Here's the Best of Everything We've Ever Tasted
We do a lot of market taste tests here at MyRecipes—you could say, it’s kind of our thing. And after determining the best yellow cake mix, tortilla chips, tomato soup, and much more, we've decided to put all our findings in one place for your shopping convenience. Enjoy.
We Tried 10 Bottled Waters and This Tasted the Best
Before we get started here, let’s address the big green elephant in the room: Everyone should have a reusable water bottle.
Living on bottled water alone is both wasteful and expensive. Don’t do it, you guys. (And if you do, for the love, please recycle).
However, things happen. People get stuck in the airport, forget their reusable drinking vessel at home, or—we’ve all been there—are forced to purchase something after using a gas station bathroom.
For those situations, you might have to shell out a few bucks on a plastic bottle. If you gotta do it, you might as well buy the one that tastes the best, right? That’s why, for science, I bought 10 of the most popular brands of bottled water on the market and forced my coworkers to taste them along with me.
If your favorite wasn’t tested or didn’t rank well, rest assured: We mean no offense.
All of these bottles tasted like water. None were Earth-shatteringly delicious and none were gross. But our testers with more refined palates (i.e. not me) were able to detect nuanced differences in taste and quality. Here are our results, ranked from worst to best:
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Price: $1.99 for a 20-ounce bottle
This was our least favorite of the bunch. Testers thought it tasted “too purified” and almost like “school fountain water.” Sorry, Aquafina.
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Price: $2.49 for a 1-liter bottle
Somewhat shockingly, we didn’t love Evian. I totally didn’t see this coming, as I’ve always thought Evian was the bougiest bottle out there. (Remember when Serena Williams made waves for taking a $5,000 Evian bath?)
Unfortunately, our testers thought it tasted like tap water, and they didn’t care for the aftertaste.
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Price: $2.29 for a 33.8-ounce bottle
Like Aquafina, people thought LIFEWTR tasted “too purified” and a bit chemically. While nobody hated it, one person said it tasted like coins—and that’s not exactly something you want in your water.
LIFEWTR does, however, get a few points for its artsy lable design.
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Price: $2.29 for 30-ounce bottle
Core proved to be about as divisive as water can be. One tester said its minerally aftertaste was unappealing, while someone else thought it was quite crisp and refreshing. Another called it “just OK.” So do with that information what you will.
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Price: $1.99 for a 20-ounce bottle
Dasani tasted exactly like what you’d expect a bottled water to taste like: Water, but in plastic.
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Price: $2.99 for a 27-ounce bottle
Most people were pretty indifferent to Voss—one tester simply said, “It tastes like water.” That’s kinda what we’re after, though, right?
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Price: $1.69 for a 16.9-ounce bottle
The only sparkling drink on the list, I wasn’t sure whether to include Perrier in this taste test.
Maybe it was because it stood out in a sea of still water, but everyone enjoyed its inoffensive fizziness and crisp flavor.
“You had me at bubbles, Perrier,” said one tester.
3. Deer Park
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Price: $1.99 for a 1-liter bottle
Deer Park, you impressed us. This was the clear dark horse in the lineup, and many of us remember being forced to drink this brand in elementary school. However, any unpleasant memories are likely unrelated to the water itself. Deer Park was pleasant, clean-tasting, and one of the cheapest (by volume) bottles we tried.
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Price: $1.99 for a 17-ounce bottle
Were we influenced by this brand’s beautiful bottle? Maybe. But all of our testers thought Fiji had a distinct flavor—it was minerally and almost earthy, but in a good way. One person said, “I feel richer drinking this.”
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Price: $2.49 for a 1-liter bottle
Whether we’re chopping off our hair or chugging bottled water, Jennifer Aniston has never steered anyone wrong. That’s just a fact.
Smartwater, the overwhelming favorite, tasted clear and pure. The lack of any aftertaste at all was a welcome surprise—it is water, after all.
We Tried and Ranked the 12 Best Frozen Pepperoni Pizzas in the Game
It was an exciting day in our test kitchen when 12 hot-out-the-oven pizzas were spread out on the lunch table. After a serious assessment of “Does This Spark Joy?,” our team of talented taste-testers gave their input for the best and worst pies. Our selections came from Whole Foods, Publix, and Piggly Wiggly to represent a solid sampling across the supermarket spectrum. To keep it fair, all testers tried the pizzas without any knowledge of the brand or price, although some of the more seasoned frozen pizza connoisseurs recognized Freschetta and DiGiorno on first glance (that rising crust, though).
There were some strict rules in play.
- MUST be a pure representation of pepperoni pizza. No extras, no half-and-halfs, no plain-ol’ cheese. This did rule out some worthy contenders (Amy’s, Trader Joe’s, California Pizza Kitchen—we’re looking at you). But we had to have some constants, right?
- Only the original crust varieties made the cut. We left out any thin-crust styles unless that’s the only way they come. Gluten-free friends were also included.
Now, here are the rankings for best freezer-aisle pepperoni pizza:
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12) Full Circle Gluten Free Uncured Pepperoni Primo Hand-Crafted Pizza, $6.39
Most were surprised to hear that Piggly Wiggly carries gluten-free pizza options, though none were impressed with the product. The rice, potato, and tapioca crust lacked flavor while the mozzarella cheese had a rubbery texture. The price is fair, but keep in mind you’ll only get 2 servings out of this itty bitty pie.
“This isn’t good.”
11) GreenWise Organic Uncured Beef Pepperoni Pizza, $5.99
Publix’s signature organic pizza wasn’t a top choice on first glance. The pepperoni darkened in the oven giving the already bland-tasting topping an off-putting color. Some tasters liked the crispy crust while others compared it to the likes of cardboard. However, we respect organic ingredients at $5.99.
10) O That’s Good! Classic Crust Uncured Pepperoni Pizza, $7.99
We all know how Oprah loves her bread, which is why we were surprised to find out her line of specialty pizzas is following the low-carb cauliflower crust trend. Well, kind of. The box says it has a “twist of cauliflower” but promises it’s “so delicious you won’t taste the difference.” Our tasters weren’t having that. They took note of too much grease, an unappealing sauce and a crust that was far too fluffy for pizza. That’s okay, Oprah, we love you anyway.
“I do not like any of the flavors of this pizza.”
9) 365 Everyday Value® Thin Crust Pizza - Pepperoni, $4.99
Whole Food’s signature pepperoni pizza was far from wowing the judges. As for aesthetics, the cheese and uncured pepperoni appeared pretty sad and lifeless. Some thought the texture was good while the flavor was too sweet. Others thought the garlic and oregano-heavy tomato sauce had a flavor similar to “Gardetto’s seasoning… which in this case is a bad thing,” one editor wrote. Even if you don’t love the pizza, it’s hard to hate the price.
“Kind of like one big Bagel Bite.”
8) Three Bakers Mild Pepperoni Whole Grain Thin Crust Gluten-Free Pizza, $8.99
One of the two gluten-free contenders, this Whole Foods find wasn’t a huge hit, even with higher-quality ingredients. Surprisingly, the cracker-thin crust was the most appreciated element delivering a toasty, herby flavor and a satisfying crunch. However, that needed a sauce with more flavor and toppings that don’t taste like “chemicals and sadness.”
“I like thin crust in theory, but this lacks sauce.”
7) Home Run Inn Uncured Pepperoni Pizza, $8.99
Home Run Inn’s classic 1947 pizzeria recipe brought nostalgia will full force. With a thick, crunchy crust and blanket of thick, gooey cheese, our tasters were immediately taken back to Chuck E. Cheese, the middle school lunch line, or a roller rink birthday party. Despite the influx of good mems, it was difficult to get over the greasiness and overly-sweet sauce.
