17 Japanese Foods From Trader Joe's, Ranked

Look at us, back at it again with the food rankings ... and back at Trader Joe's! Because when it comes time to go grocery shopping, we never seem to enjoy it more than at this fine establishment, especially if we're craving a certain cuisine.

This time, Japan is the country we're happily eating our way through. If you enjoyed any of the Indian foods or Korean foods from Trader Joe's from our previous rankings, you might have been waiting and hoping for us to attempt the Japanese items next. There were plenty to choose from, and we tried our best to grab a wide selection. From fried rice to seaweed snacks to green tea mochi, you'll find something to love whether you're more of a meal, snack, or dessert person. We even found Japanese beverages.

Sorry, are you getting too hungry? Eat with your eyes, then go out and buy whatever caught your eye. Let's get into the ranking.

17. Gyoza Dipping Sauce

Have you ever hosted or been invited to a dumpling-making party? Then you know how much effort, albeit fun effort, goes into making dumplings. Preparing the fillings, wrapping them, and cooking them can be a lot. We're giving you a tip: reduce some labor by buying the sauces premade. It's all about the sauces, though, so be sure you get a good one. Trader Joe's classic Gyoza Dipping Sauce is taste-tester approved, a certified "good one."

The ingredients include soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, cilantro, and crushed red pepper for a flavor profile that's salty, nutty, sour, spicy, and fresh all at once. Whatever you fill your gyoza with, this sauce will draw out some of those flavors. We did think it might benefit from some fresh cilantro stirred in, and maybe some minced garlic if you're feeling fancy. It does taste like it was poured out of a bottle, but for the convenience, it tastes good enough to purchase. 

16. Unsweetened Matcha Green Tea

Trader Joe's Unsweetened Matcha Green Tea is just as advertised. It's simply water, matcha powder, unsweetened green tea, and a bit of preservatives. That means that if you're more used to lattes or sweet teas, you'll want to avoid these. While not harsh, it's pure straight-up matcha flavor, which some of us appreciated. Others grimaced a bit when tasting it, saying they'd mix it with a lemony sparkling water or add some milk and sugar to make an iced beverage. 

The tea is a mere 99 cents per can. You can easily have a week of revitalizing drinks to kick the mid-afternoon slump in a way you can feel extremely good about, both for your health and your wallet. Best part? We discovered that one little can provides us with 100% of our recommended daily dose of vitamin C. It's a convenient choice but doesn't have much pizzazz. You may still crave a soda at the end of the day.

15. Peanut Udon Noodle Salad

Trader Joe's Peanut Udon Noodle Salad is the perfect little change up from a typical work lunch. The udon noodles serve as an anchor for the rest of the toppings in this chilled, ready-to-eat salad. One of the best elements of the meal is how refreshing yet hearty it is. All our nutritional bases are covered, the flavors complement each other beautifully, and when it comes down to it, it's all about that textural contrast.

Crisp, crunchy, cooling carrots are an absolute must in any cold noodle salad since they are a great foil to the slightly chewy, soft noodles themselves. We also love the little bursts of nutty flavor whenever a peanut snuck its way onto our fork. The hints of citrus and fresh seasonings bring it all home, giving us every reason to bring this product home with us, too. That being said, we'll likely only break it out for lunch. We agreed that the salad would probably need some reinforcement to be a fully satisfying dinner unless it's a hot summer evening when no one wants to cook.

14. Matcha Green Tea Powder

This fine-ground Matcha Green Tea Powder exudes an enticing aroma before you even open it up. Once we did, however, we oohed and ahhed over the pretty springtime hue of green. Yes, it received all this love from us before we even made it into tea. The tea was pleasant. Neither too bland nor overly potent, it had that signature smoothness and slight grassy finish expected in a solid matcha. 

It could have been a tad more full-bodied, and we suspect it would taste slightly diluted when mixed with steamed milk for a latte. Unless, of course, you amp up the flavor by choosing to use Trader Joe's matcha-flavored oat milk. We can't be the first to have thought of that, right? We would also consider mixing a few teaspoons into baked goods for a fun twist of classic cookies or cheesecake. There are different grades of matcha, by the way. If you're confused, learn all about which one is right for you and choose your tea accordingly.

13. Tempura Shrimp

Trader Joe's Tempura Shrimp was definitely one of the products we most anticipated tasting. Ordering it out is a real treat, so the idea of having it on hand? Enticing. When a food becomes "tempura," it gets fried. But it's also so much more than that. Objectively speaking, there's only so bad this frozen product can be since it's fried, breaded shrimp. What's not to love? Unfortunately, the quality left a little to be desired. Freezing fried food (try saying that five times fast) is risky business because the best part is that deep crunch and hot-from-the-oil sensory experience. 

Joe tried his best, but even he couldn't perfectly recreate it. The shrimp tastes slightly freezer-burnt and rubbery beneath a somewhat soggy coating, so there's no mistaking it for fresh. But even so, good tempura is hard to come by, so we'd dip into our stash when the mood strikes and we're feeling budget-conscious. It's nothing some good dipping sauce can't elevate (stay tuned for some hot sauce we would pair these with).

