Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Trader Joe's Heat & Eat Falafel

Growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania, there weren't a whole lot of food joints around that sold falafel. I think I was aware of its existence at some point in college, but I never tried it until I lived in L.A., where they had Lebanese chicken places all over the city, most notably Roro's and a chain called Zankou. Both restaurants sold falafel. I tried it. Tasty. I'm definitely a fan of the versatile chick pea (garbanzo bean) and I always have been since I discovered them at the local Bonanza Steakhouse salad bar at the age of six.

With falafel, though, the chick peas are mashed up with some choice spices, rolled into little balls and then deep fried. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...

This particular Trader Joe's variety comes frozen, although I've heard rumors of non-frozen, fresh falafel from TJ's, too. They actually suggest you reheat these frozen ones in the microwave, although the oven is an acceptable method as well. Before I filled my pita pocket with them or put any hummus on them, I just tried one plain. Delicious!

We ate them with Trader Joe's Smooth and Creamy Spicy Hummus. Ah, hummus, another brilliant chick pea derivative. This product doesn't lie. I totally agree that it's smooth, creamy, and spicy—but not too spicy. Just right. The flavors in here mixed very well with the falafel.

The inner circle (you can see it in the photo) is where all the spiciness comes from. There are dark flecks of some kind of peppery stuff in there. I think it's dark matter. I certainly hope all dark matter tastes this delicious, because our universe is quite full of it. If all dark matter is just like this, once we start really exploring the depths of space, let me tell you, we're in for a spicy future...

OK, that was weird. I just got all astronomical on you. Mainly to see if you were paying attention. But also because I needed a little filler to extend this section of the review beyond the photo of the hummus. It never looks quite right when I post multiple pictures in one review...Whatever, I know I'm weird.

Anyway, back to the topic...Finally, we ate the falafel and hummus in these Trader Joe's Soy Pita Bread pockets. Again, the perfect compliment to the other flavors present. Soy pita is just as good as regular pita. To tell you the truth, I couldn't really tell the difference. Maybe because there's almost as much wheat in these as there is soy. They're definitely not gluten-free. Whattaya gonna do?

So to summarize, we have a trio of big winners here. Especially the falafel. And it's all vegetarian. Let's take our final looks:

Trader Joe's Heat & Eat Falafel. Sonia gives it a perfect 5. I give it a 4.5. Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Smooth and Creamy Spicy Hummus. Double 4.5's. Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Soy Pita Bread. Sonia gives it a 4.5. I give it a 4. Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


  1. YES. I just saw these the other day, and I LOVE falafel. Maybe more than love, if it's possible. I'm definitely going to pick this up next time I'm at TJs. Also, try the jalapeno cilantro hummus, it's my favorite. Okay I seriously need to stop reading this post I am drooling.

  2. I haven't noticed the falafel and I've always kept an eye out for a product like this. I've never been blown away by the hummus at TJ but the Mediterranean hummus (with pine nuts) was the one I always went back to. The frozen naan is awesome too.

  3. This falafel was in the frozen section, although TJ's selections often vary from region to region...haven't tried the Mediterranean hummus yet...gotta put that on the list...the ever-expanding list that is unfortunately growing faster than our blog archive...

  4. You gotta try the triple layer hummus. It is hummus crack, esp with the pita chips.
    Nom, nom, nom as my two year old would say!

  5. The falafal IS good but its really high in fat. You really should read the labels of the frozen/prepared foods, some have a shocking amount of fat/calories.

  6. Meatless Monday, you have found your destiny!

  7. I often forget they have this falafel. Must add to my list next trip. It's so easy to make, and so tasty, it rivals a lot of my local Mediterranean joints.

  8. If you like jalapeno cilantro hummus, check out www.hummusrecipes.com they have a great recipe for it.

  9. The frozen Trader Joe's Heat & Eat Falafel should get a 1 out of 10 (if you have ever eaten an actual authentic falafel).

    Missing in the Trader Joe's brand is any hint of cumin, they are more like blobs of veggie burger matter.

    Trader Joe's hit the ball out of the park when it comes to some of the frozen Indian dishes, such as Malabari Paratha and the Paneer Tikka Masala, but they are really missing the mark with Middle Eastern food.

  10. Hey, just found this site looking for this product. Great little site!

    I don't know why TJ says to microwave these. I tried once, and ended up with shriveled little nuggets of carbon. I probably left them in a little too long, but even that shouldn't have had that effect. I've been heating them in the oven or toaster oven ever since, and they come out fantastic. I usually put two or three along with some hummus in a Middle Eastern Flatbread, and they're great that way, and there's plenty of room to add more ingredients or spice.

    1. Thanks!

      Yes I agree the microwave isn't too kind to these fellows.

  11. Trader Joe’s Falafel

    It’s so fucking good
    I dismiss that there could
    Exist on this earf
    Something so small in girth
    That is so packed with flavor
    For mine own mouf to savor
    No other flavor can match
    When these slide down my hatch
    I must say I love it
    To shove these down my gullet

  12. Just a warning to folks that are used to regularly eating unfrozen falafel, these are INCREDIBLY dense by comparison to the light fluffy fare you get at the vast majority of places serving it fresh. (whether greek, israeli, halal, etc.)

    Add that they are super high in fat and sodium, even more so than most fresh falafel and this was one of my few regrettable TJ purchases.

    For a quick falafel fix I strongly recommend any store bought mix over this. Casbah and Fantastic Foods are both decent, and with a few minutes + a 1/4 inch of oil in a pan and you've got falafel which is head and shoulders above TJ's in the same time.

    1. For me too, regrettable purchase, they are very dry.

  13. Stumbled across this when I was looking up deals for the best products at TJ's. Noticed two things: one, do you go to the TJ's on Market Street in Philly? Two, in what "small town" of central PA did you grow up??

    1. Nice to meet you! Indeed our last couple of shopping trips have been to the Market St. location. I must say that store is very popular. Nate is from Chambersburg.

  14. Not very flavorful, nor are they seasoned like they should be. Of course, I DID microwave them. I'll give them one more try and put them in the oven this time.

  15. These are also amazing with the tzatziki dip.

  16. The microwave did dry them out and leave them kind of hard, but I LOVED the flavor. Wrapped them in a burrito wrapper with some greens, tomatoes, and a homemade tahini sauce (basically tahini, garlic, lemon, and water). Really tasty, though not like the falafel flavor you get from a Greek restaurant. Hopefully, that's because they're not fried in grease that's also used for all kinds of meat and who-knows-what. I will definitely buy them again.