Behold. The battle of the dried mangoes. Why dried? Because the battle of the non-dried mangoes has already been won by the sweet succulent mangoes of Taiwan. They're actually orange-red (or rorange) when you buy them in the market! There is no comparison, though I hear Central America can give her a run for her money too.
Anyway, I've relied on the Trader Joe's Soft & Juicy Mango for a few years now to fulfill my dried mango cravings on occasion. At $1.99 per bag, my self-control usually allows me to have 3ish servings per bag. Not my favorite dried mango product by any means but it does get the job done 99% of the time. I've always wanted to compare this one and the Trader Joe's Just Mango Slices. The product only has two different words in the name but as you can see, they look pretty different. Well certainly, the Just Mango costs a dollar more for the same amount of product. Three dollars for a bag of dried mango I can probably kill in a two sittings or so? Not worth it. But for this blog? It's been a long time coming.
Left (Soft & Juicy): Has added sugar, glycerin, mango juice, and sulfur dioxide for freshness. MADE IN THAILAND.
Right (Just Mango): Dried mangoes only. NO added sugars or sulfur. Interestingly also way more vitamin A, iron, vitamin C, and a smidgen more fiber. So for the crunchy people (nothing wrong with being crunchy! I'm crunchy from time to time. After all I have gone public with my love for kale), this is your pick. MADE IN MEXICO. Had no idea dried mangoes came out of Mexico, but it makes sense.
Soft & Juicy: If you've ever had dried mangoes, these are what I imagine them to be. Pliable, long, kind of sticky strips.
Just Mango: I noticed a number of these mangoes had a waffle-pattern on it. Not sure if these mangoes are pressed when dried. They also appear thinner and more freeze dried than just dried like the Soft & Juicy. The Soft & Juicy are more dried like how raisins are dried (dried but still potentially plumpy) whereas the Just Mango seem to have all the life sucked out from them.
Another comparison: the two left are the Soft & Juicy and the two right are the Just Mango. Visible size difference. It also appears that both mangoes start turning brown a few days after opening. Merp.
As for the taste test, I alternated between both in attempt to decide which one I like better. I even did a blind taste test with A. After consuming like half the bag, I concluded that I liked the Just Mango better whereas A said he liked the sulfur-ladden Soft & Juicy better. What??
Texture advantage: Soft & Juicy. While this product is only sort of soft and not at all juicy, it is at least CHEWY, probably because of the thickness. The Just Mango is very tough, like fruit leather. If I wanted to make a shoe out of dried fruit, I'd use the Just Mango. I had to give my jaw a rest after eating that stuff. The arduous mastication tired me out. If you like conquering your food, this is the one for you.
Taste advantage: Debatable. Depends on your taste preference. After I got used to the Just Mango texture, I found the mild taste very pure and refreshing, like real mango* rather than mango flavor. As I went back and forth between the two, the Soft & Juicy started to taste more and more artificially sweet. Whereas A said the Soft & Juicy tasted more like real dried mango, maybe because "real dried mango" is actually quite processed.
Quality advantage: Just Mango. Okay, I haven't had enough bags of Just Mango to be an accurate judge BUT in my experience, I've found that the Soft & Juicy product quality is inconsistent. I've had bags that were bitter, sometimes overly sour, and super chemically. Even within the same bag, I've had mangoes that were pretty decent and others that were disgusting, to the point where I've wanted to return the product entirely. In contrast, the last piece of Just Mango tasted the same as the first - unimpressive at first taste but ultimately minimalist, which is a good thing if that floats your boat.
Verdict? NO CONTEST. Neither dried mango product comes near my fav, made in the Philippines. But if I had to pick, I'd cross my fingers and hope for a good batch of the Soft & Juicy, and if I were feeling crunchy, I'd go for the Just Mango.
Trader Joe's Soft & Juicy Mango. Oh the lengths I will go to satisfy my mango craving! 6.5 out of 10.
Trader Joe's Just Mango. Mango fruit leather for the crunchy people. 6.5 out of 10.
*"Real mango" does not include Taiwanese mango. Taiwanese mango is in its own category, just sayin.