12. Seaweed Snacks

We're not going to lie to you, these Seaweed Snacks weren't the product we were most excited to try. But just look: The snacks are ranking much higher than we'd thought, too, so we're glad we gave them a shot. Who knew that eating your greens could be so fun? Move over, kale chips, because we're going to find our new favorite healthy snacks under the sea.

The wafer-like, paper-thin texture might seem odd if you're new to the seaweed snack landscape, but once you've eaten a few, you'll be familiar with it. Much less greasy and much more nutritious than a potato chip, they nevertheless had a touch of that airy texture. We could eat these just as easily by themselves as dappling on a homemade Asian-inspired salad. They also come in some fun alternative flavors if you decide to admit that you really do like them, but the purely salted ones are a great place to start. 

11. Rice Cracker Medley

This Rice Cracker Medley is both diverse and perfect in its simplicity, a savory combination of rounds and rods made from traditional rice flour plus some mild wasabi peas. Everything benefits from a smattering of seaweedy, soy-saucy, and chili-spiked seasoning. Because it's constructed out of rice flour as opposed to the more stolid wheat or corn, it has a light, airy consistency that's very moreish. But don't worry, the crunch factor is high, and the spice factor is medium. It's almost like a cross between popcorn and Chex mix with a much more unique flavor. 

We could eat a whole lot of this stuff, handful after handful, without really noticing. In fact, we did, sneaking in "just a bit more" between more substantial items like rice and shrimp. When we replenish our stash, we'll be tossing this on Asian-inspired salads as well as snacking straight from the bag. They're well worth the break from basic potato chips.

10. Green Tea Mochi

Mochi is a fun treat. We like to consider it highly interactive and immersive. It consists of two distinct layers. First, you have the rice flour "dough," which wraps around the ice cream filling like a sleeping bag. Trader Joe's Green Tea Mochi is a great price for the quality of both flavor and texture. Like any good mochi, it has that funky, chewy shell that takes some getting used to. We thought the texture was better than most comparable store brands for sure! There's a subtle flavor of matcha to it, but most of the flavor is found in the ice cream.

It's everything ice cream should be, in no way compromised by being housed in the mochi coating. And that flavor? It's light yet noticeable, a fun burst of floral green tea in every bite. Just be careful not to get a brain freeze in your excitement. We were delighted that Trader Joe's has such a good variety and quality product. When it comes to easily accessible store-bought mochi, our taste-testing mochi aficionados agree that you can't do much better than these.

9. The Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets

As we filled our carts with flamboyant foods like Tempura Shrimp and Japanese Fried Rice, we had some idea of what we were getting into. Then someone saw these Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets and threw them in the cart at the last minute with no clue what they would taste like. Spoiler alert: they taste excellent.

As it turns out, each bite is a mini-chicken-nugget-sized cube of fried rice. Sweet and salty, alarmingly moreish, these toothsome bites aren't limp or pallid. The "crispy crunchy" in the name is absolutely accurate. Mochi are so much more satisfying than a handful of chips or Cheetos. They don't play by the snack game rules, but they still win. There are only four ingredients, but the key to that ridiculous texture is the same glutinous rice flour that gets shaped and sweetened into the shell of the mochi ice cream bites, but this time, fried up until savory.

8. Miso Ginger Broth

This spicy, umami-filled broth is the perfect starting point from which to branch out into all kinds of delicious Japanese soups and stews. It also would taste miraculous if we were sick. We absolutely love the both lightness and depth of this broth. It is certainly not creamy, but translucent, meaning it doesn't sit heavily in your stomach after a big bowl. It feels even lighter because of the uplifting zest of ginger, which not only reinvigorates the palate but seems to aid ailments from the inside out. Yet there's still some richness, courtesy of the deep umami notes in miso. 

Since miso undergoes a fermentation process, and good soup is slowly simmered for robust flavor, the final product tastes like it's been carefully crafted in a home kitchen over the course of many curated stages. It's endlessly useful and highly convenient. Simply throw in your favorite vegetables and maybe some tofu for a rewarding meal. Our biggest critique was that it definitely tasted a little too salty.

7. Shelled Edamame

Did you know that edamame is actually soybeans? But they're soybean teenagers, bright and full of youthful energy before they're turned into milk or something. Common in Japanese dishes, edamame is a fantastic addition to any of the other food items on this list for a well-rounded meal. We loved the ease of use of Trader Joe's pouch, and the beans tasted perfect: a little chewy, full of deep green flavor, a substantial vehicle for spices like Furikake but also fine with just their sea salt. The only reason they didn't rank higher was that, honestly, they're just beans.

The benefits of these babies are indubitable. With 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber in half a cup, your side dishes and salads suddenly become a nutritional powerhouse. Also, Trader Joe's shells the edamame for you, so you don't have to worry about going through all that effort just to eat some healthy green beans. And just in case you're wondering, it's generally not okay to eat edamame shells, anyway.

