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 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn

"Oooooh these are going to be trouble," Sandy said the other night when we finally ripped the bag of Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn open. "You know this is gonna be good."

No doubt, wifey. Few things beat out popcorn made on a stove top, but one thing that can, at least for her, is the all the leftover little kernels that didn't quite pop in time. The "widows," as I've heard some people call them. For me, I find them a little too hard and crunchy to truly enjoy. It also might be that I'm too mindful of the dollars I've invested in my mouth to keep it semi-functional and toothache free. I like the idea, though, and the Partially Popped Popcorn packaging promised them to be "easier on the jaw," so these were a must buy on our last trip, along with that new-fangled cookie butter confection all you kids are raving about.

Now, I'd have no idea how to even make such an item possible, but fortunately, Trader Joe's provides a patent number and Google provides the rest. Here's Patent US7579036. If I'm reading this correctly, the corn kernel gets soaked to a certain moisture point before popping. The result? The patented popping protocol produces palatable partially popped popcorn precisely perfect for perfunctory party or proper peaceful powwow pickings. Phew.

By that, I mean, these are some seriously snackable suckers. It's been a while since I've had a bad case of trigger food syndrome, but these brought it back. First, the crunch and texture. They're much unlike the Peruvian corn we reviewed a few months back (think: mummified maize), but instead hold very true to the kernel. Yet, there's the edge taken off, and what's more, while still very crunchy, the inside has a softer fluff to it. I was going to use the analogy of perhaps a twice-baked potato, but I don't think I can pull that together too coherently. So, instead, imagine if, at the very nanosecond of popping, as that kernel precisely at the very start of the abrupt phase change from crunchy seed-type-thing to fluffy, glorious popcorn....the whole process just stops. It's frozen in time. Like a note from Clarence Clemon's saxophone, it's pushed right to the very verge of bursting wide open but instead, somehow, it keeps entirely contained.

There is some white dusty glaze on the outside, visually and texturally reminiscent of the stuff on Muddy Buddies, except it's salty and buttery instead of sugary. It's not quite "move theater style" flavor, but is still very salty and buttery and comfort-foody like that. It leaves a slight greasiness on your fingertips, but not as much as a handful of chips, so don't let its appearance sway you.

Sandy loves these. Her only complaint? She wishes they would come in different flavors. "Cheese!" she says. "These just need some cheese and they'd be perfect!" I personally would love a little cinnamon/sugar combo, or perhaps some caramel. Maybe we can compromise and ask for a Chicago-style mixed bag - we have no such qualms as our eastern counterparts. Still, for a measly $2.49, we may have found a new favorite salty snack at TJ's. Until they put cookie butter on it, at least. Matching 4.5s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons   



  1. I saw this at my local TJs and though "what the...??"
    Sounds interesting, but I don't think we'll be buying them anytime soon.

  2. They should do it cracker jack style

  3. Man, I saw these at the store today and didn't buy them. Now I wish I had! Next time.

  4. I just bought them.They are very hard on the teeth.If you bite hard enough you will break a tooth!

  5. I just bought them today. They are addicting! I had to put them out of my reach so as not to consume them all on my car ride home.

  6. I just bought them today. They are addicting! I had to put them out of my reach so as not to consume them all on my car ride home.

  7. Am I the only one who thinks they sound like CornNuts?

  8. They do kind of taste like corn nuts.
    Here is who I think makes them for TJ's.
    They have more flavors.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Many years ago Cost Plus sold a similar and very addicting product that they discontinued, thus making me very sad. Can't wait to give these a try!

  11. Many years ago Cost Plus sold a similar and very addicting product that they discontinued, thus making me very sad. Can't wait to give these a try!

  12. TJ, I hate you for making a product as cracktastically addictive as Cookie Butter Cheesecake Bites or Sour Gummies. Just don't ever combine all three.