I tried Trader Joe’s “ROASTED GARLIC MARINARA” and found it to be quite good. It has what you might call a slow cooked taste, and its very tasty. The flavors in the sauce blend well together, the garlic and the spices well balanced. I don’t like overly homogenized smooth tomato sauces, I prefer a little chunkiness in them. This stuff has some chunkiness, all of which makes this sauce taste kind of “homemade”. I made a pasta dish using TJ’s new (really good) ORGANIC BUCATINI (great!) and the dish turned out quite good, the bucatini perfectly absorbing the sauce. OK I had added ground beef which made this into a meat sauce but even without anything extra, this marinara is very flavorful.

TJ’s ROASTED GARLIC MARINARA is $1.99 (24 oz jar) I would buy this again.

One thing though – the jar used to be 26 oz – inflation shrinkage!)


Trader Joe’s KIMCHI

Trader Joe’s KIMCHI (Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage) Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (“Made in Korea”)

Rated “Meh” (5/10)


We know eating fermented food is good for your health. So we should eat things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi for their probiotic benefits. Kimchi is one of the best of these fermented foods. I happen to love good kimchi…. By “good” I mean something that someone who grew up eating kimchi would say is good. I’m not Korean but my wife is and as someone who has Korean in-laws, and happens to love and have eaten a ton of Korean food over the years, I’ve had eaten a good deal of all kinds of Kimchi in restaurants and in homes. I’ve been schooled to recognize great kimchi from OK kimchi.

So I won’t tell you Trader Joe’s Kimchi is really good. However its OK. Its not really fresh crunchy green Napa Cabbage kimchi like you would find at a Korean supermarket. But its OK and it’s available and as far as we are concerned in our house it’s better having this in our fridge than no kimchi. Now Kimchi is tricky to make and sell commercially. It’s a specific Korean taste and preparation. Face it really really good kimchi would be some that was made by your Korean “Umma” (mother) or “Har Ma Ni” (Grandma) if you had one. So HOME MADE. For commercially made Kimchi to be good, they must get everything right in manufacturing it in bulk, plus it’s a tricky food to distribute as it keeps fermenting. It can build up pressure as it sits in the fridge. We once bought a jar of an expensive brand at Whole Foods called “Mother In Law’s Kimchi” that exploded when we opened the jar like a shook up Coke! It made such a huge mess all over our kitchen, UGH! Plus I didn’t even find the brand was that good and it’s way overpriced.

Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand with Kimchi a few times and in different packages. Over the last few years, I would notice a Kimchi at TJ’s, then it would seem to vanish for a while..? Either they discontinued it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors, and changing the packaging, or all of the above. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they sold kimchi in a plastic package (see link) and then in a glass jar. This is at leat the third incarnation/package. I have never been too impressed with TJ’s Kimchi usually giving it a “its OK”. My short review of this TJ’s latest kimchi attempt remains that: “well it’s OK”. Its better than nothing. Having some kimchi is always better than no Kimchi. If you can’t find kimchi from a Korean grocery somewhere where you live for example. Let’s be honest TJ’s kimchi is not close to those you will find at a Korean supermarket, like H-MART (wow, see how many kinds H-MART has?!)

On the plus side Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have a tangy kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, which interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient?) It doesn’t list any fish products which many Korean kimchi has for umami (oyster sauce or squid…). So this is a VEGETARIAN KIMCHI. I don’t find it “spicy” like many authentic Korean kimchi’s though I imagine this is a highly personal opinion. One thing about this kimchi though to me it’s already what I would “old-ish kimchi” meaning kimchi we’ve had in the fridge for a few weeks. To me the TJ kimchi tastes like kimchi that’s been around maybe 3 or 4 weeks? As kimchi ages it gets more fermented, and the taste gets more sour and the cabbage starts to get softer. In our household when it gets like this we say the kimchi is better used in cooking than eating fresh for “Soon Du Bu” (kimchi tofu stew) or Kimchi Fried Rice or Kimchi Pork. Let’s face it, this kimchi was shipped all the way from Korea and then it had to be distributed by truck I assume all over the US which took some time (week or more?) I am glad TJ’s is at least selling Kimchi and Korean foods in general like the new TTeok Bok Ki. And JapChae (both are not bad). So to sum up if you can’t get a really good Kimchi from a Korean store this TJ kimchi will suffice. Its certainly good for cooking. Make some Kimchi Fried rice with this and top it with a fried egg and you will enjoy this. TJ’s KIMCHI is $4.49 a jar (10 oz.) Definitely try cooking something with this Kimchi. Try making kimchi fried rice, which is yummy, especially with a fried egg on top. Eat some kimchi with your Pot Stickers. That is a great combo with some rice.

