Our staff tasted, re-tasted, and weighed in on our favorite picks

Anna Aguillard

The grocery store with reasonably priced, well-packaged products is also helping out on the home cooking front. With under $5 gourmet pizzas and their ever-so-famous “Two Buck Chuck” (that's wine), it's hard not to love this store for the fresh veggies, chips, and frozen foods. So what about their Southern-inspired selection?

We scoured the Trader Joe’s location in Birmingham, Alabama, and brought our goodies back to the office for our very own Southern Living tasting. Here, our editors' reactions:

1. Hot & Sweet Pepper Jelly: $2.49

Who would have thought that pepper jelly would wind up being a collective favorite? Not a single Southern staff member disagreed – this spread is worth the buy.

“Delicious! Sweet with a nice amount of heat, and a true pepper flavor.”  -Lisa Cericola, Senior Food Editor

Jelly was great. Sweet, with a little kick.” Libby Minor, Assistant Copy Chief

 

If it’s one thing we are picky about here in the South, it’s our sweet tea. But based on this test, Trader Joe’s can hold its own.

“!!!!!!” – Nellah McGough, Office Manager

This tea is tasty. If you put it in front of a Southerner, no doubt they could tell it's store-bought, but they probably wouldn't complain.” – Caroline Rogers, Copy

TraderJoes.com

2. Sweet Tea: $3.99

If it’s one thing we're picky about, it’s our sweet tea. But based on this test, Trader Joe’s can hold its own.

“!!!!!!” – Nellah McGough, Office Manager

This tea is tasty. If you put it in front of a Southerner, no doubt they could tell it's store-bought, but they probably wouldn't complain.” – Caroline Rogers, Copy Fellow

 

3. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie: $6.99

Although our staff didn’t quite agree that this tasted like Mom's, this store-bought version wasn’t half-bad. We do like our desserts.

“Mediocre.” – Grumpy Gardener

 

 

Although our staff agreed that these snacks were decent, they also agreed that they were nothing compared to classic cheese straws.

“Not bad, but not what I expected from a cheese straw. More like a crispy cracker.” – Libby, Editorial

“Crunchier and airier than most.” – Mary Elizabeth, Editorial

“Kind of a weird in-between. They don’t really taste like cheese…” – Addie, Marketing

$2.99

Photo: TraderJoes.com

4. Cheddar Cheese Sticks: $2.99

Although our staff agreed that these snacks were decent, they also agreed that they were nothing compared to authentic cheese straws.

“Not bad, but not what I expected from a cheese straw. More like a crispy cracker.” – Libby Minor, Assistant Copy Chief

“Crunchier and airier than most.” – Mary Elizabeth Davis, Managing Editor

“Kind of a weird in-between. They don’t really taste like cheese…” – Addie McElwee, Marketing Fellow

 

 

It’s hard to mess up something as delicious as sweet potato chips. According to our staff, these do the job.

“I would buy these.” – Betsy McCallen Lovell, Design

“I heart these!” Addie

TraderJoes.com

5. Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips: $1.99

It’s hard to mess up something as delicious as sweet potato chips. According to our staff, these will do.

“I would buy these.” – Betsy Lovell, Senior Designer

“I heart these!”  –Addie McElwee, Marketing Fellow

 

6. Banana Bonanza Bread: $3.99

Almost as good as Grandmother makes. Almost. Our staff recommends that you hold onto your homemade recipes.

“It needs nuts.” – Tristin Marshall, Digital Fellow

“Good banana flavor, but a bit dry.” – Libby Minor, Assistant Copy Chief

 

Although it wasn’t our favorite, remember: we’re used to eating crispy cornbread fresh out of a cast iron skillet, so we have high standards.

A too little crumbly. But overall, pretty delicious!” – Hannah, Marketing

It's not a show-stopper on its own, but if you jazz it up with some melted cheese on top or sneak in some jalapenos, someone might ask for your recipe.” – Caroline

$2.

 

Photo: TraderJoes.com

7. Cornbread: $2.

This wasn’t our favorite but we are used to eating crispy cornbread fresh out of a cast-iron skillet. Yes, our standards are pretty high.

A too little crumbly. But overall, pretty delicious!” – Nellah McGough, Office Manager

It's not a show-stopper on its own, but if you jazz it up with some melted cheese on top or sneak in some jalapenos, someone might ask for your recipe.” – Caroline Rogers, Copy Fellow

 

8. Pecan Pralines: $6.49

Pecans coated in sugar can’t ever really be bad. But compared to what we’re used to – handmade pralines with crunchy roasted pecans – these weren't our favorites.

“I like them. They’d be good as a part of a snack spread, with some salty items.” – Betsy Lovell, Senior Designer

“These are edible, but I didn’t like the hard, too-sugary coating. The nuts seemed a little soggy to me.” – Lisa Cericiola, Senior Food Editor

 

 

Can refrigerated and microwavable pork ever compare to the tender, juicy BBQ that we’re used to? Let’s turn to our staff:

“No, thanks.” – Betsy

“I actually really liked it! But I was embarrassed to say anything.” – Addie

“Flavor not so good.” – Nellah

$5.99

TraderJoes.com

9. Smoke House Pulled Pork: $5.99

Can refrigerated and microwavable pork ever compare to the tender, juicy BBQ that we’re used to? Let’s turn to our staff:

“No, thanks.” – Betsy Lovell, Senior Designer

“I actually really liked it!" – Addie McElwee, Marketing Fellow

“Flavor is not so good.” – Nellah McGough, Office Manager

 

 

These shortcake biscuits were certainly not what we were used to when it comes to biscuits. Staff reactions were divided.

“These are terribly dry. Even a dessert syrup couldn’t make it better.” – Tristan

“They had a nice density to them and a subtle sweetness.” – Libby

“Dry and chalky, should be more tender and buttery.” – Lisa

$2.99

TraderJoes.com

10. Shortcake Biscuits: $2.99

When it comes to the shortcake biscuits, the staff was divided.

“These are terribly dry. Even a dessert syrup couldn’t make it better.” – Tristin Marshall, Digital Fellow

“They had a nice density to them and a subtle sweetness.” – Libby Minor, Assistant Copy Chief

“Dry and chalky, should be more tender and buttery.” – Lisa Cericola, Senior Food Editor