The 18 Absolute Best Trader Joe's Condiments, Ranked

Condiments are what makes food worth eating and life worth living. Okay, we're exaggerating a bit, but many people agree that it's all about the sauce. We grew out of plain hamburgers with just the patty and bun a long, long time ago, and it was a few years later that we leaned into our well-documented love of Trader Joe's.

It's time for another article tasting our way through a section of Trader Joe's, seeking the best (and worst) and ranking them accordingly. Though we and everyone else probably first think of condiments and garnish for a burger, hot dog, or sandwich, this genre of food goes well beyond ketchup and mustard — though we did include some twists on the classics. As we discovered, many of them involved red peppers. Some tap into garlic. And others throw in wildcards like eggplant and high amounts of sugar. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Below, find out which Trader Joe's condiments are worth your time and money and which ones you should probably leave on the shelf.

18. Crunchy Jalapeño Lime & Onion

Trader Joe's Crunchy Jalapeño Lime & Onion is a confusing product. We love some good chili crisp or chili crunch, and yes, there is a difference. Trader Joe's takes the latter and puts an acidic, green spin on it. The spice comes from jalapenos, and it's nothing to laugh at. This, and the regular Chili Onion Crunch, both have some heat. On top floats a little cilantro- and lime-heavy oil, which would taste pretty nice drizzled on some veggies or tacos, maybe. But then we found a thick, almost chewy (as opposed to crunchy) situation that tasted strongly of preserved lime zest. 

When our favorite aspect of any cilantro-lime product is the intense freshness and zippy, summer flair, steeping the ingredients in a tightly-packed jar of oil seems to defeat the purpose. We would not buy this again, preferring to use either regular chili crunch or a combination of cilantro leaves and freshly squeezed lime — not this slightly odd combination of the two.

17. Thai Style Red Curry Sauce

Thai cuisine is a beautiful thing. There's nothing like getting takeout from your favorite spot and savoring every warm, spicy, comforting yet invigorating bite of something you simply can't quite recreate at home no matter how hard you try. Well, Trader Joe's is trying its hand by offering two kinds of curry sauce: Thai Style Red Curry Sauce and Thai Style Yellow Curry Sauce. We tried both and found that one was decidedly superior to the other. 

So, presenting the graceful loser of this face-off: The red one. It wasn't awful or made us regret getting it in the first place, but it didn't have the authentic, complex flavor that it should have. Oddly, it smelled better than it tasted. When we twisted the cap, we thought we had a winner, but it didn't live up to the initial promise. It's both too sweet and too salty, with a lack of heat, herbs, and spices. Also, the texture was a little gelatinous. Take-out takes the cake this time.

16. Magnifisauce!

With comic book-style labeling and an orange creamsicle color, we were intrigued by this Magnifisauce! And no, we aren't that enthusiastic — the product does actually just come with an exclamation mark at the end. Now, there's a lot of lore when it comes to "secret sauces" like this one claims to be, from McDonald's Big Mac Burger Sauce to In-N-Out's animal-style fries slathered in a similarly orange slurry. 

So what exactly is inside Trader Joe's stuff? It's no secret. First, we've got canola oil, then water, then relish, sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, mustard powder, egg yolks, dried onion, and garlic ... yeah, it's pretty much a conglomeration of anything possible you could find in a fast-food sauce. "Magnificent" is a bit of an overstatement, because we weren't too impressed. It didn't really taste like more than the sum of its parts, and instead really reminded us of the fever-dream flavors left striping our plates when the last bite of food is gone. Still, if you're all about those creamy secret sauces and go primal for animal-style fries, this is right up your alley.

15. Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce

We weren't sold on this BBQ sauce. We have come to expect a ruddy, reddish color in our pulled pork-ready sauces, perhaps due to the ubiquitous rusty hue of both the iconic Sweet Baby Ray's. This one isn't red, but it isn't quite "gold" either, which made more sense when we realized that the "gold" in the title isn't so much about the color but a nod to locally traditional Carolina Gold rice

The first thing we noticed was how very sweet this barbecue sauce is. Unsurprisingly, but also quite alarmingly, the first ingredient listed is sugar. We would want a strong, robust meat underneath this stuff to distract from that intense sweetness. Next, we tasted some of the mustard that's listed as the second ingredient, and of course, a little vinegar. Though the label boasts a product that's "sweet and smoky with a hint of molasses and just the right blend of spices," we pretty much stopped at "sweet." Our preference is for another of TJ's BBQ sauces.