“Not the best quality, but a good experience.”
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6) Newman's Own Thin & Crispy Uncured Pepperoni Pizza, $6.99
The tasting team seemed neither impressed nor disappointed by this all-natural ‘za. The thin, multigrain crust and light spread of sauce more closely resembled a flatbread than a pizza, but the crust and uncured pepperoni were equally well-seasoned. We could just use a little more cheese, please.
“Not the best, but easy to keep going.”
5) Tombstone Original Pepperoni Pizza, $5.27
The iconic no-box pizza got props for its extra little chunks of pepperoni. As far as toppings go, the pizza had an admirable amount of cheese and flavorful pepperoni. But all in all, tasters found the sauce way too sweet and the crust underdone and unfulfilling.
“I’m actually not mad at this pizza.”
4) DiGiorno Original Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza, $6.71
For a dough-tastic frozen pie, DiGiorno has you covered. But most tasters couldn’t get past the airy crust, calling it overwhelming, sauce-less, and even undercooked after a full bake. The cheese didn’t melt together as expected, which gave it a greasy and “weird” look. The flavor of the sauce was an unexpected redeeming quality.
“Sweet and doughy. Not my style.”
3) Red Baron Brick Oven Pepperoni Frozen Pizza, $4.79
Earning two crowd favorite nominations, this pizza offers the perfect balance of crust-cheese-sauce our editors were seeking. Some weren’t fans of the cheese, but couldn’t deny the harmonious distribution of toppings. Thick pepperoni added a nice amount of spice to every slice, and the sauce was “reasonably” sweet. For the price, we’re all about this pizza.
“Solid! Would buy.”
2) Freschetta® Naturally Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza, $5.24
Although a fan-favorite, the focaccia-like crust was a divisive factor for this naturally-rising crust pizza. While it definitely had eye-appeal, it wasn’t the top choice for those who don’t love a bready-base. Fluffy crust aside, tasters loved the generous amounts of mozzarella, Provolone, and preservative-free pepperonis—even if they were a bit greasy.
“10/10 will purchase one of these from the convenience store across from my house this weekend.”
1) Screamin’ Sicilian Holy Pepperoni Pizza, $9.29
Looks matched the flavor of this massive pie. The sweet and tart sauce paired with a heaping of Parmesan, Romano, cheddar, and two kinds of mozzarella cheese made the pizza an overall favorite. Tasters were satisfied with the crunch and toasty flavor of the crust and even agreed it had the all-around best pepperoni. Consider this your weekly splurge, but trust us, it’s worth it.
“What I would want to have on a crazy weeknight.”
We Tried 7 Protein Pancake Mixes and This Is the Best One
When stacked against protein pancakes, enhanced shakes, bars, and other supplements simply can’t compare. A chalky, artificial-tasting drink seems cheerless when there’s fluffy, syrup-soaked pancakes to enjoy. Since pancakes can be quickly prepared, a protein-enhanced batter can also be an easy morning option for anyone with enough time to heat up the stove. But with so many companies developing their own mix, it can be hard to know which brand delivers the best pancake taste. That’s why we tested seven brands of protein pancake mixes this week, all of which are available in stores are online. Here’s our rankings, from best to worst.
A note: some protein pancake brands give instructions for substitutions that can increase the total protein content in a serving. Usually these substitutions involve swapping water for milk, adding an egg, adding oil, or all three. Whenever the instructions suggested a substitution, we went for whichever method provided the highest protein content. We’re trying to bulk up, y’know?
Birch Benders Performance Protein Pancake and Waffle Mix ($6.33 per 16oz bag)
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This mix packs 16 grams of protein into three or four pancakes. The smallest suggested portion, if eaten alone, would provide 32 grams overall. But despite that relatively high protein count, the batter doesn’t taste much different from conventional pancake mixes. Birch Benders’ pancakes were slightly sweet and tasted faintly of vanilla, even without syrup, and the batter crisped up nicely when fried in butter. We would definitely keep this one in our pantry.
Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes, Flapjack, & Waffle Baking Mix in Buttermilk ($4.48 per 20oz box)
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Kodiak Cakes is probably one of the most recognizable brands in our lineup, and there’s a reason for the company’s relative popularity. The product is a good, basic choice for those looking to swap out a regular mix for a higher-protein version. Kodiak Cakes’ one downside is that the batter seems to take longer to cook than most pancake mixes. You’ll want to make a smaller pancake, or turn down your heat a bit more, or both. But beyond that slight technical issue, it’s probably one of the best and most affordable choice for getting a boost in with breakfast. Plus, the mix is customizable; on its own, it provides 14 grams of protein per serving, but if you use milk instead of water and add an egg, the per serving protein amount jumps to 21 grams.
Krusteaz Protein Pancake Mix in Buttermilk ($4.39 per 20oz box)
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Krusteaz tastes pretty close, if not identical, to Kodiak Cakes. Close your eyes and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. The biggest change to this mix is that it’s slightly cheaper, and it cooks a little better. The protein amount is pretty comparable too; Krusteaz has 15 grams when mixed with water, and delivers 20 when you add milk and egg. I’d probably reach for Krusteaz over Kodiak, but they’re basically interchangeable.
Best Whole Grain Taste
Flapjacked Protein Pancake & Baking Mix in Buttermilk ($11.99 per 24oz bag)
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If you’re really into a whole grain flavor, this mix is for you. Made principally from oat flour, it definitely provides more of an earthy taste than some of the other mixes. And each serving delivers about 20 grams of protein. But even if whole grains are your favorite part of a balanced breakfast, Flapjacked’s price is a little hard to swallow. You could buy three boxes of Kodiak Cakes for one bag of Flapjacked. It might be worth saving only for special occasions.
Not Our Favorites, But Still Pancakes
Phoros Protein Pancake Mix ($19.99 per 12oz bag)
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At 30 grams of protein per serving, Phoros seems like a potentially good option. But it smells, and tastes, like artificial bananas. Why? We’re not quite sure. Nothing in the ingredients immediately leapt out as the banana culprit. The pancakes themselves cooked up fine, so if you like artificial bananas, this mix might be the one. But given the weird taste and the price for such a small amount, we probably won’t be grabbing this one again.
MET-Rx High Protein Pancake Mix in Original Buttermilk ($26.71 per 64oz container)
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MET-Rx’s movie theater butter taste remains as big of a mystery as Phoros’s banana essence. It’s not a bad flavor option for a pancake mix, but when you’re not expecting it, it’s still a little off-putting. Still, the mix does contain 18 grams of protein per serving, which is respectable. The only other upside of this literal tub of pancake mix is that you’ll definitely be buying in bulk; four pounds is the default size. But since the cost breaks down to roughly $9 per 20oz, you could definitely do better by sticking with the cheaper options above.
Don’t Waste Your Time
P28 The Original High Protein Pancake Mix in Buttermilk Buckwheat ($13.99 per 16oz container)
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From start to finish, this mix was a disaster. The batter is extremely thin, and the pancakes never puff up, so you’re left with slightly crispy discs and zero fluffiness. Supposedly P28 packs 28 grams of protein into two pancakes, but it’s hard to care when the results are so disappointing. And the taste is equal to whatever you cooked the batter in; it has no flavor on its own. It’s technically food, but that’s about the highest praise we can offer.
