When it comes to the holidays, I love to entertain. The tree is trimmed, the halls are decked and it makes the perfect atmosphere for a holiday cocktail party or craft night (my favorite). But sometimes, I don’t have time to prep a ton of festive appetizers. That’s when I run to my personal snack heaven: Trader Joe’s.
But since it’s the holidays, I can’t just grab my everyday TJ favorites (like Joe Joe’s cookies or chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels). Instead, I had to seek out the best Trader Joe’s snacks with a holiday twist. For less than $30(!), I grabbed eight different treats, enough for a few of my pals and me to have a mini Christmas party in our office. Find out what we thought of these holiday treats.
#1: Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars
This Trader Joe’s product delivered a classic Christmas combination: chocolate and mint. These miniature chocolate shortbread cookies were cloaked in a dark chocolate and mint coating then topped off with itty-bitty white nonpareils that had a slight crunch. The flavor hit with every taste tester. One expert tester even said that these bites were “like Thin Mints, but better.” That’s high praise.
Another thing we loved about these cookies was their size. Each individual star is no larger than a nickel, which made it easy to scoop up by the handful. And we definitely scooped them up by the handful!
While we certainly enjoyed snacking on these tiny cookies, our minds immediately lept to all their fun and festive uses. These mint stars would be great as decorations on your favorite Christmas dessert, could fill in the tiny gaps on your holiday cookie plate and would even be great inside some festive snack mixes! I think a few dishes of these sweet treats would be a welcome addition to any casual holiday party.
#2: Triple Ginger Brew
The holidays are all about nostalgia. Who doesn’t love old holiday traditions or their grandma’s classic Christmas recipes? As for myself, I can’t resist beautiful vintage-inspired decor and packaging, which is why this souped-up ginger ale made it into my cart. I mean look at that gorgeous green bottle! Plus the vintage bottle stopper—so cute.
The beautiful appearance made this product a standout in the aisle, but it’s flavor is what blew us away. The drink had a powerful (but not overpowering) ginger taste that made it a real winner in our taste test. Just slightly fizzy, this nonalcoholic brew had a stronger flavor than your classic ginger ale, though not quite as strong as a ginger beer. But this holiday treat is much more than a triple-strong ginger ale – it also boasts lemon and pineapple juices as ingredients, making it a sweet and spicy beverage that tasted great over ice (though it might be a great substitute for ginger beer in your Moscow Mule!).
#3: Extraordinary Bark
The second I saw Trader Joe’s Extraordinary Bark on the shelf, I knew I had to try it. Dark chocolate topped with almonds, pretzels, caramel corn and mini peanut butter cups? Sounded like an overly indulgent holiday treat—just the way I like them.
This bark came out of its package in large, rectangular candy-packed slab. It looked pretty impressive, that is, until we smashed it into pieces to get a taste. Digging in, there was definitely a lot going on. On top of the chocolate foundation, there was a nice, even sprinkling of finely chopped almonds and pretzel pieces. Layered on top were generous chunks of Joe Joe’s creme-filled sandwich cookies and a few large kernels of caramel corn—one of my Christmas favorites. To finish the whole thing off, there was a light drizzle of decadent dark chocolate, just in case the bark wasn’t quite enough.
While it seems like a lot to sift through, all these sweet and salty ingredients worked well together. With bigger bits of cookie and caramel spaced out across the bar, no bite was quite the same, meaning we went back for more and more.
But as much as we loved the toppings, the dark chocolate base was a standout to my crew of testers. I had almost expected it to be overwhelmed by the toppings, but instead its flavor came through in a perfectly. The chocolate was rich and smooth—a surprisingly good chocolate for a relatively inexpensive treat.
After a few pieces we definitely had our fill, but we agreed that this bark’s adorable Willy Wonk-esque packaging and impressive look (not to mention the $3.99 price tag!) would make for a great hostess gift along with a bottle of wine (or a less traditional gift for your host).
#4 Scandinavinan Tidings Gummy Candies
I know what you’re thinking: gummies for Christmas? I know it seems odd, but when I saw these treats on display, I knew they had to come home with me. During the holidays we get lots of rich chocolate and spice flavors, so why not switch it up a bit with something fruity and chewy?
