Trader Joe’s ground fermented BLACK GARLIC

“Use like garlic. Delicious on avocado toast, in butter and sauces, on vegetables and proteins, or any time you want extra depth of flavor”

This is a pretty interesting Trader Joe’s product, a bit of an unusual find. Now a few years ago, they sold something in the produce section labeled “Black Garlic”. It was from Japan. It basically looked like a whole head of garlic you had forgotten about in the pantry that had shriveled up and turned completely black! Wild looking! I tried it. Inside shriveled shells were cloves of black garlic inside were softish and absolutely delicious, chock full of UMAMI. I found it to be a kind of amazing, and pretty unusual product for Trader Joe’s to carry. This stuff eventually vanished or was discontinued, anyway I stopped seeing it. Now a year or two later, I noticeed this small jar in the spices section. “Ground Fermented Black Garlic…Made In South Africa”. The black garlic has been dried and ground up into little tiny black bits that can be sprinkled onto things. It tastes garlicky but different from fresh garlic or garlic powder for one thing this was fermented. It’s full of Umami, adding extra depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I did think it’s a little on the pricey side at $2.99 for a tiny 1 oz jar but I have found it does last a bit. It’s terrific added to sauces and as they mention vegetables. I am trying this on so many things. Avocado anything especially. I am thinking this is a hidden gem that many will look at and bypass and it may vanish in the future. So as we don’t know how long this product will last, if this sounds interesting, grab one to try.


A little search and you find that it’s super healthy to boot!


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)

Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are all fermented foods with lots of probiotic benefits.

I am not Korean but I love me some kimchi, good kimchi that is, and by “good” I guess I mean some that someone who knows it well, probably of Korean background, would tell you this is good kimchi. So let’s start with this. I’m think few Koreans would tell you that this kimchi from Trader Joe’s is good. Trader Joe’s kimchi is just OK. It’s not terrible. I buy it if I cant get kimchi from a Korean market. To me TJ’s kimchi problem is, its already a bit old by the time we get it. It’s nothing like really fresh kimchi you can find at any Korean supermarket. That kimchi made from Napa cabbage is still fairly green and it’s crunchy. It was probably made 4-5 days ago at most. Trader Joe’s kimchi is neither green, nor crunchy and it is already a bit soft when you open the jar. This is normal, because over time kimchi ages and ferments more and and gets softer as it sits in the fridge. I am guessing basically its taken much longer to get this Trader Joe’s (made in Korea) brand into all TJ’s stores than some locally made stuff. Again it’s not bad. Trader Joe’s kimchi is OK in a pinch. In our house we say it’s better than not having kimchi around. It will do in a pinch if we can’t get good kimchi at a Korean/Asian market. The main thing is this. My wife (Korean) and I think Trader Joe’s kimchi is best to cook something with. Perhaps that’s how you should think of it too, though of course you can just eat it as-is.

The reality of selling kimchi is its a tricky product to mass produce and and sell commercially. Of course the best kimchi is probably something made by a Grandma or Mom if you had one of those! In the past in fact kimchi was almost typically all home made, though modern Korean families probably mostly buy it ready made these days. They can buy good commercial, and fresh, kimchi. Here in the US you can find very good kimchi at many Asian markets and of course at a Korean market such as H-Mart. Kimchi is tricky to distribute because it is “alive” and it keeps fermenting in the jar. We once bought a jar at Whole Foods of an expensive brand called “Mother In Law’s Kimchi” that actually exploded all over the kitchen when we opened the jar like a shook-up can of Coke! Seriously. It made a huge mess all over our kitchen and it took an hour to clean it all up (don’t worry the Trader joe’s stuff won’t explode on you) On top of which I didn’t find it at all worth the high price.

Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand selling Kimchi a few times, in different packages (see pics). Over the last few years, I would notice some version TJ’s, but it changed or vanished? Either they discontinued it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors, 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 pouch (see link) and then in a glass jar. This is the third incarnation/package I recall but I have never been too impressed with TJ’s Kimchi usually giving it a “well its OK”. My short review of this TJ’s latest kimchi attempt remains that: “well it’s OK”. In reality TJ’s kimchi is nowhere near to kimchi you will find at almost any Asian market, like H-MART (wow, see how many kinds H-MART has?!) If you have the chance to buy some at an Asian market, that would be a good base line to compare this to. On the plus side Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have a tangy fermented taste (from lactic acid, which interestingly is even listed as an ingredient?) It doesn’t list any fish products (oysters, squid, or fish sauce) for more Umami like many brands have, meaning TJ’s kimchi is VEGETARIAN. “Spicy”? I don’t find it so like most “real kimchi” is, though I imagine this is a highly personal taste. To my taste Trader Joe’s kimchi is kind of already what I would call on the “old side” meaning it’s like a Korean supermarket kimchi that we bought say 2 weeks ago and its now gotten a bit more fermented as it sits in our fridge. As kimchi ages it is always fermenting and the taste gets more sour, it gets softer and the green color fades (like at Trader Joe’s). In our house when it gets like this we say say this it should be sued to cook with, like in kimchi fried rice. W will use it for a that or maybe “Soon Du Bu” (kimchi tofu stew) or Kimchi Pork. Let’s face it, this kimchi was shipped (by air?) all the way from Korea, probably landed in California, then it has to be distributed by truck all over the US.