We Tried 5 Brands of Refrigerated Cookie Dough and the Winner was Surprising
Refrigerated cookie dough stands tall (along with boxed brownie and muffin mix) amongst iconic supermarket shortcuts to making a truly quick-and-easy treat possible. And in general, cookies simply bring joy—especially chocolate chip cookies. The thing about pre-made cookie dough is that, for many, it holds almost as much nostalgic value as a homemade cookie made using the recipe from the back of the chocolate chip bag. Almost everyone has memories of pulling apart refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (probably a specific brand of it), plopping the blobs on a cookie sheet, sending them into the oven—and within a few minutes, enjoying warm and gooey cookies...that you made. And honestly, the stuff is so convenient to prepare that we’ve all gone through phases when making cookies from scratch seemed like an unfathomable hassle (right?).
Given what an irreplaceable stand-by refrigerated cookie dough is in the busy home cook’s kitchen, we wanted to find the best brand of refrigerated cookie dough on grocery store shelves. There was a noticeable distinction among the brands that our team put to the taste test. We included the classic brands that most grew up with, and a few “new age” brands that challenged what we know refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough to be.
Overall, this cookie taste test revealed an evolution of how consumers seemingly prefer their chocolate chip cookies today. One editor even mentioned that he wanted to have a sprinkle of sea salt over the contestants to balance the sweetness of the cookies… not the reaction one would likely have had to a shortcut cookie a decade ago. Even the hype over those viral Instagram salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies reflects a shift in the way we perceive what chocolate chip cookies can be. With that being said, our collectively changing palate revealed an unexpected winner to our cookie taste test.
5. Our Least Favorite:Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies (24-count, $2.87)
These legacy cookies had the familiar “fake” flavor even though the packaging label notes that they’re free of artificial colors and flavors. These cookies came out slightly more pale in color compared to the other brands and lacked the appropriate dispersion of chocolate chips per cookie. All in all, the cookies tasted decently edible enough not to turn them down if they were offered, but they wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice.
4. Annie’s Organic Chocolate Chunk (12-count, $5.39)
Of all the cookie doughs, Annie’s spread the most in the oven resulting in the thinnest (and crispiest) cookies of the batch. The cookies had a nice nutty, browned butter flavor. However, the chocolate chunks were deceptively small; we definitely expect something called a chunk to be larger and well, chunkier, than what Annie’s brand was packing. These cookies could have used a pinch more salt in the dough to balance their sweetness. Redemption point: As the packaging says, “made with goodness,” all the ingredients are organically sourced and that’s something to feel good about if you’re making these for the fam.
3. Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies (24-count, $2.88)
The tried-and-true OG of the cookie dough world is the beloved Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, which sadly landed in the middle of the pack. If anything, these cookies reminded people of their childhood, and that’s significant. These cookies baked the most even and were all very uniform; they were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Though a few newcomers to the cookie dough game were not utterly impressed with the classic go-to, if you continue to reach for this brand, we can’t blame you.
2. Immaculate Organic Chocolate Chunk (12-count, $4.49)
Immaculate brand makes their cookies from organic and fair trade certified ingredients. Beyond that, these cookies offered the perfect ratio of chocolate chips to cookie, and the texture hit a balance of delightfully crisp and chewy. When baked, the cookies were not too thick or too thin—they were just right. The buttery vanilla flavor was what you’d expect from a standard chocolate chip cookie, and we were pleasantly surprised by this brand.
1. The Wildcard Winner:Sweet Loren’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies (12-count, $4.49)
Overall, Sweet Loren’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies were entirely different from all the other brands. For starters, the cookie dough had a much more natural aesthetic. The dough itself was visibly darker in color due to the use of molasses and a whole grain flour blend, compared to the standard all-purpose flour. The dough was firm and pre-cut into hefty sized cylindrical pieces. When the cookies baked, they were thick, fluffy, soft, chewy, and a little crispy all at the same time. The Sweet Loren’s line of cookies prides themselves on producing GMO-free, dairy-free, and artificial flavoring-free cookies made with simple ingredients, and we were somewhat shocked to find that, as a group, we found them to be the most delicious.
We Tried 10 Bags of Frozen French Fries—And This Was Our Favorite
We’re big French fry fans here at MyRecipes. From waffle to curly, we love ‘em all. Here’s what we don’t love: The flavorless, soggy fries we associate with the freezer aisle.
It’s not that frozen fries are bad, per se. I mean, a fried potato’s a fried potato. But you have to admit: They’re usually kinda underwhelming compared to the real thing. Usually.
As it turns out, there are some pretty stellar frozen fries out there. We tried 10 varieties and picked our favorites—so you don’t have to.
Alexia Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries, $3.85
Perfectly seasoned with a nice crunch, these restaurant-quality waffle fries won our blind taste test by a landslide. The blend of sea salt, pepper, and onion is reminiscent of Arby’s Curly Fries—but, as one tester pointed out, the seasoning might actually work better on a waffle-shaped fry. “There are more crevices to hold the flavor,” they said.
WATCH: Mom vs. McDonald's French Fry Hack
Checkers Seasoned Famous Fries, $2.99
Most complaints about frozen fries concern sogginess—but that’s certainly not an issue with Checker’s/Rally’s signature fries. Honestly, they taste exactly like you’d expect a freshly made French fry to taste. The strong black pepper flavor was a delicious surprise, too.
Ore-Ida Garlic & Black Pepper Steakhouse Fries, $3.09
The OG frozen fry brand offers plenty of choices for potato lovers. Of the four Ore-Ida products we tried (these, Zesty Curly, Golden Crinkle, and Golden Steak), this was the clear winner. Most of us are usually #TeamCurly, but we were all shocked at how much we liked these flavorful steak fries. They could definitely be a little crunchier, but, hey, nobody’s perfect.
Market Pantry Waffle-Cut Fries, $1.79
Target clearly had Chick-fil-A in mind when they came up with these—and we’re not complaining. While these aren’t as good as Chick-fil-A waffle fries, they could definitely hold their own in a fight.
We Tried 10 Canned Tomato Soups and This Was the Best
There’s nothing more comforting or crave-worthy than a warm bowl of tomato soup—and that’s why it’s so disappointing when the canned stuff doesn’t live up to your expectations. It’s often too sweet, artificial-tasting, or just otherwise unpleasant.
But, when you’re in a rush or when you’re not in the mood to cook, cracking open a can of ready-to-heat tomato-y goodness is pretty darn appealing. We tried 10 cans of tomato soup (all widely available in the soup aisle at regular grocery stores) to discover which were the cream of the crop. And don’t worry: We had grilled cheese sandwiches to help us along—we’re not animals.
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Here’s what we found.
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Amy’s Cream of Tomato ($2.25)
You could 100 percent get away with throwing this on the stove, hiding the can deep in the trash, and claiming it as your own secret family recipe. The ingredient list is simple—tomato purée, water, cream, cane sugar, onions, sea salt, and black pepper—and the flavor is wonderfully balanced.
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Progresso Tomato Basil ($2.50)
Another authentic-tasting option. The ingredients aren’t quite as wholesome as Amy’s, but this can never claimed to be organic and preservative-free. We love the smooth and hearty texture, as well as the recognizable basil flavor.
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Progresso Organic Tomato Basil ($2.50)
Progresso’s organic version of its tomato soup weirdly tastes more "canned" than its non-organic counterpart. In fact, this tastes exactly like the base of our favorite Chef Boyardee classics like Beefaroni and Ravioli—and we definitely don’t hate it.
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Progresso Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper ($2.50)
Most of us were big fans of the intense red pepper flavor, but others thought it was a bit too sweetly bold. Regardless, we unanimously agreed that it delivered exactly what it promised.
