There's no shortage of snacks and goodies to stumble across amongst the vast aisles of Trader Joe's, and while many of the popular grocery chain's products are triumphant winners, others don't quite reach gold status. If you particularly peruse the chip or frozen foods aisles, then you likely notice that Trader Joe's is absolutely stocked on potato inventory — not just straight-up potatoes (well, they have those, too) but potato products, ranging from gnocchi to potato chips to casserole-like sides. These potato-ridden aisles offer up delightful opportunities for the spud lover, though with such a vast selection, it can be tricky to know which products to splurge on and which ones to steer clear of.
We've put some of Trader Joe's most popular potato products to the taste test and have determined the 10 products you should add to your cart and the 10 that you should avoid. Now, ranking Trader Joe's plethora of potato products is no easy task, though we've applied a methodology that will hopefully save you from disappointment during your next grocery run. Naturally, taste is the biggest factor here — were we wowed by the flavors of a certain snack or dish, or did it come across as lackluster? Other factors include price consideration, ease of cooking (if applicable), and texture once cooked (again, if applicable).
Buy: Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Butter And Sage
If there's one product on this list that we'd go as far as to say is underrated, it would be Trader Joe's sweet potato gnocchi with butter and sage. Simple yet absolutely delicious, these gnocchi are pillowy soft and taste oh-so good alongside a subtle buttery sauce. The sage shines through nicely, offering an herbaceous touch to an otherwise rich dish without overpowering it. Coming in at $3.79 per package, you really can't beat the price of this gnocchi product, which yields a portion large enough to feed two.
Another thing we love about these sweet potato gnocchi is the ease of cooking. If you really don't feel like firing up the range, the package provides instructions for microwaving the gnocchi; but cooking it on the stovetop really is the best way to go. From frozen to cooked, the gnocchi come together in a matter of minutes — all you need to do is add a little water and give it a little stir to help that sauce along.
Avoid: Everything But The Bagel Seasoned Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips
There's no denying that Trader Joe's everything but the bagel seasoning was (is?) a cultural phenomenon, so we really don't blame the chain for trying to milk the lackluster blend for all it's worth. Trader Joe's has done just that with its everything but the bagel seasoned kettle-cooked potato chips -- and while these chips aren't downright offensive or inedible, they're just not necessary. The seasoning is boring at best, and considering that TJ's has a pretty stacked chip lineup, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by plucking these off the shelf.
Despite featuring an entire seasoning blend, these chips mostly taste salty with a slight sesame aftertaste. If you absolutely love Trader Joe's everything but the bagel seasoning blend, then sure, you'd probably like these chips. But for those who are over the fad, it's best to leave these chips on the shelf.
Buy: Country Potatoes With Haricots Verts And Wild Mushrooms
We love quick and easy dinnertime sides, and Trader Joe's country potatoes certainly fulfill the side dish role. The best thing about this product is that you'll also find haricots verts (aka green beans) and mushrooms in the mix, so it's a much more exciting dish than if there were only potatoes in the bag.
Another perk to this product is that it's very easy to cook; the bag provides instructions for microwave or stovetop cooking, both of which will take about seven minutes. The potatoes will crisp up well if you go the stovetop method, whereas the haricots verts and mushrooms add a softer contrast, making this a potato product that offers nice textural diversity.
Avoid: Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina
Trader Joe's gnocchi alla Sorrentina is not a horrible product, and if you prefer your gnocchi with a tomatoey sauce as opposed to a creamy one, then there's a good chance that this option has piqued your interest. The biggest issue with these gnocchi is that they pale drastically in comparison to TJ's other frozen gnocchi options — a lineup that's pretty stacked, in Sorrentina's defense, so not all of them can be the cream of the crop.
A perk to these gnocchi is that, like the grocery chain's other frozen options, this meal is easy to heat up -- and super quick, too. So you can have dinner on the table in record speed thanks to these gnocchi ... but it will be a dinner leaving you wanting more. The sauce does not cover the gnocchi nearly as abundantly as the package depicts, and there isn't a whole lot of flavor complexity in what little sauce you do get.
Buy: Potato Pancakes
Potato pancakes, also known as latkes, are often compared to hash brown patties due to how similar they look and taste. That said, the former is leaps and bounds ahead in quality, both in terms of Trader Joe's products and, controversially, in general. Latkes are dense on the inside and crispy on the outside — much more dense than your average hash brown, which results in a heartier dining experience.
We like the versatility of making these latkes; you could bake them, air fry them, or crisp them up on the stovetop. They're also versatile in terms of when you eat them, making equally tasty breakfast, lunch, or dinner options — just don't forget the dollop of sour cream and applesauce on the side.
Avoid: Tortilla Española
We really wanted to love Trader Joe's tortilla Española, which is an eggy omelet jam-packed with potatoes and onions, but this frozen version just doesn't work. The biggest issue here isn't flavor (though the flavor is pretty bland at best) but rather the texture; ideally, tortilla Española has a certain lightness to it, seeing as it is supposed to be an omelet, after all. TJ's version is just too dense, and we never thought we'd say it, but it is possible to pack too much potato into something.
