9 Salads At Trader Joe's, Ranked Worst To Best

Readers, it's time for another trip to Trader Joe's. What's on the grocery list this time? Salad kits. Lots and lots of salad kits. Even though we garnered some funny looks as the cart filled up with nothing but bags and bags of greens, we were actually really excited about the job ahead. Why were we excited about a stint of eating tons of salad, you may ask incredulously? Honestly, we have no complaints. And that's because Trader Joe's works the same magic here as anywhere else, though the frozen aisle and cheese section receives more widespread acclaim.

Trader Joe's aside, everyone knows that there are a plethora of health benefits to eating a salad, from micronutrients to vitamins to fiber. A basic bowlful of iceberg lettuce and a dressing, though, isn't doing you any favors. You'll probably be hungry in about 15 minutes, for one thing, and the nutrients leave much to be desired. But far more importantly, you're not doing your tastebuds any favors, either. We want better for you!

Salad kits solve those problems, plus a few more. They're packed with everything you need for a satisfying, nutritious, and at least mildly enjoyable meal while giving you all the modern convenience you could want. We had faith that Trader Joe's would offer us some options we would love (and love to recommend to you). To help you pick out your new go-to lunch, here are salads at Trader Joe's, ranked worst to best.

9. Caesar Style

This is a Caesar salad, which can be delicious when each ingredient on the small list is handled delicately. But Trader Joe's salad is only Caesar Style, and it's a low-effort one at that. Frankly, this one's solidly in the middle range of all salads, meaning that it's in the low range for Trader Joe's. The packaging feels low-effort, too. It includes "croutons" and "dressing," not exactly "buttery garlic bread croutons" or "restaurant-style Caesar dressing."

We then weren't surprised when they tasted like, well, nondescript croutons and dressing. The lettuce is a bit limp, too. Obviously, the parmesan is nice and necessary for a true Caesar salad, but it can't save the rest of the kit from oblivion. If it were today's lunch, the meal would pass by uneventfully. Though the fine print above the label touts that this is a "complete salad kit," it's really just scraping by. Now, if it were a complete side salad kit, we would approve of the marketing. If you're vegan and think you can never again have a good Caesar salad, have we got good news for you! Allow us to introduce a homemade Caesar dressing recipe that takes no shortcuts on flavor.

8. Organic Caesar Salad Kit

Would organic make a difference not only in quality but in straight-up taste? Able to compare it to the basic Caesar salad kit, we were on our guard. Naturally (pun intended), the salad receives points for being organic. But, superficially, there is not much of an upgrade. It tastes like a regular salad. But if you're in the mood for the pure, basic Caesar experience, we recommend choosing this one over the non-organic one. Everything tastes a little bit fresher, and the dressing certainly seems to have a more luxe mouthfeel. And we know all the language around organic labels can be confusing, so here's a primer.

Perhaps our most important recommendation concerning this salad, however, is to buy it the day you plan on consuming it, or maybe the day before if absolutely necessary. Romaine lettuce tends to wilt quickly, and you risk losing that fundamental curliness in each leaf. When it's nice and crisp, this salad still hits the spot! If you're using a kit for this species of salad, you're going about it all wrong! As previously established, it's so simple. We prefer our own well-developed recipe for Caesar salad, which is not difficult at all to put together at home, and it even has a fun hack to take it to the next level. Oh, and don't forget the dressing, but feel free to leave out the raw egg yolks. It's safer and tastes just as good.

7. Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit

The lettuce is especially crisp in a chopped salad, so if you're all about the crunch factor as opposed to silky arugula or fibrous kale, you'll prefer this Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit. Green cabbage manages to stay nice and crunchy, and romaine balances it out. "Southwestern" is a generous term to describe the salad, however, because it's primarily a basic blend with some thematic elements thrown on top.

