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, March 15, 2012

Trader Joe's Chickenless Crispy Tenders

One thing I love/hate about the Internet is all the comments people leave at the end of articles. Like, I love all the ones you, our faithful readers, leave on ours, so keep 'em coming, we do read 'em! Conversely, see the comment section of pretty much any CNN article, and yeah...not a fan. I bring this up because occasionally over the past few months I've really enjoyed reading the comments people have left on the article written about this blog on The Daily Meal and Shine! from Yahoo (same article). Chances are, it's how you found our blog as it's gotten a lot of play since last summer. But man, the comments....some are kind, some like to rip on me because I admitted to not really liking sushi and so I *cannot* be a legitimate foodie reviewer (which I've made no claim to ever being), but one in particular got my attention, and gets me rolling on the floor. Whoever left it said, because we feature vegetarian and meatless options so much, and fake meat products in particular, Nathan and I must be undercover rogue vegetarians trying to brainwash society into giving up meat. Listen, you're talking about a guy who keeps thinking about keeping a spreadsheet of all the different kinds of animal he's eaten (I really should, I could think of a couple dozen if I tried, I'm sure, and all of them delicious) and loves bacon, meatloaf, medium raw steak, and even scrapple. Listen, you have to really like animally stuff to like scrapple. If you don't know what it is, a friend of mine best sums it up as "Eastern PA haggis," so use your imagination. And I remember hanging out with Nathan just enough back in college to more or less recall his diet, and let's just say there weren't too many veggie and quinoa nights.

But yeah...I do like a lot of Trader Joe's meatless/fake meat products. I've run through them enough times that I'm not going to do it again. I asked Sandy why we eat so much soy/grain based fake meat, when we both like the real thing just as much. Her answer: "Because we haven't had a bad experience yet." That's true enough, so when we saw a new shiny bag of Chickenless Crispy Tenders in the freezer aisle, we knew it was time again to give it the ol' college try.

It's not a bad product. For $2.99, you get about nine two-or-three bite sized tenders, so it's more than enough for a couple hungry adults for dinner. We baked them up alongside some tasty Trader Tots for a quick and easy meal. The "meat" is a little different from some other of their fake chicken products, where it tastes and feel like the intention is to assimilate an actual chicken chunk a little more closely. In these crispy tenders, it still tastes pretty darn and close to the real thing, but seems in texture and bite to be more like the stuff that goes inside a chicken patty or nugget. Does that make sense? Anyways, no real complaints there. The breading isn't bad either. I kinda like how they tried to do something a little different and put some oats and some crunchy bits of not-sure-what in. I don't like how a lot of it stuck to the baking sheet and by and large seemed to lack a little flavor. That's not awful if you view things like chicken strips as dipping sauce delivery devices (indeed, they went well with the sweet chili sauce and hot sauce we had on hand), but still, a little shake of black pepper or a little more paprika would've made a difference for them.

Regardless, both Sandy and I liked them. If there's anyone on the blog team that'd try to convince you to go vegetarian, it'd be her as she's talked about it once or twice. Whenever she does, I start sizzling up the bacon, and it's amazing how quickly that thought train derails. "Yeah, we'd get these again," she said. I think we would, too. They're not the best fake meat product that Trader Joe's offers, but they're not the worst (not like there's really bad ones we've stumbled across). Based primarily on breading issues, Sandy's going with a 3.5, whereas I see those concerns, quibble slightly about the price, and settle on a 3.5 as well.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chickenless Crispy Tenders: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Aww, don't listen to them. I can't eat most "fake meat" products because they contain gluten, but from what I can recall, they were delicious. A few products out there resemble(in taste and appearance) the real product to such a degree that I fooled a few friends.

  2. I just bought these the other day, but haven't tried them yet. My kids love the Gardein version of these, and TJ's is a lot cheaper! So I was pretty excited to try them out.

  3. Screw them. Fake meat is great! And meat meat is great!!

    1. Totally agree. Except fakin' bacon. That stuff's awful.

  4. How did the taste and texture compare to the orange morsels? I'm hoping that they are the same because when I make the orange morsels I just want to eat them without the sauce.

  5. I'm glad to see the good review. I have an 8year old, he likes the Quorn nuggets now, but thankfully a TJ's is opening up soon here in San Antonio. I can only imagine that TJ's nuggy's will be less expensive.
    I am a west coast transplant with not Trader Joes now for 7 years!! Glad that will be over soon.

  6. Oh em god! Scrapple! I freaking love it...but probably because I had it at a shwanky restaurant once and got hooked. They serve it up with a fried egg. It's seriously soooo good, rich...delicious. I'm from PA (pittsburgh!) and I've never had scrapple until I moved to... St. Louis. Go figure. But yeah. I love haggis too and thankfully the two places that serve Haggis and scrapple are right down the street from me, like 3 blocks. So yeah. Love love love. I gotta try the meatless stuff sometime too.

    Don't listen to the haters. They're just jelly.

  7. Wish I could find this variety in my local TJ's. We can only find their breaded nuggets.

    As for frying up bacon when your wife suggests going vegetarian---ya know... when you don't eat meat, you actually become repulsed by it.

    It's actually pretty great to live without meat in your life, and since you're experimenting with meatless things, you know this already. Doing it full time is fabulous especially when you don't rely on frozen products like these here tenders.

    After you've been without the real thing for awhile, your body forgets how to digest it, and you simply don't want it anymore. It looks gross, it smells gross, and you just can't handle it at all anymore.

    Try vegetarianism for a full six months sometime. Honestly. Just do it and see how you feel. You might like the results quite a bit. :)

  8. I've been wondering about these -- I think I'll have to give them a try.

    Also, I call scrapple "bone bread" - it kind of weirds me out, but I get it. Kind of.

    And by the way, there is nothing wrong with a meatless option every now and then - it's good for your heart and things.

  9. I am slowly moving away from meat. A friend suggested these TJ's nuggets. I tried them yesterday...Never having veggie/soy chicken before.. I was AMAZED :)
    Now I am looking for a chickenless chicken that I can shred for my chicken salads and tacos. If anyone has a suggestion let me know!

  10. I tried these based on your review--and I really like them! Much better than I expected.

  11. I am vegan, so all of you carnists likely throw out my opinion, but in fact, going vegan makes your tastebuds extremely astute. I don't normally try fake anythings. I don't need to substitute the taste of dead animals into my diet...;)...but I loved these and I can prepare them a thousand different ways...yay...no prep or sticking problems at all. I baked them in a toaster oven, perhaps that is the secret.

  12. These were quite good and would definitely buy them again.