Coming in at $5.49, the tortilla Española is the most expensive item on this list, and we don't think it's worth your hard-earned money. You'd be much better off making your own version of this Spanish omelet at home or finding a good restaurant that whips them up to perfection.
Buy: Ode To The Classic Potato Chip
Fans of Lay's classic potato chips will want to grab a bag of Trader Joe's ode to the classic potato chip the next time they do a grocery run — these chips closely rival the famous brand, and if anything, they're slightly better. Perfectly crispy, delicately salted, and great for snacking, this is one Trader Joe's dupe that is actually worth the hype.
Coming in at $2.99, you really can't beat the price point for such a large bag of chips. These classic crisps are just begging to be on your next backyard barbecue spread, or at the very least, the star of your family's movie night snacks. These chips are also ideal for those who don't like the texture of kettle-cooked chips — you'll find nothing but good, old-fashioned fried chips in this bag.
Avoid: Hash Browns
This may be the most controversial item on this list, but we think Trader Joe's hash brown patties are overrated. Sure, there's a certain novelty to them, offering up something different to typical shredded hash browns or home fries. But once you get past any initial excitement about this product, you'll see them for what they truly are, which is an overly greasy breakfast food that isn't anything special at all.
We also don't like how tricky it is to cook these little patties. The best bet is the air fryer, but if you don't have one, the only other real option is the oven — and who wants to wait 15 minutes (plus the time it takes to heat up the oven) just for a few potato patties? Unfortunately, the microwave and stovetop aren't viable cooking options because you'll just end up with a mushy mess. Simply put, there are more effective and quicker ways to enjoy your morning hash browns.
Buy: Gnocchi Al Gorgonzola
Potatoes and cheese are a classic combo, and one that's pretty hard to get wrong. We're happy to report that Trader Joe's did not get the combo wrong with its gnocchi al gorgonzola — a comforting, cheesy dinner option that will be ready to go in just minutes. You can either cook the gnocchi in the microwave or on the stovetop; whichever method you choose, your pasta will be ready in less than 10 minutes either way.
A notable thing about these gnocchi is that they taste quite similar to white cheddar mac and cheese, which is something that some folks might not like. But to us, it's a winning feature. The dense yet soft gnocchi pair incredibly well with the rich gorgonzola sauce, which coats each piece of pasta to perfection without feeling excessive.
Avoid: Trader Potato Tots
The biggest crime that Trader Joe's trader potato tots commit, admittedly, is that they're just not special enough to be worth buying (and worth taking up precious space in your freezer). You can find tater tots at nearly any grocery store, and TJ's version doesn't stand out amongst the sea of options to be worth the $2.99 price point.
There's no unique seasoning on these tots nor are they any easier to cook than your average variety — they're just an okay product, and you won't be missing anything if you pass them up in the frozen foods aisle. When you do cook these tots, they don't even crisp up super well, and are a bit too oily for our taste overall.
Buy: Dark Russet Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips
It's hard for a Trader Joe's chip to really stand out, seeing as the chain offers an impressive selection of the snacks. These dark russet potato chips have managed to defy the odds, however, as one of the best chips that Trader Joe's has to offer. Even if you don't eat chips often but love the taste of potatoes, then it's worth giving these dark russets a try.
The best thing about these chips is the taste, which can only be described as hyper-potatoey. These chips have a certain earthy flavor to them, much like the skin of a russet potato, and the crispy texture and light coating of salt emphasizes the flavor perfectly. These chips remind us of the type you might get at a restaurant that makes the chips in-house; pair these with a homemade onion dip, and you'll be in potato heaven.
Avoid: Loaded Potatoes
At first glance, Trader Joe's loaded potatoes seem like they'd make for the perfect dinner or even breakfast casserole in a pinch. Unfortunately, once you cook this bad boy up, it's just a disappointment through and through. First of all, it takes way too long to heat this product up; it calls for about 30 minutes in the oven, but it took us closer to 45 minutes to fully get those potatoes un-frozen. Sure, you could go the microwave route, but then you'd be making the texture even worse -- and trust us when we say you don't want to do that to yourself.
Cooking qualms aside, the potatoes in this casserole-like dish are so incredibly dry and unappetizing. Once heated up, this product is quite oily from the beef and cheese, so it's a wonder how the potatoes still manage to taste so dry and starchy. Ultimately, we don't think you should spend $3.99 on this.
Buy: Handsome Cut Potato Fries
You may be wondering why Trader Joe's handsome cut potato fries made it onto the "buy" list — after all, doesn't every grocery store sell french fries? Well, the answer to that question is yes, but Trader Joe's really knows how to do a frozen fry well. These spud sticks are the perfect size, not too thin and not too thick, and they've got a nice skin on them which helps with the flavor, too. At $2.99 a bag, we do think that it's worth purchasing Trader Joe's version of french fries over other stores' varieties.
