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, November 19, 2015

Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Let's see...Nathan has had some very favorable reviews recently on products that predominantly feature apples or bourbon, so how about something that has both apples and bourbon?

Indeed, there just may be a small revolution or passing trend going on with TJ's products: bourbon. First, there's that pecan pie filling (which of the many things my Aunt Brenda puts in hers, I am quite sure that bourbon is not one of them). I've also seen a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup which I haven't had the occasion to pick up yet, but really, I should (here's a quickie review here). And for those fortunate few who live in the right areas that fully recognize the 21st Amendment, TJ's actually has a pretty decent housebrand bourbon as well.

Now, there's Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce. You can't tell me that doesn't sound gooooood. I'm not  huge condiment guy - I like food to taste how it "should" taste - but I'll admit to a little puddle of drool when I first heard the word. I was due for a good mix up from my go-to barbecue sauce of choice anyways.

Gotta say I'm pretty well pleased overall. This is some thick, goopy, slow-movin' sauce, which is how it oughtta be. "Pretend there's a 57 on it and tap it!!!" Sandy cried out when I was trying to pour the first load onto my plate one night. If you have no idea what that means: here. I hate ketchip, but yeah, that method got the proper flow going. This was also when I first noticed little apple tidbits flinking around here and there - not enough to add any crunch, but a slightly noticeable textural variant.

And there's definitely more apple than bourbon going on here. In a lot of ways, this sauce tastes mostly like a pretty solid, decent barbeque baste with a hefty dose of added appley awesomeness. There is a soft bourbony undercurrent, but there's certainly not enough to make it terribly boozy by any stretch - it's possible I would have missed it if I knew not to try and find it. Sandy said she didn't really taste any, but then again, she's pretty much never had bourbon. There is a little added acidity to it, which looking over the ingredients, could be the somewhat curious inclusion of both apple cider vinegar and pineapple juice. Regardless, the emphasis should be on sweet and apple more than bourbon or smoky if doing it straight up.

Just wish we gave ourselves the chance to really try it out with some good pork. Not like the sauce didn't make our grilled chicken and fries taste fairly delish, but after first taste, my immediate thought was ribs followed quickly by pulled pork. I then wondered about the best way to try to incorporate it with some bacon. But alas. We also enjoyed it in place of ketchup in some homemade meatloaf (although Sandy's mom hated it, probably because it had actual flavor), and with some meatballs as well. Cooking with it certainly mellowed out the sweetness a touch while bringing other flavors to the surface.

No real complaints - it's a worthy pickup, for sure. Not the best out there, but pretty decent, so here's to hoping it'll stick around for a while.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I'm pretty picky about barbecue sauce, but I cooked some chicken in the crockpot with this stuff and it was good. I would recommend adding a little cayenne or hot sauce too, just to temper the sweetness a bit.

    1. Not a bad idea, but I liked the sweet change-up...but not enough to have this be my "every time" sauce.

  2. I don't love bbq sauce but I want to pick up a bottle and slow roast a pork shoulder just because this review is so dang awesome!

    1. I used a bottle of this sauce and a 2 1/2 lb pork roast and made really fantastic pulled pork in my crock pot - highly recommended.

  3. This sauce is AMAZING for cooking baby back ribs!