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I tried 25 of Trader Joe's award-winning foods, and would buy at least 23 of them again

Savanna Swain-Wilson   

I tried 25 of Trader Joe's award-winning foods, and would buy at least 23 of them again
  • I tried 25 foods that won Trader Joe's Customer Choice Awards to see if they live up to the hype.
  • Staples like the Mandarin orange chicken, Hold the Cone treats, and soy chorizo deserve acclaim.

Every year I look forward to Trader Joe's Customer Choice Awards, which reveals shoppers' favorite products and helps me discover some must-try chain staples.

Items like Mandarin-orange chicken have reigned supreme for years, while others, like butter chicken with basmati rice, recently earned a title.

Notably, the chain moved reigning fan-favorite champions like Mandarin-orange chicken, dark-chocolate peanut-butter cups, Unexpected Cheddar, soy chorizo, and peanut-butter-filled pretzel nuggets to the Product Hall of Fame during the 14th-annual Customer Awards that were announced in 2023.

I hit up my local Trader Joe's and bought as many award-winning foods as I could to see which ones deserved their hype. Here are 25 fan-favorite Trader Joe's items I'd buy again, and which I'd skip.

This burrito stuffed with black beans and Monterey Jack was filling and delicious

When I first learned that this grab-and-go burrito made the cut for Trader Joe's bestsellers list, I thought to myself, "How good could a basic bean-and-cheese burrito possibly be?"

It turns out, very good. This burrito was packed to the brim with beans and cheese.

It flattened out after I microwaved it and didn't really retain its cylindrical shape, but seeing the bits of cheese and beans oozing out of the side made up for this minor flaw.

The burrito was quite simple, but it definitely wasn't boring. The label tells you exactly what it is: a flour tortilla stuffed with well-seasoned black beans and Monterey Jack cheese.

And quite frankly, that was all it needed to be. The mild bite of the Monterey Jack was beautifully paired with the earthy quality of the beans — other ingredients or a strong cheddar would have been a distraction.

I particularly enjoyed that some of the black beans were partially whole while others were mashed, which created this incredibly delicious mixture that the cheese seamlessly blended into.

It's won best on-the-go food item, and I can totally see this product being a super filling office meal that could also double as your dinner later that day. I ate mine at noon for lunch and was not even close to hungry until well after 6 p.m.

Everything tasted wholesome and real, which was a stark contrast to the refried-bean burritos I've gotten from fast-food places.

VERDICT: Without question, I'd buy this again.

The spanakopita would make an outstanding appetizer or stand-alone meal

Spanakopita is a Mediterranean comfort food built with numerous layers of crispy, paper-thin phyllo and filled with creamy ricotta, feta, and spinach.

Upon pulling these babies out of the oven, I noticed some of the filling squeezed out of the pockets, which wasn't a problem for me, but could be an issue if you're looking to present the dish on a table for guests. Still, this could be easily fixed with a quick scrape of a knife or spoon.

I love the earthiness of cooked spinach, and the greens were this dish's most prominent aspect. Their bitter flavor grounded the rich saltiness of the feta-and-ricotta combination and elevated the butter in the phyllo.

That said, this product could have gone from an A to an A+ if it had just a bit more cheese, as it was missing that familiar tang of feta.

Still, I appreciated that this was a tasty, shareable vegetarian dish that also works as an individual stand-alone meal.

I'm confident these qualities and its fair price were the reason it earned the title of best appetizer during the 9th-annual Customer Choice Awards.

VERDICT: I would probably buy this again, but not regularly.

The creamy spinach and artichoke dip would work well as a snack or topping for other dishes

Since Trader Joe's is essentially a snacker's paradise, any item that wins best appetizer multiple times must be really, really good.

I've actually been a loyal fan of this vegetarian-friendly app for several years. Whenever I've needed an instant dish to feed guests, this dip has been a reliable crowd-pleaser for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Perhaps this is because spinach-and-artichoke dip is a staple appetizer on most restaurant menus, so anytime you eat it, it feels like a treat.

