Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's Cherry Creek

Trader Joe's Cherry Creek by Aranami (CC BY)

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Trader Joe's Must Not Buys

Trader No-Nos

Though many shoppers feel like Trader Joe's can do no wrong (and we agree, most of the time), we've frequented the store's compact aisles enough to know that not everything's a winner, no matter how quirky the packaging or inexpensive the price. No, we won't tell you to stop buying your beloved Everything but the Bagel seasoning or Mandarin orange chicken, but some products are worth skipping on your next Trader Joe's run.

Prices and availability are subject to change. Raechel Conover contributed to this report.

Trader Joe's Bay Blend Coffee

Bay Blend Coffee

Trader Joe's has a wide-ranging and surprisingly sophisticated selection of coffee, but unless you are committed to the darkest of dark roasts, there are better choices than Bay Blend. It's not just us: Thrillist says, "You're better off steeping some pennies in a cup of hot water." Mmmmmm.

Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's


We're totally here for the seasonal riffs on Trader Joe's staple cookie, like chocolate-covered peppermint Joe-Joe's (droooooool). But when it comes to what's on the shelves year-round, we're just underwhelmed, and we're not alone. Oreos still win the sandwich-cookie game.

Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese Wisconsin Cheddar

Macaroni and Cheese Wisconsin Cheddar

The bad news: Trader Joe's basic boxed macaroni and cheese earned a resounding "meh" in Cheapism's recent taste test of 13 store brands. The good news: Our favorite was TJ's higher-brow Organic Shells and White Cheddar. So, as long as you're not feeding kids who might turn up their noses at anything unlike Kraft, choose wisely.

Charles Shaw Wine

Charles Shaw White Zinfandel

No one expects Two Buck Chuck to please the wine snobs of the world, but some of it is surprisingly drinkable (for the price, anyway). Not in that category: the white zinfandel, which is perennially at the bottom of the barrel at expert tastings, including one by Thrillist.

Thankfully, there are some better options? Take a look at our roundup of the best Trader Joe's wines under $10.

Trader Joe's Honey Walnut Shrimp

Honey Walnut Shrimp

This dish should be one TJ's has on lock, much like its other tasty frozen Asian fare. But what should be an addictively sweet, filling dish with a satisfying crunch is instead saddled by a sauce that tastes overwhelmingly like pineapple, if you're feeling charitable, like the folks at What's Good at Trader Joe's, or like "toxic cheese fume" if you're not, like prolific TJ's reviewer Mantou Joe.

On the other hand, there are some great frozen food options at Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's Plain Bagels

Plain Bagels

Taste-wise, these bagels are on par with most other supermarket bagels. But unless you're planning to plow through the whole package the day you buy them, steer clear. As TJ's doesn't load up its bagels with preservatives, which means they get hard and inedible faster than you can break out the cream cheese.

Trader Joe's Organic Ranch Dressing

Organic Ranch Dressing

For a store that does so well with condiments like hot sauce and salsa, TJ's ranch dressing is a big miss. It has a weirdly thin consistency, which is particularly disappointing for any self-respecting ranch lover who knows it is as much a dip as it is a salad dressing. It's not a favorite of The Kitchn, either, which notes its herb-happy flavor is off-putting.

Looking for an alternative? Check out our review of Trader Joe's buttermilk ranch dressing.

Trader Joe's Chipotle Vegetable Quesadillas

Chipotle Vegetable Quesadillas

Though they taste relatively inoffensive (not a ringing endorsement), our main complaint about these appetizers is the price: nearly $4 for two measly quesadillas that we could probably whip up at home for less than 50 cents. Also, note what they look like compared with the picture on the box before you decide to buy.

Related: The Best Snacks at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's Bath Tissue

Bath Tissue

If you are eco-conscious, you might like TJ's toilet paper. It's made from 100% recycled paper and doesn't have chlorine bleach to give it that whiter-than-white appearance. But if you're more concerned with softness, run away: This stuff is just a little more coarse than our tender behinds are used to.

Related: Trader Joe's Shoppers Share Their Favorite 'Non-Food' Items

Trader Joe's Queso Cheese Dip

Queso Cheese Dip

Chipotle was widely panned for its first attempt at queso, but something even worse has been lurking on the shelves all this time: Trader Joe's version. It's thin, it has too much lime, and it's simply unworthy of your tortilla chip. One Amazon reviewer says it "tastes like sour vomit." We'll stick with Velveeta, thanks.

