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, July 7, 2015

Trader Joe's Vegan Tikka Masala

It's never been the taste of vegetarian or vegan foods that's kept me from swearing off animal products entirely. It's primarily the cost and lack of availability of viable meat-free alternatives. And although arguments can be made that vegetarian diets may even be cheaper than meatful diets, we're a long ways off from being able to purchase meat-free corn dogs from the average street vendor or chickenless nuggets from the Mickey D's on the corner.

That being said, Trader Joe's is one of those rare places where meaty foods and meatless foods are pretty much on a level playing field. There are plenty of options in both camps, and strict vegetarians probably don't feel like they're missing out on all that much. This product is a prime example. TJ's is a great place for meat eaters to discover that Meatless Mondays won't kill them—or that they can be "part time vegans." In fact, we've already reviewed a vegetarian tikka masala dish on this blog, as well as a non-vegetarian one.

Like the previous two tikka masala dishes, this one has some amazing sauce. It's full of Indian spices and flavor, it's creamy, and it's mildly hot. It's almost as good as masala sauce I've had from actual Indian restaurants. The rice is your basic basmati—the kind we usually see in these frozen Indian dishes from TJ's—flavored with oil and cumin, and as always, it blends very well with the sauce and other elements. 

The vegan meat substitute was fairly neutral in flavor, which allowed the sauce to be the dominant taste of the dish. If anything, the vegan chunks tasted just ever so slightly soy-ish, with a breadiness about them as well. It wasn't an unpleasant flavor at all—on the contrary, it was delicate and satisfying, despite a decided lack of potency. 

Texture-wise, the meatless chunks did a decent job of imitating white meat chicken pieces, if but perhaps a mite bit more chewy—certainly not to the point that I would complain. In fact, I've definitely had actual chicken that was far more rubbery than this on more than one occasion. I should note at this point that I did heat my entree in the microwave, although conventional oven instructions are given. Even though I've become far more proficient at traditional cooking in the past few years, my rule of thumb is that if it comes in a plastic tray with clear film on top, I'll go ahead and nuke it...or if I'm really hungry and don't want to wait the extra 20 minutes. In this case, it was both.

$3.49 at our local TJ's, six minutes in the microwave, and a reasonable calorie count for tikka masala...this gets a thumbs up from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

12 comments:

  1. If you was blindfolded and would you tell the difference between this vegan one and the regular chicken masala?

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    1. Yes, I would be able to tell the difference. And I would prefer the regular chicken version slightly. I think we gave that one 9.5 stars. But this vegan version isn't bad by any means.

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  2. The sauce was my biggest concern. I love the Chicken Tikka sauce, and I don't know how you could make it anywhere as good without yogurt, butter, cream, or milk.

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    1. Good point, Meredith.

      I thought the sauce was really good. Looks like it was coconut milk based...

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  3. Weird that it contains more calories (430) than the regular chicken version (only 360 calories) since it doesn't have all the cream and butter.

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    1. That is really strange. I hadn't noticed that...

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    2. The sauce is based on coconut milk and cashews, both of which are super fatty.

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  4. I really like this. I'm not vegetarian but honestly I haven't been impressed with the quality of TJs chicken products. Used to love the Orange Chicken 5 years ago but past times I've gotten it is been way too weirdly stringy, odd hard bits, and "grissley" (which chicken shouldn't have really).

    So this is great for my tikka masala fix without having to deal with awful quality chicken.

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    1. Yes. Everybody says the orange chicken isn't what it used to be. Sad.

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  5. This is easily one of my favorite TJ dishes. As someone with a dairy allergy I love to find stuff like this without the dairy and I think the coconut milk based sauce tastes great! I find the vegan "meat" completely unoffensive, which as others have said, is better than I can say about some of the TJ chicken...

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  6. I just tried this for the first time for lunch have to say the sauce was on point; super tasty and perfect amount of spice. The soy chicken didn't have a bad taste or texture, but reminded me of a meatball as opposed to a chicken piece. That said, I would definitely grab this again for a fast lunch. I bet it'd be good with the Trader Joe's Vegetable Pakoras (which are amazing!)

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  7. Forgot to add to post - I'm vegan so it's been a few years since I've actually had chicken tikka masala but this was a pleasant surprise to microwave Indian food :)

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