16 Trader Joe's Baked Goods, Ranked Worst To Best

Baked goods have a way of making you feel fuzzy inside. They're cooked in the oven, smell like home, and are served up warm and fresh. They can be sweet or savory, soft or crusty (or both), and come in colors across the spectrum. We all get a faraway look in our eyes when discussing the best baked goods we've tried and loved throughout our lives: our mom's homemade oatmeal raisin cookies, the flakey croissant that shattered in our fingers at a Paris patisserie, the garlic bread recipe we just tried, or heck, even those cinnamon buns from a can when we were kids. There's just nothing as pleasant and pleasing as a baked good.

In an attempt to recapture that magic, we decided to go on a tour ... alas, not of Paris, but of the bakery sections of the next best thing: Trader Joe's. Surely some of the creations would suffice, and a percentage of those would more than suffice. As we tested the store's baking mettle and tasted a lot of candidates, we determined their best baked goods. Ranked from worst (but still one of the better ones) all the way to the golden ticket, we're happy to present our delicious findings.

16. Dark Pumpernickel Tuscan Pan

It was harder to find interesting savory options for baked goods at Trader Joe's than it was to find interesting sweet ones. But when we spotted this very generous chocolate-colored loaf that had nothing to do with chocolate, we thought it was worth tasting. The Dark Pumpernickel Tuscan Pane appears, to us at least, to be a baked goods innovation the likes of which we have not seen before. We've all tried regular pumpernickel bread before, and we saw a loaf of plain white Tuscan Pane bread on the shelf above this one, but this creation puts the two together in one. 

Overall, we enjoyed the nutty, and actually somewhat chocolatey taste of rye and the sturdier texture that the traditional, simple structure Pane provides. The crust is chewy (but could be chewier) and the crumb is hearty (but could be heartier). The consensus is that every positive quality of the loaf could just be taken up a notch for a bolder flavor and texture, and it also dried out a lot when toasted. But still, it would be a nice lunchtime sandwich bread with egg salad or ham and cheese, enhancing the usual and slightly dull fillings to a more exciting status. Also, this loaf was humongous and far, far heftier than most grocery-store loaves of bread, so we certainly got our money's worth — which is always a big plus. 

15. Butter Croissants

We made a great sacrifice for this ranking: We made ourselves try both the chocolate and the butter croissants. Yeah, we know, it's so hard. Eating two kinds of croissants? We're just that dedicated. We slogged our way through to compare and contrast them and thought both were delicious but had to pick a favorite. 

We'll discuss the Chocolate in a hot second, but for now, we're focusing on the pros and cons of the simple Butter Croissant. These Trader Joe's croissants are just so-so (but even a mediocre croissant is delicious.) They are slightly deflated and springy, but we were hoping for a croissant that will shatter into 1,000 buttery crumbs when so much as breathed upon. These are better and more high-quality than, say, Walmart croissants crowded into plastic containers, but they aren't anywhere close to something fresh from a patisserie. A slight toast or air-fry helps, but be careful not to let them burn or dry out. We sound critical, but seriously, it's still a buttery pastry, so everybody wins in the end.

14. Pita

We always love a good pita pocket, and you can do so much with them. Think falafel, hummus, or any other traditional sandwich filling. Trader Joe's pitas were just your average product — nothing too crazy delicious or concerningly bad. They're a little low on flavor and freshness, while also being too brittle for optimal filling up with all the works, but then again, we're the kinds of people who chronically overload our burritos and then wonder why we make such a mess. 

Like the Pumpernickel Tuscan Pane, one of our favorite things about the pita had nothing to do with the taste, which was mild and pleasant. It was all about the price point: six pockets for well under $2 in this economy? That alone is worth the consideration. Save even more money, however, by baking your own Greek-style pita. It will be much more delicious, too, so you win no matter how you cut it. 

13. Madeleine Cookies

Madeleines are a work of art. Though called "cookies" by many, including Trader Joe's, they are really more of a cake. Oh, and everyone probably knows they're French, so automatically they are far more elegant and sophisticated than any American cookie-cake equivalent. (Sorry, Little Debbie, we still enjoy your Oatmeal Cream Pies. Those things are always a winner.) 