But whatever the reason, I have been using this product for years, and it is still one of my favorite things to buy at Trader Joe's.

My favorite part about this creamy concoction is that it's delicious whether it's cold, room temperature, or fresh out of the oven.

This also means it works as more than just a dip. I've used this mix as the foundation for a cheesy spinach-artichoke pizza, which, according to my roommate, turned out to be one of the best dinners I had ever made.

All at once, this dip is creamy, cheesy, and savory. And even better, it's packed with bits of real spinach that you can actually see.

If I have any critiques, it's that I agree with some reviewers who believe the artichoke flavor could be stronger. If you weren't aware of what you were eating, you might question whether there was any artichoke in it.

But if I'm judging this product solely based on taste and value, that minor flaw doesn't detract from how good this dish is.

VERDICT: I will always love this product.

The 2014 best meat-product winner, the apple chicken sausage, was sweeter than I expected

Let's start with the positive: These sausages are made from chicken, a slightly lighter alternative to traditional pork options. I liked that they're minimally processed and contain no added preservatives.

The links came precooked in the package, so I could heat them up in the microwave if I wanted a quick, mess-free meal. And I hate doing dishes, so this would be a win-win for me.

But since I was trying this product for the first time, I opted to cook the links in a skillet. After a few minutes in hot oil, they nicely crisped up like regular pork sausages and developed an appetizing, brown sheen that gave them that familiar "snap" when I bit them.

Unfortunately, I did not care for the general flavor profile of these chicken sausages.

On the inside of each link, there appeared to be minuscule bits of apple, or possibly something else, that gave each bite an additional layer of sweetness I didn't expect.

They also had a strong maple tang that didn't seem artificial but gave each sausage a strange aftertaste. The pork alternative does a better job of standing up against these strong flavors.

A savory scrambled egg dish was not the right option, but they likely would be tasty served alongside a sweeter breakfast, like a thick stack of waffles.

VERDICT: If you're looking for a breakfast meat that will give you a dose of sweet autumnal flavors, look no further. But personally, I won't be buying these again.

The dark-chocolate peanut-butter cups delivered an optimal dose of sweetness in a small package

Nearly every time I enter a Trader Joe's, a packet of these dark-chocolate peanut-butter cups will somehow make its way into my cart.

Naturally, I wasn't surprised that for several years, Trader Joe's customers repeatedly recognized these as their favorite candy, and eventually, their favorite sweet treat.

The dark chocolate has a rich and robust cocoa flavor that compliments the sweetness of the creamy peanut-butter center exceptionally well without tasting bitter.

When it comes to Trader Joe's sweets, these are the black-tie option that are always dressed for the occasion. They're not artisanal candies, but if you removed the label and put them on a platter, I'd believe you if you said they were.

Anytime I crave chocolate, I eat one or two cups and find myself completely satisfied and in an instantly better mood.

VERDICT: These miniature candy cups are a noteworthy mainstay in my cupboard that will be around for years to come.

The olive-oil popcorn tasted excellent and light

This particular popcorn has a delicate coating of olive oil that renders it a little nuttier than the traditional style I'm used to microwaving.

But I gave this product some serious snack points for being pre-popped and sealed, which makes it perfect for long road trips or lunches.

Overall, I was quite pleased with how this popcorn tasted. I anticipated the lack of "real" butter would be a disadvantage, but the olive oil's neutral flavor was palatable, albeit mild, and did a nice job of bringing out the salt.

You could probably add some additional seasonings to the bag and shake it up for extra flavor, and I can even see myself serving this snack in tiny cups alongside cocktails of varying flavors.

I don't know if I personally would rank it among my favorite products or even say it's worthy of awards for flavor, but it is a creative twist on popcorn that I believe many others would find palatable.

VERDICT: This popcorn deserves its recognition as a healthier snack option.

The peanut-butter-filled pretzels were delicious, and I could probably eat an entire bag of them

If you were to ask me the foods I consider revolutionary to the snack world, I'd say peanut-butter-filled pretzels deserve a spot in the top three, which is likely why they won for multiple years

The combination of their crunchy, salty exterior and smooth, creamy filling makes eating every one of these bite-sized morsels nothing short of a divine snacking experience.

