What is life without pasta? Whether you eat it every day or treat yourself once a week, it’s hard to deny the appeal of this meal. There is an endless number of pasta dishes to choose from, but most are accompanied by a delicious sauce. The perfect pasta sauce turns a plate of plain noodles into a savory meal that makes you rethink your entire life.
We all know that homemade pasta sauce is leaps and bounds better than a jarred version. However, we don’t have the time to make a delicious sauce from scratch every occasion we’re craving a plate of pasta. Jarred sauces can get dinner on the table in under 20 minutes, and are definitely worth the purchase for that alone. Trader Joe’s offers a wide array of jarred pasta sauces. Some are better than others which is why we decided to rank all of them. Many of their sauces go in and out of rotation, so keep checking your local store if you don’t see one of the options below on your next trip. Here are all of Trader Joe’s jarred pasta sauces, ranked worst to best.
15. Traditional Marinara Sauce
Marinara is a classic sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs. It can be incorporated into various dishes, eaten as a simple sauce on pasta, or served as a dipping sauce for breadsticks, among its many other uses. A good marinara sauce can make or break a dish, and unfortunately Trader Joe’s version isn’t going to be improving a recipe anytime soon.
This marinara sauce is fine — it’s not horrible and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste or strange taste. It’s just pretty boring. The flavor is weak and we don’t taste any of the spices we expect out of a decent marinara. "Even though the ingredients look just fine, the sauce does not have a rich tomato taste as one might wish," complained Ain’t Found a Good Title Blog.
We’re also not crazy about the texture of this sauce, which is thin and watery. This isn’t awful when it’s used as an ingredient in another dish, but it doesn’t stick to pasta very well when used as a sauce and it’s definitely not ideal for dipping. We’ll pass on this one.
14. Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce
Unfortunately, changing the word "traditional" to "tomato basil" doesn’t make this Trader Joe’s marinara much better. Again, it’s not a bad sauce — the flavor is fine but it’s not knocking us out of the park. In this particular case, we were hoping for more basil flavor to add some oomph, but we can’t taste that herb at all. The sauce is a little more acidic than its traditional counterpart, which may have been an intentional way to make it stand out, but it’s not executed very well.
"Wasn’t a big fan of this sauce," wrote one reviewer on Influenster. "I would rather it have some garlic maybe or something else to give it more flavor." Another disappointed reviewer wrote, "Meh. I am a Trader Joe’s lover but this fell just a tad short for me. I was hoping it would pack a bit more flavor but it wasn’t that much better than any other store-bought pasta sauce."
The next time we need a good marinara sauce, we’ll be shopping at another store or making our own.
13. Vegan Bolognese Style Pasta Sauce
Bolognese sauce is a traditional meat-based Italian sauce. The ground meat gives it a nice texture and flavor and makes the sauce quite filling. Of course, because Bolognese sauce relies on meat, it isn’t vegan friendly. Trader Joe’s vegan Bolognese-style pasta sauce, however, is made with pea protein crumbles, which may sound sort of unappetizing to people who aren’t vegan, but hey, this product isn’t for you.
Even without meat, this sauce is surprisingly tasty. The rich tomato flavor comes through and is nicely complemented with the various seasonings found in the jar. According to What’s Good at Trader Joe’s?, "The overall flavor is more oniony and garlicky, with notes of less pungent elements like basil and celery." The tomato base itself is similar to Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara but with a more savory flavor. That all being said, the texture of the pea protein is a little strange, especially if you’re used to eating real ground beef. This is a great vegan option but doesn’t stand up to a traditional Bolognese.
12. Bolognese Style Tomato & Beef Pasta Sauce
This is Trader Joe’s other take on a Bolognese sauce, and the flavors are very similar to those of TJ’s vegan version. The sauce is bright and sweet without being overly acidic. It also contains plenty of seasoning to keep it from being one-note. According to Reddit, this particular version is a replacement for Trader Joe’s last Bolognese sauce which had mixed reviews. They definitely made an improvement here, but overall this isn’t our favorite sauce in their store.
Our biggest issue with this product is the shelf-stable meat factor. There is real ground beef in the sauce which has a better texture than the pea protein used in the vegan version, but ultimately it feels a little weird to be pulling cooked meat off the shelf. In addition, while the flavor isn’t bad by any means, it doesn’t do a true, slow-cooked Bolognese justice. We’d rather take the time to make our own sauce at home.
