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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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-Less Sausage

Well, it's been a hot minute or two since our last fake meat review. Nathan tackled the challenging turkey-less turkey back before Thanksgiving, while my last review on the matter was chicken-less chicken tenders....almost a year ago? What!?! That's crazy to me, especially because on the whole, fake meat is one of TJ's biggest strengths, even matching up well to the more famous competition. Don't get wrong, I like nice meat-full meat just as much as any other red-blooded red-headed 'merican, but when there's a healthier, almost-as-delectable option available, I can be inclined to take it. I guess that I've been so busy enjoying the lying-if-read-in-Spanish soy chorizo whenever the fake meat mood hits I've been neglecting other TJ options. Seriously: soy chorizo + black beans + rice + salsa/hot sauce + cheese + chips or tortillas = AMAZING. It's the meal that got me hooked on TJ's. Highly, highly recommended. We're considering stockpiling the soyrizo in case it ever gets discontinued. I thought it did maybe a year ago, and nearly cried tears of sweet, sweet relief when I discovered it was just moved to a different shelf.

Anyways, here's Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-Less Sausage. I'll say this upfront: at a cookout, it'd have a puncher's chance of passing as the real deal. That's a compliment in my book. I think I'd be able to pick it out, but only if someone grilled me about it (ha!). On an unsuspecting consumer, it'd have a 50/50 chance.

It's not the taste that would tip someone off. Think of a typical Italian sausage link, and it'd be pretty close in that regard. And it's not exactly the texture either...sort of. We pan-fried up a pair of links then sliced them to serve in some pasta. They were a little softer then most, and kinda crumbly, but kept mainly intact. Sandy said something to the effect that they weren't as "floppy" as other fake sausage product she's had. They certainly brown and sizzled up in a way pretty close to actual links. I guess, what it boils down to is, whenever Sandy and I have had sausage links over the past year (which has been kinda often), we've been picking up the farmer's market/local meat farm variety, which are big and juicy and very meaty, much more so than the typical grocery store variety. These are decidedly a small step or two below that comparison benchmark. That's not really a knock, and it's not even a fair point in some ways. There's a certain gristliness and juiciness and "essence" that real meat has that soy can never duplicate. That being said, if I had to give up meat completely for whatever reason, these would be a more-than-adequate solution whenever the grill-time hankerin' came.

Regardless of all that, we like them. Sandy's a bit more enthusiastic than me. I think that's at least  partially because the last time we broke out the bulk sausage we have on hand, she trembled a little bit after doing the Weight Watchers calculation (as I should have, too). These lil' fakers tip the scale at about 4 points a link, which is extremely manageable. She went ahead and gave them a four, making slight note of the texture. There's part of me that wonders what the allure is of fake meat - is there a class of vegetarians out there who want the most meat-like non-meat they can find? Is it for people who love actual meat but can't eat it for health reasons? Why do I keep buying it?- I'll never know.  Regardless, this is another win for TJ's if you're into this kinda thing. And $3.49 for a pack of 4 isn't a terrible deal either. I'll go with a 3.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausage: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Those are totally Lightlife Smartsausage. Four to a pack, identical look and nutrition facts. Psyched that I can get them for $3.49 instead of $5 or $6 that grocery stores charge for the 'real' ones.

  2. Oh, I almost forgot: They are really good. Try rolling them in olive oil, then Italian seasoning and crushed garlic, then bake in a glass casserole dish at 400 for about 15 minutes, flip 'em, and bake another 10 or 15 minutes.

  3. I have to say these "sausageless" sausages did nothing for me. Totally underwhelming! The texture was there but they were pretty bland. I had to drown it in sauce to eat it.