12 Trader Joe's Peppermint Chocolate Goodies, Ranked

There are so many wonderful things that can signal the start of the holiday season. Some people first get that holly-jolly feeling when holiday lights and decorations go up; for others, it occurs while volunteering or gathering with friends and family. But for us at Tasting Table, it's always been about the food –– and nothing says "it's the season" quite like the arrival of Trader Joe's peppermint chocolate goodies.

From pink peppermint ice cream to deep dark chocolate cookies and candies, it has been our absolute pleasure to gather up, evaluate, and rank Trader Joe's peppermint chocolate items this season. If you think this sounds a little too ho-ho-Joe-Joe, we want you to know that it was actually an exhaustive process –– filled with lively discussion, a number of heated arguments, and, let's face it, way too many calories to count. All that now remains are the crumbs, so we are ready to share some of the most memorable, merriest, and even messiest moments of our product testing experience.

12. Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Loaf & Baking Mix

Unlike most Trader Joe's seasonal goodies, we feel bah-humbug about its Chocolate Peppermint Loaf & Baking Mix. To be fair, your take on this product may vary depending on what you make with the mix. The package provides two easy recipe options: Peppermint Loaf and Crackle Cookies. Both require additional ingredients beyond what is included in the box. Depending on which recipe is chosen, you may need egg(s), oil or butter, and powdered sugar.

We decided to make Crackle Cookies, which sounded very chocolatey and delish. These cookies were easy enough to prepare: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, mix 2 large eggs and ⅓ cup oil, and stir in the baking mix. Once this was done, we rolled the dough into 1-inch balls, then rolled these dough balls into ½ cup powdered sugar. Finally, we placed our powdered cookie balls 2 inches apart on a baking pan and baked for 12 minutes.

The cookies smelled super yummy while baking and looked almost exactly like homemade crackle (a.k.a. crinkle) cookies when they emerged from the oven. The unwelcome surprise was that we weren't crazy about the flavor or texture. They tasted a little off, like they couldn't decide if they wanted to be peppermint chocolate or not. They were also overly chewy. If there's a next time, we will opt for the peppermint loaf recipe –– but as things stand now, Chocolate Peppermint Loaf & Baking Mix was our least favorite item tested.

11. Trader Joe's Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Trader Joe's Peppermint Hot Chocolate is fairly thick and reasonably flavorful, as far as hot chocolate mixes go. Although it is made from bittersweet chocolate and a hint of natural peppermint flavor, the peppermint element fell short of even being much of a hint. (We could barely taste it.) We did see tiny chocolate shavings in the mix, which we liked, along with a chocolatey powder.

We followed the tin's instructions exactly: Stir 3 tablespoons of the mix into ¾ cup of hot water or milk. This equated to quite a lot of the mix and not all that much liquid. In other words, our mug was only half full –– but if we hadn't measured and filled it up with liquid, the result would have been too diluted. We tried making the mix two ways –– with and without milk. While this probably comes as no big surprise, using milk instead of water led to a richer, creamier beverage.

Despite the lack of much peppermintiness for a peppermint chocolate product, this hot chocolate mix still makes for an easy, sweet, and soothing treat on a cold night. Your kids will probably love it –– though really, has there ever been a mug of hot chocolate that they haven't loved? Consider adding Peppermint Mini Marshmallows for extra mint flavor and to see their little eyes grow further aglow. Adults, on the other hand, may prefer to settle in with one of our spiked hot chocolate recipes for winter.

10. Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar

To create these pretty chocolate bars, Trader Joe's adds Candy Cane Joe-Joe's to 60% dark chocolate, then sprinkles the result with crushed peppermint candies. As far as peppermint chocolate bars go, Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar was perfectly decent but didn't completely wow us. (We like to be wowed.) That said, we still ate every last bit.

This treat would be especially helpful to have by your side for any peppermint chocolate emergencies. If you haven't yet experienced one, there tends to be a rise in cases during the holidays. To be safe, we recommend tucking one or two of these bad boys into your purse, bag, or desk drawer. Due to its conveniently small size, this item also makes an excellent stocking stuffer.

Since Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar is the least expensive item on our list, you literally can't beat the price. But as for the actual peppermint chocolate experience, we think that you can do even better.

9. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Minty Mallows

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Minty Mallows are pretty much exactly that –– peppermint marshmallows that have been covered in dark chocolate. What you may not be able to gather from the name, however, is just how ridiculously good a combination of peppermint, marshmallow, and dark chocolate makes. Mmmm.

Go ahead and try placing a Dark Chocolate Covered Minty Mallow into your hot cocoa, or make some super-luxurious s'mores one night. You can also simply pop one in your mouth for a late afternoon or after-dinner pick-me-up –– trust us, these mallows can easily hold their own as is. Overall, we think that biting into one of these fluffy, minty, chocolatey marshmallows is like experiencing one of the very best hugs –– the kind you want to go on forever. Savor the feeling while you can since this product is only a limited-time offer. For more seasonal minty marshmallow-iness, you may also want to look for Trader Joe's Peppermint Mini Marshmallows.

8. Trader Joe's Peppermint Bark

Since Peppermint Bark is the most expensive of Trader Joe's peppermint chocolate products, we had high expectations. While we are certainly not going to hate on this product (after all, even a "bad" peppermint bark is pretty darn good), we do have some thoughts. Mostly, these center around the thickness of the bark –– like, does it need to be as thick as the bark of a Giant Sequoia? And, not that we're claiming to be contractors or anything, but we went ahead and pulled out a measuring tape: Each square comes in at about half an inch thick, which is just way too thick to comfortably bite into, easily break into smaller pieces, or reasonably manage to eat without cracking a filling.

We pulled out a sharpened chef's knife to reduce the product into more manageable, bite-sized pieces. This led to quite a lot of peppermint and chocolate detritus on and around our cutting board. Once we cleaned that up, we gave the bark a try. And we're not going to lie –– it tasted delicious, with layers of peppermint-infused dark chocolate, white truffle fudge, and crushed peppermint candies. We also appreciated the festive holiday tin packaging. While this may not be our very-most-favorite peppermint bark out there (Williams Sonoma already won our hearts with its original peppermint bark), this version would make a fine hostess gift, addition to a gift basket, or sweet surprise under the tree.

7. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cremes

These little bundles of peppermint chocolate joy taste an awful lot like York peppermint patties, though thicker and somewhat stickier. We're not complaining –– it wouldn't be the holidays without treating ourselves to something similar! In this case, Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cremes are made from bite-sized discs of dark chocolate with an added smooth (well, sort of sticky) mint filling. Each piece is then sprinkled with crushed peppermint candies.

We enjoyed the contrasting textures of soft minty innards and crunchy outer-layer peppermint candy pieces. We also liked how using two types of mint more than doubled the overall mintiness factor. By the time we accounted for the addition of rich, thick dark chocolate –– which would have been good even minus the peppermint –– we were convinced this was something special.

As an added bonus, Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cremes come boxed (as opposed to bagged or binned), making them super easy to gift wrap this holiday season. Pass these out to coworkers, place them under the tree, or bring some to your mother-in-law, just because. Each box contains 15 candies.

6. Trader Joe's Peppermint Flavored Mini Hold the Cone! Ice Cream Cones

Ho-ho-ho-ld the cone! We were thrilled to spy Trader Joe's Peppermint Flavored Mini Hold the Cone! Ice Cream Cones last week in the freezer section. Each precious chocolate mini waffle cone contains pink peppermint ice cream topped with a thin layer of chocolate, along with a thick chocolate drizzle at the bottom of the cone. Technically, this frozen chocolate drizzle plugs the bottom of the cone, keeping the ice cream from dripping onto your hand — but realistically, we don't think your ice cream will be around long enough to melt and cause problems.

Similar to other Hold the Cone! Flavor options, one of these mini cones is the perfect size for a quick treat that is not too over-the-top calorie-wise. However, each box contains eight mini ice cream cones, with a suggested serving of 3 cones. So go ahead and eat one, eat three, eat the whole box –– whatever works best for you! They are yummy, and we don't judge.

5. Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Ice Cream

After eating a big bowl of Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Ice Cream, we thought this product had a good shot at our number one spot. This goes to show just how good it is –– but also how absolutely amazing our last several peppermint chocolate items are. Regardless of the 5th place finish, this rich and delicious ice cream flavor still makes holiday magic by swirling together pink peppermint and vanilla ice creams with chocolate fudge and Candy Cane Joe-Joe's. There is so much seasonal joy in the flavor's colors, textures, and flavors. Need we say more?

