Canned Foods You Should Never Buy At Trader Joe's

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Canned foods are a great way to stock up on pantry essentials without breaking the bank. These shelf-stable canned items are available in all sorts of varieties, from vegetables to soups, making them convenient choices when preparing meals. However, canned foods are not without their critics, who are quick to point out that many canned foods are not optimal if you want to stick to low-sodium options (via UCSF Health).

They are also in good supply, and you can find canned goods of all kinds at every grocery chain, including Trader Joe's. The national chain, which models its locations more like a local market and less like your typical warehouse-sized grocery store, has developed a devoted fan base over the years. It specializes in its private Trader Joe's label products, some of which have developed a cult following.

Trader Joe's, with its emphasis on fewer quality products instead of a larger footprint, can offer many stellar items in a more compact setting (indeed, good things can come in small packages). But not everything it sells is worth hunting for, and when it comes to its canned goods, there are definitely a few products you will want to steer away from. Whether it is due to misleading nutritional value, a lack of any savings, or just a  flat-out off-putting taste, there are some Trader Joe's canned goods that shoppers should avoid. 

Unsalted Sardines

You should never purchase Trader Joe's Unsalted Sardines. You may be thinking that canned fish should be avoided at all costs, especially any kind of sardine. However, before we delve into the specific reasons as to why you should skip Trader Joe's Unsalted Sardines, you may want to know that sardines actually pack quite a lot of nutrients into their little can. Sardines are loaded with not only omega-3 fatty acids but they also contain protein, vitamin D, and calcium thanks to their edible bones (sorry, we know we just sent shivers down several spines, but yes, sardine bones are totally edible).

With that said, many may look to sardines as a nutritious source of protein. But according to one eagle-eyed Redditor, there may be a good reason to pass over Trader Joe's Unsalted Sardines. According to the packaging, the unsalted canned sardines appear to have more sodium than the sardines that are advertised as containing salt. If you are trying to be more conscious about your sodium intake, you might assume that these Unsalted Sardines are the way to go: in this instance, you would benefit from taking a second glance at the nutrition facts before purchasing a can.

Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce

Like any grocery store, Trader Joe's is where you will come across an array of canned goods to stock up on in your pantry. Canned beans might be one of those items you casually grab without a second thought as you walk down the aisle. It is always a safe bet to throw one (or several) in your cart, whether you need another can or not. But loyal Trader Joe's shoppers are wary when it comes to the store's Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce.

The Vegan Experimentalist perhaps put it best: "Nope nope nope." The promise of an affordable shelf-stable kitchen staple quickly evaporates when reviewers note that you will probably taste the can more than the beans themselves. Those on Reddit seem to be in agreement about another criticism from The Vegan Experimentalist: the beans are just too sweet. 

It is probably assumed that baked beans will come with a touch of sweetness to them, but the Giant Baked Beans leave many confused about what exactly to do with them. It is worth pointing out that some comments in the Reddit thread had positive things to say about the beans, though these were only met with more confusion and people wondering whether they were more palatable if you heated them up or not. And if you need to bother asking the question, then perhaps you already know the answer. 

Dolmas

If you are unfamiliar with Greek cuisine, you may be puzzled by the concept of dolmas. But those in the know may be quicker to give them a try when you come across a can at Trader Joe's. The Greek delicacy, made with leaves stuffed with a filling (usually rice), can be quite tasty if done well (via Greek on Wheels). Unfortunately, Trader Joe's seems to miss the mark with its particular variety since it has previously landed on our list of some of the worst canned items you can find at the store.

While Eating at Joe's admits that it may take a while to grow accustomed to the taste of dolmas, Trader Joe's is not doing its dolmas any favors by throwing in an odd mix of ingredients, like dill and mint into the mixture, so you should probably find cans elsewhere that you might enjoy more. A shopper on Reddit mentioned how the dolmas are their least favorite thing to buy at Trader Joe's but added that there are better versions out there in the world. 

So, it is not so much that dolmas are a total lost cause (on the contrary, many of the negative reviews pointed out that dolmas can be a very delicious food item). Rather, it's specifically the Trader Joe's dolmas that are a lost cause. 

