Trader Joe’s Seriously Stuffed Peppers struck me as a particularly intriguing novelty when I stumbled on them the other day. Not only do they sound like something your industrious grandmother might prepare for Christmas dinner, but they look exactly like that too. Each jar is tiny and cute, topped with a bit of homely parchment rubber-banded around the lid. Inside the jar a dozen or so cherry peppers are packed to bursting with a whole olive, some garlic, and a caper or two. That seemed like it just might be delicious, so I picked it up.
What I wasn’t ready for was all the oil! Not unlike the dolmas I bought a while back, these tasty, European appetizers are somewhat ruined by the enormous amount of oil they’re packed in.
First the good stuff. These stuffed peppers are pretty dang tasty. Based on the smell alone, I was prepared for an intense blast of pickled flavor, or a blazing hot burst of heat. The reality is nothing of the sort – instead they’re mild, slightly bitter, slightly nutty, with a flavorful, zesty tail.
The bitterness comes from the cherry peppers, which don’t bring any heat, but only a mild taste and toothsome texture, with just a hint of bitterness that suggests they’ve been cooked slightly too long.
Inside of these guys are the capers, olives and garlic. All three perform exactly how you’d expect – the olives and capers bring their salty, pungent taste and the garlic sneaks up behind you the moment you swallow to put a little bit of fire on the tongue. The result is very edible. Overall the stuffed peppers are much more mild than olives or capers are on their own, much more flavorful than garlic, and much more complex and interesting than simple cherry peppers. All together, they make for a nice little antipasta – perfect for throwing on the side of some pasta or lamb.
Almost perfect, I should say.
As nice as they are, I have a serious problem with how oily these peppers are. What I thought was a pickle brine at first glace, turns out to be sunflower oil – thick and viscous, with a slightly nutty taste and a smell that starts fills the room as soon as you open the jar. We are talking about a heavy, heavy oil here, and it coats the peppers in a permanent glaze. Drip, dab or wipe a pepper all you want, and it will still glisten with a fine oily sheen. I’m not kidding – my fingers are slipping all over the keyboard as I write this. My girlfriend as a jar of oil she uses on her air, a mixture of coconut oil, argan oil, and macadamia oil, that is less oily than the oil in this jar.
Evidence of the oil’s impact is visible in the nutrition facts – each 4 pepper serving contains only 60 calories, but 40 of those calories are from fat. That’s a huge amount of fat to cram into what are, otherwise, nothing but vegetables. The sunflower oil also imparts its own flavor on the peppers – imbuing the whole thing with a nuttiness that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the flavor profile.
I do like these stuffed peppers, and I’d love to snack down on them, but there really doesn’t seem to be a good way to do that. It’s tricky to fish the peppers out of the jar without them falling apart – trying to get the oil off of them without ruining their delicate construction is even harder. Leaving the oil on is always, an option, but the result is a big pool of oil on your plate or running down your finger. That’s not the end of the world, obviously, but it does limit how you eat and serve them.
Between the very pretty packaging and the beautifully stuffed peppers, this is dish looks wonderful in the jar sitting on your self. Unless you have a pressing need for antipasta, however, I’d recommend leaving them there.
Would I Recommend It: Not really – it’s okay, but not worth the hassle.
Woudl I Buy It Again: No, it’s much too oily for me.
Final Synopsis: Very nice as décor – not as good as food.
I’ve always been cautious when it comes to foods stuffed in other foods, so it was with wariness that I approached Trader Joe’s stuffed peppers with seasoned turkey and rice. Stuffing, after all, is fraught with peril. We’ve all heard the dire warnings regarding turkey stuffing and seen the gruesome spectacle of sausage stuffing. It is a mixed bag. Sometimes the rewards outweigh the dangers, and sometimes you find yourself eating a pile of gunk.
I turned to Trader Joe’s stuffed red peppers during a quest to find a cheap, easy prep, low carb, non-frozen dinner entree. A tall order, and one that Trader Joe’s has trouble delivering on. It was after a great deal of searching that I finally struck upon these. Trader Joe’s Stuffed Red Peppers may not be exactly a dieters dream, but at 11 grams of fat and 14 grams of carbs per serving they’re not too far off the mark.
I’ve come back to these stuffed peppers time and time again because it fills a gap not many Trader Joe’s products do – a dead-cheap dinner option that takes 15 minutes and no prep. In other words, with two full servings for about $2.50 each and no knowledge of cooking necessary, this is the perfect I’m-An-Unskilled-Bachelor dinner go to. I go the oven-cooked route, but it’s just as easily microwaved. In either case, you end up with something that’s not just tasty, but could nearly pass as home cooked.
The piping hot rice and season turkey spills in a moist slump over the red pepper’s wilted walls – flavorful, meaty and savory without being starchy or over-salted. The balance between turkey and rice is generously nudged toward the turkey side, which at makes this more entree than side dish. This rich filling is, in turn, balanced by the soft and very mild taste of the roasted red pepper casing.
That said, these stuffed peppers aren’t perfect. For one, the casing always collapses to some degree when cooked, making messy piles. Relatedly, the filling tends to resist becoming crisp and brown no matter how long you bake it.
Trader Joe’s Stuffed Red Pepper isn’t incredible, exotic or revolutionary, but like TJ’s Minestrone it’s something with a value all it’s now, a classic mainstay. This is the sort of meal that a mom might serve up to her family once a week – a modern-day casserole that gives the TV Dinner Set an option outside the freezer section.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, whether you’re a mom, a bachelor or just too tired to defrost the chicken.
Would I Buy It Again: I already have.
Final Synopsis: A simple, but tasty classic.