Trader Joe's Soups Ranked Worst To Best

When soup season arrives and you don't feel like learning how to make your own or pulling out a slow cooker, it's good to know Trader Joe's has a line of soups that come to the rescue. These soups are fall Trader Joe's items that can cozy up your kitchen and winter timesavers provide hearty centerpieces for lunches and dinners, making it easy to cook warm, satisfying foods without too much trouble. You can always run into your own Trader Joe's and emerge with a comfort food like soup that's ready to heat and eat.

The untold truth about Trader Joe's soups is that not all are created equal. It's not just a matter of taste that drives the quality; even recipes that sound dependably delicious may not measure up to the hype if soup can be considered hype-worthy. We swung by our local TJ's and picked up an armload of the soups sitting on the shelves and snuggling up in the refrigerator section. The retailer sells soup in cans, jars, shelf-stable boxes, and chilled containers, each with its own special set of traits. Regardless of what your favorite soup might be, some of these products are simply better tasting than others. We dipped our spoon into an even dozen and gave them a ranking of best to worst based on our preferences. The work was savory, and the results were slightly surprising.

12. Pumpkin Butternut Squash Bisque

With two types of autumn-ready gourds crowding the container, there's bound to be a boatload of bouquet in the flavors of Pumpkin Butternut Squash Bisque, not to mention that silky texture inherent in both a bisque and a pumpkin-squash mash-up. There's usually a touch of welcome sweetness to squash soups, sometimes due to the inclusion of brown sugar in the recipe. Whether it leans toward sweet or savory, it's a delicate dance getting soup made from gourd vegetables to not be too runny or too mealy, but precisely in the center of the spectrum. Maybe Trader Joe's can run the routine in this refrigerated soup ...

... or maybe not. This disappointing selection has consistency and flavor just above baby food purée. There's not enough seasoning or sweetener to consider any sort of a cultural soup like Italian or even Caribbean, though the label does say it's finished with brown butter and sage. It seems like the elements skip the sweetness in favor of reaching for an earthy flavor. Despite earning raves from Instagram users, for us, it turns out to be bland and mushy and in need of some serious doctoring to become palatable, let alone gourmet. In other words, it's nothing like what you'd hope for in a fall soup from Trader Joe's.

11. Pumpkin Bisque

Having a second version of Pumpkin Bisque to choose from made a comparison-within-a-ranking a no-brainer. With one being in a jar and one being refrigerated, curiosity over which would fare better was front of mind during the sampling session. The purity of only pumpkin in the jar made a distinction as well. Surely Trader Joe's would conquer the idea of a jarred pumpkin soup, having more room for seasoning that could take it into the pumpkin spice realm. Who wouldn't appreciate a soothing, silky pumpkin soup with cinnamon and nutmeg fragrance rising from the bowl? It's a soup lover's dream if lovers of soup dare dream so high.

Sadly, Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bisque in jarred form isn't much better than the refrigerated version. Even with cinnamon and nutmeg listed on the ingredient label, this soup was oddly tangy, likely attributable to apple cider vinegar on the ingredient list. Where's the sweet creamy flavor this pumpkin soup had the potential to deliver, thanks to the use of tahini? It must be in some other soup manufacturer's recipe because it certainly isn't in this jar. Though it's not too much to think the base could be jazzed up with a little culinary cleverness, you should be able to enjoy a prepared soup straight off the shelf rather than having to perform sorcery to get it to taste right.

10. White Bean Chicken Chili Soup

White Bean Chicken Chili Soup is Trader Joe's take on traditional chili's lighter cousin. The recipe offers a more elegant version of the classic while still providing the dense heartiness, almost like a chowder in some instances. It's also a sprightly Southwestern soup with warm flavors that borrow more strongly from Mexican cuisine than the red bean-based Tex-Mex version. Toast a flour tortilla or toss some corn chips in for crunch, and white bean chicken chili can provide a multi-textural soup experience that celebrates an ordinarily satisfying bowl.

Expectations were high for this one, considering its designation as both a chili and a soup. Unfortunately, those expectations were not met. While this soup had the texture and appearance of a much more flavorful creation, the most notable element of flavor was the green chili, easily which overpowered the chicken. None of this is terrible; it is what's promised on the package after all. But the presumption is that there would be something a little more Southwestern like cumin or even garlic present on the spoon. None of the seasoning was significant enough to make itself known to eager taste buds. So, while there was great hope based on the look of the soup, the actual flavor was disappointing. This isn't likely to be a Trader Joe's product that develops a cult following.

9. Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup

The name Calabrian Chili Tomato Dumpling Soup makes this soup sound like an elegant order at a trattoria, something that comes with homemade breadsticks and a Caesar salad. The mix of peppers and tomatoes is almost always a winning combination no matter what form it appears in, and the addition of dumplings for richness and texture couldn't be a bad idea. And adding Calabrian peppers to the mix could only enhance the whole phenomenon, considering the additional tie-in to traditional Italian cuisine. So, what could possibly go wrong in a jarred soup with so much going for it?

The Calabrian peppers, as it turns out. The tomato base is thick and creamy, a fantastic iteration of an Italian tomato soup filled with familiar herbs and spices. The dumplings are charming as well, a wheat-based version of potato gnocchi, lending a winsome al dente bite to every spoonful. But the peppers are so overwhelming that they drive the other flavors away by the third bite. You're left with the lingering tingle of tomato on your tongue, while the pepper plays havoc with the back of your throat. If they turn the pepper down to half-power, Trader Joe's might have a winner of a jarred soup on its shelves. As it stands, this soup is too fiery for comfort.

8. Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

The only boxed soup on the list, Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup comes in a lined box similar to shelf-stable milk and juice boxes. This keeps things fresh, if not always flavorful, and allows longer storage before use. If none of that sounds like it would add to the overall experience of a soup, it's because it doesn't, although it does make it easy to have a pre-made tomato soup on hand for moments when you don't feel like running to the store or calling for delivery. It's passable, but it's only passable. Don't you want more than that in a soup? Sure you do.

The organic nature of this soup is fantastic for reassurance purposes, but packaging it in a box sort of pushes it back into the realm of ingredients you might save for making a bigger, bolder soup out of. It's not terrible flavor-wise; you could easily thin it down with vegetable broth and add chopped vegetables for an Italian soup, or use it as the beginning of a red sauce for a beef and pasta dish. It's no worse than a canned tomato soup, but other than being organic, it's really no better either. With so many vibrant tomato soup options in the Trader Joe's listing, this one is less than mid-level at best.

7. Organic Creamy Mushroom Soup

Creamy mushroom soup is one of the less-assuming members of the soup crowd, usually availing itself nicely as an ingredient in other recipes, if not frequently taking center table on its own. With Trader Joe's taking a swing at Organic Creamy Mushroom Soup, the hope is that there's something extraordinary about the company's treatment of a very normal, very overlooked soup. You don't usually hear diners clamoring for mushroom soup unless there's no French onion or lobster bisque on the menu. So, it's a bit of an uphill climb for Trader Joe's to dazzle shoppers with such a monotonous option.

Surprisingly, Trader Joe's avails itself nicely with its mushroom soup concoction. It has a full body, but a delicate flavor, and the mushroom essence really shines through without being overpowering or feeling strangely fungal, like some mushroom soups do. The use of coconut milk in the base instead of dairy makes this one a great choice for vegans who like soups that are richer and less tangy. But while it's heartening to know mushroom soup can step up to the bowl, it's still mushroom soup, and not as tempting as other soups in the ranking.

6. Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup

First, the good bits: There are plenty of tender lentils in Trader Joe's Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup. There are quite a few vegetables, too, which is a relief considering they're in the name. It's all surrounded by a semi-thickened broth, though there's no dairy in this can; it's a solid selection for vegans and vegetarians looking for something entirely plant-based. It also passes the taste test for bringing a touch of heartiness to what could otherwise be a bland broth with lentils dropped in. If you've had a lentil soup of any sort and been disappointed, this version is bound to be far enough above the basic blend to make you happy you tried it.

And now, the bad bits: It's not unexpected that Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup would be at the bottom of the list. It's the only canned soup on the list, and the quality, while not entirely unforgivable, just can't live up to the fresh soups we selected. Even the jarred recipes have something more to offer than this one. Still, if it's all you have handy and your heart cries out for soup, it's every bit as good as a can of Progresso, and quite a bit more ambitious than Campbell's.

5. Italian-Style Wedding Soup

If a soup is special enough to be named for the momentous occasion it's created for, the execution had better be pretty darn good. With Italian-Style Wedding Soup from Trader Joe's, the results are a celebration of fresh flavors and eclectic textures, melding to make a satisfying slurp you can eat without having to R.S.V.P. or buy a wedding gift. With a clear broth, fresh herbs, and meatballs filling the bowl, it certainly sounds like a festival waiting to be tasted. That's a lot for a soup to live up to. Is it possible for Trader Joe's to come through?