I’m glad TJ’s is at least selling Kimchi and Korean foods like the TTeok Bok Ki. And Jap Chae (both are not bad) or the rice cakes. So to sum up if you can’t get a really good Kimchi from a Korean store, Trader Joe’s kimchi will do. Do try to use this kimchi as an ingredient to cook with. Try making kimchi fried rice, which is good especially with a fried egg on top. Eat some kimchi with your Pot Stickers.

Ideas here:

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 best 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 ITALIAN BOMBA Hot Pepper Paste of Fermented Calabrian Chili Peppers



Since it first appeared, Trader Joe’s Italian “Bomba” Hot Pepper Sauce blew up all over the internet as one of Trader Joe’s best new offerings. In this case, any hype you’ve heard about how good TJ’s “BOMBA” is, is 100% justified. This stuff is incredible. Sorry I won’t be saying “it’s the bomb” (even though it is). However I will tell you that we just freaking LOVE this stuff, and put it on many, many things. Since first trying this its become a condiment that we have to have in the fridge at all times. Here’s why.

BOMBA is a condiment made from crushed up fresh Calabrian red chile peppers that get fermented. By now I’m sure you’re well aware about how fermentation adds complex flavor elements to foods. When you taste this paste you will notice a little bit of funkiness. That is it’s fermentation and it adds a magical addition of, you guessed it, UMAMI. Giving this stuff more complexity than just a “hot sauce”. Now Bomba sauce is a bit spicy but it’s not really spicy. It’s nowhere near a knock-your-head-off hot sauce, skulls on the label, kind of spicy. This has a tolerable level of spicy PLUS flavor! As a spiciness test, I just put a small spoon of Bomba in my mouth. While I got “yes this is spicy”, it didn’t want to make me want to drink a glass of milk or anything. I got something beyond just “spicy”, there that funkiness, even a bit of sweetness. So depending on the amount you use, you can adjust the level of spicy to your taste and palate, and if you add even just a tiny bit to dishes – I’m talking a quarter of a teaspoon – it will add wonderful flavors that may surprise you.

How to use Bomba ? Of course this is going to be great added to tomato sauces, say on pasta or pizza or what have you. But what about other pasta dishes? A spoonful mixed into your Spaghetti Aglio e Olio? For sure! A little bit in your Carbonara? Controversial perhaps but I do it, and it is terrific. What about all those Gnocchi you love from Trader Joe’s? Regular, cauliflower, kale, shelf stable or what have you… OMG folks, a dollop of this Bomba with garlic and good olive oil will make your gnocchi soar. Still, Bomba is more than “just for Italian” food. I put a little bit into my scrambled eggs. It’s divine with eggs of any kind. A drop of it onto of my buttered, toasted baguette is great. A little bit mixed into avocado toast or guacamole. Add a little bit of Bomba to your marinade for meat or chicken. Dips and sauces? Perfect. You can mix this up with some Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise for that matter) for an instant wonderful sauce, to top some cooked Chicken Breasts, Shrimp, or Tofu as well. Or try that mix as a dip for some chips. Drizzle some with olive oil and garlic on your roasted veggies. Add a spoon of this to your soup or most any sauce to give it some jazz. I even love it on cottage cheese on toast (no, seriously that’s really good). On my sardines on toast. I suggest adding some fresh garlic when using Bomba. Of course these two go very well together. Asian food?! OMG yes, yes, yes! Honestly the list of things and types of food Bomba can improve and go with is endless and I promise, you will discover uses on your own (please share some with us in the COMMENTS below). TJ’s Bomba is truly a premium gourmet offering. Amazingly Trader Joe’s sells this for $2.99 a jar, which is honestly incredible for such a product. Oh and it’s really Italian, it is a “Product Of Italy”. I have found it sold out on occasion as its a big hit. So if you like it, next time grab an extra jar to keep in the pantry like I do (but just one, leave some for me, and the next guy!) Ingredients are: Chilies, Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Basil, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid. Honestly even if you are not really the “hot sauce type” I suggest you get a jar of this to try. Calabrian chili’s are not super hot; they are in the “medium” spice level. People can pop them in their mouths easily. Personally I can’t live without having a jar of Bomba in the fridge now and if you try this, you may feel exactly the same.

TIP: I add a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil after I open the jar to “seal the top” off from air and keep it freshest for longer. Keep the jar in the fridge. Take it out 15 minutes before using if its congealed.

If you tried BOMBA and have any Comments feel free to share them.

Trader Joe’s SAUERKRAUT with Persian cucumbers

If you love sauerkraut, as I do, then you will find that this TJ version is perhaps the best sauerkraut you ever tried. According to Trader Joe’s they say even if you don’t like it, this version may change your mind about SAUERKRAUT. Now that’s confidence in your product huh?! Unlike commercially made mass-produced sauerkraut which is cooked this sauerkraut is a raw, fermented food product which doesn’t even have vinegar. TJ says its made by a small batch producer in the traditional way, which is simply cabbage treated with salt left to ferment. Old School. The real McCoy. It has some pickled Persian cucumbers in it too which add a little more crunch and variety. This Sauerkraut goes perfectly with hot dogs of course, as well as sausages. This kraut would go especially with TJ’s excellent German made BAVARIAN BRATWURST previously reviewed, with a Rave. As we know now, fermented foods are very good for your digestive system, gut health and overall health in general. It’s considered healthy to eat something fermented on a regular or daily basis. A spoonful of this (or kimchi or kefir) every day and your gut bacteria will be aces. Trader Joe’s Sauerkraut with Persian cucumbers is $3.99 for a 14 oz. container. Ingredients:, Cabbage, Persian Cucumbers, Salt, Garlic.

Sauerkraut is great with these Cheddar Chicken Sausages