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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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trader Joe's Southwest Chicken Quesadillas

It's not particularly easy to slip a sub-par Mexican dish past us. Sonia's a full-blooded first-generation Mexican-American who's lived in L.A. for pretty much her entire life until very recently. (And there are some pretty good Mexican restaurants in L.A.) Sonia, her mother, and her aunt are all excellent cooks, and although I haven't tried her abuelita's cooking down in Oaxaca, Mexico yet, I am told that it will ruin me for all other Mexican food for the rest of my life.

So, needless to say, it's a totally unfair comparison to put frozen TJ's entrees up against truly authentic, home-cooked Mexican or Tex-Mex style foods. I'll try to keep that in mind while writing this review.

And fortunately, I've never had a really bad quesadilla in my life. I even enjoy the ones from Taco Bell. But again, that's apples and oranges if you're talking about comparing it with something that's home-cooked. But conversely, a freshly prepared, highly-fattening fast food quesadilla is still going to beat a frozen one in a taste test hands down—even one as cheap and ghetto-fabulous as one from Taco Bell.

So the only thing that's left that I can compare these TJ's quesadillas to are the microwave Healthy Choice quesadillas that I've had recently. Honestly, they're pretty similar in overall quality and taste. Sonia and I had a hard time putting our fingers on exactly what was lacking in this product, but we both agreed that something vital was missing. The ingredients didn't seem to mesh together properly. There was a slight lack of flavor, and the tortilla wasn't firm enough.

In its favor, though, the serving size was ample. The chicken wasn't particularly rubbery like we've seen with a few other TJ's frozen foods, and there were no ingredients that got in the way or detracted from the whole taste and texture of the dish. It just simply didn't have enough kick, pizzazz, and flavor to blow us away. Hot sauce and a dollop of sour cream helped it, but couldn't totally redeem it.

But hey, we're picky with our Mexican and Tex-Mex. If you're curious, it's still worth a try. To be fair, we should mention that we made it in the microwave when we could have made it on the stovetop. Leave us a comment and let us know what kind of results you got cooking it on the stove.

We give it three stars a piece.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.


  1. They are MUCH better when you microwave a little, then cook on the stove. The tortilla gets that little bit of crunchiness that I love about quesadillas. You must try it again and use the stove-top directions. That is the only way I'll eat them.

  2. Thanks, Kasey. That makes sense. Next time we won't be so lazy :) Maybe we'll have to raise that score a little.

  3. Same thing here. We really like these when we nuke a bit and then cook on the stove top. Paired with a nice smokey salsa and some sour cream, these are a good quick dinner option.

  4. There you have it folks, Stacy and Kasey have spoken. Hey, those names rhyme!

  5. i'm with them...70 seconds on each side, and then crisp it on the stovetop. sometimes i just microwave them, and it's really just a mega soft taco for me at that point and i just pick at it. still like the flavor tho!

  6. I think these actually taste excellent...except they completely defy the purpose of a frozen entree because they take so much work to execute properly. I can't even remember what the instructions on the box say, but the only way these turn out is if you put them in the oven for like 15-20 minutes on 375. This makes the middle hot and gooey and the outside very crispy, but who wants to wait that long?!

  7. Only a 6/10? These are excellent! I thought they had a real tex-mex flavor and adding a dollop of sour cream would knock it out of the park. However I always cook by first defrosting it a little, and then cooking it on the stove-top. That way the tortilla is crispy and golden, and the insides are perfectly gooey. Mm!

  8. I LOVE these quesadillas. I did the microwave/stove top preparation and wanted to have seconds!! One minute and a half in the microwave is all it took, I then put it in a skillet for one minute on each side to brown it up a bit. I put a side of the TJ's sweet corn salsa (AMAZING), sour cream, lettuce and tomato. I tricked my boyfriend into thinking they were homemade until he found the box. It has a very healthy taste and surely filling. I would give it 9.5 STARS. (lost .5 because the sides really brought a lot to the dish). Best to eat and serve at home though. *steps off soapbox

  9. I LOVE these too. I think they could provide more innards than they do, more chicken and more cheese in particular, but they are good. I make them with the microwave/stovetop method but might try the all-microwave version next. I also like knowing that they taste the same as "Healthy Choice" which I can get in my local supermarket. My closest TJs is 45 minutes away so don't go very often.

  10. My husband also loves these but you do have to microwave to defrost then cook them in a skillet with a little oil to kind of fry up the tortilla. This did defeat the purpose of why we bought them (lunch for my husband to take to work) but they do make a good dinner.

    1. We'll have to try that next time, Stephanie!

  11. I LOVE these quesadillas!!! I always microwave 30 seconds (full power) on one side, then flip it and microwave for another 30 seconds... then cook in the oven at 325 until it's to my desired crispiness. I start with the microwave only to speed up the cooking process

  12. I just ate one. They are terrible. Weird combo of ingredients, and SOME of the chicken looks like chicken breast meat, but the perfectly square bits of meat are the texture of McNuggets. Yikes.