20 Overrated Trader Joe's Items You Should Avoid

Trader Joe's has been heralded as one of the best grocery stores of its time. The retailer and its Hawaiian-shirt-wearing staff have been around since 1967 and the brand is well-known for its innovative products — which are sold under the Trader Joe's label rather than a more expensive name-brand. As a result, customers get access to cheap and delicious items at every Trader Joe's store around the country.

The affordability and guise of the Trader Joe's empire have attracted an impressive fan following in recent years. Creators on Instagram and TikTok have taken to their grocery carts to show off their latest Trader Joe's finds with their audience, which has led to certain products skyrocketing in popularity. And although some of this noise is warranted, many of the products that Trader Joe's touts as being a "fan favorite" is far from it — for at least some people. Here are some of the most overrated products on the shelves at Trader Joe's that you should probably avoid.

Sriracha Sauce

The Trader Joe's Sriracha Sauce is one of the most recognizable items in its store, but the Trader Joe's version is not the same as the original Huy Fong sriracha with the rooster and the green tip. Huy Fong has a rich history and hold of the sriracha market; its facility processes more than 20 tons of red jalapeños daily to make its signature product. Its secret recipe is under lock and key but includes the addition of some known ingredients like vinegar, garlic, and sugar.

Although Trader Joe's made a fair pass at replicating the original sriracha recipe, the sauce's flavor is slightly sweeter and not the same as the original product. Sriracha is one condiment you'll want to leave in the hands of Huy Fong.

Cauliflower Gnocchi

The cauliflower gnocchi is one of the most divisive products at Trader Joe's. This product appeared on store shelves in 2018 and has been among its most popular sellers. Fans have lauded this product for its lower carb and calorie content compared to traditional potato gnocchi. And the cauliflower gnocchi has a relatively blank flavor slate, so it can be dressed up with tomato sauce, cheese, or just butter.

Although it has the makings of a great Trader Joe's product, the cauliflower gnocchi isn't perfect. The truth is that Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi has a very unappealing odor, and the instructions listed on the package never seem to result in the perfect gnocchi texture. If you want a better-tasting gnocchi, try buying the brand's sweet potato gnocchi with butter and sage, instead.

Mandarin Orange Chicken

Trader Joe's mandarin orange chicken might be your idea of a Friday-night-takeout-in, but we recommend leaving these bags on the shelves. Although the chicken pieces do crisp up in the oven as advertised, the orange sauce that each bag comes with is a sad interpretation of Chinese takeout. It's gloopy, sickeningly sweet, and lacking in any sort of complex ginger or orange flavor. Unfortunately, the chicken-less mandarin orange morsels, the meatless version of this dish, aren't much better.

Plus, to prepare this dish, you have to bake the chicken separately, before tossing it in a wok or pan with the sauce. With the number of dishes you'll use (not including the rice, if you decide to serve it as a side), you might as well just order takeout.

Crunchy Chili Onion

Trader Joe's tried to replicate the Lao Gan Ma chili crisp sauce with its crunchy chili onion. Although the brand promises dazzling, enjoyable flavors, what you really get is an oily mess with a confusing web of flavors — including paprika, which does not often appear in Asian sauces, and for a reason.

Another key difference between the Trader Joe's version and Lao Gan Ma is that the Trader Joe's iteration includes dried bell peppers. This ingredient does not necessarily do anything to the flavor or texture of the crisp; it is likely just added to bulk up the jar. Just like the sriracha, the OG chili crisp is much more flavorful and worthy of your shopping cart than the off-base TJ's version.

Brioche Buns

Trader Joe's shoppers expressed a lot of excitement when the brioche buns (and brioche hot dog buns shortly afterward) made their way into the bakery section. The flavor of these buns is highly regarded by customers because of how moist, soft, and buttery each roll is. But, there's one major problem that comes up with these rolls.

When you go shopping at any grocer, you would hope your purchases would last more than just a day or so before going bad. Trader Joe's brioche buns are notorious for getting prematurely dry within a day after opening. Although the flavor on these buns is solid and a perfect complement to a juicy burger, it's hard to justify buying buns that are just going to have to get thrown in the trash because they couldn't last the night.

Joe-Joe's cookies

Joe-Joe's cookies are Trader Joe's version of the chocolate sandwich cookie. The store sells numerous varieties of Joe-Joe's, including holiday candy cane, autumnal pumpkin, Neapolitan, summery mango, and even gluten-free. Despite the multiple flavors, there are some fundamental issues with the texture of the cookie. Trader Joe's cookies come in slightly drier and less buttery than the name-brand OREO cookie.

There are also some flavors that are significantly better than others. For example, some shoppers have claimed that the mango Joe-Joe's are an abomination that taste more like sunscreen than a fresh mango treat. Others have found the standard Joe-Joe's to be underperforming, claiming that the cookies leave behind a plasticky, fake taste. While the Joe-Joe's are a good cookie to have on hand when the craving strikes, there are surely better Trader Joe's cookies to choose from.

