I Tried Every Salad Kit at My Trader Joe's—This Was My Favorite

From the classic Caesar salad kit to the lemony-basil arugula kit, here’s what I would buy again and what I would leave on the shelf.

a photo of a Trader Joe's storefront
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Salad kits are a quick, delicious way to get veggies on your plate. All that's required of you is to empty the contents into a bowl, toss and serve—it doesn't get easier than that. But easy doesn't always mean delicious, so we decided to put Trader Joe's salad kits to the test to find out if the prepackaged vegetable blends are as flavorful as they are convenient.

For the test, I went to my local Trader Joe's and bought one of each that they had in stock for a total of eight salad kits. I then gave them a thoroughly unscientific tasting, involving me, my intrepid husband and a lot of bowls that eventually needed washing. Despite the two of us having our own flavor preferences, our rankings were totally aligned on these, so I feel confident sharing this list with you.

If you feel like grabbing a kit for yourself, just know that every Trader Joe's is different, so some of these flavors might not be available where you are (and I may have missed a few variations since my store did not carry them). Be sure to choose a bag with the latest expiration date, since a few of ours showed a bit of unfortunate aging in the vegetables, from cabbage graying on the edges to dried-out carrots. I also recommend tossing your salad with about half the packet of dressing, then adding more if needed for your taste. The kits give you a generous amount of dressing, which is lovely of them, but we found that none of the salads needed all of it. In fact, had we used it all, it would have made them overdressed for our palates, and we really like salads as a dressing delivery device.

Here's our ranking of eight Trader Joe's salad kits, in order from least favorite to most favorite.

8. Elote Chopped Salad Kit

This kit has a blend of red and green cabbage, green-leaf lettuce, carrots, kale and green onion. The garnish kit includes crispy dried corn kernels, cornbread crumbles seasoned with smoked paprika, crumbled cotija cheese and a creamy mayo-based dressing enhanced with jalapeño and lime. We wanted so much to like this salad inspired by the classic Mexican street corn dish, but it was wildly disappointing. The dressing had an unfortunate claggy texture, and an almost tinny taste. The smoked paprika was overwhelming and detracted from the other flavors, and was no substitute for that lightly smoky flavor that comes from grilling corn. It was a one bite and dump for both of us.

7. Sesame Crunch Chopped Salad Kit

With bok choy, savoy and red cabbage and carrots, with garnishes of sesame sticks, cashews and nori with a toasted sesame-ginger vinaigrette, we were really excited about this salad kit. On description alone, it would have been the first one I bought, which made it that much more disappointing. The sesame-ginger dressing was just out of balance, but weirdly, with neither enough sesame or ginger, and mostly tasted like vinaigrette that might have been stored in an old sesame oil bottle. The sesame sticks, cashews and nori would have made a good snack, but all of it sunk to the bottom of the bowl and did not stay blended with the salad, and just got soggy and sad.

6. Mediterranean Style Salad Kit

This one actually was sort of close to a good one; it just needs some tweaking. This kit includes romaine lettuce, broccoli stalks, radicchio and celery, with garnishes of seasoned flatbread strips, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted chickpeas with a red-wine vinaigrette. The mix was good except for the broccoli stalks, which felt a bit like a "food waste filler" addition, and were neither particularly tasty nor reminiscent of the Mediterranean region. The garnishes were good, although a little chintzy on the feta. But the vinaigrette was way heavy on the vinegar, so if you do get this one, I recommend balancing it out with a zhuzh of good olive oil. It was fine, but not amazing.

5. Southwestern Chopped Salad Kit

Green cabbage and romaine lettuce, topped with cotija cheese, roasted pepitas, tortilla strips, green onion and cilantro, with a spicy avocado dressing constitute this salad kit. This offering tasted very much like a salad you would get at a chain restaurant like TGI Fridays or Applebee's: neither craveworthy nor offensive. It was the first one we could see topping with some shredded rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled skirt steak, and while we wouldn't choose it over one of our top choices, we weren't mad at it.

4. Lemony Arugula Basil Salad Kit

Moving to our top four, this simple salad kit features arugula and carrot with almonds, Parmesan cheese and a basil-lemon vinaigrette. While the flavor was a teeny bit one-note, since arugula is pretty lemony on its own, it was a nice fresh salad and would be a good starter for a meal with any grilled meats or alongside something rich like a creamy pasta. The cheese was sort of unnecessary, but the almonds brought a good crunch, and the dressing was fresh-tasting. I'd add a drop of honey to the dressing to bring a little more balance, but it was pretty good overall.

3. Veggies & Greens Salad Kit

A hearty salad of cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and radicchio with dried pear, pistachios and honey-ginger dressing, this mix was a really nice salad. The vegetables were crunchy and had just enough bitterness. I love buttery pistachios in a salad, and the pear was a nice and surprising touch. The dressing was pretty balanced, and a frankly better use of ginger than in the Sesame Crunch Salad Kit. I would eat this one again, maybe with some crumbled goat cheese. It would also make a good salad to serve at a brunch or lunch with baked egg dishes or frittatas.

2. BBQ & Black Pepper Toscano Chopped Salad

This one was a sleeper hit! Green and red cabbage, shredded carrot, kale and broccoli with cornbread croutons, black pepper Toscano cheese and a BBQ Sweet Onion dressing was just terrific. Well balanced and with great little pops of surprising flavor, the croutons are small enough to blend in with the vegetables, the cheese brings both creaminess and black pepper heat, and the dressing reminded us of those red French-style dressings you find in salad bars. The combo just worked, and again, made us think of different proteins you could add to the top. Highly recommended, and a near tie for first place.

1. Organic Caesar Salad Kit

Trust me, I had no intention of lauding the world's most ubiquitous salad. I even hoped a little bit that it would be middle of the road, center of the pack, perfectly acceptable but not special. After all, let's be honest, a Caesar salad is the basic offering of the salad menu. But you do tend to forget, in a sea of sad bowls of soggy romaine in gloopy dressing, with staling croutons that are always too big for both fork and mouth and never enough Parmesan, that somewhere in there is a salad that got famous and popular for a reason. This version was surprisingly satisfying—the hearts of romaine were crisp and sweet, the croutons were the perfect size and blissfully crunchy, there was plenty of grated Parm for the portion, and the dressing was thick enough to coat and enhance and was delightful and deeply flavorful. As someone who makes an occasional Caesar from scratch, I would buy it again for us and would absolutely serve it to company if I was pressed for time to make my own. No notes. It might be basic, but it's still the yummiest of the bunch.

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