There's a festive flavor to the salad that's fun and welcome, but only if you get a bite with all the toppings: playful pepitas, pebbly cotija cheese, and a solid dollop of spicy Southwest avocado dressing. Also, if cilantro tastes like soap to you (we're so, so sorry) you probably want to steer clear of this salad. One of our favorite elements, since we're a cilantro-loving collective, was that the fragile herb actually says fresh and flavorful mixed into the rest of the chopped lettuce. One of us thought that the absence of avocados was the elephant in the room, but we concede that there's no way you can preserve those finicky fresh fruits in a bagged kit. If you're at Trader Joe's picking up this kit, you might want to throw an avocado into your cart to really up the flavor in the dressing. Want more Southwest-inspired salads perfect for lunchtime, but maybe something with a little more .. carbs? We get it, which is why we developed this zesty Southwest pasta salad recipe.

6. Vegan Ranch Crunch Salad Kit

Falling just shy of the top five is this Vegan Ranch Crunch Salad Kit. It pained us not to put such a fantastic vegan option even higher, but Trader Joe's doesn't go easy on us. The competition is stiff! This one commits to the "crunch," which really helps the kit taste just as satisfying, if not more, than any of the non-vegan options on this list. It's also easy on the eye, with all those colors indicating a diverse array of nutrient-dense vegetables, from magenta cabbage to tangerine carrots.

We found this vegan dressing surprisingly good. It definitely didn't taste particularly vegan, but maybe a bit, let's say, "healthy." In a good way. Among all the creamy dressings we tried today, this vegan ranch falls just short of the dill cucumber ranch, but we actually preferred it to the Caesars and even the regular ranch! We did miss cheese, but hey, we missed it in many of the other non-vegan salads too. If you're still enjoying your dairy products on a daily basis and see this salad left on the Trader Joe's shelf, don't be biased. It's actually perfectly good in its own right. Those crispy fried onions, plus the fresh green onions? It's ingenious because neither is as overtly sharp as a raw white or red, so you get double the flavor with none of the downsides. Basically, all the (vegan) ingredients are in tip-top form.

5. Veggies and Greens Salad Kit

Chopping all the veggies you can find in this salad would be a verified nightmare. Washing, peeling, prepping, and slicing Brussels sprouts and cauliflower alone would take quite a while, especially whittled down to easy-to-eat salad size. Instead, with a kit, you get the set-it-and-forget-it lifestyle plus all the benefits of a plethora of nutritious ingredients. The texture in this one is unreal. As far as taste goes, we loved that it included lots of sophisticated ingredients, seemingly mimicking the kinds of refined recipes we'd see on cafe menus. Pear and ginger are the worldly big sister of apple and cinnamon, perfect for their slight notes of sweetness that temper the vegetables' roughage. That honeyed dressing is to die for. It tastes like ambrosia that you can drizzle over your salad–or over anything, really. Salmon? Roasted vegetables? A chicken marinade? Sign us up for a subscription service. Pistachios are the perfect final dose of elegance because you're lucky if you find pistachio in any other mix out there. This Veggies and Greens Salad Kit is company-worthy. The overall product is an excellent find and ranks higher than most other competitive non-Trader Joe's salad kits.

Since soup and salad is such a perfect café combination to order, we encourage you to try whipping up your own bowl of comfort food to serve alongside your salad. This hearty, herby recipe rewards you with the creamiest, dreamiest accompaniment to your fresh, light greens.

4. Dill-icious Chopped Salad Kit

What two things are funny and funky and delightful when done right, but sour when done wrong? Puns and pickles.

Trader Joe's, the original purveyor of the spice blend that shook the world (Everything But the Bagel Seasoning) is infamous for slapping the flavor profile of one food item onto another and creating a whole new product. It's almost always a smash hit. So why not take dill pickles and run with them? The Dill-icious Chopped Salad Kit is creative, and we have to give major props for how harmonious it is. Every ingredient is right on theme and positively green.

Starting from the bottom, the lettuce base has some straightforward kale and greens, but then adds some classic crudité elements like cauliflower, carrots, and radishes. Then it's an all-out dill pickle celebration! The luscious buttermilk ranch dressing gets its flavor from dill, plus stays cool with cucumber. The seasoning makes everything it touches picnic-ready, and you'd better believe we used the whole thing. Oh, and the real treat here throws all convention out the window. Instead of nondescript cafeteria salad-bar croutons, we got salty, sour, absurdly delicious potato chips that taste like dill pickles, of course. It's truly a pickle lover's paradise. Still, it could use a bit more substance. We'd love some feta cheese, and if we have a jar of pickles lying around, those are definitely going on top.

3. Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit

Arugula is criminally underrated. We get it, though: It's an acquired taste and a little challenging. As far as challenging greens go, kale has received more press due to its significant nutritional benefits. Arugula has some, too, like vitamins A, B, C, and K. But even without any health-related promo, arugula deserves some attention purely for its glorious flavor. The fine, sometimes feathery fronds have a deceptive bite to them. Peppery, zesty tasting notes can lean both earthy and gourmand. Trader Joe's chooses to go in a sunny Mediterranean direction with its Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit, with carrots sliced into wafers discs, salty parmesan, chewy almonds, and an acerbic lemony basil dressing that doesn't shy away from highlighting arugula's equally acerbic taste.

Vibes: European coastal cafe on a warm day. We wish more salads would use basil as their lead herb. But we also wish this salad actually incorporated fresh basil into the salad greens, the way the Southwestern Salad does with cilantro, instead of just in the dressing. It's a bit of false advertising if you ask us. Though it might be hard to believe some people actually crave and look forward to, a good salad, here is the proof. This kit isn't just for a quick and "healthy" lunch, but the sort of dinner that you sit and savor. It has diversity in spades, a necessary component of any great salad, and continuously surprises the palate with a new taste or texture.

2. Harvest Apple Salad Kit

While checking out, the friendly Trader Joe's cashier told us that this was likely their favorite salad in the store. Once we tried it ourselves, we were right there with them. By far and away, this salad was the sweetest of the bunch. Thanks to a gentle spring mix, apple chips dusted with cinnamon, and buttery pecans, it's almost too sweet. But that's what the Unexpected Cheddar cheese is for, tipping the salad out of Candyland. Amendment: That cheese is for anything, anytime, ever. It's the cheese that can do it all.

Even though the cheese doesn't get top billing (the apple does), it's the one stealing all the scenes. In the next, the cheese gets promoted to headliner. The Unexpected Cheddar is a fan-favorite, cult-classic product for a reason. It's definitely unexpected if you go in imagining pure cheddar, instead flipping the script with notes of nutty parmesan. The Harvest Apple Salad Kit probably gets left behind for ¾ of the year and it's a real shame. It has a seasonal quality, yes, but one that we can love regardless of the season. For a taste of fall any time of year, all rolled up in a light and bright salad kit, choose this one. It would be easy to upgrade with slices of fresh apples and maybe some bacon bits. If we were only ranking the dressings, this sweet yet tart apple vinaigrette is number one, unanimously.

1. BBQ & Black Pepper Toscano Chopped Salad Kit

We only just realized that there's a definitive common factor shared by the top two salads on our ranking: they both include Trader Joe's cheese. The BBQ and Black Pepper Toscano Chopped Salad Kit could be the ambassador for not only this black pepper wedge but Trader Joe's whole fleet of Toscano cheeses. We consider this kit the leveled-up version of the Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit.

They both have the crunchy, choppy base constructed of cabbage, but this one swap in kale, broccoli, and carrots for the duller romaine. And while those tortilla strips were jazzy, we'd take these cornbread croutons any day of the week. The toasty, pleasantly gritty taste of corn is the perfect topping for a perfect salad. Next, the Black Pepper Toscano Cheese is a whole indulgence by itself. It's even better than the Unexpected Cheddar. We have already added it to our grocery lists because this teaser whets our appetite for the whole cheese wedge. It's both richly creamy and pungently peppery. The dressing is barbecue-style but made more umami and silky with some sweet onion notes. Don't be scared if you're not a huge fan of barbecue sauce, because the extra flavoring keeps it from being too ketchup-y or clingy. Altogether, we think the kit is hearty and satisfying in that Southwest style, jam-packed with uniquely crafted ingredients, and still a nutrient-dense salad. We have never had a better salad kit.