I had my Greek parents 15 different Greek Trader Joe's products for the ultimate taste test.
They loved Trader Joe's spanakopita, 5 Cheese Greek Spiral, feta cheese, and tzatziki.
But my parents weren't fans of Trader Joe's Classic Greek Salad, olive tapenade, or Greek chickpeas.
Greek cuisine has always been a huge part of my life.
Both of my parents emigrated to the US from Greece, and continued to pay tribute to their roots through food. On busy weeknights there'd be a heaping pan of pastitsio cooling on the counter. If someone was sick, a pot of avgolemono soup would be at the ready. And it was never Christmas without my dad's famous baklava.
I've loved sharing my family's Greek recipes. But I also wondered what my parents would think of the popular Greek-inspired products you can buy from Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's has a wide variety of items inspired by cuisines from all around the world. But, I wondered, would its Greek food actually impress my Greek parents?
It was time for the ultimate taste test.
I had my parents sample 15 different Greek products from Trader Joe's.
When I was home for the holidays, I went to Trader Joe's with my dad and sister and told them to grab any item that mentioned "Greece" or "Greek" on the label. We also selected a few products that are very common in Greek cuisine.
Then, over the course of a few days, we conducted numerous taste tests. We warmed up the frozen cheese pies and spanakopitas, added Trader Joe's feta cheese to our daily Greek salad, and sampled so many olives.
My parents are tough critics, but there were some standouts that really reminded them of home. Some items, on the other hand, definitely won't end up on their grocery list again.
We began with the three products I thought were least likely to win over my parents: Trader Joe's spanakopita, 5 Cheese Greek Spiral, and Gyro Slices.
My mom regularly makes her own (delicious) spanakopita and cheese pies at home, and gyros are probably my dad's favorite dish of all time. He has spent decades trying to find great gyros in California, but said he's never come close to what you'll get in his hometown of Thessaloniki.
This was going to be one tough test — or so I thought.
First up was the 5 Cheese Greek Spiral, which includes Gouda, kasseri, kefalotyri, semi-hard cheese, and blue cheese all stuffed between thin sheets of phyllo.
Trader Joe's calls the 5 Cheese Greek Spiral a "classic Greek pie" on the label, adding that it's "made for us in Greece" and "is what you'd find if you were traveling in the Greek Isles."
My mom said she's never heard of Greek cheese pies (also known as tiropita) including blue cheese in her life. But both she and my dad were actually big fans of this spiral.
"Cheese pies can be very salty, but this has the proper amount of saltiness," said my dad, who loved the cheese combination.
"It's also the perfect size," my mom added. "Usually frozen cheese pies in the US come in a huge spiral, and then the extra just ends up getting dry in the fridge."
My parents also loved Trader Joe's Greek Spanakopita.
On its product description, Trader Joe's said it "engaged some Athenian bakers" to make its spanakopita, which features a combination of spinach with three different cheeses (feta, mizithra, and a grating cheese), along with onion, leek, olive oil, dill, and parsley.
While my mom makes a legendary spanakopita (and I'm not just saying that to win brownie points, I swear), I was surprised by how much I loved Trader Joe's easy frozen version — and my parents agreed.
"It's crispy, and it's got a good balance of spinach and cheese," my dad said. "There isn't an overwhelming amount of spinach, which I like."
My mom said she enjoyed the spanakopita even more than the 5 Cheese Greek Spiral, praising its balance of flavor and the fact that the spinach still looked and tasted fresh.
"I would definitely buy both the cheese spiral and spanakopita if I didn't have time to prepare my own," she told me.
And my dad would buy Trader Joe's Gyros Slices again.
Trader Joe's Gyros Slices don't claim to be "Greek" on the label, so we didn't grade them on authenticity — which they definitely weren't.
"This is a typical, American-style gyros," my dad told me. "It's all beef, which is not common in Greece."
Even though the gyros didn't taste like home, my dad was surprised by how much he loved the quick dish, which we paired with some pita bread and Trader Joe's Tzatziki (more on that in a second). He said he'd definitely go to Trader Joe's to get this again, which is a huge win from the biggest gyro lover I know.
Next up was what I called the "classics" round. It was time to see if Trader Joe's tzatziki, Greek yogurt, feta, and Classic Greek Salad would pass my parents' test.
These are all items that my family — and probably most Greeks in America — still eat a lot of. Like my parents, I always have Greek yogurt and feta cheese in my fridge. And I love making Greek salad for lunch so much, I still eat it five times a week (you can find my full recipe here).
So I was intrigued to see how my parents would feel about these items, and how they'd compare to the Greek brands that have always been part of our family's kitchen.
My mom said she was pleasantly surprised by the feta.
If my dad is the ultimate gyro fan, my mom is the feta queen. If I had to guess, I would say there are probably at least three Costco-sized tubs of feta in my parents' fridge as we speak.
Just days before this taste test, we were actually complaining about the last two brands of feta my mom had bought. One was too dry, and the other weirdly sour. But Trader Joe's Authentic Greek Feta had a beautiful texture, and a nice, subtly rich and salty taste that impressed everyone.
"It's hard to find good feta in the US, but I really like this," my mom told me.
