Dessert is the best part of the meal — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But even in a sugar-coated category such as this one, there are winners and losers and in-betweeners. This was apparent to us when we took to the aisles of Trader Joe’s to sample dozens of desserts to rank from worst to best.
We made sure to pile our shopping cart with a balanced mix of frozen desserts, cake-y goods, cookies, and, of course, lots and lots of chocolate. No dessert list is complete without chocolate, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
After the best of our efforts (and lots of teeth-brushing in between), we came up with the ultimate list of Trader’s Joe’s desserts, ranked from worst to best. We’re not gonna lie, dear readers, this wasn’t an unpleasant assignment to undertake. Even the laggers on this list were worth a try. Ready for the biggest sugar rush of your life? Get your taste buds into gear, and let’s start bouncing off the walls together!
14. Trader Joe’s Molten Salted Butterscotch Macarons
Trader Joe’s Molten Salted Butterscotch Macaron is an ambitious dessert consisting of salted butterscotch filling sandwiched between two macaron halves. The description on the box likens this frozen treat to a cross between a lava cake and a macaron and instructs us to microwave for 40 seconds or just eat right out of the freezer.
In theory, this fancy-looking dessert sounds like a salted butterscotch dream come true. Anything described as "molten" catches our eye because that means it’s got all the warm, ooey-gooey vibes we’re looking for in a dessert. Add macarons to that, and what could go wrong?
Unfortunately in the case of these French-inspired cookies, "molten" actually means "kinda burnt tasting." Worse, the texture of the filling didn’t come close to the gooey joys of lava cake. Instead, the filling was kind of lumpy like pie filling. We weren’t sure if the acrid taste came from microwaving or the cookie itself, so we tried the second cookie without heating. We weren’t surprised to find the cold cookie was less flavorful and even less enjoyable than the heated version. Nice try on these, TJ, but we’re moving on to sweeter pastures.
13. Trader Joe’s Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Trader Joe’s describes its Peppermint Hot Chocolate as "bittersweet chocolate shavings with a hint of natural peppermint flavor." With the inclusion of nonfat milk powder in the mix to keep it creamy, this tin sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a night of cozy mysteries by the fire. The instructions even say you can make an iced version so you can sip all year long.
According to instructions, we mixed the brown powder up with a mug of water and hugged a bag of marshmallows excitedly (what’s hot cocoa without those jet-puffed pillows of happiness?). To our dismay, following the instructions led to a rather watery cocoa that just didn’t hit our sweet spot. Adding more cocoa powder to the mix only heightened the artificial taste of the peppermint. It was almost like we were brushing our teeth already while eating semi-sweet chocolate at the same time.
Sadly, we had to conclude that Trader Joe’s Peppermint Hot Chocolate wasn’t going to make it to the top of our dessert list. Our marshmallows deserve better than that, darn it!
12. Trader Joe’s Mango Joe-Joe’s
Trader Joe’s Mango Joe-Joe’s are another offering that seemed promising at first. Any self-respecting Trader Joe’s shopper knows Joe-Joe’s cookies are, on the whole, a dependably enjoyable treat. The first Joe-Joe’s were TJ’s version of Oreos, generous sandwich cookies that don’t skimp on the requisite cream filling. We also loved other Joe-Joe’s flavors such as Chocolate, Vanilla, and Pumpkin Spice (basic, we know, and we don’t care).
Keeping this in mind, we were pumped to check out these adorably packaged Mango Joe-Joe’s. The box alone, adorned with tropical leaves and a cheery toucan, was enough to brighten our shopping baskets and get us rushing home to sample a cookie. We have to give Trader Joe’s points for accomplishing what it set out to do. The mango flavoring is very apparent but in a strange Bath & Body Works way. Almost too fragrant and slightly floral.
The cookies sandwiching the filling had their usual yummy snap and delicious taste, but we couldn’t get past the overt fruitiness of the mango filling. When it came to these Mango Joe-Joe’s, we could only sadly conclude that some pairings were just never meant to be.