Eh, These Are OK:
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Campbell’s Condensed Tomato, Campbell’s Homestyle Harvest Tomato With Basil, Wolfgang Puck Basil Bisque, and Amy’s Vegan Tomato Bisque
These four cans tasted like we expected canned tomato soup to taste: not terrible, but not great. Cambell’s Condensed Tomato (which gets points for being an O.G.) and Amy’s Vegan Tomato Bisque were excessively sweet.
Campbell’s Homestyle Harvest Tomato With Basil had a nice texture, but the herbs tasted stale.
As for Wolfgang Puck: We’re not really sure what was going on there. We loved the light, herbal flavors, but were put off by its bizarre texture and lack of saltiness.
Don’t Waste Your Time:
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Amy’s Chunky Tomato Bisque and Campbell’s Well Yes! Tomato Carrot Bisque
Well Yes! straight-up tasted like melted Play-Doh. It was weird and we didn’t like it one bit.
Amy’s, meanwhile, was confusingly metallic. Perhaps we got a bad batch, but we couldn’t recommend it.
We Tried 5 Instant Tom Yum Noodles And These Were the Best
When it comes to instant noodles in America, ramen is the reigning king. Packets of Maruchan and Top Ramen tend to find their way into cupboards and college dorm rooms whenever tasty budget meals are needed on hand. But our singular fixation on a couple of brands of instant ramen has come at the cost of exploring other convenient hot noodle dishes. For instance, instead of deciding between packets of chicken, pork, or beef ramen yet again, you could dig into a bowl of tom yum.
Thai hot and sour soup translates well to instant package form, making it a perfect pick for when you want something easy and hot, but aren’t craving the more earthy, savory taste of ramen. For this taste test, we dug into five brands of tom yum instant noodles, all of which are available online. Here are our rankings, from best to worst.
FF Tom Yum Flavor Instant Noodle Bowl ($3.19 per bowl)
FF produces one of the most comprehensive, and cutely packaged, instant noodle meals we’ve ever seen. In addition to a bowl with an included lid for steaming the noodles, the meal includes dehydrated vegetables, a flavor packet, an oil sachet, and even a little fork. The included oil really goes a long way toward making this dish stand out, as it improves the quality of the broth tremendously. FF’s noodles are also worthy of praise; the texture and flavor are both hearty, and the noodles seem to resist becoming overly saturated by the broth. FF’s bowls are a little expensive, but worth it if you’re in the mood for a hearty instant meal.
Annie Chun’s Tom Yum Soup Bowl with Hokkien Noodles ($4.34 per bowl)
The standout feature of Annie Chun’s meals are usually the noodles, and that holds true in this case as well. The included hokkien noodles plump up nicely in the water, and are further aided by the accompanying sauce and dehydrated vegetables. Despite claiming medium levels of heat, Annie Chun’s tom yum isn’t very spicy, and the fish sauce taste is definitely stronger than the citrus, but it’s definitely a tasty option if you can afford the price.
Wai Wai Tom Yum Mun Goong Instant Noodle ($0.87 per packet)
The power of the oil packet is proven yet again with Wai Wai’s noodle. Despite containing only a dry seasoning packet and a small packet of oil, this brand was one of the tastiest, and cheapest, options we tried. The broth for this variety also delivers a good amount of spice compared to the other brands. If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, this may not be your favorite. But in terms of bang for your buck, Wai Wai is the way to go.
Not Our First Picks
Maggi 2 Minute Noodles Tom Yam Flavor ($2.39 per packet)
Given that this variety costs almost as much as our top picks, you would hope that it would stand out. Alas, it tastes almost exactly like Maruchan’s lime chili flavor with shrimp, which means it mostly tastes like lime. If you’re really into citrus, that might not be a bad thing, but you’d be better off paying $1.19 a packet for Maruchan directly and saving half the cost.
Mama Instant Noodle Tom Yum Spicy Shrimp Flavor ($0.90 per packet)
You would think, given that this variety also includes an oil packet, that this would be one of our budget-friendly picks. And we are impressed by the fact that Mama Instant Noodle chose to separate its chili powder from the rest of the flavoring in the dry seasoning packet, since that option may be best for those more sensitive to spice. Oddly, though, we can’t detect much heat in this tom yum variety. In fact, we can’t discern much flavor at all. The shrimp and lime taste is very mild, to the point of being non existent. Since they’re at similar price points, you might as well go with Wai Wai instead.
We Tried 4 Canned Cherry Pie Fillings and This Was the Best
It’s finally almost July, and that can only mean one thing: cherry pie season. Cherries are at their peak right now, and a certain American holiday on the horizon pretty much guarantees you’ll have a slice of cherry pie right before gazing at fireworks.
But to new bakers, pie can be intimidating, especially when it’s filled with a finicky fruit like fresh cherries. While nothing beats homemade cherry pie, there’s no shame in using a canned filling, which leaves little margin for error. Plus, some canned pie filling is downright delicious.
So we did that thing we do: We bought every brand of cherry pie filling we could find and baked pies using the same crust for each one. Then we held a blind pie tasting, pitting the fillings against one another. Here’s what everyone thought.
Get the recipe: Stars-and-Stripes Cherry Pie
Duncan Hines Comstock Original Country Cherry Pie Filling & Topping
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Along with Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, Duncan Hines has a monopoly on the baking market. They have 12 different varieties of cherry pie filling, and our local Publix didn’t even carry them all, so we went with the option that looked the best. Perhaps we made the wrong choice. Comstock Country Cherry was way too sweet, with a goopy, gelatinous texture, and definitely not what we’d expect out of a brand that makes pretty good box mix. In the words of Tyra Banks, “we were all rooting for you. How dare you?”
Solo Cherry Cake & Pastry Filling
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When I dumped Solo’s cherry filling into a pie crust, it stood out. The cherries in this filling were pureed instead of bulbous balls, so I hypothesized that the Solo pie would have a distinct flavor. Well, that’s not the only thing the pureed cherries affected. This pie was super sweet, but also thick and sticky like the filling inside a Pop-Tart. One taster noted that it tasted “like canned filling with sugar added on top,” which was, in this case, a compliment.
Lucky Leaf Cherry Fruit Filling & Topping
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Unlike the first two, Lucky Leaf's filling had a key component of quintessential cherry pie: tartness. This filling had a nice mixture of tart and sweet flavors, but it wasn’t tangy enough to secure the top spot. One taster also noted that this filling had an artificial, metallic aftertaste.
The Unanimous Winner: Market Pantry Cherry Pie Filling & Topping
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Market Pantry, better known as Target’s in-house brand, was the only pie filling that didn’t get any negative responses. (Interestingly enough, Market Pantry also won our chocolate chip taste test, so clearly they’re doing something right.) Our Market Pantry pie had a great tartness and wasn’t overly sweet like the other brands. The cherries tasted and felt real, and the filling’s texture was much more enjoyable. If you prefer less tartness, then Lucky Leaf is probably the way to go. But if you’re looking for a cherry pie filling that’s both tangy and flavorful, then it’s time for a Target run.
We Tried 11 Types of Tortilla Chips and This Was the Best One
We need to talk about how much we love tortilla chips. They’re the unassuming heroes of Taco Tuesday and nacho night, an always acceptable late night craving quencher, and the glue that holds virtually any hodge-podge appetizer spread together.
They truly don’t get the credit they deserve—and this is an oversight we want to correct.
That’s why we decided to find the best easily accessible tortilla chips money can buy. You’re welcome.
Of the 11 varieties we tried (Santitas, Beanitos, Greenwise, Late July, Mission, two types of Trader Joe’s chips, and four types of Tostitos chips), there weren’t any clear losers. They were all perfectly fine takes on your standard tortilla chip, and we’d be happy to snack on any of them.
