REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

“We’ve all heard of Thanksgiving leftovers, but Thanksgiving pre-ftovers?” No laughs. I exit the room. I come back in, trying to make a better entrance. “Guys, if Trader Joe’s keeps this up, we’re going to have to rename Thanksgiving Christmas.” I exit the room. I enter again. “You know what they call three strikes in a row in bowling? A turkey. You know what they call four strikes in a row? Obama’s labor policy. That one’s for you, Uncle Jeff!” No laughs. I exit the room, fill my pockets with rocks and march into the ocean.

At least I died after getting to try Trader Joe’s attempt at a Thanksgiving cornucopia shoved into a snack, the Turkey Stuffing and Seasoned Kettle Chips. What it made me realize is that Thanksgiving is about dull, comforting tastes that feature varying textures, and that a subtle flavor with a light description of the product can possibly induce taste hallucinations.

Opening the bag, a waft of powdered mashed potatoes enters the air. Upon first bite, it tastes a little like powdered mashed potatoes, and maybe a hint of sage. It kind of looks like it’s dusted with powdered mashed potatoes.

We’re going to take a timeout from this review for a reassessment: Of course it tastes like potatoes, you dope. It’s a potato chip. And 80 percent of all the stuffing you’ve eaten has been dried and pre-mixed from a plastic bag, which is like the cousin of the powdered mash potato.

Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips 2

Let’s read the packaging. “These thickly cut, kettle cooked chips are tossed in a seasoning that tastes like a traditional American Thanksgiving meal—first you taste the turkey, then comes the stuffing, and if you close your eyes, you’ll swear you can taste the creamy gravy, too.”

On a second taste a muted stuffing flavor appears. It’s good. Was it always there or was I eating the words on the back of the bag? Does it matter? Nibbling on one at a time, I even catch some dark meat turkey flavor, but only a whisper of umami. Eating the chips by the handful, the overriding flavor is stuffing seasoning before sodium overload makes it all taste like other non-Thanksgiving kettle chips. The aftertaste has a black pepper hum that resembles the outline of a gravy, that lends a tail of personality that elevates the final product.

The chip itself has a slight grit, which is not unpleasant but highlights the main difference between this and a real Thanksgiving dinner. There is no celery snap, no meat gristle, no butter gooey bread crumbs. A potato chip is a potato chip. A potato chip is not a Thanksgiving meal. Are all the flavors there? Sure. I caught them, whether they were real or not. And they serve as a pleasant nostalgia, priming the pump for all the other garbage food on the holiday table.

At best this chip has hints of just about all the main meal touchstones of a Thanksgiving dinner, which is pretty amazing. And even at its worst, it’s a decent kettle chip with sage flavoring. It would have been nice to have a little more kick in there at some point, like cranberries, maybe, or something acidic? But we must dance with the date we came with. And that date is racist Uncle Jeff and a crispy stuffing. Maybe slap them on the leftovers sandwich you’re eating in line for Best Buy at 4 a.m. Oh, that’s right, no Black Friday for me. I’m dead! What a blessing.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Stuffing flavors, turkey flavors, possibly present and enjoyable.
Cons: A tad dull. Could just be powdered mashed potatoes flavor.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

Trader Joe’s might as well be a candy store.

I’m sure their “real” food and produce are top quality, but I’ll never know. I’ve never walked out of there with anything other than a snack bounty. Take my last visit for example – chips, peanut butter cups, cookies, burritos, and Pumpkin Pie Spiced Cookie Butter.

Wait, what? Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter? What kind of sorcery is this?

I like pie! I like cookies! I like butter! Pumpkin and I can go either way, but ’tis the season. If anything is going to ruin my excitement for this, it’s the pumpkin.

Well, it looks like canned pumpkin pie filling. It smells just like pumpkin pie filling. It tastes…better than pumpkin pie filling?!

Are you familiar with the original Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter? If not, it’s a delicious gingerbread-like spread with little bits of cookie crunch. It’s magic in a jar. Think of a slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of that instead of Cool Whip. That’s what this tastes like. Trust me, it’s incredible.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter 3

This stuff tastes like Grandma baked a pumpkin pie with a buttery gingerbread crust, and then pureed it. Again, just trust me.

To me, pumpkin pie is one of those desserts that gets steadily worse with each bite. The first bite is delicious, especially in contrast to the savory Thanksgiving feast that preceded it. The next bite…slightly less. The bite after that makes me realize I still have half the slice to go, and from that point forward I basically have to force myself to finish. (Same goes for pecan pie if I’m being honest.)

