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Trader Joe's: Rancid Nuts??

maria lorraine Sep 6, 2013 12:18 PM

I buy sunflower seeds rather often, and use them in bread-baking, salads and for snacks. I've probably purchased at least five bags over the last 2 years that were rancid.

Not horribly terribly rancid, but rancid.

I think TJ's nut buyers don't know how to taste rancidity when it's early on, or else the nuts are being improperly stored, or stored too long. Whatever they're doing is not working.

Just purchased pecans for a summer peach streusel dessert, and two packages were also rancid. Wrecked the entire dessert.

What's been your experience?

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  1. greygarious Sep 6, 2013 12:30 PM

    I used to buy almonds (discovered they are cheaper at Costco) there regularly and never had a bad bag.

    I hope you returned your bags and discussed the repeated problem with TJ's because they usually stay on top of things.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious
      maria lorraine Sep 6, 2013 01:10 PM

      Thanks. I contacted them earlier, and nothing changed.

    2. c
      chez cherie Sep 6, 2013 03:35 PM

      my experience is that trader joe's has great turnover on their nuts, and i buy a lot of nuts there. i store my nuts in the freezer once purchased (no matter where i buy them), since they are full of oil, and that oil goes rancid quickly, especially in the southern CA heat. ymmv, but that's my experience.
      you could always ask to open a bag of nuts in front of a manager, with the understanding that if they are in good condition, you would be happy to purchase them. i don't think any tj manager would have a problem with that, especially if you explained the problem you've encountered. that way, you don't have to purchase nuts that aren't up to your standards, and it would save you a trip back to return nuts you don't care for. also, if you find them to be rancid, the manager should taste too, and that might illustrate the problem better than a report after the fact? rancid nuts make a big impression.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chez cherie
        maria lorraine Sep 6, 2013 04:08 PM

        Good tip to try them in the store. Previously, I only had trouble with sunflower seeds at TJs and other nuts were fine. Now, the pecans were bad too.

      2. f
        foodieX2 Sep 6, 2013 03:45 PM

        Based on all you previous bad experiences I am surprised you didn't try the pecans first before proceeding with the dessert. What a bummer to have it ruined when a simple taste could have avoided it.

        I think at this point you need to vote with your wallet and stop shopping there. While I have never had an issue with TJs nuts, I buy quite a bit, I had a similar problem with a local fishmonger. I no longer shop there and let them know why. Once or twice shame on me but after that I'm done.

        3 Replies
        1. re: foodieX2
          maria lorraine Sep 6, 2013 04:07 PM

          I should definitely have tried them before adding them to the streusel, you're right. And shop with my wallet, right again.

          What I'm surprised at, is TJ's lack of quality control. Or adequately tasting before purchasing from their suppliers. Or llack of refrigeration. There have been other Chowhound comments on TJ rancid nuts, why is why I'm curious how widespread this is.

          1. re: maria lorraine
            josephnl Sep 7, 2013 10:35 PM

            I'm very surprised that you say that others have reported rancid nuts from TJ's. I've never seen this reported on CH before and I'm very surprised. I eat a lot of nuts and although other stores may have some better nuts than TJ's (size, unbroken condition), I have never had any package of nuts from TJ's that was rancid, and for the price I think they are generally just fine. I always check the expiration date on the package, and put them the freezer when I get home...and have never had a problem.

            1. re: josephnl
              coll Sep 15, 2013 09:17 AM

              I never check anything but am always amazed how fresh their nuts are myself.

        2. westsidegal Sep 6, 2013 04:11 PM

          my experience is that Costco's nuts are consistently better quality all around than TJ''s.
          the problem is that i don't really consume enough to justify buying the huge costco bags of nuts.

          the nuts available at the bulk food section of my local Bristol Farms are also superior to TJ's.

          1 Reply
          1. re: westsidegal
            treb Sep 7, 2013 05:22 AM

            I agree, I think it's a turnover issue.