Ring out the bells, soup lovers; this version of Italian-Style Wedding Soup is a marriage for the ages. The broth is light and lovely, filled with herbaceous flavors that keep it from being just a carrier for the meatballs, which are also flavored enough to complement the broth while providing fun textural elements. There's nothing in the bowl to complain about, including the veggies and the pasta pearls, which are exciting surprises that add to the richness. Anyone looking for a savory selection to help make dinner more special has a sure choice in this jar.

4. Tomato Feta Soup

Imagine brewing up a bowl filled with Mediterranean flavors, loaded with creamy cheese that helps add to the texture and flavor. You could make a grilled cheese sandwich or a flatbread pizza to enjoy with it, or dig into it as an entrée all on its own. It would be almost like a tomato chowder, dense enough to feel satisfying but fluid enough to remind you of its soup nature. Doesn't that sound like a perfect soup for fighting off cold-weather hunger? Trader Joe's seems to think so, and its Tomato Feta Soup sounds like a contender for the title.

And what a contender it is. This is exactly what you would hope a tomato soup would taste like. The tomatoes are tangy and rich, and the base includes light cream to thicken things up. The feta floats throughout the liquid, melting in the heat to add richness and flavor. Beyond just sinking your spoon into it as a soup, you could easily add homemade pasta to this and use it as a sauce, or serve it with a side salad and breadsticks for your own home-based Italian restaurant experience. It's an excellent example of a store-bought soup that replicates homemade quality, a refrigerated option that maximizes flavor and density for a winner of a selection.

3. Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup

If Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup doesn't rule the soup roost, is there any hope for the other soups on the list? Chicken soup is more than just a nourishing dish; it's a metaphor for anything that heals you and makes you feel whole again. Putting out a version cooked in a kettle can only elevate the magic to a higher state. Or at least that's the logic used when reasoning through how much innovation Trader Joe's could bring to such a timeless and familiar recipe. If you can't improve upon a favorite dish, at least you should recreate it properly.

Fortunately, Trader Joe's has done just that, and the soup in the refrigerated container lived up to its potential. The broth was highly seasoned with the flavor of the chicken while the chicken was nice and tender. This one has all the hallmarks of a true homemade soup from the flavor to the texture to the concentration of chicken and vegetables in the bowl. Possibly because it was a fresh selection, Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup passed the homestyle taste test. Maybe chickens can't soar, but this chicken soup is sitting pretty high in our ranking.

2. Garden Vegetable Soup

Maybe the most innocuous and soothing form of soup ever, Garden Vegetable Soup is an easy-to-make comfort food that just about everyone has encountered in their dining lives. How much magic could a Trader Joe's version bestow on such a straightforward concoction to eliminate the basicness of the recipe? True, it could be satisfying without being dazzling, which would be harmless enough if you don't expect great things from your soup life. But lined up against the other TJ's soups — the ones that throw seasonings and mix-ins around like confetti — how would Garden Vegetable Soup fare?

The happy announcement is that this jarred soup comes through with flying colors — or flavors, rather. The liquid is unexpectedly creamy, thanks to the presence of both tomato juice and tomato concentrate, in addition to chunks of fresh tomatoes. The vegetables are large enough pieces to make the soup toothy, so it feels like a meal instead of a broth with a sprinkling of veggies. And the seasonings sing through the other elements like a unifying element, bringing all the ingredients together like a party in a bowl. It wouldn't be wrong to enjoy a cucumber sandwich with this soup, though it isn't a requirement.

1. Organic Hearty Minestrone Soup

The best soup in the collection, and perhaps one of Trader Joe's best products, has to be the Organic Hearty Minestrone. It's zesty and rich without being overwhelming; the balance of seasonings is a harmonic overlay to the texture of orzo and vegetables that round out the bowl. Being one of the refrigerated soups, it was a refrigerated selection, which may account for the fresher-than-fresh flavors and enticing aroma that arose from the bowl after heating. It's the wonderful zing of a tomato-based broth filled with Italian seasonings, plus kidney and cannellini beans and cubes of garden vegetables that make the whole mixture a carnival of tastes and textures. It's everything you'd ever want in a minestrone, in just the right concentration.

While the package suggested this could be enjoyed as two-and-a-half servings, there was no way to eat less than the entire thing in one sitting, with no regrets. It was filling without feeling heavy, and would have been the perfect partner for a slice or two of fresh garlic bread. If you're a fan of soups that lean toward the Italian side of the global menu, it's safe to say that you won't regret it, either.