11. Rustico Pomodoro Pasta Sauce
Pomodoro sauce is a chunky tomato-based sauce made with tomatoes garlic olive oil and fresh basil. Compared to Trader Joe’s Traditional Marinara, this tends to be a little brighter with the addition of the basil. Rustico is surprisingly refreshing for a jarred sauce. The tomato base is not too acidic but not overly sweet either, and the garlic and basil can be tasted in every bite.
Unfortunately, the flavor isn’t powerful enough to keep us interested, and we’re not alone in that sentiment. "This sauce is big on spice but the flavor is not very robust," wrote one reviewer on Influenster. "The tomato taste is strong, but in addition to the biting taste, what’s missing? Because of this I tend to lose interest in my pasta meal and I sometimes leave a bit behind, which is unusual for me." This sauce is best used in a dish instead of eaten on its own.
10. Roasted Garlic Marinara Sauce
Although Trader Joe’s didn’t impress us with its other marinara sauces, this roasted garlic version finally gets it right. The flavor of the bulb is pronounced throughout without being overwhelming. It’s right in the sweet spot that you hope for in a sauce that bills garlic as a featured ingredient. "It packs a powerful garlicky punch but it’s not too pungent where you’ll be sweating garlic through your pores later," noted Uproxx. "It rounds out with hints of black pepper that only heightens the flavor."
Roasted Garlic Marinara is tasty enough to decorate a plain pile of pasta or to be used as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or even chips. If you wanted to make this sauce taste even better you could add a handful of freshly chopped basil or a drizzle of olive oil before serving it, but it’s definitely worthy on its own.
9. Alfredo Pasta Sauce
A good jarred Alfredo sauce is hard to come by. Most taste artificial and heavy without the authentic Parmesan flavor they are supposed to have. This Alfredo sauce by Trader Joe’s is definitely one of the best we’ve come across. You can actually taste the cheese in the sauce, which in itself is impressive, and there isn’t an overwhelming amount of salt and pepper, which can also be an issue with jarred Alfredo sauce.
That all being said, the sauce still isn’t amazing. According to Become Betty, "It’s one of the better alfredo sauces on the market. Notice I said better, it’s not homemade, but if you want a cream sauce with no effort, this may be for you."
We have yet to meet a jarred Alfredo sauce we’re obsessed with, so we don’t hold this one against Trader Joe’s personally. However, the bottom line is that we probably wouldn’t buy the sauce again. It was a valiant attempt but the secret to a tasty jarred Alfredo sauce is apparently still out there.
8. Limone Alfredo Sauce
This Alfredo sauce is only slightly better than Trader Joe’s regular stuff. The lemon juice addition does make the sauce taste a little bit brighter and less heavy than its counterpart. We like this because brightness is something every jarred Alfredo sauce desperately needs. However, we wish there was a lot more acid, which would improve the sauce quite a bit. "It mostly tastes like alfredo sauce," noted Feasible Feast. "The lemon flavor is very light and was almost unnoticeable once mixed with the pasta. I would recommend not adding anything to your pasta or you won’t pick up the lemon in this sauce at all."
This sauce is also really, really thick. Like, you need to scrape it out of the jar with a spoon, thick. While this doesn’t affect the flavor, it does make the sauce a little more inconvenient to use. This can be remedied by adding some water or milk to the Alfredo when you stir it into your pasta.
7. Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce
It can be tricky to add a lot of cheesy flavor to a pasta sauce without making the dish overly salty, but Trader Joe’s has managed to do a pretty good job with this one. We really can taste the cheese throughout the sauce and it’s nicely balanced by the brightness of the tomatoes. Three Cheese Pomodoro is pretty rich which means you don’t need to add a lot to your pasta or it might overwhelm the entire dish.
"I liked this a lot," wrote Exploring Trader Joe’s. "I’ve had other commercial pasta sauces that are allegedly infused with cheese, but this is the first time the cheese flavor is prominent enough for me to notice it without using a lot of imagination. Absolutely no need to add grated cheese to your pasta if you’re using this." This is definitely a sauce we’ll be buying again and again. It works well in many dishes and compliments any type of pasta.
6. Spicy Chunky Tomato & Pepper Pasta Sauce
This sauce is for people who want to branch out from typical pasta sauces. The chunks of tomatoes and peppers create a great texture that adds a lot to any dish. The addition of peppers also adds a deeper flavor profile that makes this sauce pop in a way that regular tomato sauce just can’t do. The peppers also add a nice spicy kick to every bite.