          2. j
            josephnl Sep 7, 2013 10:12 PM

            I buy nuts at TJ's all the time...at least 1-2 bags/month for several years. I don't recall ever having a rancid bag. I store nuts in the freezer at home, and they last way past their expiration date. I'm surprised by your experience, but I'm sure that TJ's will happily refund your money on any product you are not pleased with.

            6 Replies
            1. re: josephnl
              maria lorraine Sep 8, 2013 12:07 AM

              I was surprised, too. I've had good success with almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Not so good at all with sunflower seeds, and now, pecans. Stored well at home, that isn't the issue. The bags are opened shortly after their arrival home, with an expiration date several months in the future, and they're still rancid. I know TJs has excellent quality control over other things, but nuts, not so much.

              1. re: maria lorraine
                hotoynoodle Sep 11, 2013 12:19 PM

                last week and this week i bought 2 separate bags of mixed nuts/trail mix kinds of things at tj's. in both bags the nuts were old and stale. not quite gone rancid, but definitely not fresh. i do buy almonds from them (different location), so am wondering if the stuff i just had suffers from slow turn-over

                was too much of pita to return them, but i won't buy them again.

                1. re: hotoynoodle
                  chez cherie Sep 11, 2013 04:22 PM

                  you don't need to return them. next time you are in, take your receipt if you have it, or just tell the captain. my bet is that they will happily make it right for you.

              2. re: josephnl
                walker Oct 25, 2013 10:54 PM

                I buy nuts there all the time; store them in my fridge .. since so many on here are saying they freeze their nuts, maybe I should do so too. Do I just throw the unopened bags in the freezer or should I put an unopened bag in a food saver or freezer bag?

                1. re: walker
                  ohmyyum Oct 26, 2013 06:39 AM

                  If they're not already in recloseable bags I just transfer them to a ziplock and take some out as needed. They don't really get freezer burner because they contain mostly fat, not water.

                  1. re: walker
                    mcf Oct 26, 2013 08:58 AM

                    I put the whole bag in a Ziplock in the freezer.

                    But as a long time devotee of the Roasted, unsalted almonds (red label) from TJ's, I can tell you that even the non rancid ones are no longer delicious.

                    I never knew how delicious almonds could be til I started eating those, now they're kind of dry and insipid. And seem smaller.

                2. mcf Sep 12, 2013 07:59 AM

                  Only recently, similar to yours, particularly with their red labeled bags of roasted almonds.

                  I always taste nuts before I use them, it's actually been happening to me at all sorts of stores.

                  1. boogiebaby Sep 12, 2013 01:39 PM

                    It's not necessarily the buyers not tasting for rancidity. It could be your particular store has low turnover for those items and so they sit on the shelf for lengthy periods. I buy nuts and trail mixes at TJs all the time, but our stores (we have 2 nearby) both have high turnover.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: boogiebaby
                      maria lorraine Sep 12, 2013 01:45 PM

                      Possibly. But the indiscriminate wholesale purchase of older nuts seems more likely since rancid nuts have come from several stores, and my main store is an extremely busy one.

                      1. re: maria lorraine
                        greygarious Sep 12, 2013 08:08 PM

                        I think your conclusion is a rather big leap. Although regardless of the reason, the responsibility for the problem is TJ's, suspect sourcing is only one of many possible explanations, including improper climate controls at warehouses and distribution centers, or trucks, and poor stock rotation rules or adherence thereto.

                        1. re: greygarious
                          maria lorraine Sep 12, 2013 09:15 PM

                          Your specifics on storage are helpful, and go further than the storage issues I described earlier.

                          Sourcing is another factor that could easily contribute to rancidity.