This taste test was my first time trying these, and I was very impressed. The ratio of pretzel to peanut butter was ideal for the size of the individual nuggets.

I also loved how the dusting of coarse crystals on the outside added another dimension of texture and gave my taste buds an additional burst of salt.

In other words, I agree with the many customers who have dubbed this their favorite Trader Joe's snack.

VERDICT: I would totally buy these again and recommend them to anyone else who wants a fun, savory snack that's more exciting than plain pretzels or chips.

The plantain chips were perfectly crunchy

Plantains may closely resemble bananas in look and texture, but they don't taste the same. Even though they have a hint of sweetness, they're more starchy than fruity.

This makes them the perfect vessel to be dehydrated and turned into a potato-chip alternative.

According to Trader Joe's, the plantains used in this snack come straight from Peru and get cooked in sunflower oil, which makes this product friendly to some shoppers with nut allergies.

These plantain chips were extra crispy, which was almost weird to me at first — for some reason I had this preconceived belief they would be chewy. Thankfully, I was wrong.

The crunch reminded me more of a cracker than anything else, which was probably because these discs are ever-so-slightly thicker than traditional paper-thin chips.

In terms of taste, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by how scrumptious and savory these chips were. Their flavor reminded me more of yucca, parsnip, and sweet-potato bites than anything even close to a banana.

I also liked that they had a fair amount of salt without tasting greasy or heavy. As much as I enjoyed this year's favorite snack winner, the peanut-butter pretzels, I can totally see why this option dethroned them in 2020.

Perhaps everyone is learning that fruit- and veggie-based chips are actually good.

These plantain snacks tasted excellent on their own, but I imagine they would be absolutely divine paired with a tropical-fruit dip, like a mango or pineapple salsa.

VERDICT: I would totally purchase these again.

The arugula salad reminded me of springtime

Arugula is a green I first discovered during my vegetarian years when I wanted to spice up my usual lettuce topping on veggie burgers. As a result, I was delighted to find that my fellow Trader Joe's shoppers love it as much as I do.

Arugula can seem intimidating because it looks a bit more like an herb than it does lettuce and has a distinct flavor that errs on the side of bitter and almost pungent.

When testing out this particular salad blend, I opted for a simple approach and tossed the entire bag in a basic lemon vinaigrette. The greens themselves stood up well against the dressing, with the stems maintaining a slight crunch, even under the oil.

Arugula has a bite to it that is much more exciting and unique than your typical mixed-greens blend, which is why it doesn't need many toppings to make a good salad. I enjoyed the way its distinctly fresh, peppery quality reminded me of springtime.

The only real downside is that the salad is only available in a bag instead of a box, which means it could wilt before you eat it all unless you plan ahead for the week.

VERDICT: These salad greens are much more cool and fun than your typical spring mix, which is why they deserve their recognition.

If you're still hesitant about trying this option due to the spice, I'd recommend using it as a sandwich topping instead to tame some of that tang.

The orange chicken was an incredible bargain and tasted just as good as takeout

Walk down Trader Joe's frozen section, and you'll find upwards of 50 entree options.

With that in mind, the fact that Trader Joe's Mandarin orange chicken has been dubbed customer's favorite for over five consecutive years says one thing: This stuff must be otherworldly.

I mean, that's no surprise — it's savory fried-chicken bits coated in a sticky, sweet orange glaze.

When I finally decided it was time to try the Mandarin orange chicken, I opted to bake mine to avoid adding any additional oil, but you can cook these in the skillet if you prefer that fresh-out-the-frying-pan flavor.

After 20 minutes, my kitchen was filled with a warm, savory aroma that reminded me of chicken nuggets.

Baking chicken always makes me wary of potential dryness, but the thick breading on these pieces maintained its crunch while protecting the tender interior.

I'm also not a huge fan of dark meat since it can get overly chewy, but the majority of these chunks entirely avoided that textural problem.