And my dad said Trader Joe's tzatziki "definitely tastes authentic."
Tzatziki is a popular Greek dip that features yogurt, cucumbers, and garlic. It's commonly served with breads, grilled meats, and veggies, and my family often serves it as an appetizer during the holidays.
Both my parents make a great homemade tzatziki, but everyone was a fan of Trader Joe's version. The tub didn't last more than a day in our fridge.
"It's very nice, and very creamy," my dad said.
This was also my first time trying Trader Joe's tzatziki, and I loved it so much I bought some when I came back to my apartment after the holidays (it goes great with carrots for a super healthy snack).
Trader Joe's Greek yogurt also won everyone over.
My mom and dad are extremely loyal to Fage, a major Greek dairy brand that was founded in Athens in 1923. So I didn't think there was any chance they could be swayed.
But my parents really enjoyed Trader Joe's version, and my dad said he actually plans to use it the next time he makes tzatziki because of its preferable texture.
The Classic Greek Salad, on the other hand, just wasn't authentic.
I'm already extremely suspicious of any "Greek" salads with lettuce in it. Horiatiki, as it's known in Greece, traditionally only features cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and red onions, along with a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar.
But Trader Joe's Greek salad only had two slices of cucumber, and barely any tomato. It was mainly lettuce, along with some pitted kalamata olives, a sprinkle of crumbled feta, and a packet of red wine vinaigrette.
My parents said the salad was fresh, but it didn't taste like the real thing. It's not something they'd buy again.
"It's trying to be Greek, but it's not Greek," my mom said.
"You would never find this salad in Greece," my dad added.
But we tried some of Trader Joe's Greek ingredients in our own Greek salad, which was a huge win.
We added Trader Joe's feta cheese and kalamata olives to a homemade salad, along with Trader Joe's 100% Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and all the ingredients tasted great with our usual cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions.
So while Trader Joe's Classic Greek Salad is a miss, my parents said you can still easily make a great one with some of the chain's ingredients.
Next up: some of Trader Joe's canned Greek offerings.
We also tested Trader Joe's Greek Chickpeas with Parsley & Cumin, Grecian-style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions, and dolmas.
My family loved how much flavor was packed into the Grecian-style Eggplant with Tomatoes & Onions.
This Trader Joe's item, which is actually listed as a product of Bulgaria, features fried eggplant, peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, garlic, red pepper, and curry powder.
And while it may not be made in Greece, my parents really enjoyed the rich flavor. I also tried this for the first time during the taste test and was a big fan. I find eggplant to be one of the trickier vegetables to cook well, and this tin deliciously hits the craving without zero effort.
"You'd probably find eggplant cooked this way in a Greek village," my mom told me. "I'd definitely buy this again."
And my parents said that Trader Joe's dolmas were one of the best canned versions they've ever tasted.
Dolmas — known as dolmades in Greece — are stuffed grape leaves, also commonly found in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Trader Joe's dolmas aren't explicitly Greek or "Grecian-style" — like the eggplant, they're made in Bulgaria. But both of my parents love dolmades, so I had to get their opinion on the chain's version. And they loved it.
"They remind me of my mom's," my mother told me. "They have a great texture, and a touch of lemon flavor — which she always used to add."
But Trader Joe's Greek Chickpeas with Parsley & Cumin didn't really impress.
While the chickpeas had a nice scent and some kick from the seasoning, my parents didn't find them all that memorable.
"I'm not a fan," my dad told me. "I like the eggplant more."
It wouldn't be a Greek taste test without olives.
We also sampled Trader Joe's Greek Kalamata Olives, Olive Tapenade with Kalamata and Chalkidiki Olives, and Greek Olive Medley.
Trader Joe's Greek Kalamata Olives were a huge hit with everyone — especially me.
If there was one product that truly won me over during the entire taste test, it was this one. According to the jar's label, these jumbo pitted kalamata olives were harvested from "centuries-old olive oil trees throughout Greece."
My family quickly blew through the jar, eating the slightly sweet olives on their own and throwing them in our salads. Now there's no way I'm going to Trader Joe's without adding at least two to my basket.
But Trader Joe's Olive Tapenade with Kalamata and Chalkidiki Olives was way too briny.
This was probably everyone's least favorite product of the entire bunch. The acidity from the Chalkidiki olives completely overpowered the tapenade.
"I definitely wouldn't buy this again," my dad told me. "The vinegar taste dominates everything."
And Trader Joe's Greek Olive Medley struggled with the same issue.
While we liked the idea of being able to try different olives in one product, there were just too many contrasting flavors fighting for attention.
"I liked the herbs in it, but I didn't like the brine and the texture felt off," my mom said.
Overall, my parents loved more than half of the new Trader Joe's items they tried and deemed our Greek taste test a huge success.
My parents had never shopped at Trader Joe's before this experiment, so it was a blast watching them get excited by so many of these Greek products — especially since they haven't been able to visit Greece since the pandemic began.
I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of the products myself, with the kalamata olives, eggplant, and tzatziki earning spots on my usual Trader Joe's shopping list.
Here's hoping this taste test has inspired you as well. Now excuse me while I go warm up some spanakopita and pretend I'm lounging in a Greek taverna.
Read the original article on Insider