7 best and 7 worst canned foods from Trader Joe's

From its humble beginnings in California in 1967, Trader Joe's has grown to become a favorite grocery store destination for millions across the United States. With locations in 40 states across the country, their tantalizingly low prices and laid back atmosphere have allowed Trader Joe's to rise above many of their competitors.

More than four out of every five items that Trader Joe's sells is their own private label. Many of those products are so good that you deserve to try them at least once in your life. However, sometimes Trader Joe's canned foods can be lost in all the excitement. While a lot of their canned foods are worth your hard-earned dollars, some of it shouldn't find its way to your shopping cart.

Instead of relying on trial and error, we've pinpointed the best and the worst canned foods that you can purchase at Trader Joe's. Read and take notes so that you're thoroughly prepared for your next visit.

Best: Trader Joe's Green Jackfruit in Brine

Vegans and vegetarians can't stop talking about green jackfruit — and for good reasons. When a jackfruit is ripe, it has a sweet flavor that tastes like a mix between a pineapple and banana. Green jackfruit, on the other hand, is what this fruit is called when it's unripe. Instead of being sweet, green jackfruit has a stringy, fibrous texture that is actually reminiscent of meat. As a result, you can use this stuff to make amazing meatless dishes, including pulled jackfruit sandwiches.

Considering that one jackfruit can weigh as much as 100 pounds, it's unwise to purchase a jackfruit and try to store it in your cupboard. Buying green jackfruit in a can is the best way to add this miracle fruit to your diet. The quality of this Trader Joe's offering is spectacular. It's consistent from can to can and the brine helps to maximize the flavor.

Perhaps best of all, the price per can at Trader Joe's is extremely low. If you doubt that a fruit can actually taste like a pork substitute, go buy a can of green jackfruit and see for yourself. Don't be surprised if you end up preferring pulled jackfruit to pulled pork.

Best: Trader Joe's Organic Joe's O's Pasta

If you've had a particularly gloomy day, having a bowl of SpaghettiOs can help bring some happiness back to your life. Amazingly, not only does Trader Joe's have their own version of SpaghettiOs that is arguably better than the original, it's also organic. While you can locate organic SpaghettiOs if you look hard enough, this Trader Joe's version is easier to find and it's usually less expensive.

The greatest aspect of Organic Joe's O's Pasta is the abundance of O's in each can. Sometimes, a can of regular SpaghettiOs has way too much sauce and not enough O's. That's not the case with this canned goodness from Trader Joe's. There are always plenty of organic O's swimming in the sauce made with organic tomato puree and organic cheddar cheese.

Before you heat up your Organic Joe's O's Pasta, eat a spoonful of it while it's still cold. Although it tastes great when it's hot, it's actually just as flavorful right out of the can. After you eat that spoonful, there's a good chance that you'll just skip the microwave and scarf down the rest.

Best: Trader Joe's Smoked Trout Fillets

Even if you're not a fan of tuna or sardines, you owe it to yourself to give Trader Joe's Smoked Trout Fillets a try. The smokiness of this fish is sure to blow you away. If you love the flavor of smokey bacon, these smoked fillets will also be a favorite of yours. From the moment it enters your mouth until the aftertaste finally subsides, the delicious flavor will have your taste buds rejoicing.

While you can just eat it out of the can or use it as a direct tuna substitute, don't overlook the possibility of eating the trout with scrambled eggs. Just add these smoked trout fillets and a bit of cheese to scrambled eggs and you'll have a healthy and savory meal that will quickly fill you up.

Trader Joe's has a few options when it comes to their canned trout fillets. The best of the bunch is the skinless smoked trout in canola oil. This variety has the richest flavor and little to no bones in the can.

Best: Trader Joe's Organic Vegetarian Chili

Even if you're a carnivore, you can eat the Organic Vegetarian Chili from Trader Joe's with a big grin on your face. This chili is really, really good — even though, as the name suggests, it has no meat in it and it's made with only organic ingredients. Those organic ingredients include onions, red beans, garlic, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, and canola oil. To give this chili a bit of a meaty texture, there's also some organic soy added to the mix.

While this Trader Joe's Organic Vegetarian Chili is extremely flavorful, be warned that it's quite spicy. If you aren't brave enough to eat spicy food, you might want to skip this chili — or eat it with a big glass of milk on the side.

When it comes to healthy chili, this stuff from Trader Joe's is right up there with anything else you can find in a grocery store. It has 15 grams of protein, eight grams of fiber, a notable amount of iron, and only one gram of saturated fat. Go ahead and chow down on two or three cans of this chili. Healthy food never tasted so good.