Jingle Jangle

If it's the holiday season, you'll find tins of Jingle Jangle hanging around at least one end-cap in the store. This decorative tin is filled with festive surprises like chocolate-covered pretzels, popcorn, chocolate-covered Joe-Joe's cookies, peanut butter cups, and candy-coated chocolate gems. The ratio of each ingredient is relatively even, and the overall confectionery element is there, but what this Trader Joe's product lacks is value. Trader Joe's Jingle Jangle can cost upwards of $10 a tin.

Instead of buying Jingle Jangle to keep around on your kitchen counter for snacking during the holiday season, we recommend reserving it for gifting to your extended family (who loves Trader Joe's novelties) and instead making yourself a cost-effective DIY Jingle Jangle with items from the candy and snack aisle at Trader Joe's.

Cinnamon Bun Spread

Trader Joe's has made many of its products into convenient spreads, like ube spread and savory eggplant garlic spread. The company's biggest mistake was trying to convert a cinnamon bun into a spreadable paste. Seriously, how could anyone wrap a fluffy cinnamon bun's intricate, complex flavors into a 10-ounce glass jar? It was a fallacy from the start.

Trader Joe's cinnamon bun spread is nothing short of underwhelming. There's more of a caramel flavor than a cinnamon one, which is obviously misleading based on the product's name. Although this product wouldn't be bad spread on a piece of toast for breakfast (with a hefty dose of cinnamon sprinkled on top of it), it's highly overrated for what it is. Instead of buying this spread, try one of Trader Joe's underrated and inexpensive peanut butter jars.

Danish Kringle

Although the Danish Kringle repeatedly places high in Trader Joe's annual customer choice awards, it is far from the best dessert the grocer offers. For those unfamiliar with the pastry, Kringle is a ring-shaped sweet Scandinavian pretzel. The pastry is filled with several layers of pastry and filling, topped with sweet icing. The brand carries several flavors of the Kringle, including pecan, pumpkin, and almond, which it orders directly from Wisconsin's O&H Danish bakery. Trader Joe's is the only major retailer to stock these danishes, too. Each ring costs a hefty $9.99 but serves upwards of 12 people.

We're not saying the Kringle is a bad dessert by any means. However, it does overshadow some of the better options at Trader Joe's, like the heavenly pancake bread and decadent chocolate Brooklyn babka.

Everything But The Bagel Seasoning blend

When Trader Joe's debuted its new Everything But the Bagel seasoning, it started customer fanfare with the product. It even caused Trader Joe's to release spinoffs like Everything But the Bagel Seasoned Crackers and Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo with Almonds and Cashews. Fans were starstruck by this new seasoning invention and rushing to put it on anything and everything.

But, that was then, and this is now. Although the Everything But the Bagel seasoning may be versatile, it's not the only seasoning that matters. Plus, the blend of seeds is coarse and rarely adheres to any food like fish or chicken. Its only true utility is adding it to plain bagels or bread to transform it into an everything product.

Speculoos Cookie Butter

The motto for Speculoos cookie butter should be "It's not that serious." Some people will defend this spreadable cookie paste with their lives, but we would argue that it's just a nauseatingly sweet spread that doesn't deserve the amount of hype it receives. The product's popularity has allowed Trader Joe's to release other cookie-butter-related products, including Speculoos cookie butter ice cream, cookie and cocoa swirl (think Nutella and cookie butter), crunchy cookie butter, and dark chocolate cookie butter cups.

It's important to point out that Trader Joe's didn't even create cookie butter. It was the product of a Belgian reality show called "The Inventors" and was eventually brought to the U.S. Lotus Foods in 2011. All Trader Joe's did was rebrand the product, and people went nuts.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Trader Joe's has plentiful ready-to-eat options in its freezer section. Its chicken tikka masala is made with a tomato-based curry sauce filled with pieces of white meat chicken. This product has been one of Trader Joe's longstanding favorites since its introduction in 2009. But not all is well in paradise.

The chicken is dry, and there is slightly more rice than curry in the container — leaving you with sad, microwaved rice without any sauce to soak it up with. The sauce itself, though, is well-seasoned with the addition of fenugreek leaves, turmeric, and garlic, but it could always be a little bit spicier. So while this frozen meal is good for the most part, it's not the perfectly engineered food product it's made out to be.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Trader Joe's has manufactured an entire library of cauliflower rice, gnocchi, and crackers but has yet to put the time and effort into engineering high-quality cauliflower products. As a result, you have defunct products like its cauliflower pizza crust.

Trader Joe's cauliflower pizza crust might appear to be an option for folks on a low-carb diet, but the reality is that the crust will get super soggy with the standard amount of pizza sauce, plus it doesn't hold up well to the weight of the toppings. If you pick this crust, we guarantee you'll need a knife and a fork to make your way through it. As far as the taste goes, you'll find that adding corn flour makes the crust especially dry and un-pizza-crust-like. You won't fool anyone at your next pizza party with this crust.