or Stir Fried Pork with Kimchi –

(recipe here:

You could make a Kimchi Jigae (stew) with pork, tofu, and kimchi. Tip: you can use TJ’s pork tenderloin


DIY Kimchi! No, seriously! There are easy kimchi versions that are not terribly to hard to make. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) you can make your own cabbage kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s kimchi not too mention you will feel like a star when you impress people casually tossing out “You like it? I made this kimchi myself”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a great “easy kimchi” recipe using regular cabbage (it’s a kind of “summer kimchi”). I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage kimchi I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was the most amazing kimchi she had in the U.S. It’s great one day later and will be improve more and more, tasting pretty amazing in a week or two as it ferments in the fridge. Seriously, if you want good kimchi, you will be surprised that you can make really good stuff on you own! Thanks Aaron & Claire for a super recipe.

You can find toasted Sesame Oil at Trader Joe’s as well as GOCHUJANG (red chili paste) It’s a must have ingredient to do Korean cooking. As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

Good luck and Kamnisamnida! (thank you)

Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing

UPDATE: AUG 2020 – Discontinued during Covid-19!

BALLPARK: PERI PERI & Suzie’s MAYO mixed up in whatever “hot” ratio you can take or like is a workaround I am trying. It’s not exactly the same but pretty tasty!

This is one of those “only at Trader Joe’s” products, or at least I’ve never seen another type of product like this one.

I’ll start by saying one could say I am a little bit of a “Sriracha freak”. I mean I love the stuff, and in general I love “the Spicy” but in no way would I deem myself to be one of those chile-head types who go for sauces with “Death Head” logos on the label.  No thanks.

Me, I want a balance of heat AND flavor. Therefore I love – and I mean LOVE – the original Huy Fong Foods SRIRACHA sauce, which is one of the greatest food products on the planet. Its a product who’s fan’s are legion. I will put it on lots of different things. Still I never tried it on SALAD. So guess what? Sriracha Salad Dressing is actually a terrific idea! And Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing  is a terrifically marvelous unique product.

Its a ranch-style salad dressing, which is very spicy. How spicy? Well in its original version, which Trader Joe’s has changed and toned down since I first tasted it, I would have to use this stuff sparingly, as mere dollops. It was actually far, far spicier than actual Sriracha or most hot sauces for that matter. I used to mix it with some yogurt or mayo to tone it down a wee bit, but that is no longer the case. I’m talking about when it originally came out – a year ago? Can others please confirm this change to tone down the heat? I have a feeling people complained it was just too spicy, and they reformulated it with much less of a heat level. Anyway I just bought a bottle and it doesn’t seem nearly as spicy as it used to be, though it is still spicy, and still very good! Not only is  this ranch dressing good on salad or greens of course but it has many, many more uses on all kinds of foods. You can put a little on the side as a sauce for most anything, for instance grilled chicken, or shrimp, or fish, or grilled tofu, or what have you.

In fact you can use this as an ingredient to cook with it. For instance, try brushing this stuff on chicken which you would bake, broil, or grill. Its awesome on hamburgers, mixed with some ketchup for some homemade spicy “special sauce”. Try a little on some asian style noodles… with some chunky organic peanut butter on top? In fact try this on just about anything you think might be better with some spice to it. You will come up with some interesting tests.

So congratulations on a fantastic product, Trader Joe’s. Some chile-heads might be disappointed that you toned down the heat a bit for mere mortals. (But folks, you can mix some Sriracha sauce with this, if you want it spicier still, or add some cayenne pepper and it will be like it used to be). It sells for $2.99 (16 oz. bottle) which is not bad since most TJ salad dressings are 8 oz bottles?

So try this, its one of those love it or hate it type TJ products! Do I love it? Yes, yes, yes! I’m giving this product a:



By the way, the story of HUY FONG FOODS SRIRACHA and it’s founder Vietnamese refugee David Tran, is one of the best American immigrant success stories there is!