The real star of this dish was its premade, luscious orange sauce. It had a rich, mahogany hue and sticky texture that bordered on treacly and clung well to each chicken chunk.

Flavor-wise, the sauce definitely was on the sweeter side, but not too much so that I found it off-putting. I could detect hints of garlic and ginger in every bite, which added a zesty kick to the entire meal.

I finally understand why people say this frozen option is just as good as takeout.

Although this dish literally is fried-chicken bits doused in a toothsome orange sauce, at no point did I feel heavy while eating it. That quality alone made it worthy of its passionate fanbase.

VERDICT: Overall, I'd give this orange chicken high marks for its exceptional taste and simple preparation. On top of that, the flavor is palatable enough for both adults and kids to enjoy, which makes it a great last-minute dinner.

The mini ice-cream cones were the perfect after-dinner treat

Whenever I crave a post-dinner dessert, I rarely want a giant plate of anything. Sometimes even a full ice-cream sandwich is too much, but I hate to be wasteful, so I entirely avoid enjoying a sweet nightcap.

Trader Joe's Hold the Cone ice-cream treats were the very solution to that predicament.

Each miniature cone is topped with a scoop of extra-creamy, sweet vanilla ice cream coated in a luscious chocolate shell.

But the fun doesn't end there. As I was enjoying this dessert, I realized the honeyed waffle cone actually has a rich, chocolate core. To say I love everything about this treat would be an understatement.

The cones are smaller than even your standard child-sized ice-cream order from a parlor, but that's exactly the point.

After enjoying one of these chilly, itty-bitty treats after dinner, I realized they're actually not too tiny. They were designed with just the right amount of bites to put a smile on my face without going overboard.

VERDICT: I am obsessed with these cones and will continue to tell everyone to buy them.

The soy chorizo was a spicy vegetarian dream

Of all the vegetarian-friendly foods that Trader Joe's customers have dubbed the best, this one was my personal favorite. It tasted even better than the meat version.

With an optimal balance of spice and tang, this product was so delicious I practically forget it was made out of soy — likely due to the healthy dose of paprika and vinegar.

Any time I use soy chorizo in a dish, it means I won't have to add much else in terms of spices because the flavor is already strong and tastes amazing.

This alternative also boasts nearly 60% less fat than the pork version — so it's no surprise this won best vegetarian item again this year.

If I had to compare it to animal-based meat, I would say the texture is like that of regular pork sausage with the slight chewiness of ground beef.

It crumbles and easily falls apart when out of its tube-shaped packaging, which I didn't mind because it made it easier to incorporate into a variety of dishes.

I loved this soy chorizo mixed with scrambled eggs, but I recently used it as the base for vegetarian tacos, and it tasted amazing.

My only issue was that this product was quite messy to use because I had to squeeze it out of its tube and plastic casing.

I know that design helps it look more like an authentic, chorizo sausage. But I'd like to think that myself and other folks would be fine if it came in any other resealable container.

VERDICT: This stuff is the real deal. I haven't been a devoted vegetarian for over two years now, but I still routinely buy this over actual sausage. That should tell you everything you need to know about how good it is.

The Unexpected Cheddar cheese was absolutely outstanding

Trader Joe's is usually my one-stop-shop for cheese. Whether I'm looking for an addition to a sandwich, pasta dish, enchilada, or charcuterie board, I always find something I enjoy.

That said, I was beyond excited to try the Unexpected Cheddar, which was dubbed the chain's most beloved cheese for seven consecutive years in a row.

In my opinion, everything about this product exuded luxury, from the fancy font on the package to the way it tasted incredible with a glass of wine. You could probably serve this exact cheese to me at a fancy wine bar and charge twice as much for it, and I'd still buy it.

With a unique and complex flavor profile, this product has that familiar sharp cheddar bite to it with a surprising, yet subtle hint of salty Parmesan. In other words, it absolutely lives up to its "unexpected" description.

Pairing it with wine only highlighted those Parmesan notes and brought out its rich nuttiness.