Trader Joe's madeleines are a solid store-bought version that we would never stick our noses up at. The crisp and slightly carmelized edges, scalloped appearance, spongey interior, and buttery taste are all on point. These sweet, pretty, delicate little desserts are fine all by themselves, but get catapulted to fine-dining distinction when paired with a high-quality tea or coffee. Though not as finicky as a croissant or macarons, with madeleines, it's still all about the tools and technique. There's nothing tastier — and more satisfying — than achieving that perfect shape in your own kitchen. Next time you flex your baking skills by whipping up a batch of these lovely cookies, be sure to check out our best tips and tricks.

12. Sweet Pull Apart Aloha Rolls

These are rolls, but not just any rolls: These are Trader Joe's Sweet Pull Apart Aloha Rolls. Sure, you could open the plastic bag and eat a roll just as it is, squishy and slightly sweet and plush, with butter or a slice of cheese, and be happy as a clam. Or, you could toast it up and do the same for some extra goodness thanks to golden edges and still-soft insides. Or you could be really clever and create the greatest sliders ever using the whole loaf. 

These rolls are so chill, dude. They are up for anything. We love our high-maintenance pain au chocolates and indulgently gooey peanut butter brookies, but sometimes we just want to stuff some bread full of whatever is laying around in our fridge, bake it up, and eat it while watching a great movie with friends. Add garlic butter, mozzarella, and pepperoni for pizza rolls, why don't you? We don't mind if we do. 

11. Raspberry Heart Cookies

Sometimes the simplest cookies turn out to be the very best. Or maybe the cutest ones do. Either way, we had to test this theory on the Raspberry Hearts, Trader Joe's two or three-bite-sized shortbread sandwich cookies, cut into heart shapes and filled with a firm raspberry jam. We say "firm" because this is not the fruity mess you find running out of a jelly donut. This jam is still sticky but holds the top and bottom cookies together like coral-colored glue. 

We all agreed that they fully succeeded in the appearance department, and almost fully succeeded in the taste department. The cookies themselves have a nice, not-too-sweet flavor, a hint of vanilla, and in our opinion, lean more towards a shortcake more than a shortbread. That's due to the texture. Shortbread cookies tend to be crumbly, almost sandy, and heavy on the butter. These were cakey and tasted more like sugar than butter. The texture was our main critique: We seriously enjoyed the jam, and it was a fun change from the dribbly jellies that always seem to spill out of other sandwich cookies. In general, we always go for a good sandwich cookie.

10. Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean Mini Sheet Cake

Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean Mini Sheet Cake: This Trader Joe's dessert is a mouthful to say, but also a mouthful of goodness to eat. First of all, purchasing a whole sheet cake is rarely a thing unless you're having a party. Being able to purchase a mini-sized one is a little luxury we all deserve. Well played, Joe, you know what the people want. And if you don't want the vanilla version, keep an eye out for a chocolate ganache or lemony flavor variety that sometimes hits shelves. But even if those two had been options for us to taste and test, we think this chantilly cream-covered sponge would still, ahem, take the cake. 

The cake is as light and moist as advertised, though perhaps a bit light on vanilla flavor. The vanilla comes through in the "frosting", which is a bit of a tasty puzzle. Chantilly cream is essentially just whipped cream that's lightly sweetened. But the package also says that the frosting is buttercream. How can it be both? Either way, it's a lovely, fluffy topping that doesn't weigh the cake down. Sure, it's a little plain, and a homemade cake would probably taste better, but for a simple personal sheet cake, it does the job with sophistication. Try adding some berries for a light summery dessert.

9. Glazed Vanilla Bean Scones

Scones are tricky little things disguised as the simplest baked goods ever. Here's why we think so: A bad scone is a dry, bland, boring lump of dough that wishes it were a flakey biscuit, a cakey muffin, or that it had enough icing to qualify as a pure dessert. A good scone, which is hard to come by, walks a fine line between all these elements to be a wonderfully pleasing treat that's not too sweet for breakfast, sweet enough for tea time, and full of light, bright flavors. 