However, there was one clear winner.
Tostitos Original Restaurant-Style Tortilla Chips
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Price: $4.29 (party size)
There’s a reason Tostitos is pretty much the grocery store tortilla chip brand: It’s universally appealing. Our tasters said these chips had “the perfect taste and texture” and “the closest you’ll get to restaurant-style outside of a restaurant.”
They weren’t too greasy, too salty, or too bland—everything about these dip-worthy chips was just right.
Hats off to you, Tostitos.
GreenWise White Corn Tortilla Chips
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It’s rare that Publix’s GreenWise line misses the mark, and these tortilla chips are no exception. We love how their saltiness isn’t overpowering, which allows the corn’s natural flavor to shine through.
Santitas Tortilla Chips
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While we probably wouldn’t reach for these to pair with salsa or guac, these sturdy chips would be absolutely perfect for nachos. Santitas is certainly heavy on the salt, so you might want to avoid these if you’re watching your sodium intake.
Tostitos Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips
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Price: $4.29 (party size)
I was hesitant to even include these flavored chips in the lineup, but I’m glad I did. Our testers loved the added zing, and one called the lime a “serious upgrade.”
If you’re not into citrus, you probably won’t love these. If you can’t get enough lime in your diet, though, you’ll definitely want to pick these up on your next grocery store run.
We Tried 7 Different Canned Cocktails—Here Are Our Favorites
If you’ve watched the brilliantly funny, Emmy Award-winning show Fleabag, you’re probably familiar with the Hot Priest’s penchant for canned Gin & Tonics. We first see him pull out a pack when Fleabag visits his church in season two, episode two, and they share a drink together, marking the beginning of their (spoiler alert) star-crossed story.
Canned cocktails, after all, are growing increasingly popular alongside spiked seltzer thanks to their portability and the whole “ready to drink” factor. However, Marks & Spencer, the company that makes the “Gins in a Tin,” revealed that sales rose 24 percent after the episode aired. Series creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and co-star Andrew Scott (the Hot Priest) added more fuel to the Gin in a Tin fire when they handed them out to fans earlier this month in London. With all the hype, we had to wonder—could the Hot Priest be on to something?
In the spirit of Fleabag and science, we decided to have a canned cocktail drinking session of our own, albeit, with a few more options than just Gin & Tonics. After calling in samples, we ended up with canned cocktails from six different brands and 17 drinks total, ranging from lime margaritas and vodka sodas to Bloody Marys and bourbon smashes. The taste testers sampled each one, assessing the drink’s flavor and drinkability, as well as how it compares to the non-canned version of the cocktail. (We've had worse Thursday afternoons.) Turns out, we’re partial to vodka—sorry, Hot Priest. Read on for our favorites from each brand.
Cutwater Spirits Elderflower Vodka Spritz, 7 percent ABV
Availability: 35 states plus D.C.
We found this spritz, which contains Cutwater Fugu Vodka, elderflower, lemon, and “other natural flavors” to be aromatic and floral, with a lightly sweet flavor.
“This reminds me of the Dryck Fläder elderflower juice boxes at Ikea in the best way,” an editor wrote. “Love it.”
Cutwater Spirits Spicy Bloody Mary, 10 percent ABV
Availability: 35 states plus D.C.
This Bloody Mary—made with Fugu Vodka and Cutwater Spicy Bloody Mary Mix—was a true dark horse, and got great reviews for its spicy kick of flavor. It was also smooth and easy to drink.
"So spicy! But also so good," an editor said. "I would 100 percent buy. Add ice and celery and olives and [heart emoji.]"
Durham Distillery Cucumber Vodka Soda, 8 percent ABV
Availability: North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois
Out of all of Durham Distillery’s canned cocktails, this Cucumber Vodka Soda (cucumber-flavored vodka with natural flavors and soda water) was our favorite. It was refreshing and light, and the cucumber flavor wasn’t overpowering.
“I would drink this happily at a picnic,” one editor wrote.
You & Yours Distilling Co. Vodka Mule, 8 percent ABV
Made with You & Yours Vodka and “natural flavor,” the Vodka Mule reigned supreme in the You & Yours spread. We liked how bright it was, with delicate gingery undertones—some editors expressed they wished the ginger flavor was even stronger.
“It’s not too sweet,” an editor said. “I like the little hints of ginger.”
Plain Spoke Cocktail Co. Bourbon Smash, 10 percent ABV
Availability: Wisconsin and Minnesota
Plain Spoke’s canned cocktails had the strongest flavors out of all of the brands. We tried the Bourbon Smash, Moscow Mule, and Mojito, and liked the Bourbon Smash the most. It’s made with bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, and natural mint flavors—the end result was sweet and slightly syrupy.
“This reminds me of a whiskey ginger,” one editor said. “I would buy this.”
Empirical Spirits Minor Threat, 10 percent ABV
Empirical Spirits’ Minor Threat was the most unique canned cocktail we tried. It's made with milk oolong tea, toasted birch, and green gooseberry, and was almost reminiscent of beer, with malty and tea-forward flavors. Overall, it got positive reviews.
“Unusual but tasty,” an editor wrote. “I really like the smoky tea notes.”
Sprezza Vero Spritz Italiano Bianco, 5.2 percent ABV
Availability: 29 states plus D.C.
We tried two of Vero Spritz’s canned drinks, Bianco and Rosso. We loved how the lightly bitter vermouth notes came through in the Bianco, and found it to be a smooth and citrus-y—fitting, as it’s made with Mancino Vermouth and Scrappy’s Bitters.
“Great summer drink,” an editor wrote. “I would put it on ice.”
We Tried 6 Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamers and This Was the Best
Happy PSL season—ahem, I mean fall—everyone! We’re deep into autumn and we celebrated in the best and most basic way we know how.
That’s right: We bought six easily accessible pumpkin spice coffee creamers and tried every. single. one. It's noble work, and we're happy to do it.
Of the six we tried, three stood out as tasty and perfectly acceptable ways to satiate a seasonal craving—but only one was truly the cream of the crop (pun definitely intended).
Best for PSL Lovers:
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If you wait all year for Starbucks to release its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte, this recently released creamer is for you. It was less sweet and a lot more subtle than other contenders, which, depending on who you ask, may or may not be a good thing.
Best Almond Milk Creamer:
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Full disclosure: I think almond milk is gross and accordingly, I thought this creamer was gross. However, I’m told by my healthier, alt-milk-loving coworkers that this is a damn good coffee creamer.
“This has a very complex and good flavor,” one tester said. “You could just drink this straight.”
“Love the spice level and how the almond flavor still shines through,” said another.
To each their own, I suppose.
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Shockingly (to me at least), International Delight’s take on fall’s signature flavor was the runaway winner.
I’ve always thought of Coffee-Mate as the end-all-be-all of coffee creamers and International Delight as a subpar alternative. In fact, heading into this tasting, I truly believed Coffee-Mate had it in the bag.
Boy, was I wrong.
We tried two Coffee-Mate pumpkin spice creamers (classic and Natural Bliss), and everyone found them both cloyingly sweet with an artificial aftertaste.
International Delight, on the other hand, was spicy, authentic-tasting, and pretty much the ideal pumpkin spice experience in every way.
Hats of to you, ID.
We Tried 6 Brands of Strawberry Ice Cream to Find the Best One
True ice cream lovers know there’s something special about strawberry. It’s simultaneously bright and rich; it’s classic without being bland. Compared to some of the loaded choco-chunk varieties, it may even seem a little mild—but that’s simplicity shining in its most beautiful form. It is brilliant and beautiful. Also, it’s pink.