The texture was the real standout feature of this cheese. I loved that it was smooth like a typical cheddar and also slightly crumbly.

Over the course of a week, I devoured the entire block as a stand-alone snack, but I can see it making a fun topping for a sandwich, burger, or salad.

VERDICT: Delicious, high-quality, and reasonably priced, this product exceeded my expectations and is now one of my new favorite cheeses.

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend would elevate any breakfast, lunch, or dinner

There are certain ingredients that I like to call kitchen superpowers because no matter what they're added to, they can elevate any dish.

This seasoning is one of them.

Everything bagels are my breakfast of choice, because their signature, seedy coating tastes absolutely divine. So, when I learned a few years ago that Trader Joe's had extracted the best part of that dish and formed it into a single seasoning, I was over the moon.

Each jar consists of toasted sesame and poppy seeds, minced onion, dried garlic, and sea salt. Its blend of garlicky, salty, and umami flavors instantly elevates any dish it joins.

I also enjoyed the way it added texture and crunch to my food. I sprinkled some on top of avocado toast and it instantly tasted like something I had paid good money for at a brunch restaurant.

But my favorite part of this seasoning is how versatile it is — it's delicious on eggs, avocado toast, pizza, or a piece of meat. I can even see it being great on the celery stalk of a Bloody Mary cocktail. Best of all, a little goes a long way.

VERDICT: The praise for this seasoning is well-deserved, and it has a permanent spot on my grocery staples list.

The white-cheddar corn puffs were a solid snack

I have tried many cheesy snacks in my day that have left a weird, sticky coating on the roof of my mouth — these pieces thankfully didn't do that to me.

Instead, Trader Joe's white-cheddar corn puffs have a pleasant airy, light texture. I'd even go as far as saying eating them felt like snacking on fluffy cheese-tinted clouds, as every bite had a delicate crunch that gave way to a melt-in-your-mouth quality.

However, the cheddar wasn't as pronounced as I had hoped. This could be due to the fact that there are no artificial flavor enhancers and additives, which is why they aren't neon orange either.

I wouldn't quite say these are bland, but their flavor is definitely more mellow.

VERDICT: I'm not sure if I would buy these again on my own, but I definitely wouldn't turn them down if someone had them on a tray in front of the TV.

The sliced sourdough was one of the best store-bought bread I've ever tried

I am not an expert on bread or sourdough, but I did live in San Francisco for three years where I consumed a substantial amount of the famous, naturally fermented option from countless bakeries and delis.

Ever since I moved away, I've remained picky about the loaves I buy. But rustic, multipurpose, and packed with protein, Trader Joe's option is the ultimate store-bought sourdough.

Although pre-sliced bread sometimes gets a bad rep for quickly drying out and going stale before you can use it, I liked the convenience.

This bread had just the right amount of that subtle sour flavor. It tasted incredible straight out of the bag and even better when toasted.

More than anything, I loved how it could be used as a solid foundation for a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, a dunker for soup, or even just a simple, no-frills snack.

The texture was so delightfully crunchy and airy that it didn't require any butter to be delicious, but adding a slight stroke absolutely makes it a top-tier treat.

VERDICT: I say this as someone who has tried several sourdoughs from different stores: This bread is the best I've had outside of visiting an actual bakery.

As long as I live within reasonable driving distance of a Trader Joe's, I will continue to buy this loaf.

Rich and decadent, the Speculoos Cookie Butter earned its iconic status

When I first learned about the existence of the iconic cookie butter almost nine years ago, my life changed.

At the time, my idea of thick, spreadable foods didn't extend beyond nut butters and jellies, so the thought of getting the flavor of an actual cookie into a jar seemed like some kind of sorcery.

But all it took was one spoonful of this divine spread to turn me into a full-on believer.

If you're currently uninitiated into the fandom surrounding this cookie butter, allow me to brief you. Picture the zesty spice of gingerbread, the sweetness of brown sugar, and the texture of the smoothest nut butter ever rolled into one decadent spread.

That's what cookie butter is. It tastes like the comforts of the holidays wrapped in a jar, even if it's available year-round.

