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


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

Trader Joe's Sweet Tea
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| Credit: 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

Trader Joe's Cheese Sticks
Cheddar Cheese Sticks
| Credit: 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

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Chips
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| Credit: 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

Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix
Cornbread Mix
| Credit: 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

Trader Joe's Smoke House Pulled Pork
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| Credit: 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

Trader Joe's Shortcake Biscuits
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| Credit: 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