by Lia Picard
In our dream world, we’d be making (and eating) gorgeous ‘gram-worthy salads with from-scratch dressings all the time. The reality? Many of us are just trying to eat something relatively healthy between Zoom calls. Which is where Trader Joe’s salad kits come in.
In case you missed it, Trader Joe’s has a pretty impressive collection of salad kits. Have you ever been curious about whether or not they’re healthy… or tasty? So were we! On a recent trip, I bought a bunch of different salad bags and stir fry kits and put them to the test.
I was looking for kits that were healthy and tasty. Surprisingly, I came up short. I found plenty of salads and stir fries that delivered on flavor, but the ingredient lists were often less than ideal. They often contained added sugar, unhealthy oils, preservatives, and binders. And I could only find one organic salad kit.
Still, the convenience and cost (all come in under $5) are hard to beat, and, compared to, say, eating popcorn for lunch, they’re a significant improvement.
Here are the healthiest, tastiest Trader Joe’s salad kits out there — plus a few tips for how to make them healthier.
Our Favorite Trader Joe’s Salad Kits
This kit delivers plenty of flavor and crunch thanks to its blend of romaine lettuce, broccoli stalks, radicchio, and celery along with accoutrements like flat bread strips, feta crumbles, sun dried tomatoes, and roasted chickpeas. We also loved that all the ingredients were organic and that the dressing was made primarily of extra-virgin olive oil, though it also contained sugar and soybean oil.
How to hack it: This is probably the healthiest of all the kits, but if you want to make it even healthier, toss the dressing and make your own red wine vinaigrette. You won’t mind having a jar of it in the fridge for drizzling over greens, pasta salads, and roasted veggies all week.
I’m not a huge kale fan, and I don’t love cold broccoli, but this kit was one of my favorites. The kale pieces are small and easy to chew, and the broccoli is shredded making it more palatable than, say, a mini tree. The dried blueberries add a nice pop of sweetness and, while the greens were plenty crisp, the slivered almonds added a great crunch. The dressing is sweet and tangy and not too heavy; on the downside, it contains (organic expeller-pressed) soybean oil, (organic) cane syrup, and (organic) cornstarch.
How to hack it: Make your own sweet basil vinaigrette, which is as simple as throwing everything in the food processor. Another option? Add more healthy ingredients, like grilled chicken, canned tuna, or hard-boiled eggs, and just go easy on the dressing.
Vegans, rejoice! This kit tastes so delicious even a meat-eater like myself enjoyed it. The kit has a greens base of romaine lettuce and mix-ins that include a zesty corn pico de Gallo and tortilla strips, a jalapeño ranch dressing, and a packet of seasoned crumbled seitan that stands in for beef. When all the ingredients are tossed together, it’s a delicious package.
How to hack it: You could easily leave off the ranch dressing and just use the pico which is more of a salsa than traditional pico de gallo. You could also pick up a bottle of Trader Joe’s Organic Cucumber Kefir Dressing, which scratches the ranch itch.
A salad base of romaine, green chopped cabbage, carrots, and radishes makes an excellent canvas for pepitas, cotija cheese, and avocado dressing. It’s a refreshing combination that I personally enjoyed more than once with the addition of a sunny side-up egg.
How to hack it: Trade out the packaged dressing, which contains soybean oil and xanthan gum, with homemade creamy avocado dressing. Or stretch the salad, by adding chicken or shrimp and fresh avocado.
This Thai-inspired salad kit combines cabbage, romaine lettuce, carrots, celery, green onion, and cilantro. It’s all about crunch with this salad, with peanuts and crispy vermicelli noodles as toppings. The dressing is a creamy peanut and lime mixture that coats the greens perfectly.
How to hack it: The dressing contains (expeller-pressed) soybean oil, and sugar (3 grams of added sugar, 5 grams total). Use it sparingly, swap it for Trader Joe’s Organic Toasted Sesame Dressing, or make your own zesty peanut dressing.