We Try All 18 Kinds of Trader Joe's Trail Mix

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Our Favorites!

  • Oh My! Omega Trek Mix with Omega Fortified Cranberries
  • Tempting Trail Mix
  • Happy Trekking: Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios, Chocolate, Cranberries & Cherries

Trader Joe's is beloved at Serious Eats for many things: its flavorful veggie burgers, its chocolate lava cakes and other frozen treats, and most recently, its kouign amann. But there's a wide shelf stocked with trail mixes line—all 18 kinds—and we'd never tasted out way through them. Hundreds of almonds, peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries, chocolate in many forms (chips, drops, chunks), and more were eaten over the course of this taste test. And because of the sheer number of varieties, we divided them into two categories: "with chocolate" and "without chocolate."

With Chocolate

Happy Trekking: Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios, Chocolate, Cranberries & Cherries

With roasted almonds, roasted salted cashews, dry roasted pistachios, semi-sweet chocolate chips, cranberries, and tart cherries, there's a lot more going on here compared to many others. It definitely lives up to its name: it's the exact kind of trail mix I want to take with me on a hike. I appreciated the variety of savory, sweet, and tart. Note: if you bring this to a park on a hot day by accident, the chocolate will melt and create the most delicious, bark-like clusters.

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

The dried raspberries were a good complement to the Belgian chocolate chips, peanuts, and almonds. I'd actually never had a dried raspberry before, and I have to say I'm a fan. They're tarter and chewier than their cranberry counterpart. My only complaint is that there weren't that many. While similar mixes guaranteed around seven to 10 cranberries per handful, here there were around 20 raspberries in the entire bag.

Sweet, Savory & Tart Trek Mix

Here's how the ingredients fall into three categories. Sweet: golden raisins, and three kinds of "drops" (semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate, and peanut butter). Savory: peanuts, roasted almonds, and "fancy grade" cashews. Tart: dried cranberries. This bag made me wish that more of the TJ's trail mixes incorporated golden raisins. I appreciated the immense variety; every handful was a different assortment. It did make me wonder why it had real peanut butter drops while the Tempting Trail Mix has a peanut butter "flavored" version. I preferred these, which did taste more like the real thing, though they weren't as silky or smooth, texture-wise.

Peanut Butter Cups Trax Mix

Milk-chocolate peanut butter cups are mixed with roasted salted almonds, roasted salted cashews, and dried bing cherries. The cherries were fat and juicy, though they were almost unpalatably sour and salty; a bit like li hing mui (Chinese dried salty plums). The dime-sized peanut butter cups were solid stand-ins for Reese's. But while they did add a dessert-like break among the other ingredients, they felt a bit out of place among the cherries and nuts in a way that plain chocolate chips don't.

Tempting Trail Mix

With Belgian chocolate chips and peanut butter-flavored chips—in addition to dried cherries, roasted, salted peanuts, and roasted, salted cashew pieces and almonds—this one definitely has a lot of tempting ingredients, and satisfies that 3 p.m. afternoon sweet craving. The cherries are plump, tart, and juicy. For the ultimate trail mix indulgence, dig out a few chocolate and peanut butter chips and eat them together. The peanut butter chip-and-cherry combo is almost like taking a bite of a PB&J.

Powerberries Trek Mix with Almonds, Cashews & Cranberries

The superstar here among the almonds, cashews, and cranberries are the dark chocolate "power berries." The peanut M&M-sized balls have a thick dark-chocolate shell with a malt-like center that's made with the concentrated juice of acai, pomegranate, cranberry, lemon, blueberry, and elderberry. It's hard to discern each of the fruit flavors listed above, though hints of lemon shined through.

Rainbow's End Trail Mix

With dry roasted peanuts and almonds, raisins, and candy-coated chocolate, this is like your quintessential, no-fuss hiking trail mix. My only complaint is that the imitation M&M's are nowhere near as good as the original.

Simply Almonds, Cashews & Chocolate Trek Mix

What is listed on the bag is what you get, and I loved it for its simplicity. The semi-sweet chocolate chunks are more sizable than any of the other "chips" or "drops," which made up for the fact that there weren't as many in each handful.