14. Sweet Chili Sauce

At this point, Sweet Chili Sauce is one of the most recognizable condiments for Asian cuisines. Originating in Thailand, it gained popularity in China, and eventually traveled over to America. Nitpick though we do about the sweetness levels in our barbecue sauces, when "sweet" is literally in the product's name, we have to let them have it. 

Per its name, this sauce is more sweet than sour, spicy, or savory. But beyond the just pretty pink hue, the beauty in this condiment is that somehow the sweetness can dance with anything from fatty, savory meats to vegetable-driven stir-fries. There's a lot of love here, but we can't say Trader Joe's has the best sweet chili sauce on the market. It's fine, but could use a little more nuance and depth of chili heat, because it tastes mostly like syrup with a bit of sourness. We would buy it again, but only alongside other dipping sauces for our wontons or dumplings that diversify the flavor profiles. Instead, we would take this easy at-home version instead.

13. Bruschetta Topping

Good bruschetta is a fragrant, mellow combination of ripe tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, and classic Italian herbs such as oregano and basil. But this particular Trader Joe's condiment, Bruschetta Topping, has a similar issue to the Crunchy Jalapeno Lime and Onion: The draw of purchasing this combination of flavors is the freshness of it all, and that's a difficult taste to bottle up and seal tightly in a jar. 

The herbs tasted flat and dried, and the tomatoes almost as though they came from concentrate. We definitely see the appeal of having a tomato-y condiment that's more nuanced and herbaceous than, say, plain canned diced tomatoes. This stuff can be on hand and ready at a moment's notice, a kind of delicate Italian salsa. We'd go for the little tub in the refrigerated section of the store instead if you have room in your cart. For a more serious upgrade, might we recommend the cream of the crop, a roasted balsamic bruschetta?

12. Thai Style Yellow Curry Sauce

We really like that the store labels its Thai sauces as "Thai Style" rather than posture that they're capturing the most authentic recipe. It's wise because overall, we think that neither of Trader Joe's curry sauces provides the flavor and consistency that we craved in our perfect product. Who knows, maybe we're idealizing something that simply doesn't exist outside of Thailand, but in the meantime, at least TJ's gets pretty close to hitting the bulls-eye with the vast majority of its condiments. This one is no exception and does get closer than the Red Curry Sauce. 

We could taste more coconut and less of that funky, artificial aftertaste. It also boasted a silkier texture. The ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass flavors give it a lift that kept it from being too "canned," and though the first three ingredients are still water, oil, and sugar, it didn't taste like it. If you're looking for a shortcut curry, you could certainly do worse.

11. Tomato Ketchup with Black Summer Truffles

Black truffle, or truffle of any kind (the mushroom variety, at least) has become synonymous with "fancy", and for good reason. They are extremely expensive, hard to harvest, and lend a deep, ethereal flavor to any dish. But do you know what food has the opposite connotation? Ketchup. For better or worse, a squirt of bright-red ketchup out of a fast-food packet or easy-squeeze bottle doesn't exactly scream "chic." 

So do opposites attract in this Tomato Ketchup with Black Summer Truffles? Somewhat. Truffles happen to be a favorite of Trader Joe's, so we weren't surprised to see this slightly odd mash-up. If you're a true ketchup fan, it might be exciting to see someone out there showing the same appreciation. The fragrant funk of truffle does help mellow ketchup's aggressively sugary, acidic flavor; but it's a grown-up, dressed-up ketchup that tasted a bit like a wolf in sheep's clothing. If you really just prefer mustard or hate the very idea of fungi in your condiments, no truffle-hunting for you today.

10. Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce

Aioli, garlic, and mustard are three distinct items, and none are necessarily a "sauce." So what's the end goal of Trader Joe's Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce? The brand promises that it takes "the very idea of mustard and stands it on its head," and we were scared of a starchy, sticky, eggy mixture that reminded us of Caesar salad dressing. But, unlike some of TJ's experiments, this one works. 