11. Trader Joe’s Mini Peppermint Meringues
Trader Joe’s Mini Peppermint Meringues are cute, festive-looking drops of whipped, hardened sugar and egg whites with a twist of peppermint flavoring. Miniscule flecks of peppermint candies dot the meringues, and just the sight of these sweet treats is enough to get a dopamine rush going.
We thought this little box of meringues would be a nice gift until we opened up the plastic cube to sample the goodies. These meringues weren’t bad, really. Flavor-wise, they had a sweet and fresh minty flavor well-supported by the creamy egg whites mixed into the meringue. But we found ourselves unsatisfied by the tiny airy nuggets. Even after eating four of them, we found that our dessert cravings still weren’t satiated.
Even weirder was the recommended serving size on these. Who’d want to eat 11 of these in one sitting!? With total added sugars of 19 grams, we’d be climbing up the walls if we followed TJ’s serving size recommendations. In our opinion, these little sugar bombs would be better as little after-dinner mints rather than a complete dessert.
10. Trader Joe’s Panettone
Carb lovers unite! Come out of hiding and admit you love cakey, bready things! We’re right there with you, and for your enjoyment, we tried out Trader Joe’s Panettone to see how it ranks on our list of desserts.
While we loved cutting into this tall round of fruit-filled bread (it looks almost like a plush doll or mini-pillow), the taste of this Italian dessert was just okay. The bits of fruit ribboned throughout were, as these reviewers point out, more sour than sweet. And there’s a distinct yeast flavor in the bread that might only appeal to a small margin of bread-lovers. We were hoping for a lush pudding-like texture, but what we got was sort of uneven dry bread with only bits of raisin to rescue our parched tongues from total desiccation.
If you’re planning to serve an authentic Italian dinner complete with dessert, we’d recommend you pass on this Panettone and plump for the tiramisu (which ranks high on this list) instead. Repeat after us, dear friends, not all carbs are created equal. We’ll be saving our daily calories for the other cakey, bready delights listed below.
9. Trader Joe’s New York Deli Style Baked Cheesecake
Trader Joe’s New York Deli Style Baked Cheesecake combines two winning food items (cheese and cake) into one big, happy mashup. At first glance, the cheesecake is pretty plain looking. There are no swirls across the top, like Trader Joe’s frozen cheesecake bites. There are no toppings or extra flavorings like TJ’s Key Lime Cheesecake. There’s just a very thick layer of cream cheese supported by a crumbly base of graham cracker crust.
We let it thaw for one hour (it’s already baked, according to the package!) and dug right in. Our initial reaction, like other Trader Joe’s shoppers, was a slight aversion to the pasty texture of the cream cheese. We know that New York-style cheesecakes tend to be heavy on the cream cheese and are denser than the average cheesecake, but the sticky pastiness of our first slice left something to be desired.
Taste-wise, the cheesecake was a little too sweet to be enjoyable. We actually had to take a break from the cheesecake to curb an uncomfortable sugar high. With that said, we give Trader Joe’s cheesecake a solid "just okay."
8. Trader Joe’s Vanilla Mochi
Everyone knows a really good vanilla can kick chocolate’s behind any day. Equal parts creamy, and smooth, vanilla ice cream done right will make you swoon like the heroine at the end of your favorite romcom. We scooped up these mochi to see if they can stand up to the fight against chocolate.
First off, Trader Joe’s Vanilla Mochi are, in a word, adorable. They come in a pack of six and look like the plumpest, roundest, most anime-looking desserts ever. Warning: popping them out of their egg-like containers might cause you to exclaim "aww!" before you proceed to consume these sweet baby-bombs of vanilla ice cream.