6. White Miso Paste

A relatively new product available at Trader Joe's, this White Miso Paste is a secret weapon in any kitchen, particularly one that specializes in fine Asian food. Umami is a key component of flavor, but it often gets overlooked. Beginning to use miso can jumpstart your appreciation. Rich, earthy, and briny, it has plenty of nuance but in a gentle vehicle. It comes from cooking soybeans then mixing them with salt and koji, then fermenting, forming a "paste" that tastes a lot better than it sounds. It also comes in a few different types, including this most prevalent white version. 

Trader Joe's product is great because it tastes spot-on and comes at an affordable price point. Don't be intimidated to use the ingredient, either — staple menu items like mashed potatoes can get a robust boost from a few spoonfuls of white miso paste. They're a cinch to make but the flavor will have everyone wondering how you did it.

5. Gyoza Potstickers

Technically, gyoza are hand-shaped and filled with chicken, pork, and/or vegetables. Then they are cooked in one of three different ways: pan-fried, boiled, or deep-fried. When the reward of home-cooked food is so delicious, it's hard to justify buying a bag of frozen gyoza from Trader Joe's, right? Wrong. Don't feel ashamed, because these are one of the best things we tasted today, and certainly worth buying when homemade is out of the question but you're still craving the food. We chose pork, but there's also a chicken option that's sure to taste just as good.

The shells are thin but sturdy enough to withstand holding in that filling, plus getting frozen and bagged up. The filling is meaty, warming, and moist in all the good ways. And they couldn't be easier to break out. Add your favorite sauces (see the Gyoza Dipping Sauce from earlier on the list) and you've got yourself a seriously happy meal. We were floored that something so convenient could taste this close to homemade.

4. Nori Komi Furikake Japanese Multi-Purpose Seasoning

If you've never heard of Furikake, allow us to make the introduction. It's an intriguing, complex seasoning blend used in many Asian recipes. Trader Joe's assures customers that their take includes almost all of the traditional ingredients: dried nori seaweed, black and white sesame seeds, salt, and kelp powder. As you might imagine from the components, you're getting an explosion of funky flavor with every shake of the canister. The fishy kelp powder provides the underlying umami. Both sesame seeds add nuttiness and a whisper of sweetness. Then, the finishing touch of ribbony strands of dried seaweed brings the salty, briny flavor full circle.

They're not kidding when they say "multi-purpose" because we're going to be testing this seasoning on a variety of our favorite foods long after this ranking is published. Roasted vegetables are an obvious pick, but how about infiltrating sandwiches? Mixed into soups? Sprinkled on pasta? We might have to draw the line at desserts, though.

3. Japanese Fried Rice

Maybe it's just us, but there always seemed to be an argument when ordering Asian takeout: fried rice or noodles? Which is better? Well, if you're having this same argument in the frozen section of a Trader Joe's, we have your answer right here: Get the Japanese Fried Rice. Okay, fine — you can get some noodles too. But don't forget the rice.

We loved this stuff. It rose above our skepticism and became a dish worthy of our "must-buy" list. Our favorite part wasn't even the nicely textured, beautifully seasoned rice with notes of sesame and soy. It was the plentiful amount of edamame and carrots mixed in, giving the rice tons of color, texture, a bit of extra nutrition, and freshness. If Trader Joe's is out of stock, believe it or not, fried rice isn't hard to attempt at home. Try this easy recipe as a foolproof starting point.

2. Yuzu Hot Sauce

Amidst all the chaos, one small golden bottle won the silver medal. Yuzu is a kind of fruit that is revered in Japanese cuisine, finding its way into all sorts of dishes, sauces, and more. The acidic citrus fruits are bracingly tart and bright, according to Everyday Health, and may remind you of grapefruit. A good hot sauce has to be zesty as well as spicy, so adding some citrus makes a ton of sense.

Apparently, this hot sauce has a cult following, and once we tried it, we understood why. We'd rank it among the best hot sauces we've ever tasted, which is about the best possible review. Granted, it's not the hottest of the hot, but it has far more depth than most alternatives. The yuzu provides a tropical, almost floral flavor to uplift the spice. Plus, like many Japanese creations, there's so, so much complexity: sour, hot, funky, bright, umami. Dear Joe, never even think of discontinuing this little guy. We put it at number one until one consequential taste test knocked it down a peg.

1. Tempura Cauliflower

Cauliflower has made its way into everything else, so why not tempura? Let's see if this beleaguered vegetable can hold up. It's survived the process of becoming meatless burgers and starchless rice, so this should be a walk in the park.

We're pleased to say that enjoying this Trader Joe's Tempura Cauliflower was also a walk in the park. Amazingly, it did everything right, even more so than the seemingly more appealing shrimp. Have you ever tried cauliflower "wings" battered with barbeque sauce and flavorings? These Tempura Cauliflower are similar in structure but with Japanese-inspired sauce and more batter. Even though these frozen vegetables didn't come out of the oven disguised as "fried" tempura, they came pretty darn close. They're sticky and comforting, satisfying the max, and overall, the dish tastes like a unicorn combination of comfort food, fast food, Asian food, and health food. We think we'll crave these the way we crave French fries.