Mediterranean Dorade

Not to be outdone by our friend the sardine, dorade (also known as gilt-headed bream per Fortune Fish & Gourmet, or simply gilthead bream) is another kind of fish that shoppers can buy in a canned variety at the grocery store. If you have an affinity for sardines and are looking to branch out, you might have stopped in the canned food aisle in the past and considered picking up some dorade to see how it compares. 

While most of the Trader Joe's canned fish varieties seem to be widely popular, such as its smoked trout, the dorade appears to come up short when one looks for any sign of approval (via Reddit). One comment noted that the dorade sold at Trader Joe's is "unusually terrible" when compared to the other choices available, like sardines, herring, and mackerel.

Another Reddit thread revealed many shoppers who found the smell to be quite off-putting, only to be followed up by a so-so experience when eating them. Several noted that the flavor of the dorade was bland and definitely not worth the labor that is required to get past the smell.

Of the canned fish sold at Trader Joe's, the dorade seemed to be the only kind that received multiple knocks against it, which is interesting considering that it received good marks for flavor from Fortune Fish & Gourmet. Perhaps the dorade is the kind of fish that is best eaten fresh and not straight out of a can.

Premium Chunk White Chicken

Stepping away from the world of canned fish but without straying too far, let's discuss the complexities of canned chicken meat. That's right, tuna and sardines are not the only common shelf-stable protein you can find in grocery stores. 

Canned chicken can work in a pinch if you need a small amount and you are shopping on a budget (eliminating the need to buy multi-packs of chicken breasts from the meat department, only for them to collect freezer burn because you forgot you put the leftovers in the back of your freezer for too long ... is that only us?).

However, when you do the math, canned chicken may not be as good of a bargain as you might think. Canned foods are usually synonymous with affordability, but if you shop around for deals, you may find fresh chicken meat for way cheaper at the per pound rate than its canned counterpart. 

While the flavor of canned chicken is not nearly as offensive as you may think, most of the criticism found on Reddit points out that buying canned chicken from Trader Joe's is simply not a good deal. While the flavor is not bad per se, it also is not doing any favors, as we pointed out on our previous list of canned foods to avoid at Trader Joe's. If you get this can, you'll have to rely on the seasoning to do all the heavy lifting. 

Organic Coconut Cream

In the world of dairy substitutes, coconut milk has a creamier texture than many of its competitors, which many consumers will find appealing when adding to their favorite beverage or soup. The creaminess is amplified by coconut milk's added benefits, such as lower calories in one cup than cow's milk (via Medical News Today). 

There are countless brands that are capitalizing on dairy substitute trends, including Trader Joe's, which sells cans of coconut cream in its stores. If you are a long-time customer of Trader Joe's, then you may recognize when the formula changes in your favorite items. That seems to be the case with its Organic Coconut Cream, as shoppers on Trader Joe's Reviews note that the quality is not what it used to be. 

Many noticed that its oily consistency is not what they were expecting from this particular product. Though, as with many other products, a natural separation of oil is nothing to be alarmed by, we noted that it was nearly impossible to stir the cream as the ingredients remained separated, making all of us mourn the passing of the Trader Joe's coconut cream of old.

Cold Brew Coconut Cream Latte

Trader Joe's just seems to be striking out left and right with their coconut cream products these days. There are also a large variety of canned beverages you can find at the grocery chain, including some canned coffees (sold alongside even more varieties of coffee beverages and coffee beans). If you are looking to enjoy your morning cup of joe without any dairy, then its Coconut Cream Latte may sound too good to be true. Well, according to the reviews we found, that, unfortunately, does seem to be the case.

Just like the coconut cream mentioned above, the Coconut Cream Latte seems to have a rather oily problem. One review on Go Dairy Free mentioned that the oily base made the drink unappetizing, while another review complained that the drink made them sick. The sharp criticisms continue over on Reddit, with many comments noting the drink's sour taste. Some even pointed out that they could not finish the drink, and it wound up in the trash after just a couple of sips. Ouch.

Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes and Onions

Some canned goods are simple, straightforward, and exactly what you would expect. Whether you are stocking up on canned vegetables, tuna, or beans, there is not a whole lot of mystery involved when picking items up from the grocery store. To keep things interesting, Trader Joe's concocted its Grecian Style Eggplant with Tomatoes and Onions. Canned eggplant: what could go wrong?

Apparently, a lot can go wrong. According to What's Good at Trader Joe's, the featured flavor of eggplant is egregiously overshadowed by the omnipresence of the tomatoes (a quick scan of the ingredients will reveal five versions of tomatoes listed as ingredients or parts of ingredients on the can). Perhaps this is less of a can of eggplant featuring tomatoes and more of a canned tomato situation featuring eggplant? 

Taste aside, the reviewer pointed out the bizarre texture they experienced was not something they would expect from eggplant, which culminates in a downright confusing food item. If you love tomatoes, then this item might be a winner in your book, but if you understandably purchase this expecting eggplant, then you probably will be let down.

Refried Black Beans with Jalapeño Peppers

Refried beans can be dressed up or dressed down in a number of ways, with the best canned versions coming with some sort of added flavor-enhancing simple but filling beans. Trader Joe's sells Traditional Refried Beans, which, despite the peculiar fact that the beans are fat-free (which begs the question if they are really refried beans), customers seem to enjoy. But if you want your beans to come with an extra bit of zest without having to add any ingredients yourself, Trader Joe's offers its Refried Black Beans with Jalapeño Peppers.

The mistake made here would be to simply purchase and prepare the can of beans as-is without any sort of accompanying ingredients. Trader Joe's Rants pointed out that the jalapeño flavor seemed nonexistent, and just a few minutes of added attention could seriously elevate this side dish into something more. 

Several others on Reddit also noticed the rather disappointingly bland flavor that these black beans carried, making them no different than a regular can of beans. Due to the lack of added flavor from the supposed jalapeño peppers, you are probably better off picking up a can of traditional refried beans and dressing them up yourself.

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch

Trader Joe's creates a bit of a frenzy multiple times each year with its rotation of seasonal items arriving in the stores. Whether it is the Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese in the fall or the Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe-Joe's for the holidays, the arrival of its seasonal offerings have grown into a cult-like event, much like the annual return of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte. But not every seasonal item at Trader Joe's is a hit, as is the case with the Sparkling Pomegranate Punch.

Pomegranate is a signature fruity flavor during the holiday season, with an array of cocktails and bubbly beverages popping up on your Pinterest board each fall. So when cans of sparkling pomegranate juice arrived on the shelves at Trader Joe's, holiday cocktail enthusiasts were ecstatic. 

Unfortunately, many quickly noticed the drink had an off-putting flavor that reminded them more of ginger than pomegranate. Trader Joe's Food Reviews added on Instagram that the pomegranate drink was missing its most important flavor: pomegranate, and What's Good at Trader Joe's simply put it as the drink not being "pomegranate-y enough."

It's worth mentioning that Trader Joe's does sell more flavors of sparkling juice that customers seem to enjoy across the board (via Reddit); it must have simply missed the mark with this pomegranate variety. Do not use the Sparkling Pomegranate Punch as a metric for whether you should purchase other sparkling juices from Trader Joe's; fans seem to enjoy most other flavors.

Turkey Chili with Beans

Last but certainly not least, there is the canned Turkey Chili with Beans. For starters, this is not the healthiest of items you can find in the store. You are far better off preparing your own turkey chili from scratch, as one can contains a whopping 800 milligrams of sodium or 30% of the recommended daily amount (via Fooducate). Not only that, but let's address the fact that this is just a processed version of something you can probably make fresh with much better results.

Even if this were a healthy version of canned chili, the off-putting smell and taste alone have sent many Trader Joe's shoppers running. And we must address the elephant in the room: Beans are high in non-digestible compounds like fiber and raffinose, both of which are responsible for gas production in the gut (via Healthline). Consuming a can of Turkey Chili may, as one pointed Redditor suggests, serve as an effective means of colonoscopy preparation. Of all the different Trader Joe's canned items, this only may be the one that you have to be most wary of consuming, particularly if you are in the company of others.