I have long avoided Trader Joe's kale chips because the only thing I like more than spending money is saving it. And to me, spending extra on a small 2 oz package of something easily homemade with minimal effort is enough to solicit an eye roll, unless the product tastes better than what I can replicate in my humble kitchen. In any event, these plopped into my hands by way of a friend. Who am I to refuse a Trader Joe's snack? :P
Gotta give props to the comic strip inspired packaging, designed probably to get skeptical customers to try kale chips. This isn't the first though. TJs already has another packaged kale chip in zesty nacho flavor. Haven't tried it but apparently it is a love it or hate it kind of thing.
I'm not quite understanding that last sentence - "left on their own, kale chips tend to turn to kale dust - just as a good superhero should." Wait what? I might be undercaffeinated, but somebody explain that to me.
Also note that the entire bag contains 2 servings. Yeahhhh like I'm going to tear open a small bag and only eat a few kale chips. When has that ever happened, hah.
Basically I expect two different reactions to this product: either piqued interest or disgust. Based on what I had heard about TJ's kale chips in the past, I expected to be in the latter camp even though I quite like kale chips. There's a good amount of big chunks or shrubs, which is a good sign because if it's like $3.99 for a teeny tiny bag hopefully it's not all kale flakes or dust.
I actually found them moderately pleasing, surprisingly, and ate probably most of the bag before A could try. A thought they were alright and said the flavor reminded him of the broccoli salad at the garden bar at Ruby Tuesdays (so specific! Also..what? It definitely does not taste that mayo-y). They don't the typical "salty crunchy" category. They aren't particularly salty, like a potato chip, but somehow the nuttiness of the tahini and cashew butter (with a very mild backdrop of that carrot/onion/garlic spice blend) does translate to a savory taste. Sort of. It's hard to describe - maybe 50% to a soy sauce-ISH taste without the salt. And because there wasn't a strong saltiness, the baseline bitterness of the kale stood out a little more. Again, not particularly unpleasant for me, but I think this is a turnoff, especially if you aren't already inclined to "granola-crunchy-healthy-tasting-snacks."
The flavor distribution is all over the place. Some pieces have a ton of that tahini/cashew while others only have a light dusting. The texture wasn't all that bad but since it is air-crisped, it's kind of dry. Not stale, not quite entirely freeze dried, still crunchy, but just kinda..old. It's like the difference between bagged popcorn and the fresh popped stuff. I definitely prefer the texture of oven-fresh kale chips. They come out light, crispy, and not as dried out (plus pieces that soak up the olive oil you roast it in are the bomb).
I won't be repurchasing 2 oz of kale chips for $3.99. But it's an okay pick, taste wise particularly for the health/green vegetable-inclined. If you want to make your own kale chips, I recommend the Organic Tuscan Kale. Give them a try!
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Seasoned Kale Chips. Savory, nutty-ish kale chips for some, sawdust for others. 6 out of 10. Mantou Joe repurchase? Pass.