Best: Trader Joe's Organic Garbanzo Beans

Tracking down canned organic garbanzo beans that aren't overly soft and don't turn into mush when you heat them up is a difficult task. But before you call it quits, give the beans from Trader Joe's a try. You'll be so impressed that you won't shop for organic canned beans from anywhere else. While Trader Joe's has organic black beans, organic pinto beans, and organic kidney beans, it's their organic garbanzo beans that are truly the most remarkable.

These beans have the perfect amount of firmness. Whether you will ultimately eat the garbanzo beans as a crunchy snack or in the form of hummus, you won't be disappointed by the resulting texture. Even if you eat these beans right out of the can, your taste buds won't even think about protesting.

What makes the organic canned beans from Trader Joe's different? Perhaps it's experience. Trader Joe's has sold organic products since the 1970s, which is decades before the trend caught on across the United States.

Best: Trader Joe's Grecian-Style Eggplant With Tomatoes and Onions

Not all canned foods from Trader Joe's will have you falling in love at first sight. Honestly, the first time you open a can of Grecian-Style Eggplant With Tomatoes and Onions, you'll be questioning your decision to purchase it. What's inside of the can looks like you took cat food and a tomato and put it in the blender for a few seconds. Even smelling it won't change your opinion very much. But once you taste this stuff, your confidence in your decision-making abilities will be restored and you will have a new Trader Joe's favorite.

Trader Joe's Grecian-Style Eggplant With Tomatoes and Onions has parsley, garlic, curry powder, black pepper, and red pepper along with the eggplant, tomatoes, and onions listed in the name. All the vegetable goodness sits in a mix of oil and tomato juice. Though it sounds complicated, it's a phenomenally tasty combination.

While it's certainly okay to eat this stuff at room temperature right out of the can, that's only the beginning of the possibilities. For example, you can add it to eggs to make a hearty shakshuka-like breakfast, heat it up and spread it over a baked potato, or use it to add flavor to a rice and beans meal.

Best: Trader Joe's Organic Butternut Squash

Peeling, cutting, and taking the seeds out of a butternut squash is not only difficult, it can also be dangerous. With the amount of pressure needed to properly slice a butternut squash, you could easily end up cutting yourself. It's not worth the effort, especially when you can go to Trader Joe's and buy a can of Organic Butternut Squash that always tastes perfect and only requires a can opener.

If your sweet tooth is begging for action, open a can of this butternut squash and add some maple syrup and brown sugar. Let it do a dance in the microwave for a few seconds and you'll have a scrumptious snack that will satisfy even the loudest sweet tooth.

Although Trader Joe's sells butternut squash soup, you shouldn't buy it. Instead, use this organic butternut squash to make your own soup. The difference in freshness and the depth of flavors is well worth the extra effort. Add in ginger, cinnamon, chopped apples, and whatever else your heart desires. Heat it up, puree it in a blender, and you will have a bowl of unbelievably yummy soup.

Worst: Trader Joe's Turkey Chili with Beans

The Organic Vegetarian Chili at Trader Joe's is tasty so that means their Turkey Chili with Beans must be tasty too, right? Wrong. In fact, that couldn't be more wrong. Every aspect of the Turkey Chili with Beans is disgusting.

When you first open the can, you'll get a whiff of awfulness that can only be described as rotten dog food that has been coated with paprika, pepper, and other spices in a failed attempt to mask the odor. If you heroically manage to ignore the smell and put this turkey chili to your lips, your taste buds will instantaneously revolt. As bad as it smells, this stuff tastes even worse. The greasy, spicy grossness is only interrupted by rubbery pieces of turkey that have no flavor and hard bits of pulpy, chewy beans that get stuck between each and every one of your teeth.

To make matters worse, Trader Joe's Turkey Chili with Beans isn't even that healthy. One can of this junk has a staggering 800 milligrams of sodium and six grams of sugar even though the chili has no discernible sweetness.

Worst: Trader Joe's Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce

It's difficult to figure out what Trader Joe's was trying to accomplish with their Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce but they need to go back to the drawing board. When you open the can, what you see and smell will convince you that this should be used as spaghetti sauce. However, if you add it to pasta, you are going to be really disappointed because it's too sweet and it lacks a rich tomatoey flavor.

Conversely, if you try to eat this abomination like you would traditional baked beans, you'll be just as disappointed. While the beans are indeed giant, they are too distractingly mushy to properly enjoy. And though there is sugar added to these beans, there's none of the molasses or bacon goodness that the best baked beans are blessed with.