I’ve also always found the texture of pumpkin pie filling to be slightly off-putting, almost like an off pudding, if you will. Stop booing and let me finish. I also feel like the filling is too sweet most of the time. Not with this cookie butter. This is perfectly sweet without being overwhelming.

It’s funny, when I picked this off the shelf, I wondered what I’d even spread it on. When I got home and popped it open I realized it didn’t even need to be paired with anything. There’s no need for a middle man, it’s great on its own. 

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter 4

Still, I had to do my due diligence for the people. In two days, I’ve already had this on toast, a bagel, an apple, and pretzel sticks. Here’s a shocker, it was great on all of them. Outside of mixing it with peanut butter, I can’t think of many snacks this wouldn’t mesh with. I’d probably spread this on chicken.

I’m having a hard time thinking of any negatives. Like regular cookie butter, I did find that I wanted to brush my teeth after eating it, as it left a gritty, pasty feeling in my mouth, but that’s me grasping at straws. I really should be grasping at a spoon to finish the jar off. 

Judging from the line of products TJ’s has put out with the original cookie butter, I’m pumped to see what the future holds for this one. I’m hoping they eventually put out cookies, ice cream, and the jars with the chocolate swirl. 

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter is so good that I might write Trader Joe’s an email begging them to make actual pumpkin pies with this product for the Thanksgiving season. I’d replace the old standard with one of those in a split second. 

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp. – 220 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 14.1 oz jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Better than standard pumpkin pie filling. Delicious cookie bits. Great on everything. Great on its own. Trader Joe’s innovations. Magic in a jar.
Cons: Leaves a gritty, pasty feeling in my mouth. The word “dollop.”

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Brownie Crisp

Trader Joe’s Brownie Crisp

Instructions for Sadness:

Don’t think about brownies.
Or fudge chunks.
Or crispy edges.
In fact, just throw all the chocolate near you away.
(Slow motion:) Nooooooo!!
Your only thoughts should be about canned beets.
And standardized tests.
Please. No.
Maybe stare at a broken clock, read a self-help book, and reflect on your recurring nightmares about the one-eyed, door-to-door orange juice salesman.
But not brownies. Or cookies. Or both.

Promise me something: if you like chocolate, crispy bits, fudge chunks, and crumblies, ignore the above instructions. I know I did as I grabbed these Brownie Crisps from the shelf, puzzling over the image on the polymer bag. “Is that a Brownie Brittle replica? Or just an ugly cookie? Perhaps some mutant Cocoa Puff?” Only one way to find out…

Trader Joe’s Brownie Crisp 2

Before we get going I feel the need to talk about the original Brownie Brittle. By now, you might be familiar with those slivers of chocolate crunchies, but, if not, allow me to introduce you. Brownie Brittle is a crispy, crunchy creation, much akin to a very, very thin chocolate cookie. The cookie-like shards are pummeled with teensy round chocolate chips, broken up, and served up in wackadoo shapes.

Trader Joe’s Brownie Crisp 3

As you can see by my poorly constructed tent resort camping facility, the structural integrity of these brownie crisps rivals that of Lincoln Logs. The Original Brownie Brittle was a bit thinner and more delicate, breaking into shards at the ill-angled toss of a bag. Not so with these chunks: they’re sturdy, yet also crumbly, holding an integrity that transmogrifies an Oreo with a graham cracker with an especially wonky-shaped Tollhouse. Basically, it’s a giant, thin brownie-cookie hybrid that’s been baked on a sheet, sent through an identity scrambler, and smashed by Thor (that’s how they do it in the production facility, right?).

Of course, the hybrid’s success hinges on said brownie-cookie’s execution. This one? Is splendid. The outside base starts crunchy, then disintegrates into a dutch cocoa, sugar-filled crumble. None of my crisps are burnt, avoiding the charcoal bitterness that so easily throws off a brownie corner’s game. I’m working to eat the crisp alone, but it’s hard to get a bite without konking into a chocolate chunk.

And those chunks? They’re everywhere. Scattered on top. Scattered inside. Moderately mammoth-sized. Peewee mammoth-sized. These chunks are special in their flavor’s capacity to complement the cocoa base. The chocolate here is nothing exotic. No citrus or nutmeg or hints of pine. Just some very simple pudding, butter, and coffee notes, maybe a hint of vanilla, all of which contributes a dark, melty bitterness that rounds out the sugary grit in the chocolate crisp base. I ate them. I ate them all. My regrets are nill.