However, like many others, we had mixed feelings when it came to sampling these mochi desserts. The mochi was a bit too chewy for our preferences. It just took too long to get to the ice cream center, which should be the star of the show. And when we got to that long-awaited bite of ice cream, the vanilla flavor wasn’t prominent enough.
All things considered, we wanted a lot less fanfare and a lot more flavor from these cute little mochi bites. Though we weren’t exactly falling head over heels, they might be worth a try if you want to be able to compare them to other superior ice cream offerings by Trader Joe’s (keep reading!).
7. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cake
Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes are exactly what they sound like: hot rivers of chocolate sauce surrounded by a layer of spongy chocolate cake. Death by chocolate devotees know there’s only one thing better than chocolate, and that’s double chocolate. We were so excited we heated up both cakes (there’s two per package, hallelujah!).
While some chocolate lovers had mixed opinions, we thought these fudgy desserts really hit the spot. After 45 seconds in the microwave, the cake portion was springy, fluffy, and warm, and the chocolate lava within was perfectly gooey and appropriately decadent. We found ourselves dabbing, okay licking, at the remaining puddles of chocolate sauce when all was said and done.
The other nifty thing about Trader Joe’s Lava Cakes is that you can add your own toppings to jooj them up, depending on your taste. These chocolatey darlings can be dressed up with strawberry compote, whipped cream, or, dare we say it, more chocolate sauce! They’re relatively plain-looking on the outside, so you can dress them up for fancy nights too, with a sprig of mint or drizzle of raspberry sauce. Or you can try Trader Joe’s pistachio-studded version. Mark our words, you just can’t go wrong with a box or two of these in your freezer!
6. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Watch out, Reese’s lovers. Trader Joe’s is coming for you. Luckily, it’s in the form of these Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, so you’re bound to enjoy the ride.
Bite-sized like their Reese’s counterparts, TJ’s Peanut Butter Cups are an elevated version of the classic, boasting a deep dark chocolate shell and smooth, peanut-buttery filling on the inside. We’ve been burned a few times by bad batches of Reese’s — stale chocolate sometimes and even dry, flaky peanut butter on the inside. Not so with the Trader Joe’s version. Every candy in the box was rich and satisfying, the perfect combination of taste and texture, and a joy to sink our sugar-coated ivories into.
We have a feeling we won’t get sick of these chart-topping treats anytime soon, so we’ve given them a permanent place on our Trader Joe’s shopping list. We recommend you do the same. The only problem is: Trader’s Joe’s elevated version of the candy is going to ruin good ol’ Reese’s for you forever.
5. Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Products
Where do we even start with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter products? The true cookie-lovers out there might already know what Speculoos are. They’re Belgian shortbread cookies made from wheat flour, and they have a gingery, spicy kick to them that keeps you coming back for more like a thirsty puppy on a hot day. Trader Joe’s takes things up another notch by squishing said cookies into a creamy, buttery spread that’s almost like peanut butter but better. We went ahead and grouped all the super-popular Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter products together because they’re just that good.
Some of our favorites are the Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies, Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake Bites, Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl, and Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream. They each have their own unique qualities, but there’s a ribbon of lip-smackingly delightful cookie butter that threads them all together. The spread is fantastic on toast and a dream icing for all your baking needs. The cheesecake bites are an ideal one-stop dessert dish. The cozy-tasting cookies are reminiscent of childhood holidays, and the creamy ice cream means you can have Speculoos-spiked treats all year long if you want (and we want!).
If you haven’t already jumped on the cookie butter bandwagon, what are you waiting for? There’s always room for one more cookie butter product in your pantry, and we’ve got tons of Cookie Butter products to prove it. See you on the other side.
4. Trader Joe’s Mango & Cream Bars
Remember those lazy summer days when there was nothing better to do than loll around on the grass and nibble at a fast-melting Creamsicle bar? Those nostalgic treats were the epitome of satisfaction: a mouth-watering blend of fruity ice filled with soothing vanilla ice cream. Totally worth the brain freeze and sticky fingers that inevitably followed.