Trader Joe's Protein Patties

Protein Patties

Meat substitutes are all the rage, and Trader Joe's has hopped on the bandwagon with several products, including its soy chorizo, a well-loved classic. But these patties? Well, we wanted something beefy tasting, and we got beets. And peas. And some other nebulous flavors that try to taste like meat but fail. In other words: A veggie burger, yes, but nothing that’ll make the executives at Beyond Burger fear for their day jobs.

Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Jerky

Organic Watermelon Jerky

File this seasonal offering, introduced a couple years ago, under, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." Watermelon is fantastic precisely because it’s so juicy. Eating leathery strips of it? Not fantastic, even if it is organic. As one reviewer says, "Y'all can do better than this."

Trader Joe's Pizza 4 Formaggi Pizza
Trader Joe's Baked Cheese Crunchies

Baked Cheese Crunchies

Trader Joe's Baked Cheese Crunchies are akin to what Cheetos might taste like if they were, well, less cheesy. But when was the last time you wished for a less-cheesy Cheeto? Never? Exactly.

Seasoned Kale Chips

Seasoned Kale Chips

Our issue with this pick is mostly value: It's just hard to stomach paying $4 for a measly 2-ounce package of spiced-up crunchy greens. And taste-wise … they're just kinda "meh." Unless you are among the kale connoisseurs of the world, we recommend almost anything else in the snack aisle.

Trader Joe's Chocolate Lava Gnocchi

Chocolate Lava Gnocchi

We put this item on a list of must-buys for the holidays based on our knowledge of Trader Joe's other varieties of gnocchi. And, well, we're sorry. We expected sweet little lava cakes, and we got some kind of chocolate-potato goop. If it reappears on shelves next holiday season, this one is a hard pass.

Trader Joe's Paper Towels

Paper Towels

Honestly, just skip the paper products at TJ's. We have no doubt that you can wipe up a mess with these, and like their toilet-paper counterparts, they're made from 100% recycled paper and contain no bleach. But at $3.99 for three rolls, they're kinda pricey. As one Redditor puts it, "Only for emergencies when I don’t want to go to Target."

Matcha Green Tea Powder
Source: Cheapism

Matcha Green Tea Powder

We're aware matcha is rarely cheap, but $7 for seven single-serve packets totaling just over a third of an ounce? Ouch, indeed. Amazon is packed with much cheaper, well-reviewed matcha options that are probably a better bet, unless you prefer the convenience of packets.

Trader Joe's Joe's O's

Joe’s O’s

We're not sure we're as offended by Joe's O's as Real Simple, which calls this cereal out for "a stale, dry texture and excessively bland flavor." But we can agree they're definitely not great (and we'd go so far as to say that about most TJ's cereals). They cost about 13 cents an ounce, but savvy shoppers can combine sales and coupons at other stores to get real, honest-to-goodness Cheerios for close to that price, too.

Trader Joe's Thai Shrimp Gyozas

Thai Shrimp Gyoza

Oooooh, exotic. Or … not. "They don't taste like anything special at all," laments What's Good at Trader Joe's. “There's nothing that sets these apart in any discernible way, shape or form.” In other words, don't expect any hints of lemongrass, any heat, any … well, anything, except a doughy shrimp dumpling that has no business being labeled as Thai.

Trader Joe's Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Quiche

Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

We'd be here for a while if we called out everything at TJ's that's unhealthy, but the broccoli and cheese quiche deserves a special shoutout, especially for shoppers looking for protein-dense dishes. This seemingly healthy meal contains more than 900 milligrams of sodium, and each quiche has 30 grams of fat, including 15 grams of saturated fat — 75% of your recommended daily value.

Trader Joe's Beef Pho
Trader Joe's

Beef Pho Soup

Usually TJ's frozen entrees are fantastic, but that's not the case for its bowls of beef pho. It's widely panned online, with Redditors in one thread saying it "tasted like dirty water" and wondering how it's stayed on store shelves for so long. Considering pho relies heavily on fresh herbs, beansprouts, and lime, it's no wonder a frozen version doesn't go over well. 

Cajun Alfredo Sauce Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's

Cajun Alfredo Pasta Sauce

Most dogs will eat anything, but the Cajun Alfredo jarred pasta sauce made one Redditor's dog stop in his tracks: "Even my English bulldog ran away from it and he would eat literal garbage if I let him." Another user called it a "hate crime against both south Louisiana and Italy," so it's probably safe to skip.

Trader Joe's Peanuts in a Pickle

Peanuts in a Pickle

Pickles are trendy right now, but the dill pickle-flavored peanuts are a huge miss, according to most reviews. One Redditor called them the "worst thing I've ever tried from TJs," adding that it tasted like "industrial solvent chemicals." An even more colorful commenter noted, "My husband said these were like what he imagines a urinal cake would taste like."