Trader Joe’s Brownie Crisp 4

Of all brownie’s transmutations, this is surely its most hardship-free: crunchy, crumbly, cocoa buttery fragments scrambled with chocolate chunks. If any of that sounds like something you might enjoy, hustle on over to Trader Joe’s. While extremely similar in concept to Brownie Brittle (i.e.: shards of a brownie-cookie hybrid), these crisps are a bit thicker with chocolate chunks the size of a small child’s eyeball. I’m knocking them a few for lacking ingenuity, but, between the chunks and the crispy crumblies, these are downright delicious.

If you enjoy the last crumbs of brownie corners, make haste to your Trader Joe’s. To hesitate? Means one would miss out. This would make one sad. One might cry. One might cry a river so deep, one’s Industrial City Planners would have to construct a new bridge to redirect the water hazard created by one’s tears. Save yourself from sadness and city tax dollars. Get the brownie crisps. Nothing about brownie cravings should involve delayed gratification.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 crisps – 100 calories, 35 calories from fat, 3.5 gram of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Trader Joe’s Brownie Crisp
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Crispy. Crumbly. Lots-o-chocolate chunks. Chunks’ flavor complements crispy cocoa base. Structural integrity of a Lincoln Log. Chunks the size of small child’s eyeball. Smashed by hammer of Thor.
Cons: Copycat of Brownie Brittle. Won’t appease anyone looking for chewy/fudgy brownies. Bag empties quickly. Standardized tests. Recurring nightmares of the door-to-door orange juice salesmen.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar

“Ganache” is such a French word. It’s so French that if you say it into a mirror three times, French Candyman appears. Instead of a hook hand he has half a baguette on his stump and he doesn’t murder you, he gives you cigarettes made of young cheese. Then you have to watch an entire Jerry Lewis movie and make small talk with his mistress while he looks for your bidet. And then you have to drive him to the airport to get back to France. It’s kind of a hassle, honestly.

The Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar tries to French gourmet up the grocery proceedings but also keeps it real down home by featuring USA’s favorite swine meats. It says what’s in it right there on the packaging: “A rich combination of dark chocolate ganache, pieces of uncured bacon, and a hint of smoked salt.”

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar 4

The ganache is tucked inside the bar in tiny pockets, along with the pieces of pig. The particular bar I had was very fragile and almost immediately featured a diagonal crack that allowed the insides to leak out and made it look like it was bleeding chocolate blood.

Fun fact: In old black and white films, Dracula would use chocolate syrup in place of blood. Another fun fact: In the commercials, Count Chocula drinks human blood in place of milk in his cereal.

The bar boasts a 70 percent cacao rating thing, and, yes, it’s bitter. It has a smooth cacao flavor which crescendos into an acrid bite when the pools of ganache touch the tongue. There’s maybe a facsimile of smokiness—which actually comes off as a bit sour—but the tenor changes with a subtle touch of saltiness. It’s a complex hit that might even include the sixth taste, umami, or the seventh taste, your mommy.

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar 2

The experience is a bit tough to describe because while it’s a combination of all these interesting things, I also found it not that pleasant. I imagine it is a little bit like what Coca-Cola tasted like when it was being sold as a cure-all tonic. There’s not much sweetness involved and it tastes a little bit like medicine.

Ironic, isn’t it, that this product has “uncured” bacon in it, because medicine “cures” diseases and this tastes like medicine and “uncured” is the opposite of “cured.” Haha. Good one, dude. Good one. … *cricket sounds for ten seconds* … “It’s like raaaaaaaain on your wedding day/ It’s the freeee riiiiiide….”

Where is the bacon? It’s in little torn up pieces in a sea of chocolate ganache, represented by the hints of salt. Catching them in my mouth here and there, texture-wise they sort of felt like balled up pieces of wet tissue paper rolled between my fingers to make wispy strands. Without it billboarded on the front, I would never have guessed bacon was involved in this product.

The chocolate is really a stronger flavor here and overpowers just about all the bacon qualities. It’s a fine, bold dark chocolate taste, but with the bar and the insides being all chocolate, all day it’s a bit overwhelming. Maybe if I say “ganache” three times backwards into a mirror it will dial back the intensity? “Ehcanag, ehcanag, ehcanag.” Nope, that just summoned Opposite French Candyman. He’s exactly the same as French Candyman but his skin is inside out and rides a bicycle backwards. Pretty cool.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 bar – 220 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 3 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Dark chocolate central. If you need that fix, it has it. Complex flavors.
Cons: Not very sweet at all. Bacon gets lost a bit, tastes like medicine.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Sour Gummies Ts & Js

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies Ts & Js

I just wanted to go to K-Mart. That’s all. So I took the shortcut through Madison Square Park, where I stopped to admire the horizontal mirrors.