So, we did what we do at MyRecipes: We bought all the strawberry ice cream we could find, and endured the guaranteed bellyache. Sometimes pain is necessary to find an answer.
Note: Straight-up strawberry ice cream is not as widely represented as it deserves to be. Our local grocery stores didn’t carry classic strawberry ice cream from cult brands, such Jeni’s, but had room for plenty of other flavor spin-offs like strawberry cheesecake, which did not meet our qualifications. It’s different, end of story. We also struggled to find any dairy-free strawberry options aside from sorbet, which, while delicious, is not ice cream.
(If you prefer vanilla, click here. Maybe we’ll rank chocolate one day.)
Halo Top Strawberry Light Ice Cream
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If you’re a fan of Halo Top, there’s a chance you might enjoy this one. If not, you might think this tastes like “strawberry-scented sadness,” chemicals, or even a bit like cheese. Halo Top’s strawberry offers a frosty texture and disintegrated instead of melting. So, in short, it’s not ideal.
Blue Bell Strawberry Ice Cream
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This ice cream is exceptionally fluffy (which may or may not be your thing), but uncomfortably (like, Pepto-Bismol) pink. The flavor is more artificial than fresh, but that isn’t too surprising given its medicinal hue. Don’t peep the ingredients list.
Breyers Natural Strawberry Ice Cream
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Breyers’ strawberry ice cream is made with “sun-ripened strawberries” and contains no GMOs whatsoever. It also lacks flavor. You get a hint of strawberry in the cream, and the large, icy strawberry hunks show some effort, but overall, it just didn’t deliver.
Edy’s Strawberry Ice Cream
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Edy’s take on strawberry feels a lot like a kids’ birthday party: slightly artificial, very pink, and super pillowy. Somewhere between bland and mild, it’s enjoyable, especially if millennial pink is your favorite color, but it’s not the best.
The following two brands were extremely close in the rankings—in fact, some of us could hardly tell them apart. There are a few distinctions, namely subtle flavor and textural nuances and a major price gap, that may swing your decision:
Häagen-Dazs Strawberry Ice Cream and Tillamook Oregon Strawberry Ice Cream
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Did we mention this was really hard? Many of our tasters already had a bias towards Häagen-Dazs, which, to be fair, is very good. (“Hands down, the best of all time in the history of strawberry ice cream. That is not an opinion; it is fact,” as one taster noted.) The ice cream itself is ultra milky and rich, and the strawberry ribbons deliver the perfect amount of jammy flavor, without off-putting iciness. Another taster said it was the only choice that actually tastes like strawberries. On the other hand, Tillamook has already perfected cheese, so you know they’ve got dairy game, and they’re not playing around with ice cream. It’s eerily close to Häagen-Dazs, with a slightly milder, more milkshake-like flavor, and a fluffier initial texture. The experience is “like a scoop from an ice cream parlor.” Häagen-Dazs has to soften a bit to arrive at its sweet spot in terms of consistency, but Tillamook is there almost immediately out of the gate.
If flavor is your priority, Häagen-Dazs has the advantage, the carton boasts an impressively concise and easily understood ingredient list—and that shines through in every bite. But if you like your ice cream to hit that more classically scoop shop-like softness, Tillamook is the way to go. There is one other stark difference worth noting: cost. With Tillamook, you’re getting more bang for your buck. A 28-ounce carton of Häagen-Dazs goes for $7.99, while Tillamook’s carton comes in at 1.5 quarts (48 ounces) and costs $6.49. So really, deciding what’s best for you comes down to those factors. We’ll happily take either.
We Tried 7 Boxed Yellow Cake Mixes and This Was the Best
Despite how many stories we may publish about it, the MyRecipes staff remains divided on cake. Half of us aren’t fans whatsoever, while the other half are loyal diehards. That said, whether you love it or hate it, you're eventually probably going to have to bake one. But if you're not looking to make it entirely from-scratch, which box from the grocery store should you buy? We baked seven boxed yellow cakes to determine which could truly be called the best.
Meet the Mixes
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This was a boxed mix battle, so obviously we had to include the giants: Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, and Pillsbury. As you can see by their boxes, those three brands clearly prioritize moisture. Next, we picked up a box of Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix, which is known for its ease and affordability.
On the non-GMO front, we opted for Immaculate’s Yellow Cake Scratch Mix, which I found at Whole Foods. I also picked up a box of King Arthur’s gluten-free mix, both out of a desire for inclusivity and respect for the brand. We also made Simple Mills’ keto-friendly Vanilla Almond Flour Mix, whose six-ingredient batter contains no dairy, soy, gluten, or gum whatsoever. Everyone deserves cake, no matter what kind of allergies they have.
Not Our Favorites, But Still Cake
Most Surprising: Simple Mills Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Almond Flour Mix
“Looks like banana bread, tastes like spice cake.”
This mix is made from almond flour and requires you to add your own vanilla, so I had doubts from the start. As you can see from the box, this cake definitely isn’t yellow, which, paired with the slightly dry texture and bland taste, deterred testers. (Did I make a goof at the store? Maybe, but yellow cake is vanilla cake powered by egg yolks, so I gave myself a pass. Plus, I wanted more than one gluten-free option.)
Most Likely to Feel Like You Made It Yourself: Immaculate Yellow Cake Scratch Mix
“A little too tough and dry.”
I’ll be honest, I tasted a bit of this batter, and it gave me high expectations. Extra ingredients were required since it’s a “from scratch” mix, and they all came together in the bowl like a dream. Once it was baked and ready to eat, however, this cake disappointed. It was dry (one tester asked if we left it in the oven too long; rest assured, we did not) and had a minimally sweet flavor that made it taste more like bread than cake.
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Easiest: Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix
“Decent flavor but dry.”
Jiffy is primarily associated with cornbread, but they also sell an all-purpose baking mix, a few varieties of muffin mixes, and yes, yellow cake mix. Our neighborhood Piggly Wiggly had these going for 84 cents, but it should be noted that there’s only enough product to make one 8-inch cake layer. Preparation is pretty straightforward, with the only additional ingredients being one egg and half a cup of cold water. The finished product’s texture landed somewhere between a white cake and a pancake, with that same subtly sweet flavor found in Jiffy’s cornbread.
Best Texture, Runner-Up: Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Deliciously Moist Cake Mix
“Light and fluffy, nicely sweet.”
While this mix wasn’t disliked, compared to the other brands it was second tier. The texture was fluffy and moist, much like the favorite cake mix of the bunch, but some tasters thought this cake was more like a quickbread, or just weren’t fans of the taste.
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Mixes that Take the Cake
Most Durable: Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix
“Buttery, rich, and addictive.”
The Pillsbury cake didn’t get quite as many favorites as the Betty Crocker or King Arthur, but there was an area where it surpassed every other mix on the table: structure. We cut each cake into bite-size pieces both to ease the tasting process and test how they’d react to a knife. Pillsbury is the only mix that didn’t crumble, and not a single piece of rogue cake stuck to our knives after applying the frosting. If you’re looking to build a cake with several layers or decorate, this is it.
Best Gluten-Free: King Arthur Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
“Very moist and tender, but not fluffy.”
King Arthur’s cake was super moistand had a nice, tamagoyaki-like denseness. Maybe it’s because of the ingredients like rice flour, tapioca starch, cane sugar, and potato starch, but nobody could tell this cake was gluten-free. The dense, satisfying crumb of this cake is likely a product of the additionally ingredients required to make it: milk rather than water, four eggs, and softened butter rather than oil. (By the way, this was definitely the best-tasting raw batter.) This cake is mind-blowingly delicious, but it tastes and feels more like white or angel food cake, so it can’t technically take the “Best Yellow Cake” title.
Best Overall: Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix
“Tasty but not too strong. 5 out of 5.”
Betty Crocker’s got everything you could want in a classic yellow cake: moisture, a texture that’s both spongy and fluffy, and a buttery, sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavor. Its airness makes additional bites that much harder to resist. Another advantage Betty Crocker’s mix had was that it didn’t look as artificially yellow as some of its competitors. While this cake did crumble under the frosting, it tastes so good that you won’t care.
We Tasted 5 Popular Pimiento Cheeses, and These Are Our Favorites
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Southerners are crazy for pimiento cheese. We put it in sandwiches, slather it on crackers, melt it in grilled cheeses, and find endless creative ways to reinvent this classic spread. I first tried pimiento cheese a few years ago, when I'd just moved to the South. One taste and I was hooked. Each week, I scope out the artisanal pimiento cheese stand at my local farmers’ market and snag a sample. Currently, I have three different containers of pimiento cheese in my fridge.
As a vocal pimiento cheese enthusiast, I was bestowed the honor of conducting Southern Living’s official pimiento cheese taste test. (Should this be deemed a national holiday? I think yes.) We tasted five popular store-bought pimiento cheeses to see which best resembled a homemade version of the South’s favorite dip.
First off, let me say that pre-packaged grocery store pimiento is no match to small-batch, locally-produced, or homemade pimiento cheese. I try to make my own pimiento cheese each week—classic pimiento spread on crackers is my go-to midday snack and favorite easy, yet impressive potluck dish. But some days I just don’t have the time. Enter store-bought pimiento.
To determine which pimiento brand tastes like the real deal, we conducted a blind taste test of five popular pimiento cheeses that you can probably find at your local supermarket. We tasted Price’s Pimento Cheese Spread, Trader Joe’s Pimento Cheese Dip, Original Palmetto Cheese Spread by Pawleys Island Specialty Foods, Publix Cheese Spread with Pimentos, and Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread. I spooned all the cheeses into bowls ahead of time to ensure the testers didn’t know which was which. Then, with trusty Saltine crackers as the vehicle for the cheese spreads, Southern Living editors tasted all five pimientos and recorded their comments. Here’s what we thought.
Publix Cheese Spread with Pimentos
This pimiento cheese spread touts the brightest orange color of the bunch, and it packs an intense cheese flavor to match. Similarly, the cheese spread is studded with pimiento peppers; the high quantity of pimientos gives the cheese a strong sweetness and peppery aftertaste.
Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread
Testers commented that the taste of this spread is milder than the other pimiento cheeses, which can likely be explained by the ingredients. The first ingredient listed on the container is “Imitation Salad Cheese;” I’m not sure quite what that means, but it probably can’t rival fresh, extra sharp cheddar. At only 80 calories per serving, Ruth’s Pimento Spread is the lowest in calories, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a healthier option. But hey, if we’re going to have pimiento cheese, we might was well indulge.
Trader Joe’s Pimento Cheese Dip
As a professed Trader Joe’s super-fan, I’ve long awaited the day that my favorite market would release its very own pimiento cheese. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that TJ's would introduce Pimento Cheese Dip as a new product in 2019. Trader Joe’s is known for its high-quality cheese selection, and unsurprisingly, the rich cheddar cheese in its Pimento Dip did not disappoint. One tester remarked, “It tastes like fancy aged cheddar!” I concur. Made with extra sharp cheddar cheese and roasted pimiento peppers, this cheese dip packs a strong, yet not overwhelming flavor. Many pimiento rebels advocate for swapping the namesake pimientos out for roasted red peppers, but Trader Joe’s may just have found the best of both worlds. The brand’s recipe uses roasted pimientos to give its cheese dip a deep, dimensional flavor without completely abandoning tradition and ditching the pimientos.
One important difference to note is that this is a pimiento cheese dip, rather than a spread, which means its consistency is a lot looser than the other cheeses we tried. The texture is slightly thicker than queso, but thinner than a classic pimiento cheese spread. It’s not your traditional Southern pimiento, but it would taste great heated up with tortilla chips for dipping. Throw in some chorizo and you’ve got yourself some Southern pimiento queso.
WATCH: Southern Pimiento Mac and Cheese
Price’s Pimento Cheese Spread
Placing as a close second, Price’s Pimento Cheese Spread won over the testers with its classic flavor and thick-cut shreds of cheddar. On the side of the container, a small paragraph explains the history of Price’s Pimento Cheese—the traditional family recipe first rose to prominence in the 1950s, and today, it’s become a widespread grocery store staple.
What sets this pimiento apart? It’s branded as “sweet and tangy” and certainly lives up to those expectations. Multiple testers observed that this spread looks fresh and homemade. Taste-wise, it's characterized by a sweet bite and a bright hint of tang. Price’s spread includes both pimientos and red bell peppers, maintaining the classic pimiento sweetness while adding bell peppers for depth of flavor. A few testers noted hints of relish and pickle flavor, which can likely be explained by the distilled vinegar added to the cheese spread. Overall a solid, classic choice.
Palmetto Cheese Spread by Pawleys Island Specialty Foods
Ah, Palmetto. It’s the top-selling pimiento cheese in the US—its web domain is literally www.pimentocheese.com—and as expected, this classic pimiento is the runaway favorite. With a bright orange lid and a Comic Sans-like font advertising “The Pimento Cheese with Soul!”, Palmetto Cheese Spread looks—and tastes—homegrown. Originating in South Carolina's Lowcountry, this specialty cheese is now sold in 49 states at over 9,200 locations, so no matter where you are in the country, you too can get a taste of authentic Southern pimiento cheese. The company produces three signature flavors: original pimiento, pimiento with jalapeños, and pimiento with bacon. While the jalapeño version is a favorite amongst our editors, for the sake of standardization, we used original for this taste test.
The primary ingredients of Palmetto Pimento are sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and pimentos, creating the legendary cheese spread that many of our testers recognized instantly. “This has to be Palmetto,” one Southern Living editor said, commenting on the spread’s pale orange color and thickly-grated cheese. “I’ve passed this off as homemade too many times to count,” she laughed. The cheese does taste homemade: It boasts a balanced cheese-to-mayonnaise ratio and a sharp cheddar taste with a little hint of heat. But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some comments from our editors.
“This is the way pimiento cheese was meant to taste. A gift from the good Lord above to anyone who is inept in the kitchen.”
“Perfect balance of savory + sweet + a little spicy.”
“Thick cut cheese + plenty of pimientos = perfect.”
Not convinced? Try a spoonful of Palmetto Pimento for yourself. Before you know it, this cheese will become your new favorite party snack.
We Tried Every Boxed Pinot Noir We Could Find and This Was the Best One
No offense to all you Leos out there, but August is kind of the worst month. It’s hot, summer vacations are becoming a thing of the past, and there aren’t even any holidays to look forward to. I’m so incredibly ready to trade in my sandals for boots, my French vanilla for pumpkin spice, and my breezy rosé for a luscious red.
That’s why, in the spirit of wistfulness, I decided to buy every box of pinot noir I could find.
I’ve raved about my love for boxed wine in the past—you can read more about the wonder that is wine in a cardboard box here and here—so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet: Boxed wines get a bad rap, and that’s a shame. They’re cheap, they’re sustainable, and most boxed brands taste as good as their bottled counterparts (at similar price points).
I’m on a mission to find the best boxes on grocery store shelves, and I’m dragging my coworkers along for the ride, making them taste along with me.