Throughout college, I alternated between keeping a jar of this stuff and chocolate-hazelnut spread on hand at all times. Whenever I was craving something sweet, I slabbed the butter on top of waffles, toast, and fruit for an instant dessert.

Although I don't buy it as often as I used to in order to maintain some semblance of self-control, I would absolutely be the first to stock up if this product was going to be discontinued.

VERDICT: I consider this treat to embody the quirkiness and joy that Trader Joe's represents, so it's a definitive yes from me.

The cauliflower gnocchi makes a decent meal, but I don't think it's memorable

This cauliflower gnocchi ended the ever-popular soy chorizo's reign as the best vegetarian/vegan item during the 2020 Customer Choice Awards.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that boiling this cauliflower gnocchi is not the best way to prepare it. I followed the package instructions exactly, only for the pieces to transform into soggy, slippery morsels.

I also ate one fresh off the stove and thought it had an unusually gummy texture that reminded me of the veggies I'd eat from a TV dinner.

On a more positive note, this gnocchi was great at absorbing the flavor of its topping. After I tossed my serving in a simple mix of butter, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, I could barely taste the cauliflower.

I think if I had paired it with a heavier cream sauce, the aroma would've been masked entirely.

I wouldn't go as far as saying it tasted like traditional potato gnocchi, but it was still pretty darn good. I probably would have eaten several servings of this stuff, were it not for its mushy, overcooked texture.

But I'm not sure I'm sold on this cauliflower gnocchi beating the soy chorizo — a flavorful, versatile staple — as Trader Joe's best vegetarian item during the 11th-annual awards.

Perhaps I needed to keep experimenting with it to find a memorable and delicious preparation.

VERDICT: I'd be willing to give the cauliflower gnocchi another chance in the future, but next time, I'll be sure to panfry it to see if that improves the texture.

Trader Joe's butter chicken with basmati rice is a satisfyingly spicy comfort meal for one

Trader Joe's butter chicken seems to get most of its flavor from a slightly spicy, rich tomato- and cream-based sauce seasoned with ginger, garlic, and paprika.

For those who are familiar with Trader Joe's selection of Indian-inspired food, I find it comparable to the chicken tikka masala, though the butter chicken's sauce is slightly thinner. It still tasted fantastic over the chicken chunks, which turned out surprisingly tender, despite being microwaved.

Unfortunately, the butter chicken loses me at its portion size. In my opinion, there was much more rice than chicken and not enough sauce to go around.

Still, the butter chicken is delicious and delivers an impressive amount of flavor for a microwaveable meal.

VERDICT: When I don't feel like braving the cold to get takeout, Trader Joe's butter chicken with basmati rice is a must-have.

Trader Joe's cheddar with caramelized onions offers a memorable balance of savory, salty, and sweet

Trader Joe's cheddar with caramelized onions is the kind of snack you try at someone's party and spend weeks thinking about afterward.

After a small sample of the cheddar by itself, I get why it beat the many other cheeses Trader Joe's sells. It has everything I want in a mild cheddar because it's faintly nutty and earthy, tastes smooth and creamy, and is upgraded with a savory-sweet onion marmalade infusion.

Compared to others on shelves, it's a strong statement-making cheese that can hold its own without a cracker but isn't so funky that it wouldn't taste great on other foods.

If you're a big fan of onion, the cheddar will be right up your alley.

VERDICT: Trader Joe's cheddar with caramelized onions is a fun cheese to have at wine night and also makes for a fantastic addition to burgers and grilled cheeses. Seriously, put this between two slices of sourdough, ham, and a panini press.

With its bright taste and delightfully creamy texture, Trader Joe's kale-cashew vegan pesto is must-have

The fact that Trader Joe's managed to make a pre-made pesto that's vegan, contains kale, and is seemingly perfectly emulsified is already impressive to me.

I think the kale-cashew version has all the vibrance, brightness, and fresh basil taste of a classic pesto made with cheese. I think it tastes fresher than a regular pesto, too.