Like good taste-testers, we gobbled these gummies right up. Right away we noticed that these candies were unlike most gummies. They weren’t overly stretchy and chewy – instead, they had more of a fruit snack consistency. That difference might be splitting hairs a bit, but to someone who’s eaten her fair share of fruit snacks, the difference was obvious. Gummies are super chewy (bad ones border on rubbery) while fruit snacks are more like a gel that’s easy to bite through.
This bag was filled with green trees, red ornaments and translucent stars—all super festive. This is embarrassing to admit, but we had a bit of trouble pinpointing the flavors outside of the cherry ornament. Rest assured, though, the flavors here were more complex than your green apple and sour grape gummy worms. One thing we all appreciated: the flavors and colors here were all natural, so even if we couldn’t quite parse them, out we were dealing with the real deal. That’s definitely the grown-ups in us talking. As one tester said, “these are like gummies for adults.”
Outside of their shape, these snacks weren’t overly Christmas-y, but we’d still happily put them out at a party or include them in a gift basket.
#5: Salty Honey Toffee Milk Chocolate Covered Crackers
Every year my aunt makes toffee-coated saltines and it’s one of my favorite holiday sweets. Seeing these candied crackers, I figured I found a great substitute to tide me over until the holidays get a little closer.
However, when I opened up this package I was a bit disappointed. The crackers were not as elegantly drizzled as they looked on the box and they definitely had less toffee sprinkled on top than advertised. That meant that the exterior didn’t really give me that sticky toffee crunch I love (you know—that stick to your teeth goodness).
Instead, I mostly got a mouthful of chocolate. Each of these saltines was coated in a thick layer of creamy milk chocolate. I love milk chocolate, but the ratio of sweetness to the crisp, salty cracker underneath was a little lopsided.
Considering the lack of toffee and not-quite-right balance of sweet and salty, we all agreed that toffee-lovers might want to pass on these and try another sticky treat.
#6: Winter Wassail Punch
Full admission: Until I grabbed this bottle, I’d never heard of wassail before. But I saw this product on display with a peppermint-striped sign, so I figured it had to be good for the holidays.
And taking our first sips, we realized how festive this bottled wassail was! The apple and currant flavors were a wonderful (but not overly sweet) base for all those warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and clove. Following the suggestion on the bottle, we tried this drink cold and hot. I thought it was delicious chilled, however when we heated it up, the flavors really came to life. “I’d rather have this than any eggnog,” one taster remarked, and I’d agree!
While the wassail was good solo (I definitely had my share), it would also work wonderfully as the foundation for a wintry punch or even as a mixer for a twist on the hot toddy. Our resident mixologist recommended that this pre-made wassail could be served with rum, brandy, bourbon or even port—though it would also mix well with red wine.
I’ve already stocked up on a few bottles of this wassail just to have on hand, but if you’re craving something homemade, you can try our holiday wassail recipe, too!
#7: Sugar Glazed Lebkuchen
As much as I love chocolate, I know that Christmas parties need a little spice, too. To get our fill of cinnamon and ginger, I grabbed a package of Lebkuchen, a traditional German Christmas cookie (you can learn how to make some other German Christmas favorites here!).
The Trader Joe’s variety were soft and pillowy and filled with some of our favorite Christmas flavors, like cinnamon, nutmeg, almond and orange. Our Lebkuchen expert in the crowd noted that these were “definitely the real deal” flavor-wise. Not overly sweet, we agreed that these cookies would be good at breakfast and even better dunked in a cup of coffee. These weren’t everyone’s favorite treat at our little party, but these orange and spice treats are likely just more of an acquired taste.
#8: Candy Cane Jo-Joe’s
What’s a trip to Trader Joe’s without a package of their classic Joe-Joe’s sandwich cookies? For those new to the Trader Joe’s snack aisle, Joe Joe’s are similar to an Oreo cookie, except the filling is creamier and a little less sweet.
These Joe Joe’s are not quite the classic, though. The filling in this seasonal version is dotted with crushed up candy cane! This added a little extra crunch to the filling which we all just loved. And again, who doesn’t love mint and chocolate together?
While I think that homemade holiday cookies are always best, I have to say that a minty Oreo-lookalike is welcome at any Christmas party I’m attending. The filling was ultra creamy and the cookies crisp and chocolatey. These would go great with a glass of milk or hot chocolate.
While there was a miss or two in our collection of goodies, overall we all thought these Trader Joe’s snacks were delectably festive. For less than $30 we had a great mini party, and I’m thinking of replicating this exact lineup for my casual get-togethers this December.