Without Chocolate

Cashew Macadamia Delight Trek Mix

In addition to dry roasted cashews and macadamias, this one has dried pineapple, dried cranberries, and dry roasted almonds. Like Simply the Best (mentioned below), the pineapple is almost candy-like. The plus side? The lack of salt on the nuts kept the cranberries tasting sweet, giving the bag an overall well-balanced profile.

Go Raw Trek Mix

In addition to untreated cashews, almonds, and filberts (better known as hazelnuts), and raisins, this mix had walnuts, something that I found in just one other mix (the Omega Trek). It was somewhat refreshing to have a mix where all of the ingredients appeared in their truly raw forms, without added salt—something many trail mix-lovers would appreciate. The walnuts were an especially big draw. The cashews were broken into pieces, and I had to dig to find a hazelnut.

Macadamias Mix Gingerly with Cranberries & Almonds Trek Mix

The basic ingredients of roasted and salted almonds and sweet dried cranberries are punched up with a couple of more special ones (dry roasted and salted macadamias, dried ginger), giving this mix a nice variety of flavors and textures. Macadamias are like the dessert of nuts—rich and buttery—while the chewy ginger added a nice hint of spice.

Oh My! Omega Trek Mix with Omega Fortified Cranberries

In addition to the cranberries, this mix includes pepitas (a.k.a. pumpkin seeds), walnuts, dry roasted salted pistachios, and roasted salted almonds and pecans. In fact, it has a wider variety of nuts than all of the others, and is the only mix to incorporate pecans and pumpkin seeds. When I saw the pumpkin seeds through the clear package, I knew that I was going to love it. And they delivered the perfect amount of crunch to the mix. The cranberries are fortified with oil extracted from the fruit's own seeds, though they taste like the non-fortified versions in the other mixes. Overall, this was my favorite.

Organic Trek Mix: Simply Cashew, Almond and Cranberry

The fruit-to-nut ratio of organic dry roasted cashews, almonds, and dried cranberries was heavily skewed toward the fruit. More than half the bag was filled with cranberries, which I ended up using in cereal, mixed in with yogurt, and on salads. It's the only organic option, so if that's important, this one is for you.

Salty, Sweet & Nutty Trek Mix with Natural & Honey Roasted Peanuts

Two words: peanut brittle. This one is hands down the most likely to appeal to those with a sweet tooth, with cashews (both salted and honey roasted), peanuts (both salted and honey roasted), and salted almonds. The honey-roasted peanuts have a thick, sweet, crunchy layer, giving them a dessert-like quality. You will find yourself scavenging for the peanut brittle—and it will get stuck in your teeth.

Simply Almonds, Cashews & Mango Trek Mix

Though the almonds and cashews are listed as "roasted salted," they weren't nearly as salty as expected. As for the mango, there is a lot of it—and big chunks, at that. Though I enjoyed the chewy texture of the fruit, I found its sweetness a bit over the top. Too bad it didn't taste like Trader Joe's much more delicious Just Mango Slices, which are unsulfured and unsweetened.

Simply Almonds, Cashews & Cranberries Trek Mix

The nuts here really are simple; according to the ingredients list, they are not roasted or salted. However, canola oil and "salt" are listed in parenthesis—and the cranberries are like a magnet for the salt. Unlike the organic version of the same mix, the ratio here was even—every handful yielded about the same amount of almonds, cashews, and cranberries.

Simply the Best Trek Mix

This one has roasted and salted almonds and cashews, plus dried pineapple, cranberries, and tart cherries. I always seemed to get more cashews and almonds than anything else—some more fruit would have helped balance things out, except for the fact that the cranberries and cherries picked up a lot of salt. There were fewer pieces of pineapple than anything else, which worked well because I found the pineapple to be quite sweet and slightly tough.

Triangulated Wasabi Trek Mix with Wasabi Almonds, Peanuts & Wasabi Peas

With wasabi almonds, wasabi peas, and roasted peanuts, this one had only three ingredients, but they went a long way. If you're a sucker for anything wasabi flavored, this mix is for you. That being said, some of the peas could have had more of a sinus-clearing kick. It still earned extra points for differing so greatly from the others—it was a nice change of pace.

Comments

Add a comment

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: