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Trader Joe's: Rancid Nuts??

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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. 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

      Thanks. I contacted them earlier, and nothing changed.

    2. 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

        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. 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

          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

            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

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

        2. 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

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

          2. 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

              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

                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

                  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

                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

                  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

                    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. 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. 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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                          ...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

                            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

                              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

                                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

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

                            2. re: josephnl

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

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Kat

                            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

                              Lawd, yes.

                              1. re: Kat

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

                                1. re: Kat

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

                                2. re: Kat

                                  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

                                    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

                                      Huh? So you mean unshelled?

                                      1. re: mcf

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

                                        1. re: daviryan

                                          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. 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

                                      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

                                        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. 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. 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. 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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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.