                        2. re: maria lorraine
                          josephnl Sep 12, 2013 09:06 PM

                          ...and how do you explain that I (and friends and family who I've queried) have been buying nuts for years from local TJ's (we have 6 stores within 20 minutes by car) and none of us has ever purchased a bag of nuts that was rancid. I, for one, regularly buy almonds, pecans, pine nuts, trail mix...I always check that the expiration date is a bit off...and I store them in the freezer. Other stores may have nuts that are larger, and with fewer broken pieces, but for the price TJ's nuts are fine. Could this issue with rancidity be regional?

                          1. re: josephnl
                            maria lorraine Sep 12, 2013 09:17 PM

                            Perhaps it's regional, again related to warehousing and the storage issues that greygarious listed. But there is definitely some regularity to the nuts being stale/rancid.

                            Happy to hear that rancidity has not been an issue for you.

                            Nor was it for me, until I began purchasing sunflower seeds and pecans, which are rancid more times than not.

                            Some TJ nuts I've purchased have been fine, as I've said: cashews, pistachios, pepitas and almonds.

                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              hotoynoodle Sep 13, 2013 06:36 AM

                              there are may possible answers.

                              another includes that not everybody knows what rancid nuts actually smell/taste like because they are used to eating them that way.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                josephnl Sep 13, 2013 07:13 AM

                                And perhaps some react to normal variation in flavor as rancidity. I don't know, but it seems very strange that some report a high percentage of rancid nuts at TJ's, and others never see it. Most of TJ's products are of reliably good quality so it seems strange that they would fall down in this one area.

                                1. re: josephnl
                                  mcf Sep 13, 2013 08:00 AM

                                  Nah, rancidity is very distinct from any other sort of flavor.

                            2. re: josephnl
                              mcf Sep 13, 2013 06:09 AM

                              I don't know, good question. But I've been buying the same type of almonds in the same store for many years, and they've gotten smaller and off tasting only with my last two purchases. Size and off taste happened together.

                        3. Kat Sep 13, 2013 07:33 AM

                          How do you know when nuts are rancid? Is there a smell or do they taste peculiar?

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Kat
                            hotoynoodle Sep 13, 2013 07:52 AM

                            yes, there is a different and unpleasant smell and yes, an off-flavor. it's the same smell as when cooking oil has gone off.

                            people now eat so many processed foods in which the oils have gone rancid so i think many are unaware of what they taste. it took forever to convince my b/f that foods like peanut butter and oil do eventually go off.

                            1. re: Kat
                              mcf Sep 13, 2013 08:00 AM

                              Lawd, yes.

                              1. re: Kat
                                Kat Sep 13, 2013 08:16 AM

                                Thx, I had no idea nuts could go rancid too, but of course re: oil, it makes sense.

                                1. re: Kat
                                  mcf Sep 13, 2013 08:20 AM

                                  Exactly. That's why most folks store them in the freezer, unless they're going to used/eaten very soon.

                                2. re: Kat
                                  greygarious Oct 25, 2013 10:32 PM

                                  It's been a long time since I've had a rancid nut but I think the smell is similar to floor wax. Anyone agree?

                                  1. re: Kat
                                    daviryan Jan 26, 2014 03:32 PM

                                    Nuts go rancid when their oils start to decompose. Once shelled, nuts will become rancid within a few weeks. Decomposition is due to oxidation (exposure to air) or mold and microbial contamination. When the fats breakdown they produce aldehydes and ketones which are responsible for the unpleasant "off" taste. Buying shelled nuts is a better way to get a fresher product.

                                    1. re: daviryan
                                      mcf Jan 26, 2014 04:42 PM

                                      Huh? So you mean unshelled?

                                      1. re: mcf
                                        daviryan Jan 26, 2014 05:37 PM

                                        Thanks for catching. Having a senior moment. Yes I meant unshelled nuts keep longer.

                                        1. re: daviryan
                                          hotoynoodle Jan 27, 2014 04:59 AM

                                          i agree with this but don't like paying for the shells -- much like i prefer to buy pitted olives.

