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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Friday, September 16, 2011

Trader Joe's Beer Battered Vidalia Sweet Onion Rings

I'm not sure who came up with the idea of onion rings. Why not fried carrots or broccoli? In Asian restaurants, you'll find vegetable tempura, which is, I guess, as close as you'll get unless you want to buy a deep fat fryer and do it yourself. The fried potato has done very well in the form of French fries, tater tots and hash browns. And I guess fried zucchini has fairly widespread acceptance as a home-cooked food.

The thing about onion rings that really frustrates me is that since the onion has a smooth skin on it, it never really absorbs the fried-ness. The batter simply coats the onion slices and doesn't penetrate the skin of the onion, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. But when I try to eat the onion ring, I always have the problem of the piece of onion slipping right out of its "sleeve" of crispiness, and I find myself with a mouthful of nothing but warm onion. These rings were no exception.

We followed the cooking instructions on the bag, heated them in the oven, and still, we felt they weren't particularly crispy. They seemed to have larger slices of onion than most varieties I've tried. These Trader Joe's Onion Rings are like the steak fries of the onion ring world. They're thick and bulky. It really bothered Sonia, because she's used to onion rings being thin and crispy. That's certainly one way to have them, but I'm always open for something new. I thought the thickness made them heartier in a way. Not only were the onion slices bigger, but there seemed to be a thicker layer of batter on the outside, too, making them kind of doughy. They were more like a meal by themselves this way, as opposed to just a side dish. I think in part due to their size, they retained a greater amount of moisture than most onion rings. Not quite to the point of sogginess, but certainly to the point where it detracted from their crunch-factor.

Flavor-wise, what more could you want from onion rings? Big, sweet vidalia onions, covered in a really nice beer batter. They tasted great to both of us. We dipped them in some ranch dressing, which added a little bit of tang. Personally, I think the crème de la crème of the fried onion world is Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion. So good, it has its own Wikipedia page, yet so bad for you, it has an entire day's worth of calories. I've never been huge on Funyuns or really cheap onion rings. And I've been meaning to try White Castle's, after hearing some good things about them. But there again, they get a nutrition grade of D+. Trader Joe's Onion Rings have only 130 calories and 60 fat-cals per serving...oh, but wait, there are five servings in the bag. Hmmm, I would have guessed there were only about two and a half servings in the bag. That's tricky. Still not good for you, but maybe not quite as fattening as other brands.

Sonia gives these circular snacks 2.5 stars. I think that's a bit too low. I've gotta give 'em at least a 4. They tasted great to me, even if they were a little over-sized and lacking in the crispiness department. That'll earn them a final status of "not bad."

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.


  1. These onion rings are great!

    I love your blog, btw. I found it looking at Trader Joe's stuff, and later realized we shop at the same store. :)

  2. Sweet! Well if you see me walking down the aisle in Trader Joe's next time you're there, say hello.

  3. I just found your blog and it is AWESOME! I <3 Trader Joe's and go there all the time. Wondering if anyone else has experienced this: a few times I found a product I liked and then one day go to get it, expecting it to be there, and find out the store doesn't carry the item any more. So annoying! Has anyone else seen this too?

  4. I live in Georgia and I love the sweet vidella onions. I agree with you 100%. They are so tasty at out back.

  5. Thanks everyone for the comments! And yes, Gone Sale Racking, we see that all the time. TJ's is always discontinuing products to make room for new ones, which makes our goal of reviewing every TJ's product pert near impossible!!!

  6. I love these!! I am a Chef. Think they are one of,if not the
    best I have ever had.
    What I have discovered with TJ's battered foods is; ALL need
    to be baked almost to 2x the length of time stated to make
    them "crispy." As my husband likes crispy.
    If you do that,I believe you would like much better.