Unfortunately, there is no way to salvage this can of disappointment. Your best bet is to just throw it away and make better choices the text time you visit your local Trader Joe's.

Worst: Trader Joe's Unsalted Sardines in Spring Water

Even if you think you love all types of fish, there's no way you will like the Unsalted Sardines in Spring Water from Trader Joe's. What is claimed to be sardines actually ends up being slimy, gooey, boney chunks of a mystery fish that doesn't taste like any sardines you've ever eaten before. If you dare to eat what you find in the can, you will spend the next few hours trying in vain to get the musty fish taste out of your mouth.

Even if you're on a diet, next time you won't hesitate to grab the sardines that are both salted and bathing in a tub of oil. Eating healthy food is important but not so important that you should settle from garbage like this from Trader Joe's.

If you've already purchased a can of these Unsalted Sardines, go ahead and give it to your cat. She will be thrilled and it will help strengthen her bones. However, be sure to open the can outdoors so that the stench doesn't linger in your home. You've been warned.

Worst: Trader Joe's Dolmas

The picture on the can of Trader Joe's Dolman looks perfectly appetizing. But don't be fooled, what you find when you open the can will look nothing like that. Instead, the dolmas are smaller than you think (keep in mind that each can has ten dolmas in it), they will be resting in an ocean of icky green oil, and their texture is similar to wet frog skin.

If you have eaten fresh dolmas, you know the potential of these rice-stuffed vine leaves. This Mediterranean food is fantastic when it's at its best. However, canned dolmas are much worse than fresh dolmas. Moreover, the canned dolmas made by Trader Joe's are arguably the worst of the worst.

What's strange is that these dolmas are legitimately a product of Greece so it's not that Trader Joe's went the inauthentic route. But somewhere between Greece and the United States, these things become inedible. Do yourself a favor and stay away. Far away.

Worst: Trader Joe's Premium Chunk White Chicken

Trader Joe's somehow managed to remove everything that makes canned chicken the basic building block of a quick, tasty meal. Their Premium Chunk White Chicken isn't made with anything fancy, as it's just white meat from a chicken breast mixed with salt and water. But stunningly, the chicken has no flavor and the texture is disappointing. Instead of being tender chunks of chicken, it's more like stringy chicken combined with obnoxiously chewy pieces. Compare this stuff to other brands and you won't care that you might have saved a few cents by purchasing Trader Joe's brand.

If you're reading this after buying canned chicken at Trader Joe's, the only thing you can do is add a whole lot of salsa and hope that your taste buds don't see past your shenanigans. The good news is that if you are able to swallow it all down, you will be glad to learn that each serving only has 70 calories, no carbs, 1.5 grams of fat, and a whopping 12 grams of protein. That silver lining will keep your spirits up as you go out and buy a better brand of canned chicken.

Worst: Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Cream

On the bright side, the Organic Coconut Cream from Trader Joe's has no preservatives, no emulsifiers, and no added sugar. It's genuinely just cream from organic coconuts mixed with a little bit of water. But, sadly, the positives end there. When you open the can, you'll see that the coconut oil has separated from the coconut pulp. No matter how much you stir, your elbow grease will make no difference. The sad truth is that there's nothing creamy about Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Cream.

What makes this even more tragic is that Trader Joe's used to have really, really good coconut cream in their canned foods section. However, they changed up the recipe and now it's a product that isn't worth buying.

If you're at Trader Joe's looking for coconut products, skip this cream and go with their Organic Coconut Milk. It's tasty, reliably smooth, and can be used for a multitude of purposes.

Worst: Trader Joe's Traditional Style Refried Beans

There's absolutely nothing traditional about Trader Joe's Traditional Style Refried Beans. These refried beans are so bad that your amigos will disown you if they catch you eating this stuff. Not only are the beans tasteless, they are so watery that it's doubtful if these beans were fried properly even once — much less multiple times.

To make the best of a bad situation, you'll need to throw these refried beans in the oven. That should improve the texture enough to eat it. If you add enough cheese, cayenne pepper, and other spices, you might even enjoy it.

While Trader Joe's has amazing canned beans such as the aforementioned organic garbanzo beans, that doesn't hold true when it comes to their refried beans. Although their Traditional Style Refried Beans are the worst of the bunch, all the other varieties (such as their Refried Black Beans with Jalapeno Peppers) should also be ignored and left on the shelf where you found them.