Well, perhaps. We understand that there's some pretty stiff competition out there when it comes to peppermint ice cream brands. For starters, look towards Van Leeuwen Peppermint Pattie holiday flavor or Jeni's White Chocolate Peppermint ice cream flavor, two seasonal styles which have held their own in some of our ice cream taste tests. You can also opt to make your own peppermint ice cream at any time of the year. And if plain peppermint ice cream ever gets boring, try topping it with crushed Candy Cane Joe-Joes or Peppermint Pretzel Slims (discussed below). Remember to stock your pantry with plenty of these goodies before they disappear for the season.

4. Trader Joe's Peppermint Pretzel Slims

If you love the combination of sweet and salty, this one is for you. Trader Joe's Peppermint Pretzel Slims add a sweet candy coating and peppermint twist to thin, crunchy Pretzel Slims. To be clear: Unlike plain old Pretzel Slims, which make a reasonably light and healthy-ish snack, the peppermint variety is a full-on, sugar-laden indulgence. But ah, how we love indulging –– especially during the holidays.

Product packaging suggests eating Peppermint Pretzel Slims straight from the bag (yes, we already did) or dipping them in ice cream (reaching for that pint of Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Ice Cream right now). Another suggestion: We think these "pretzels" would be pretty awesome dipped in melted chocolate –– fondue, anyone?

For full disclosure, we picked up this item believing it to contain both peppermint and white chocolate –– thus officially qualifying it for these peppermint chocolate goodies rankings. By the time we realized that the candy coating was not chocolate (chocolate contains cocoa butter; this product does not) –– it was already far too late. Peppermint Pretzel Slims are so ridiculously good that we are keeping them on our list. (And if that's not the holiday spirit, then we don't know what is!)

3. Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's

Oh, how we love thee, Candy Cane Joe-Joe's –– and we are certainly not alone in this sentiment. In fact, Candy Cane Joe-Joe's are one of Trader Joe's most popular holiday items. But what, exactly, makes these seasonal cookies so crazy good? Perhaps it's the mere simplicity: Trader Joe's sandwiches a layer of vanilla creme (sprinkled with candy cane pieces) between two chocolate wafer cookies. Peppermint + chocolate + vanilla creme = yum. (And with science like that, who needs divine intervention?!)

Best of all, there are so many glorious cookies in each box. This means plenty to snack on daily, dunk into your hot chocolate, share with friends and family, or leave out for Santa — hey, the world is yours for the taking (and giving)! But even with all this in mind, we highly recommend stocking up on Candy Cane Joe-Joe's ASAP. When your local store runs out, you won't see them again until next year. If you don't have a Trader Joe's store near you, you can always try making a homemade chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies recipe.

2. Trader Joe's Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds

Truthfully, we were skeptical at first, but Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds taste so much better than they look or sound. To create these sweet seasonal delights, Trader Joe's took its top-selling Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds and gave them a peppermint twist.

Each almond is roasted, covered in dark chocolate, and then covered again in peppermint-flavored white chocolate and pieces of candy cane. Admittedly, this is a caloric and addictive combo, and we strongly recommend having some friends or family members over before opening a full container.

According to SheKnows, Aldi offers a suspiciously similar product in its nut aisles. (If you are unaware, Trader Joe's and Aldi are connected). Look for Choceur Candy Cane Covered Almonds at Aldi, which are sold in a bag instead of a plastic tub. We haven't tried this product yet for comparison, but we plan to pick some up soon.

1. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe's

If we had the musical talent to write a holiday song about Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe-Joe's, we would. Words alone fail to convey how spectacular this product is –– it's sort of like a peppermint creme cookie, chocolate bar, and peppermint bark candy all in one. (Seriously, what more could we peppermint chocolate lovers possibly ask for?) To make these divinities, Trader Joe's dunks Candy Cane Joe-Joe's –– already heavenly on their own –– into copious amounts of dark chocolate and crunchy bits of peppermint candies. The result is a true holiday miracle.

Bottom line: If you are planning to buy only one Trader Joe's peppermint chocolate goodie this season, we are highly confident that this should be the one. However, we strongly recommend getting out there and trying all these products yourself. Whether you ultimately love them all or end up going Grinch on one or more of them, the experience will be unforgettable. Live it up this holiday season!