                                          as soon as i get them home, nuts go right in the freezer and i no longer buy them at trader joe's.

                                  2. j
                                    josephnl Sep 14, 2013 09:04 PM

                                    Interesting...I just spoke with a manager at my local TJ's in southern CA where I shop regularly about the frequency of returns for rancid nuts. He's someone who i've gotten to know and trust. He told me they get returns for rancidity very rarely, and that 90% of the time when they taste the returned nuts, they do not think they are rancid, but are sometimes perhaps not up to par in taste.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: josephnl
                                      maria lorraine Sep 14, 2013 09:51 PM

                                      The nuts I am referring to are certainly rancid.

                                      I took blatantly rancid sunflower seed kernels back to my local store, and the manager thought that was "just how they tasted."

                                      Makes me wonder if TJ's wholesale purchasers, warehouse freshness/Quality Control personnel, and other TJ employees know what rancidity is.

                                      When people describes **nuts** as being "not up to par" or "stale," it seems likely they are describing rancidity. Of course, they may be describing an off-taste or off-flavor caused by something else other than rancidity.

                                      Certainly in my region (luckily, not yours, josephnl), rancid TJ nuts are an issue.

                                      It's happened repeatedly over a year, which is why I've brought it up here.

                                      Not all TJ nuts are stale/rancid, just some.

                                      After the first few sunflower seed purchases that were obviously rancid (and I took those back), I wrote TJs corporate management to let them know. The problem improved with the sunflower seeds, but now has occurred repeatedly with pecans.

                                      I've lost faith with TJs on the nuts issue -- the quality control is not there -- even though I very much like shopping there for other items.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                        foodieX2 Sep 15, 2013 06:34 AM

                                        Why did you keep going back and buying them "repeatedly"? Once shame on them, twice shame on you.

                                        As said before, vote with your wallet and find another place to shop.

                                    2. RussTheRaccoon Sep 15, 2013 09:06 AM

                                      Pecans need to be bought from the fresh crop when they're in season then stored in the freezer in an airtight container and used before the next crop comes in.

                                      Oxygen, heat, and light all can cause nuts to go rancid and that's why the freezer (or refrigerator) is such a good place to keep them.

                                      People have different sensitivities to rancidity and for some even the slightest hint of it is repulsive.

                                      I have never gotten any rancid nuts from TJ's but I have had peanuts, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts purchased there go rancid quickly so they got fed to the squirrels.

                                      TJ's doesn't seem to have the best storage and handling practices and nuts are shipped from all over the world. However, they will always give a refund on anything you don't like, if you ask.

                                      1. d
                                        deboroy Oct 25, 2013 05:47 PM

                                        TJ nuts, we find, are frequently rancid. The almonds and walnuts are usually fine; the hazelnuts we had to stop buying! Now we are having an issue with some mixed nuts that we bought recently.

                                        1. MplsM ary Jan 27, 2014 12:08 PM

                                          I had to return rancid peanuts not so long ago. I know the turnover for nuts of all varieties is high at this store, so I was really surprised. I also had to return a jar of rancid peanut butter.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: MplsM ary
                                            RussTheRaccoon Jan 27, 2014 03:11 PM

                                            I just had a jar of peanut butter go rancid on me, never had that happen before. I did have it longer than usual, but still. My impression is TJ's doesn't handle items well in shipping and that refrigerated items may get too warm.

                                            1. re: RussTheRaccoon
                                              MplsM ary Jan 27, 2014 03:24 PM

                                              I give up on the peanut butter. I've had two rancid jars (when first opened, within a week of purchase) now. Ironically, I just opened the 2nd bad jar after my last post.

                                              1. re: MplsM ary
                                                coll Jan 29, 2014 05:19 AM

                                                They're probably still working on that initial shipment, now that everyone's wise to the problem.

                                                Just remembered, didn't they have a recall on peanut butter not long ago? Bet there's lots of people that are still scared to buy it.

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