These Trader Joe's Glazed Vanilla Bean Scones would not impress the Brits (they need their scones served with clotted cream and definitely without the glaze, thank you very much) but they did, in fact, please us. Though they aren't flakey, they do everything we want them to, especially delivering a big vanilla flavor. They might seem a little too dry, too, but dunk them in a warm beverage to solve that issue. We would gladly make afternoon tea a thing again if it meant eating one of these!

8. Chocolate Croissants

This love is unanimous among those of us tasting and testing the baked goods for this article. Of all the good things we anticipated trying, none were more enticing than the croissants. It's not like we're picking favorites or we dislike any of the others, but fine, if we had to pick a favorite pastry or even just something baked in an oven, it would be croissants — and if we had to pick the most dessert-like and decadent kind of croissant, it would be chocolate-filled. 

We had to pick up a bag of Pain au Chocolates from Trader Joe's. Mais oui, it was nécessaire. These are nearly everything that a fresh Parisian croissant should be ... if it were a day or two old, and there's a tiny reward of chocolate treasure tucked away inside it all. One might think this isn't enough chocolate, but has "one" ever tried chocolate? It tends to steal the show, and we need the croissants to stand their ground. The ratio is perfect. We just can't help but wish that the flakey part held up better instead of only reappearing when toasted.  

7. Vegan Banana Bread

Vegan baking has come a long, long way in the last couple of years. Stores like Trader Joe's are hard at work providing the latest and greatest, such as this Vegan Banana Bread. We have to admit that we're still a little leery about nontraditional baked goods, though. We've just consumed too many sad, dry vegan cupcakes. 

But this bread puts those (and our preconceptions) to shame. It's a truly excellent vegan product. Not only does it taste flavorful, moist, and delicious, but it seems downright homemade. Banana bread is one of the absolute easiest things to make at home (hence the craze arising during the height of the pandemic). It's a wonderful stepping stone to bigger and bolder baking that gives novices a chance to grow their confidence — and it's just as easy when you're a vegan. We have a recipe that we think you'll love because it's not only banana bread, but PB&J Vegan Banana Bread. Yes, you read that right! Because what goes better with bananas than peanut butter, and what goes better with peanut butter than jelly?

6. Sliced French Brioche

This might be subjective, but next to the eponymous croissant, the other major French baked good that fills our mind with visions of splendor and romance is the classic brioche. You might know a brioche best in hamburger bun form. It seems to have become restaurants' cheap shots at a really excellent hamburger by slapping the meat between a slightly sweet, plush bun like this. But if you think brioche is only for housing patties, we've got news for you: Rich, enriched dough filled with butter, sugar, and eggs rises to incredible heights of baked-good luxury that, when done to perfection, barely even needs a pat of butter. 

This Trader Joe's loaf got pretty darn close, but we definitely wanted butter with it. It's moist and tender, just how we had hoped it would be. We were slightly disappointed to find it pre-sliced — strange as it may seem — because what we gained in convenience is lost in freshness. Even slight notches in a loaf will expose it to drying out faster. Overall, it's definitely a winsome store-bought brioche loaf if you don't have a local bakery you prefer.

5. Peanut Butter Brookie

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Brookie is, as it says on the package, half a fudgy and deeply chocolatey brownie and half a peanut butter cookie. The former is the base layer, which at first mention seems counterintuitive since wouldn't the cookie part be sturdier than a slightly underbaked brownie? But the cookie on top is equally soft and moist, though it tasted more like a peanut butter blondie than a traditional crunchy, sandy, cross-hatched peanut butter cookie that your mother would have made you for an after-school snack. This means that the resulting dessert is very thick and dense, with a little going a long way. 

We loved it straight from the box, but also slightly warmed up so that the chocolate chips in the brownie layer could become pockets of molten cocoa. Note: These are salty little bites. We were shocked at how Trader Joe's didn't shy away from that savory element, and it's what made us keep coming back for more despite the richness. If you prefer straight-up sweet, you might find the salt too heavy-handed, but you'll hear no complaints from us. 

