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Trader Joe's simmer sauces--any good?


So I generally labor over making my own thai green curry paste for coconut curry, and my own Indian dals, but I keep walking by the green curry and the masala simmer sauces at TJ's and have wondered how they are. It's so simple (you just add chicken!) it seems like it just can't be good! Am I wrong?

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  1. I like to use their Indian style spinach sauce with frozen chicken thighs.

    1. I wouldn't suggest that they're great, but back when I lived near a TJs in a corporate apartment with a galley kitchen, I used them at least once a week. I wouldn't suggest they're a substitute for doing it yourself, but they're not a bad compromise for the convenience.

      That said, I was less enthralled by the Indian/Middle Eastern varieties than I am the Cuban Mojo and Tangine. Probably because I'm pretty good with Indian but never tried to cook the other two.

      1. The Cuban Mojito sauce was a great marinade and sauce for grilled shrimp.

        1. We used to eat the Indian sauces frequently--usually with chicken or cauliflower. I completely overdosed on them and can't eat them anymore. When I started eating them they were a serviceable substitute for takeout Indian, but eventually they just seemed really bland and awful.

          The Thai green curry one is really fatty. Not sure if coconut milk is as fatty as the TJ's sauce--it freaks me out. Anyway, green curry is so easy to make from curry paste and cocunut milk--why bother with the canned stuff.

          1. I would say that they are okay -- good for emergencies.

            I generally dislike their Indian food in the boil-a-bag pouch things. Despite the claim on their package that they've been simmered for days, the spices taste rather raw and abrasive. In other words, the simmer sauces are better, in my opinion; maybe because you are supposed to cook them.

            And yes, coconut milk is very fatty. Some people say it's a very healthy fat; others say that it's a very unhealthy fat. I think the best course is just not to think about it.

            4 Replies
            1. re: willownt

              If you open a can of coconut milk that has been on the shelf for a while, you will find that there is an inch thick layer of coconut fat/cream on top. Normally that is mixed in so you get the full flavor and body in your dish. There are 'lite' versions, presumably with some of this fat removed.

              1. re: paulj

                I don't have a problem with it. I just don't spend a lot of time contemplating it, but yes, I know there's a lot of fat in there.

              2. re: willownt

                I will say I love the Tastybites Madras Lentils in the foil pouch at TJ's. :)

                1. re: Bratdawg

                  I've got a couple of Tastybite foil packs I like for a quick & lazy lunch. I also find it amusing that the company is a supplier for MREs for the Indian Army.

              3. Not that it is technically labled a simmer sauce, but I have an ongoing love affair with TJs General Tsos stir fry sauce. I have basted steaks, burgers, chicken breasts, broccoli and an Arbys Italian Sub last night. Looks like Ill be making the 70 minute haul the Beachwood to get some more!

                1 Reply
                1. re: chelleyd01

                  I have done the Tso sauce on tempeh and broccoli, not bad for a veg version.

                2. I'm not a fan. Maybe I just feel too guilty about using these rather than, as you say, racing about making my own. It's weird - I make a beeline for the frozen goodies, but avoid the sauces at all costs. I don't have (as much of) a problem popping their frozen stuff in the oven - on occasion for Movie Night we like the egg rolls and other hors d'oeuvres-y type things.

                  But there's something about their "half-homemade" products that just doesn't sit well with me. None of those sauces thrills me, and their duck sauce is okay, but it leaves a troubling stain on our plates, causing me to wonder about its ingreds.

                  So I guess I'd say they're mediocre at best, and most of me revolts at not making my own, probably tricking myself into thinking they're less-than-mediocre.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: foxy fairy

                    In contrast, I've rarely been impressed by the frozen heat and eat items. About the only one I've bought more than once are the tempura birds nests. Currently, though, I have few of the sauces in my pantry. I think the last I used was the green salsa, which is good start to making chile verde.


                  2. The Indian ones aren't bad. Using them, (or more critically, letting your adolescent son use them as I do) strikes me as no more (or less) awful than using canned or jarred marinara sauce, rather than cooking onions and garlic, peeling tomatoes, etc. to make your own fresh. They're a "convenience food".

                    Yeah, I can taste a difference; sometimes it's not enough of a difference to matter to me. Also, I find that the Indian sauces can be "amped up",by taking some additional spices, cooking 'em in a teaspoon or so of oil, and adding that just as I amp up canned marinara with fresher seasoning vegetables, . . .

                    1. I like the Indian simmer sauces. I only wish I had a TJ's near me, I would get them more often. They are easy to use and when you are rushed after work, they really come in handy.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: libgirl2

                        I like them, too. They make an easy dinner with some cut up chicken breasts or tofu, some chickpeas and green peas added in, served on some rice. SHrimp is good, too. Sometimes that's the best we can do on a weeknight. The Patak's simmer sauces found in many regular grocery stores are good, too. I don't live near TJ's either and depend on my dad to buy their sauces, etc, for me, so I've found alternatives for when I've run out.

                      2. We like some of them - not spectacular but they make it easy for us to have a big curry meal w/ no skill. Our favorites are the one just called red curry sauce and the green Thai. The flavor varies somewhat from jar to jar. We usually make one curry with thickly sliced onions, green peppers, cauliflower and one with some/all of the same plus chicken. We eat them on Basmati or Jasmine rice and also have a bit of oven-warmed TJ's herb Naan bread w/ some mango or tamarind chutney from elsewhere. Nice meal.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: violet4ever

                          Haven't had the TJs Naan, but the Paratha for $1.69 (five discs) is surprisingly really good. I pride myself on making my own Indian breads, but for that price I don't think I'll be going scratch for anything but Poori.

                        2. I think they are pretty good in a pinch, like most, there are some nights I come home and want a quicker meal and this helps. Mostly I like to cook as much from scratch as I can, but I know my limits......plus there are some dishes on my "need to learn" list, so this also leads to me using them as well....