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, September 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Since you all know my blogging buddy Russ is a huge fan of pumpkin products, as well as salad dressings, of course I had to race to the local TJ's to purchase this product and beat him to the review. But here I sit, dumbfounded by this enigmatic dressing. Of all the hundreds of foods, beverages, and condiments we've reviewed these past six years, this might be one of the hardest to describe, as far as taste is concerned. We've seen every kind of pumpkin product, as well as plenty of salad dressings, but for some reason this one was hard to pin down for me. I couldn't even tell if I really liked it or not. But like a brave li'l foodie-hack, I'll attempt to tackle it anyway. Here goes nothing.

Okay, so the first thing that jumped out at both Sonia and I was that this dressing is surprisingly sweet. Like sweet is probably the first word either of us would use to describe it. It's not sweet like you'd use it as an ice cream topping kind of sweet. It's just sweet for the world of salad dressings. It doesn't taste at all like pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice—there's no cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, or allspice. And none of those spices would work here, so they're not missed. It does, however, taste like pumpkin, as pumpkin puree is the main ingredient. It has a squash-like essence. I guess that's because pumpkin is a type of squash. Sonia thought it tasted more like butternut squash than pumpkin, but I think I might have picked out the pumpkin flavor even if this had been a blind taste-test. But I'm probably overestimating my taste buds. My brain can't see a bright orange label with the word "PUMPKIN" written on it and taste anything other than pumpkin. I'm highly suggestible like that.

But beyond the pumpkin is where the flavor gets really complex. There's olive oil, dijon mustard, white wine, and turmeric in this stuff. And wow, it's like there's a fall festival in my mouth and everyone's invited. Yet I wouldn't say the flavor is super intense—it's just...complicated. It's not completely unlike other vinaigrettes, there's just more going on here.

Texture-wise, it's oily and somewhat thick. Toward the beginning of the bottle, there were little yellowish globs of what I can only assume would be pumpkin puree. None of said yellow globs were around by the time we snapped the above photo. But you can still get a vague idea about the product's viscosity, hydraulic stability, and other physical properties from the pic. And yes, I like a little salad with my chick peas. I call it the "garbanzaganza."

All I can say is, if you're into pumpkin, dressing, and consider yourself an adventurous eater, this stuff's worth checking out. And hey, if you're not into it, Trader Joe's has an excellent return policy. What's there to lose? Sonia gives it four stars. I think it's a little too weird for four stars, but I am glad we tried it. I'll be nice and give it three and a half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


  1. Looks like they've dropped their mango kick... pumpkin vinaigrette? hmmm... no thanks...

  2. Apparently it's the same dressing that came with this salad: Harvest Blend

  3. Garbanzaganza just made me LOL for the first time ever reading this blog. Not that I dont enjoy it normally but that was truly a gem.

    1. I'm glad you liked that one, Danny. We'll try to make you laugh out loud more often ;)

  4. Aha! I knew that sounded strangely familar... That salad kit that had this definitely "worked" with the mixed lettuces and such.
    I'll definitely give it a go, i'm thinking to balance that sweetness with arugala or some roasted radicchio

  5. My 10-year old daughter LOVES the podcast. Yes, 10 year old fans indeed. But there has not been a podcast in a few months. Will we be seeing any soon?

    1. 10 year old fans? Cool! Unfortunately, Let's Talk TJ's! is no more... however, Russ, Sonia, and I still appear as guests on The Nosh Show (www.thenoshshow.com link in right side bar) every month or two to do Trader Joe's-specific episodes. We've already done one (#85) and a new one should be up next week!

  6. I tried this dressing and it is awesome, sadly I live 100 miles from a Trader Joes and only bought one bottle. Wish I had bought more! If you live pumpkin you will love it.