4. Kringle

The Danish Kringles from Trader Joe's are renowned among fans. These massive rings of pastry surround a seasonal filling — potentially pumpkin in the fall or almond during the holidays — and run at a steep price of $9.99. For a store so full of affordable products, you might feel somewhat affronted and decide to try a different baked good. But before you scroll to something below $5, let us restate just how massive this pastry is. If you unveil it at a get-together, you will get some appreciative "oohs" and "ahhs", plus it can easily feed a dozen brunch-goers if you cut your pieces judiciously. Everyone getting their own slice of authentic Danish pastry for under a dollar? Now that sounds more like it. 

Our Kringle flavor was raspberry, and we aren't mad about it. Now, have you seen or tasted those giant homemade pop tarts made with puff pastry? That's what this pastry tasted like. Flakey puff pastry, sweet vanilla icing, and a jammy raspberry filling definitely reminded us of pop tarts. Only everything was better: The pastry is airy and light, the icing is soft, and the filling is sweet but also slightly tart and sour. It's not a perfect single-serving raspberry Danish from your local bakery. We did think it was a little flat and floppy rather than crisp and tall. But overall, it's worth trying if you have $10.

3. Chocolate Brooklyn Babka

Though we were interested to try the more dark and savory pumpernickel loaf, the butter plain brioche, and sweet little shortbreads, there's nothing like a ton of melty chocolate ... and this resplendent Chocolate Brooklyn Babka was absolutely bursting at the seams with it. The Chocolate Croissants hid their chocolate surprise elegantly, but this was nothing of the sort. A loaf of the "bread" is incredibly rich, dense, and intense. As you can see in the photo, ours was bending under the weight of its glorious burden, and even the slight warmth in the air caused the chips on top to start melting into the rest of the loaf. We had a feeling it would be moist and chocolatey inside, and when we cut into it, we were shocked by what an understatement that was. 

If anything, it's too chocolatey. The filling is barely contained by the dough, which does indeed keep it moist — and messy. It's generous to call this bread. At room temperature, it's like a doughy cake. When warmed, it tastes like bread pudding and would go well with a scoop of old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. We actually think it's a steal to get something as bakery-worthy as this from Trader Joe's for only $4.99.

2. Challah

In general, bread is either a little on the sweet side or a little on the savory side. There are the extremes, like cream-cheese-frosted and brown-sugar-goo-filled cinnamon buns, all the way over to a classic loaf of garlic bread. Choosing either extreme is not very tenable, but the true neutral is white bread and that's ... basic. Once you decide if you're leaning toward sweet or savory, you can still choose something with more uses than just a decadent brunch or a side dish for steak. 

Challah is one of the best all-purpose loaves you can buy on the sweet side. Eggy, with a touch of honey or sugar, it's ideal for making French toast, or in our opinion, regular old toast with high-quality butter and a nice jam. If it sounds a lot like the brioche, that's because the two breads are very similar. Both, in their modern manifestations, are made from enriched doughs. The main difference is in the heart and history: Since challah stems from traditional Jewish recipes, however, it might eschew the butter for oil to keep kosher.

1. Pancake Bread

If you read enough of our articles, especially those that rank food products, then you may see that we have some common threads in our critiques. Probably our most common pain point, however, is that there basically is not enough flavor. Instead, it tastes bland and dull, the quintessential sad, premade version of something that, in this case, should ideally be baked fresh from a bakery. When we taste food so full of flavor that it knocks our socks off, we know we're onto something big. 

The Pancake Bread from Trader Joe's looks fairly unassuming, quite like the Vegan Banana Bread, and promises to encapsulate the flavors of buttermilk pancakes and maple syrup. We were skeptical. But if your ideal breakfast is a full stack of flapjacks, you need to try this bread. "How do they do this?!" one of us exclaimed. Another scanned the ingredients list for clues. Sure enough, it includes buttermilk and maple syrup, but how could the taste be so incredibly concentrated? Every bite tastes exactly like a pancake drenched in syrup and shaped into a moist, squishy loaf. Also, it's topped with buttery streusel, which makes it better than any pancake. The texture is dense, somewhat like a pound cake, with a hint of toasty grittiness like a homestyle cornbread. It's sweet but not too sweet and could stand up to a drizzle of real maple syrup. Toast it, microwave it, or savor it plain with coffee, this TJ's product is heavenly.