Contrary to what Peter Pan says, growing up isn’t all bad, especially when you’ve got a box of Trader Joe’s Mango & Cream Bars in your freezer. The adult foodie version of the Creamsicle, these desserts pack a heck of a mango-tasting punch balanced by a dreamy ice cream center. Be sure to eat them fast — there’s no popsicle stick to prevent these bars from melting in your hands.
A fan favorite, these bars prove that life gets better as you get older. Or least the food does. Anyway, at only 50 calories and gluten-free to boot, these Mango & Cream Bars are definitely worth your time no matter how old you are.
3. Trader Joe’s Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream
Ahh, matcha. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. One, you give us a caffeine kick without the coffee crash. Two, you have this earthy, slightly sweet, slightly bitter taste — basically, the tea version of dark chocolate, if you will. Three, you’re simply transcendent in ice cream form.
We praised the dessert gods yet again when we tasted Trader Joe’s Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream. Already mad for matcha, we were ecstatic when we brought this icy tub home from the store. The ice cream itself is a beautiful muted green matcha color, creamy in consistency, and show-stopping in taste. Some reviewers say it’s even better than the green tea ice cream found in most Asian supermarkets.
We can’t help but agree. This matcha ice cream is high in quality and rich in authentic matcha flavor. While many matcha ice creams can taste soapy or overly bitter, Trader Joe’s delicately flavored matcha is the perfect balance between earthy and sweet. For newbies to matcha, this is a good one to try, as the matcha flavor truly shines without being cloying or overbearing.
2. Trader Joe’s Tiramisu Torte
Be still, our pasta-loving hearts. We didn’t think it was possible, but we’ve found the real deal here with Trader Joe’s highly rated Tiramisu Torte. If you’re seeking the Romeo to your Juliet, the Robin to your Batman, the Italian dessert to pair with your tried-and-true pasta recipe, the search is finally over.
Clouds of dreamy mascarpone dotted with bits of chocolate drift through a generous dusting of cocoa powder while a layer of coffee-drenched sponge cake adds texture and oomph to this heavenly Italian delight. We were chef-kissing our fingers and diving back into that torte so many times we lost track of how much we ate, and soon, half the cake was gone. Oops. Sorry not sorry.
Do yourself a solid and put a couple of these in your shopping cart the next time you’re at Trader Joe’s. Tiramisu goes much faster than you’d think in a hungry household, and this dessert is sure to tempt even the most sugar-averse members of your family (some people like to live in denial). You might even find yourself skipping the pasta dinner and going straight to dessert next time. It’s just that good.
1. Trader Joe’s Mini Hold the Cone Vanilla Ice Cream Cones
Topping the list as our best Trader Joe’s dessert is the Mini Hold the Cone Vanilla Ice Cream Cones. They may be tiny, but they’re mighty. These beloved cool treats are the ultimate ice cream dessert with their snappy, sugary cones topped with spheres of chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream (there are other flavors as well).
The chocolate coating satisfies that rabid chocolate fiend that lurks within your dessert-loving soul. It also ensures ice cream isn’t dripping down your wrist, preventing the unforgivable crime of ice cream waste. And then you’ve got about two perfect-sized bites of vanilla ice cream to enjoy before you gobble down the cone, which somehow stays crisp and intact in your freezer box until you’re ready to indulge. There’s even a peppermint version you can try when you’re starting to catch those holiday feels.
We’re just gonna go ahead and say it: It’s the perfect dessert. The ratio of chocolate to vanilla is ideal. You can eat these alone, on a date, or at work, because they’re convenient, low on mess, and very high in satisfaction. And you won’t feel bad eating more than one because, duh, they’re minis (please excuse us as we fill our lunch bags with ten of these for Monday)! Way to go, Trader Joe’s, you’ve cracked the dessert code with your mini ice cream cones. Whoever said good things come in small packages really knew what they were talking about.