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, March 12, 2013

Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs

Alright, alright, let's get the obvious joke out of the way here. "If Trader Joe's makes a Meatless Meatball, can't you just call them balls? Does that mean they taste like...?" Hahaha, so on and so forth. Discretion is the better part of valor, so much like Nathan a few weeks ago when given the opportunity, I'll be strategically avoiding all that the rest of this post. I'm not saying I haven't made that joke (and others fairly similar to it) at pretty much chance here at home while eating these said balls, and probably even a few in the frozen aisle while purchasing these (poor Sandy, who chuckles and blushes each time), but yeah...my mom reads this blog. And lots of other moms, too, I'm sure. Let's keep the moms happy. That's important.

Anyways, we got ourselves bag of frozen soy spheres on one of our last trips. Sandy and I have been on meat-free experiment the past few weeks (except for the Friday night fish fry, can't miss those), and feeling a little encouraged by how it's going, we're considering becoming full-time "gracious vegetarians." We really don't miss meat all that much, and we've both been losing some weight and feeling better, and I've gotten some encouragement and ideas from my sister's blog as she's been adapting to a similar lifestyle. We don't have all the "rules" set up for this, and I think meat will be still be an occasional part of our diet, especially if we're invited somewhere or if the very occasional hamburger hankerin' hits. But anyways...

Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs. I'll be honest. Out of all the fake meat options we've sampled from TJ's, these are my least favorite. I think that more speaks to Trader Joe's particular strength in fake meat as opposed to being a strong indictment. They taste fine enough, in fact I'd even say pretty close to the actual-meat meat balls we've had (and believe me, we've eaten lots of those). It's more the texture.They're just too soft and crumbly, like there's nothing hold them together. Even time I tried to spear one with my fork, it just broke in half. And you don't have to chew these - I literally smashed one up against the roof of my mouth with my tongue, and it was ready to go down the hatch almost immediately. If I am eating a meat (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) I want to be able to use my canines and molars as God intended. There is no such opportunity here.

Sandy, the more texture-sensitive of the two of us, agreed. "If we were to become vegetarian, I'd eat these occasionally and be fine with them, but these don't make me want to give up meat by themselves," she says. I pretty much agree. They're not horrible, but these albóndigas dementiras could be much better with a little more bite to them. Compared to the virtual fake meat cornucopia that Trader Joe's typically offers, we can't afford to muster much more than a mediocre "meh" for them.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


  1. Don't use them as meatballs. Use them to replace ground meat in other recipes. They work perfectly this way. I love them.

    1. In other words they need major disguising... if so why use them at all just use another substitute.. lol

  2. bake them without sauce, they hold together much better this way and are very good.

  3. I happen to love these meatballs. Like Kate said above, bake them without the sauce. Add a couple of minutes - just a couple - to the bake time. The throw them in with your pasta and cover in sauce. This is the closest thing I've found to meat yet when done that way.

    Also, as jjnzdr said, they make a great ground meat substitute in other dishes - and have a much better flavor than most of the other imitation ground beef I've tried.

  4. I agree with the softness, but when I put the sauce I make a Sloppy Joe sandwich with the 100 calorie flatbreads.