Fundamentally, it's a mustard, but a lush and creamy one that borrows some luxury from aioli's custardy texture. And don't worry, there's no scrambled-egg sensation in sight. We believe the credit must go towards the garlic, which comes out strong and carries the sauce from mundane to mysteriously delicious. That said, don't buy this if you don't like garlic. As a team, we love garlic, and having it in a mustard-style spread is a real modern convenience in our lives. A simple sandwich is suddenly cafe-worthy. Don't use too much, though, or it could overwhelm.

9. Zhoug Sauce

Zhoug, or "shug", is a spicy, savory Middle Eastern sauce that's pronounced with the long "u", like "Whew." And whew, this is some good stuff — if you can take the heat. We decided to taste this one blindly without checking to see what lies within, and some of us were reaching for the water in two seconds flat. The meat of the sauce is made up of pulverized serrano chiles, and though they aren't the hottest of the hot chile peppers, they certainly do the job. 

But what saves the sauce from being nothing but heat are the enchanting herbs and less spicy spices that it's packed with — including parsley and cilantro, which give it the rainforest-green color, as well as cardamom and coriander, which provide those decidedly aromatic undertones. We'll be experimenting with this vibrant ingredient in a lot more cooking from now! You can whip up your own at a moment's notice as long as you have the right ingredients and the right recipe. And while we can't take a trip to the grocery store for you, we can certainly provide the shug recipe.

8. Organic Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

As you are already aware, we previously sampled the Carolina Gold barbecue sauce from Trader Joe's. How would another state's offering compare? The Organic Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce looks less golden and more earthy, and we hoped it would taste a little less sweet. The odds weren't in our favor, since the Kansas City signature move is adding a hefty dose of sweetness to its thick, gelatinous sauce. But Trader Joe's managed to emphasize everything good about the tradition and phase out the bad. We tasted less sugar than the Carolina Gold had, which was a plus, and the consistency was spot-on. 

If you like a robust, slightly sweet, and confident enough condiment to really coat every bite of your meat, you might like this one. We certainly did. We admit that we're unsure what the "organic" does here, but if it's the secret that makes this sauce so secretly amazing, we'll take all our food organic, please and thank you.

7. Harissa

How can a little jar make a big impact? If it has harissa inside. We've been longtime fans of this jewel of a condiment that spices up anything it touches. It's been a common theme in the article, but some of the greatest and most flavorful condiments are much more commonly used on foreign soil (and kitchens) than they are in the States. Harissa is no different. It's a staple of middle-eastern, including Tunisian cuisine where this specific recipe is traditional, and employs savory red peppers and piquant spices. Were it made at home, it would likely pack even more of a punch, but Trader Joe's will do just fine. 

A little goes a long way, so just a smidgen on our spoons sang with bold flavor and delicious possibilities. So be careful, because once you revive a good old American pot roast or your next steak with harissa, you might find yourself making frequent trips to Trader Joe's. The harissa is worth risking the temptation to buy a million more "fun" TJ's specialties.

6. Italian Bomba

What if we told you that this condiment is ... the bomb? Sorry, it was right there! And even better, it's true. This is a kaleidoscopic product. It is very hard to pin down a single element or flavor when so many ingredients are flashing all over your taste buds. It brings that same sort of shimmery spice that made Trader Joe's customers fall in love with Chili Onion Crunch, but the heat is less sharp. Also, the consistency is more of a paste than an oil. 

The fermentation process provides a pleasant, approachable funk. The peppers themselves, like a slow-roasted Italian treat, provide hints of sweetness. Overall, this condiment delivers a surprising amount of flavor per teaspoon — a lot like harissa, which is also made with red peppers. Anyway, we would happily employ (deploy?) the Bomba to add fire and fury to our lasagnas, pastas, and roasted vegetables. A dollop in a soup would help warm you up in the colder seasons, too.

5. Korean Gochujang Sauce

Gochujang is a Korean condiment that has risen in popularity in the United States. Sold in paste form, it is made from sticky rice, meju (fermented soybean flour), and barley malt. It has a fiery, complex taste and rich, robust maroon color.