Vegan Jackfruit Cakes

Trader Joe's has made a solid effort to offer its customers more plant-based appetizers and sides. Jackfruit seems like a logical ingredient to do this; it has a stringy texture and mouthfeel, which makes the fruit a popular substitute for pulled "pork" and in meatballs.

Although its vegan jackfruit cakes are supposed to replicate the same flavors and consistency as a crab cake (just without the meat), it's clear that the product falls short of its promise. Despite the "crab-less cake" claim on the box, these cakes taste nothing like seafood. While the cakes contain some flecks of potato and onion, the texture is a bit too meaty to be considered a hash brown. The best word to describe these cakes is "confused."

World's Puffiest White Cheddar Corn Puffs

We're always skeptical with brand claims like "world's best," so "world's puffiest" is no exception. Trader Joe's World's Puffiest white cheddar corn puffs isn't necessarily a bad choice (it is a cheesy snack food, after all), but there are more ingenious snacks in that Trader Joe's aisle.

Plus, the quality control on these items isn't ideal, as some puffs have less cheese, while others have a bright cheesy flavor that inevitably fades fast. Some reviewers have likened the taste of these snacks to cardboard, while others claim that "it's like eating packaging peanuts." Like several of Trader Joe's other products, we recommend sticking with the name brand (Pirate's Booty) rather than the generic version. Not only is the flavor of the brand name a little more consistent, but the texture is much more deserving of the "world's puffiest" title.

Organic White Truffle Potato Chips

Truffle anything is overplayed: That's including Trader Joe's white truffle potato chips. The claim on the bag is that the chips are made "with Italian White Truffles & Fleur De Sel Sea Salt" — which is just an effort to boost these chips up into a fancier bracket.

While the packaging of this product might be grand, the flavor of these chips is stale and not pungent enough to be easily identified as a truffle chip, but also not "normal" enough just to be a plain potato chip. Any recollection of the organic white truffle ingredient comes off as stale oil more than a pure white truffle. Moreover, several reviewers have noted that the aroma of the chip is strong and promising, but the chip itself fails to deliver.

Black Bean & Cheese Taquitos

After a short sabbatical, Trader Joe's black bean and cheese taquitos returned to store shelves. Do we think they should have come back in the first place? Not particularly.

Shoppers have remarked that the taquitos are easy to reheat in the microwave, making them a popular choice for lunches or tailgates. But the texture of a proper taquito, which is supposed to be stuffed, rolled, and fried, does not lend well to reheating. The entire purpose of the taquito is nulled when it is nuked into a soggy, mushy state. The outside of Trader Joe's taquito isn't its only problem. The bean and cheese filling is lackluster in flavor and only has one consistency: mushy. Despite these taquitos being able to be served with salsa or sour cream to help amp up the flavor, there is little that can be done to improve the consistency of the filling or the tortilla casing.

Cajun Style Alfredo Sauce

Trader Joe's fans were psyched for its Cajun Style Alfredo Sauce to come out, but this product was a bust rather than a boom. Customers expected a product that had a very pronounced flavor that could brighten up any dish (not just pasta), but they got a sauce that is dense, cloggy, and dull.

It ranked low in our list of every Trader Joe's pasta sauce because of its unappealing jarred-cream-sauce texture and lacking Cajun flavor. The spices don't meld with the rest of the sauce and instead detract from its smoothness. Although the concept of this pasta sauce is ingenious for shrimp and grits or chicken, it missed the mark on the execution. If Trader Joe's could reevaluate its spice blend, it would be a more formidable opponent to Trader Joe's top pasta sauces.

Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches

When an item gets the title of "sublime," a high bar needs to be met. Unfortunately, Trader Joe's sublime ice cream sandwiches fall short. The sandwiches, which include a thick layer of ice cream stuffed between two chocolate chip cookies and rolled in mini chocolate chips, are the exact same as chipwich you would get at a grocery store. Trader Joe's website claims that it spent months and months engineering every component of this ice cream sandwich, but it's highly unlikely anyone could pick it out in a taste-test line-up.

The "sublime" sandwiches are also not as cost-effective as the other frozen desserts at $4.99 for a box of four. While there's no such thing as a bad ice cream sandwich, per se, these don't live up to the name.


Trader Joe's hashbrowns has some redeeming qualities, including their price of $2.79 for 10 patties. However, the cult-following associated with the product is far from warranted. The patties lack any unique flavor or seasoning that elevates them to a must-have breakfast item — instead, the patties are just pure saltiness with an added layer of oily grease.

Moreover, many shoppers on the internet have debated about how to prepare hash browns properly for ultimate crispiness. While the website notes that customers can cook the patties in a skillet or the oven, several hash brown enthusiasts have found that the best way to reduce the oiliness is to air-fry or bake them. A wide margin of users who complain about the patties falling apart didn't follow the recommended cooking instructions, so we give this product a little leeway for operator error. While this potato product might be a good swap for a fast food hash brown, some minor improvements can be made before it is considered a top-tier Trader Joe's item.