Fans of really spicy food won’t find this sauce too intense, but people who don’t enjoy heat will want to avoid it. (And if you don’t like spicy food, why are you buying a sauce labeled as "spicy" anyway?) "The cashier at Trader Joe’s warned me this would have substantial heat, though I wasn’t sure if he was just making small talk or not. Turns out he wasn’t kidding," wrote one reviewer on abillion. "The flavor builds nicely and the tomato taste is strong!"
Beyond pasta, also keep this sauce in mind if you’re preparing shakshuka, a northern African dish made with tomatoes, peppers, and eggs.
5. Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
While Trader Joe’s regular tomato basil marinara sauce is pretty boring, this creamy version deserves a place in your pantry. Adding cream to a tomato sauce is one of the greatest ideas in food history and it makes this sauce super rich and flavorful.
"The combination of tomato and cream was just amazing. It was creamy but not overwhelming, and not tart like some tomato pasta sauce," noted Bomiom, which added that the downside to this sauce is that the basil is difficult to taste. "The name of this sauce is Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce, but I could barely taste basil. I wouldn’t have noticed basil if the name didn’t include ‘basil’ in it."
However, the sauce is delicious even if the basil flavor isn’t super strong. If that’s a major issue with you, add some fresh basil to your pasta for the perfect dish.
4. Arrabiata Sauce
This sauce is made with tomatoes, garlic, chili peppers, and spices. It is similar to the chunky tomato and pepper pasta sauce mentioned above, but keeps a smoother texture throughout. Although the chili peppers give it some heat, the burn is mild and doable for most people. "It differentiates itself from other sauces by virtue of having chili peppers which gives this its classic kick," noted Become Betty. "If you are a spice junkie then you might be underwhelmed with this sauce because this jar was mild. If you want to bring the heat, then you’ll need to add some more chili flakes to this."
Overall, Trader Joe’s Arrabiata is a very enjoyable sauce. The flavors are balanced well and we like the kick from the heat that brings it to another level. Our only issue is that the sauce doesn’t have a great depth of flavor. The spiciness is great, sure, but this doesn’t taste much different than what we imagine a spicy marinara sauce would taste like. That may not be an issue for some people, but we think one more layer of flavor would bring it above and beyond. Become Betty suggests adding some fresh basil or grated parmesan cheese to elevate the sauce.
3. Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce
Cacio e pepe is a traditional Italian pasta dish made with cheese and lots of pepper. It’s practically a rite of passage to have this dish at least once while you’re in Italy. Trader Joe’s does a remarkably good job with this sauce and manages to capture a good amount of flavor in a single jar. The cheese flavor stands out and the pepper adds a nice kick that isn’t overwhelming.
"It’s incredibly rich and creamy and thick," noted The Kitchn. "It smells like cheesy, peppery heaven and it takes every ounce of self control I have to not eat it right out of the jar with a spoon. And a little goes a long way."
You have to like black pepper to enjoy this sauce, but if you’re a fan of that seasoning, we highly recommend you give it a try. It goes great with spaghetti, fettuccini, or other slurp-able noodles.
2. Organic Vodka Sauce
Vodka sauce is an Italian-American invention made with tomatoes, Italian herbs, vodka, and heavy cream. The sauce is cooked down until the alcohol is cooked out and the flavor left behind helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and the heaviness of the cream. The Trader Joe’s version is thick, creamy, zesty, and perfect for any pasta dish.
"This stuff is absurd good," one happy customer wrote on Influenster. "It is super cheap, crazy delicious, and not bad for you!" The zesty flavor of this sauce works particularly well with heavier types of pasta like gnocchi. It also tastes fantastic when paired with virtually any vegetable or protein, including kale, sausage, chicken, meatballs, and more. If you want a staple jarred pasta sauce to keep in your pantry for a fancy dinner or quick weekday lunch, this is your best bet. It’s sold year-round, so you can have access to it whenever you want.
1. Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce
This Trader Joe’s seasonal sauce is highly anticipated every year. It’s a tomato-based sauce filled with fall flavors like pumpkin, butternut squash, and autumn spices like rosemary and sage. It also has a touch of cream to make it silky-smooth. This sauce is creamy, sweet, and oh-so-comforting on a cool fall night.
"Another Rock-star in the seasonal product department, the Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce is definitely a winner," exclaimed Everything Joe’s. "It’s like they raked up a bunch of fall leaves, mashed up some old used pumpkins, and threw some leftover Halloween candy into a blender and made sauce out of it."
This sauce works well with any type of pasta. It contains enough vegetables in itself that you could probably eat it plain, or you could pair it with some chopped spinach or kale. However you eat it, Autumnal Harvest is perfect for dinner in the fall. Grab a jar while it’s still in stores!