When it comes to cooking these fries, the process goes about how you'd imagine. Oven-baking is a classic option, though if you have an air fryer, you'll definitely want to put it to use and yield perfectly crispy fries.
Avoid: Mashed Potatoes
We're a bit confused about Trader Joe's frozen mashed potatoes price point — at $4.29 a bag, these potatoes are one of the higher-priced options on this list. The only way to really make these frozen mashed potatoes taste good is to add your own amount of seasoning, cream, and butter, which seems counterintuitive considering that you're essentially paying for those ingredients already being in the bag.
These potatoes aren't the absolute worst thing in the world, but they do have that unappetizing, overly starchy consistency that comes all too often with frozen fare. Just take the extra time to whip up a fresh batch of mashed potatoes; it's not a difficult side dish to make, and we can guarantee that your homemade version will taste much, much better.
Buy: Roasted Potatoes With Peppers And Onions
Much like Trader Joe's country potatoes, the grocery chain's roasted potatoes are a great frozen option that make for a quick-and-easy dinner side dish, though you might also serve these a la home fries for brunch, too. We love how versatile these potatoes are, and we also love the fact that you get the bonus of peppers and onions littered throughout the mix, so this product is a little more exciting than just plain home fries.
You've got options when it comes to cooking these potatoes, too. The microwave is your quickest bet, though stovetop cooking will give you the crispest results. Interestingly, the package doesn't give a specific time frame for the stovetop, though even those who like extra-crispy potatoes will have a side dish ready to go in about 10 minutes.
Avoid: White Truffle Potato Chips
We're not going to say that anything truffle-flavored is an outright gimmick, though we do think that the flavor fad has most definitely run its course. For that reason, we've determined that Trader Joe's white truffle potato chips are on the "avoid" list, especially when the chain offers so many better options. These chips cater to a pretty niche demographic, and if you happen to fit into it, then go all out and buy them — otherwise, don't waste your time.
If something boasts a certain flavor profile, we'd expect that flavor to shine through drastically. Unfortunately, that isn't the case with these chips; they do taste like truffle, but just barely, and certainly not enough to make them worth your time or money.
Buy: Sweet Potato Fries
We've said it before, and we'll say it again — Trader Joe's knows how to do french fries, and its sweet potato version is no exception. Yes, you can find sweet potato fries at most grocery stores, but we love how perfectly crisp-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside TJ's version gets once cooked.
These sweet potato fries cost $2.49, so they're a little cheaper than the handsome cut ones. Ultimately, if you're a fan of sweet potato fries, you won't be disappointed with these. Bake them in the oven or give them a quick go in the air fryer, and you'll have an exciting dinner side dish ready to go with ease.
Avoid: Shredded Potato Hash Browns
Sorry to say, but Trader Joe's shredded potato hash browns don't get nearly as crispy and browned as the package would have you believe. If anything, these hash browns run on the oily side, so it's actually pretty hard to reach that perfect level of crispiness.
The price point of these hash browns is $2.49, so it's not the most offensive price in the world, but you'd be better off going with a different grocery store's option. There's just nothing redeeming about these hash browns, and there's certainly nothing special about them to begin with. So unless you like limp, soggy, and sad potatoes in the morning, leave these out of your cart.
Buy: Beef Shepherd's Pie
There's a lot to love about Trader Joe's beef shepherd's pie. Is it perfect or even comparable to a homemade version? Of course not. But as far as frozen fare is concerned, we do think this savory pie makes for a great dinner for two in a pinch.
While the $4.49 price point might scare you away at first, know that this shepherd's pie is very filling. Between the vegetables and beef — beef that is shredded instead of ground, offering a nice texture switch-up from your typical pie — and the hearty layer of mashed potatoes on top, this shepherd's pie is cozy and comforting. And if you cook it in the microwave, dinner will be ready in the matter of minutes. You really can't compete with that level of convenience.
Avoid: Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps
There's no doubt that Pringles lovers have given Trader Joe's version, saddle potato crisps, a try in hopes of finding a worthy dupe to their favorite chip. While Trader Joe's certainly got the shape and texture right, there's just something missing from these chips ... and that would be any flavor whatsoever.
If Trader Joe's revamped these crisps with a sour cream and onion or barbecue flavor, we might be telling a completely different story. But as-is, with an incredibly modest (if not virtually nonexistent) amount of salt providing the only flavor profile for these saddle crisps, they're a pass — just stick with Pringles.
The biggest factor in determining whether to buy or avoid these Trader Joe's products was, unsurprisingly, the taste factor. Whereas a product like the sweet potato gnocchi packed in plenty of buttery, herbaceous flavors, others like the saddle potato crisps were incredibly bland. We also considered the price point for these items — ultimately, they all fell under a $6 price point, but some products seem more worth your money than others. Finally, we considered the ease of cooking and the texture of the product once cooked, though this wasn't the most pertinent deciding factor seeing as how some products require no cooking.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.