind? There are no two words in the title I can put together and have them make sense.
Look, I could go on, but there’s really no amount of words that are going to untangle this very confounding string of words. I guess we’re just going to have to crack the bag open and have a taste. And you know what, folks? If you do that, you are going to be absolutely floored by one of the most delicious, most addictive, downright tongue delighting foods Trader Joe’s has to offer. This bacon jerky is a sweet and spicy blast of terrifically chewy, sticky, bacon that you can eat straight from the bag and be delighted by the whole while.
Bacon jerky, by the way, is apparently a thing. It’s when you take bacon and marinate it in a bit of savory spices. In this case, the spices are the incredibly addictive sweet sriracha sauce – basically Trader Joe’s standard sriracah sauce, but toned down to a much milder level of hotness. Into this plenty of white sugar and honey have been mixed to make a sweet glaze with just enough fire to get your lips smacking.
The bacon itself is TJ’s standard “no nitrate added” uncured bacon, and its served up here in long, thin strips that stick together in one big gooey pile. To quote Lays, I bet you can’t eat just one. Bacon by itself is good enough, but add a sweet & spicy glaze to it, and you’re talking about an unbeatable experience.
The only mark against it is the presentation which, in gooey bag form, is less than stellar. Even then, I couldn’t keep my fingers from teasing off strip after strip and gobbling it down. If you happen to prefer something more refined, Trader Joe’s suggests using it in place of regular bacon on your BLT, or crumbling it onto salads, or even over mac and cheese.
Really there’s no way to go wrong with this stuff. These spicy, honeyed slices of portable, ready-to-eat bacon are winners from start to finish.
Would I Recommend It: Not to orthodox Jews, but other than that yes across the board.
Would I Buy It Again: I’m not sure I would trust myself with another bag.
Final Synopsis: An evolution of the bacon experience that everyone should try!
Well I certainly wasn’t expecting this. Trader Joe’s has always blazed its own, idiosyncratic course when it comes to it’s food offerings. Rarely do they stoop to blatantly biting on someone else’s style, as they do here with Trader Joe’s Sriracha Sauce. Even more surprising, while it may share the name, this very tasty hot sauce is a different beast entirely.
You know sriracha, you love sriracha, you probably have some in your fridge right now. That is, unless you’re an avowed chili wuss like myself. As a rule, I steer clear of the hot stuff, and that means that, until today, I’ve gently skirted my way around Trader Joe’s Sriracha Sauce whenever I crossed paths with it in the store. Finally, like a kitten being introduced to a new squeaky toy, my curiosity has overcome my fear and I’ve made the plunge. The results have been unexpected.
My basis for avoiding sriracha hot sauce for 99.9% of my life has been based on a few, memorable encounters with the sriracha hot sauce, Huy Fong Food’s Tuong Ot Sriracha, aka the rooster sauce, aka the huge, bright red bottle of thick fiery paste.
I may have missed out on a wide variety of BBQ sauces in my youth, but there was no missing this screaming red blast of hot lava, rising like a flaming obelisk over the tables of South East Asian restaurants from NY to LA. Tuong Ot Sriracha! That thick red paste of concentrated burning hot jalapenos. That thick ooze the consistency of axle grease. That famous recipe made with no water-added. (A point of pride at Huy Fong Food. Check it out yourself: no water, just a splash of vinegar five ingredients down the list). Such a mush of pure heat that is impossible to apply in moderation to your food – leading to concentrated pockets of burning pain or to a plate plastered in a thick layer.
Sure, I tried some Sriracha, curious young man that I was. I tried it and it burnt me – hard. I had no more reason to return to the Devil’s teat. No reason, that is, until now.
Not all sriracha sauce, it turns out, is like Tuong Ot Sriracha. In fact, most isn’t. Unlike the Huy Fong Foods version (a Vietnamese-Chinese product) sriracha is originally a Thai invention, hailing from the town of Si Racha, naturally. Authentic Thai sriracha sauce is a much runnier, tangier sauce, more akin to what we’d consider a “normal” hot sauce to be in the west. It’s this Thai style sriracha that TJ’s is basing it’s version off of.
Trader Joe’s Sriracha Sauce is looser than the rooster sauce, and bring actually flavor to the sauce as well. Much tangier, a little tiny bit sweet and a touch bitter – it’s a complex, rich taste that enlivens soups, noodles, entrees, pizza, basically anything and everything, all without the threat of igniting all the mouth’s surfaces.
Is it still hot? Unequivocally, yes. But it’s noticeably a notch down from Tuong Ot Sriracha. Think Cholula compared to Tabasco. I image this might upset some of the hard-line hot sauce die hards out there, those who seek pain before pleasure in the sauces, but please try it before you judge it. You might just find the flavor more than makes up for the slightly cooler heat.
For the rest of us, or even those who fear the flame like myself, this might just make you look at sriracha sauce in a whole new light.
Would I Recommend It: Yes – this sauce is a sriracha revelation.
Would I Buy It Again: …..………maybe. But that’s saying a lot for me!
Final Synopsis: A srircha sauce that straddles the line between the super hot Huy Fong Foods version, and the authentic Thai version.