The cashew butter works as a stand-in for Parmesan cheese and if you ask me, it does an amazing job at it. The texture of the pesto I picked up was thicker than the jarred version and closer to a tapenade, albeit easily spreadable. The flavor had a slight nuttiness that paired beautifully with the fragrant basil.

In my opinion, where the kale-cashew pesto really stands out compared to other sauces is how well-balanced every ingredient is.

I thought the basil was well-pronounced and fragrant and the garlic was detectable but not overwhelming. The cashew-butter base kept it creamy without being overly oily, the salt level was just right, and the lemon added brightness and an effervescent quality. As for the kale, I found it blended seamlessly into the mix and was barely detectable, save for a faint bitterness.

I tried it on pizza and pasta, but I'm also fairly certain it would taste spectacular on a variety of wraps, crostinis, potatoes, you name it.

VERDICT: As someone who loves kitchen shortcuts but enjoys a fresh flavor, Trader Joe's premade kale-cashew pesto is a must-have for me.

A winning union of spicy chili and citrus-lime flavor makes the rolled-corn tortilla chips almost too easy to eat

I remember trying Trader Joe's chili-lime rolled-corn tortilla chips when they first dropped and immediately thinking they'd win a Customer Choice Award.

I'm elated to see my hunch was correct because, in my opinion, this snack is in a class on its own.

Thick corn tortillas are rolled into tiny chip burritos, fried, and dusted with chili-lime seasoning and a paprika-turmeric mixture to create a snack that's crunchy, spicy, salty, and tangy.

On that note, be warned that the chili-lime rolled-corn chips have a buildable heat. I didn't think they were spicy at first but after a few handfuls, my mouth was on fire (but in the best way).

Still, it's an absolutely A+ snack, deserving of all the praise it gets. My local Trader Joe's cashiers told me they can barely keep the chips on shelves for more than a day and that doesn't surprise me at all.

VERDICT: To me, the chili-lime rolled-corn tortilla chips are the most exciting snack on Trader Joe's shelves.

The basic Chevre goat cheese was a creamy, versatile award-winner

Trader Joe's offers so many cheddars and Bries, so it may seem surprising that a basic, unflavored goat cheese won an award. But as someone who's been buying this chevre for nearly a decade, I understand the love it's getting.

This goat cheese is the real deal. It tastes bright and creamy with a slight tanginess that's not too funky or grassy, making it super palatable.

I have the goat cheese with a mixed-green salad, spread it over toast, and even add it to red-pepper soup. It also makes for a tasty snacking cheese when covered in a drizzle of hot honey or pepper jelly.

VERDICT: This chevre is one cheese I'll be loyal to for life.

The hash-brown patties are good to have on hand to bulk up other breakfasts

I heated Trader Joe's hash browns in my air fryer at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6 minutes and was met with a perfectly golden, delightfully crispy spud cake.

The texture on the inside was pleasantly soft and evenly cooked, and not at all greasy. As far as flavors go, I found it mostly tasted starchy, with a faint artificial taste when eaten plain. However, this was easy to overlook once I topped it with a squiggle of ketchup.

Overall, the hash browns were a decently satisfying carb. I also liked that I could have them as an on-the-go breakfast or use them for bulking up other breakfasts. They'd taste incredible inside a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, and salsa.

VERDICT: The hash browns are worth keeping in the fridge at all times.

The Sublime ice-cream sandwiches are one of the best frozen sweets at Trader Joe's

One of my favorite things about Trader Joe's is how shameless the company is about being extra, and I think the Sublime ice-cream sandwich is the perfect example of this.

The sandwich combines two large chocolate-chip cookies with a thick vanilla ice-cream center coated in miniature chocolate chips.

This was easily one of my favorite treats from the frozen aisle. The middle of the bakery-soft cookies soften as the ice cream melts, so it tastes like eating a treat dunked in milk.

I also love how they come individually wrapped.

VERDICT: If I could only buy one ice-cream treat yearly, it would be this one. Give me a month's supply.

Click to keep reading other Trader Joe's taste tests in this series.


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