Trader Joe's converted the paste into a pourable, dippable sauce, and in the process quite understandably added a few more ingredients to the list like sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, and soy sauce. These more familiar and widely used Korean flavors make the Gochujang Sauce far less aggressive than a scoop of the paste would be. It also makes it more approachable and accessible to the nervous palate. We tasted lots of salty soy sauce and lovely warm, toasty sesame, along with the titular ingredient. If you're a spice fiend and were expecting straight-up gochujang paste in sauce form, well, this has a little padding and dilution going on. Since we didn't need pure pepper in a bottle, we were happy with it and already started brainstorming all the dishes we thought could get a bit funkier thanks to this startling sauce.

4. Peri-Peri Sauce

We had heard of peri peri. The United Kingdom-established fast food chain juggernaut Nando's is famous for its delicious, hot, and spicy peri peri sauce that goes perfectly with chicken that's even a favorite of certain Hollywood actors. This sauce is pretty legit. It's a product that both originally and in this specific case hails from South Africa, where it's often spelled "Piri-Piri"' instead. 

Trader Joe's brings us the savory, bright concoction of lemon juice, fermented chiles, and garlic — and more chiles in the form of dried flakes. We tasted that chili, we can tell you that much. Though somewhat creamy and mildly perfumed with lemon and garlic, Trader Joe's Peri-Peri sauce is all about those fermented, umami-rich chiles. Even a small taste, plain from a spoon, was full of snappy, jazzy flavor. Later, when we dipped some carrot sticks and tortilla chips in for further testing, we decided that just about anything could go with some of this sauce if you want more of a kick. Lastly, the bottle's shape reminds us of a bourbon bottle, and that's just the sort of fun design choice that makes us want to try it.

3. Eggplant Garlic Spread

For some people, the scariest item on this list will not be the spicy sauces. No, eat all the jalapenos and red peppers you want, but at the mere mention of eggplant, any adventurousness goes out the window. We get it. The taste can be musky and hard to pin down when done wrong, the texture takes some getting used to, and the vegetable can even be poisonous when eaten in outrageous amounts. 

But wait! None of those caveats apply here. In this little jar, which will definitely not kill you, you get a nuanced, smokey, savory blend of, yes, eggplant, but also garlic and sweet red peppers. The result is a chic Mediterranean-inspired spread that boasts a silky texture and mild enough flavor that even eggplant haters might enjoy. A touch of this on a chicken parmesan sandwich would be absolutely heavenly, or you can dip your crudites in it alongside hummus and goat cheese. Take our word for it: If you haven't ventured into the world of eggplant, you're really missing out. It's one of our favorite under-the-radar finds at Trader Joe's.

2. Chimichurri Sauce

Trader Joe's Chimichurri Sauce looks a lot like the Zhoug Sauce. Both come in circular plastic containers in the refrigerated section, like hummus would, but very much unlike hummus, both have a magnificent lime-green color. How are they different, then? Source and location-wise, they have little in common. Zhoug hails from Yemen, while Chimichurri is a South American condiment. It's much less spicy, and though we love spice, moderation is key to success here: We could really taste even more of the herbs when less heat got in the way. You know how a good pesto tastes strongly of the basil that gets blended down into a sauce? Chimichurri is much the same, but uses cilantro and parsley — and garlic, of course. This means that it's an impossibly fragrant and fresh-tasting condiment for just about anything, South American or otherwise. 

We can see ourselves dipping into this stuff all summer long. Schmearing on sandwiches. Dunking with chips. Maybe even stirring some into hummus, actually. We don't know how Trader Joe's keeps this container full of just-picked flavor, but the effort produced miraculous results.

1. Dill Pickle Mustard

This is the salve for what might be yellow mustard's worst problem: It's too yellow. You know what we mean? It can get cloying, one-note, and artificial in a way that stone-ground or whole-grain mustard never is. But both dill (the herbs) and pickle (the process that could be used to brine anything from cucumbers to onions to banana peppers) each bring a sharpness that cuts through all that neon-yellow goo. 

Dill, in our opinion, was significantly underused in cooking until the whole pickle craze landed in our current society. The frilly, delicate fronds impart a springy, aromatic flavor that uplifts anything it touches. It's the perfect foil for the acidic bite of pickling liquid, which is mostly made of vinegar — which, in turn, is the perfect duo for adding a fresh twist on yellow mustard. We weren't exactly putting mustard on all our sandwiches before, but if this was hanging out in our fridge, we would be far more inclined. As an added bonus, you barely need actual pickles on your burger if this is your mustard of choice!