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, October 13, 2011

Trader Joe's Beef-less Ground Beef and Taco Seasoning Mix

Nathan sure was right a few posts back. We really do like our desserts, and probably from the looks of me, a little too much. I guess it's not that surprising that Trader Joe's, in my estimation, has a lot of tasty sweets. But tasty fake meats? I'll admit it, as an avid carnivore, that's a shocker. There's the soy chorizo, the first item I ever reviewed for this blog, and still an every-trip pick up. The veggie sausage turned out a winner, even over the more famous national brand. Heck, I don't even really like corn dogs all that much, but the Trader Joe's Meatless Corn Dogs? Sandy and I got them a couple weeks ago, and dang it...tasty. Good call, Nathan.

So...Trader Joe's Beef-less Ground Beef. Once we saw it, based on our good fake meat history, Sandy and I figured it'd make a worthwhile purchase, despite its problematic name a la the soy chorizo. This time, it's all English, no fun with Spanish. See, the "Beef-less" kinda cancels out the "Beef" part of the equation, leaving this as simply "Trader Joe's Ground," as in, like, dirt. So, buying something that kinda resembles dirt, and its label practically says it's as much, so as I began making it the other night I was sure hoping it'd be something more suited for my belly than our garden out front.

Tell ya what: I don't think it's as good as the other fake meats listed above, but still, it's pretty decent. It comes fully cooked and vacuum-packed so for some quick tacos after a babysitting night, it made an easy choice. Consistency-wise, it's not quite regular ol' ground chuck, but it crumbled up okay enough, and I suppose it's moist enough that one could attempt to make meatballs and burgers out of it. Still, it's kinda obvious that it's fake when you chomp in. Rubbery or chewy or smushy isn't the right word...just fake-ish. But, the beefless beef tastes alright. It definitely comes a little seasoned on its own, but not overly, so it's the kinda thing to do with what you will. I think Sandy and I would be up for trying it out in some lasagna or try to make meatballs or do whatever else we want to the next time we go on some crazy meat-free kick.

Anyways, if you're making tacos when it's late and you're hungry, you need an easy way to spice up your carne dementira. So why not some Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix? I'm usually the type who likes to spice my own meat and chili and all however I see fit by grabbing whatever off the spice rack and going all Bobby Flay on it so I'm kinda anti pre-made spice packs. I picked up a pack a weekend or two ago for making some homemade white chicken chili, though, because I wanted to pay some more attention to the pierogi I was also making, and man, that was good chili (even Sandy liked it!). And somehow I found another packet in my pantry, so I figured, why not for our tacos. This is some good good spicy stuff. It's heavy on the cayenne and chili pepper, with a good dash of black pepper, too. In other words, my kinda mix, except I didn't make it. It's definitely spicy, although, naturally, a little too heavy on the seasoned salt and salt in general.

In all, our tacos were pretty good and hit the spot while we caught up on "Glee." Yes, I watch "Glee," with my wife, so she'll let me watch football every once in a while with minimal grumbling...sometimes. It's not like I kinda sorta like the show or anything...but some of those kids got talent...okay, back to fake spicy meat. Sandy gave the beefless beef a three, mostly for texture concerns, while she really didn't say anything much about the seasoning mix except to say "mmm...spicy." I guess that means a four from her. Let's see, for me, I'll go with a 3.5 for the fake beef, I think, and perhaps another 3.5 for the taco seasoning mix. I kinda liked them both but for the beef, it just wasn't quite all there enough somehow, and I just like my own random spice combos over some prepackaged deal, however good it may be. In all, not bad for a quick fix, but sometimes the real deal just has to win.

Bottom lines: Trader Joe's Beef-less Ground Beef: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I think this works really well in veggie chili too

  2. Hi, I really like your blog! It's such a great idea! I write a blog on vitamins, nutrition, and general health topics at http://healthyeducator.blogspot.com/
    I love to shop at Trader Joe's! They have no preservatives in their food and I trust everything in the store. They are a really great store and I wish there were more of them.

  3. Veggie chili would be a pretty good use for this...you might even be able to pass it off as regular chili. And thanks H.E. - I'll be checkng out your blog for sure.

  4. The beef-less ground beef is amazing in a spaghetti meat sauce. I fed it to my meat eating family and they couldn't tell the difference.

  5. I use this in my vegetarian chili and my veggie bolognese sauce with wine. The trick is to start with onions and garlic, then add the faux meat. Then I add the tomatoes, wine, sauces, and spices and simmer for over an hour so the meat is no longer rubbery and the flavors marry. I am yet to post these recipes on my blog, but I will do so next time I make them so I can take photos. My friends didn't notice the difference in the veggie chili. It is my Mothers recipe adapted for vegetarianism and I think it is better than her original recipe, but do not tell her otherwise I will have hell to pay,lol www.arosewithoutthorns.blogspot.com

    1. Hello Rose, do you add fresh tomatoes before the wine?

  6. I made beefless burritos and wraps with the TJ beefless beef. Now, I only have used one other meatless product (not TJ's) which I really liked but it was an italian sausage not ground "meat". I thought this product was pretty good. And the price was really reasonable.

  7. I mix in some taco seasoning, microwave this in a resealable container for 2 minutes, and then serve with other taco toppings. The key is to not expect beef, but be prepared for something completely new and different. My favorite taco topping is Mole Negro sauce and onions.

  8. I've used this to make Chinese curry "beef" puffs and zero complaints. It's all about seasoning when using this product.

  9. Works well in sloppy joes and a goulash I made. Also although not chunky, would make a good chili topping!

  10. Made spaghetti sauce with it and it's delicious

  11. I'm new to this vegan stuff and so far so good

  12. How much did a package of this cost?