This is where something went wrong.

I don’t know what it was. I didn’t wave my arms, ruffle a squirrel, toss a hot dog cart. Nothing that would otherwise incite Karmic wrath. So did I expect to suddenly be running from a vehement Great Horned Owl while being stared down by a group of early mothers who might’ve just left the casting call for NBC’s next Crime Drama?


But there are good days and there are days when you are chased by a talon-wielding species of bird with a vast wingspan. Thankfully, we are not weaklings. We power forward, trudge onward, seek counsel in the Magic 8 Ball we kept from 3rd Grade. Sugar helps in the recovery.

And Trader Joe’s is helping in that recovery by expanding their gummy landscape, coming in with excellent prices and a limited alphabet with their new Sour Gummies. Indeed, if your name is T.J. or J.T., count yourself among the lucky ones: you can now transcribe love notes to your significant other whose name is T.J./J.T.:

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies Ts & Js Love

Softer than Sour Patch yet chewier than a lump of Jell-o, these all-natural gummies prove to have a semi-chewy, gumdrop-like squish. They require very little exercise from your jaw, yet are still firm enough to hold together, so I’m 92.7% confident Yoshi could’ve use these as weapons to defeat the Slime Drops in Super Mario World 2.

The outside coating reminds me markedly of Sour Patch Kids, having only a subtle sour pop before going forth into the sweet flavor. Seekers of taste-bud-dissolving, Warhead-like sour pain will be at a loss as the coating of sour sprinkles contributes more of a granular texture than actual mouth-puckering sourness.

However, this lack of self-sabotaging sourness only allows the all-natural citrus flavors to stand out. Here’s the play-by-play for each flavor:

Key Lime – This one has a fine juicy tartness. It reminds me of the lost-but-not-forgotten Lime Skittle: tangy and juicy on its own, no bitter, dishwashing detergent notes in sight, much like a true Key Lime candy from Key West. Ernest Hemingway and his six-toed cats would be proud.

Lemon – Zesty, tangy, and zippy as a Spanish bull. There’s both a juicy quality and a citrus tartness that I thoroughly appreciate. It’s like a lemon Starburst, only a hint milder. Combined with the lime, the two taste like Lemon-Lime Gatorade. Mmmm…electrolyte-enhanced beverage…

Grapefruit – I was equally excited as I was disheartened by this flavor. While I looked for the tart-bitter-juicy-sweet notes of a grapefruit, I only found a vague “Fruit Juice” quality. Indeed, it tastes like a Juicy Juice box with a bit of a berry note. Perhaps it’s from the black currant coloring? It’s not bad by any means, but not exactly grapefruit.

Tangerine – This one eschews the sour, bitter depth of the tangerine peel, and goes straight for the juice. It has a sugary, one-note citrus quality that reminds me of Orange Hi-C, which I used to chug in abundance at the Free Refill soda machine at Taco Bell, so it’s not so much “tangerine” as just “orange.” It’s simple and I love it.

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies Ts & Js Closeup

There are no crazed-eyed, kid-shaped gummies here. No wild tangles of hair or neon blue raspberry flavors. There are just these little alphabet letters. They make for good chewing. Think of them more as the all-natural, slightly softer Sour Patches of the gummy world. While the grapefruit ended up being a bit of a Snooze Fest, the rest of the flavors have solid citrus flavors and combine with one another excellently. The lemon tastes like lemon. The lime tastes like lime. The snozzberry…wait, there’s still no snozzberry?

Good job, Trader Joe’s. Until we meet again, I shall be searching for the snozzberry. Hopefully, I won’t run into any Great Horned Owls along the way.

(Nutrition Facts – 17 pieces – 150 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Item: Trader Joe’s Sour Gummies Ts & Js
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tangy. Soft and chewy. Doesn’t result in jaw surgery. Lime doesn’t taste like dishwashing detergent. Lemon is like a Starburst. Tangerine is like Hi-C. Free refills at Taco Bell. Super Mario World 2.
Cons: Grapefruit doesn’t taste like grapefruit. Doesn’t satisfy Warhead-level sour cravings. No snozzberry flavor. Talon-wielding birds of prey.