Here’s what our friends at Food & Wine have to say about pinot noir: “When it’s good, it’s ethereally aromatic, with flavors ranging from ripe red berries to sweet black cherries, and tannins that are firm but never obtrusive. When bad, unfortunately, it’s acidic, raspy, and bland.”
Here’s how the boxes I found stacked up:
Not Our Favorites, But Still Wine
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Price: $19 ($4.75 per bottle)
If you prefer grape juice to wine, Franzia’s Pinot Noir/Carmenere was made for you. It’s not our thing, but no judgment if it’s yours.
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Price: $18 ($4.50 per bottle)
Target’s Wine Cube was our favorite boxed rosé, so we were a little surprised that we didn’t love this one. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but the artificial vanilla flavor and strong acidity threw us off a bit.
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Price: $20 ($5 per bottle)
Meh. Black Box’s Pinot Noir is a decent table wine: It’s not great, but it’ll get the job done.
Best For Drinkers With a Sweet Tooth
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Price: $16 ($4 per bottle)
This gave Franzia a run for its money on the sweet front. However, it had a bit more bite to it and we were fans of the cherry and raspberry notes.
Best For Fall
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Price: $17 ($4.25 per bottle)
Cellar Box was my favorite of the bunch, but others found it a bit too full-bodied for a pinot noir. One person said it “tastes like it actually came from a cellar” which, in this instance, is a good thing. The subtle spiciness makes this box perfect for chilly fall nights.
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Price: $18 ($4.50 per bottle)
Naked Grape is famous for its pinot noir, and it’s easy to see why: This wine is extremely mild, yes, but it’s also balanced, smooth, and highly drinkable.
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Price: $20 ($5 per bottle)
Bota Box was the runner-up in each of our last two rankings, and we’re thrilled that this reliable brand finally took the top spot. The box touts a medium body with bright aromas of cherry, blackberry, and cocoa, and the wine inside certainly doesn’t disappoint.
This Is the Absolute Best Canned Chili You Can Buy
We take chili very seriously here at MyRecipes. In fact, our deliciously simple Easy Chili is one of our most popular recipes of all time.
Good homemade chili is not only relatively hands-off, it has a certain special and comforting quality about it that is almost impossible to describe—so why would anyone ever bother with the canned stuff?
This is what we were thinking as we steeled ourselves to tackle the taste test that nobody was looking forward to. We purchased, prepared (a.k.a. heated on the stove), and ate every canned chili we could find in three common grocery stores—Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods—because we’re dedicated, damn it.
One quick note before we move ahead: There are a lot of chili varieties on shelves. If we had tried every single can of turkey, vegetarian, beanless, hot, and mild chili... well, I'm not sure that any tasting panel could stomach that in a single session. In order to provide a fair comparative analysis, we took a no-frills approach to this endeavor: We only tried classic, beef chili with beans.
As expected, most of the options were not great. None were absolutely terrible, and any would be perfectly fine on a hot dog.
But we’re not here to talk about the many, many cans of mediocre store-bought chili. No, we’re here because one brand surpassed our wildest expectations of what a canned chili could or should be: Trader Joe’s Beef Chili With Beans.
One of our testers perfectly summed up our thoughts in one simple sentence: “This is how chili is supposed to taste.”
The $1.99 canned chili is hearty and chunky, but still soup-like enough to give us a perfect-for-fall feeling. The canned concoction actually feels like a bowl of stew, rather than a weird tomato-meat condiment. The flavorful spices are wonderfully traditional—we detected chili powder and cumin—and not overbearing. Jalapeño is listed among the ingredients, but none of us found it to be unpleasantly spicy.
The Trader Joe's chili offers an ample amount of beans (red and kidney), which is more than we can say for some of the other contenders.
But let’s not forget: canned chili is always going to be canned chili. The sodium content is nothing to sneeze at and, no, it’s just not as good as countless homemade recipes that you can easily throw together in a slow cooker.
In a pinch, though, we think TJ’s chili would make a perfectly adequate cool weather dinner.
We Tried 5 Brands of Instant Mac and Cheese and This Was the Best
In all of its incarnations, macaroni and cheese is a touchstone dish that provides orange-coated comfort in the form of an easy, cheesy meal. Cup instant mac deserves its own praise, however, for being a supportive ally during quick, low-effort meals. It knows you’re busy. It knows you’re broke. And it knows you probably only have three minutes—maybe four—to stand around a microwave before indulging in warm, noodly goodness.
But instant mac’s solace comes at a price: It sometimes tastes too artificial, or too flavorless, to be anything other than hot, bland pasta consumed between tasks. That’s why we tried classic cheddar-flavored mac and cheese from five different brands, all of which are available in grocery stores or online. Here’s our rankings, from best to worst.
Best All Around:
Cracker Barrel's Sharp Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Dinner ($2.99)
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At four times the cost of a Kraft cup, this option is obviously a little pricey. In our estimation, though, it’s worth it. The cheese taste is neither artificial nor weak, and the breadcrumb topping is a nice touch. Slightly thicker noodles also provide a texture that’s closer to oven baked. It’s worth the money if you want a microwavable mac more suited to adult taste buds.
Annie's Real Aged Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese ($0.98)
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Annie’s delivers great cheese taste that’s almost as authentic as Cracker Barrel’s. And at a third of the cost of our top pick, it’s kind of hard to knock. Plus, the pasta is organic. Definitely worthy of a spot in your pantry.
Kraft Original Macaroni and Cheese ($0.75)
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If you haven't been living under a cheese-free rock, then you already know what to expect here. Kraft remains the classic against which all other commercial mac is measured. Yes, the cheddar taste is artificial and lacks nuance in flavor, but we still wouldn't change a thing.
Best Creamy Texture:
Velveeta Shells and Cheese ($0.81)
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We have to hand it to Velveeta -- they know how to make a perfectly creamy mac. But once you get past the pleasant mouth feel, there's not much to this. There's no flavor, and the shells don't provide much contrast against the slightly gooey, very soupy accompanying sauce. If you like Velveeta already, this is for you. Otherwise, the above brands are much better options.
Don't Waste Your Time:
Muscle Mac's Macaroni & Cheese ($3.33)
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At 20 grams of protein per serving, Muscle Mac is hypothetically a good post-workout snack. Unfortunately, it tastes distinctly of protein powder. Bad protein powder. The aftertaste is overpowering, and wholly unappetizing. Plus, the texture is slightly gritty, even when the powder is fully incorporated. At more than three bucks a meal, it's simply not worth the disappointment.
If bulking up is your goal, however, our testers managed to salvage this cup a bit by mixing Muscle Mac with Velveeta. The creaminess fixes Muscle Mac's texture, and Muscle Mac reciprocates by lending at least some discernible cheesiness to the Velveeta. Best of both mediocre worlds.
We Tried 12 Boxed Pancake Mixes, and This Was Our Favorite
Without denying that homemade pancakes are almost always superior, there’s something to be said for the convenience of a boxed pancake mix. All the shelf-stable ingredients are combined and ready-to-go whenever an early-morning hankering for fluffy cakes arises—no measuring baking soda or sifting flour required.
As you browse the dozens of offerings in the baking aisle, know that all pancake mixes are not created equal. Some varieties, like Hungry Jack Complete Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix, only call for water to create the batter, while others, like Stonewall Kitchen Farmhouse Pancake & Waffle Mix, require butter, eggs, and milk in addition to the dry mix. The more added ingredients, the closer they’ll taste to homemade. However, is there anything worse than realizing you’re out of eggs and milk when you expect to be minutes away from pancakes?
In this taste test, our editors judged for both fluffiness and flavor, though certain cakes made the ranks for pure nostalgia’s sake. From gluten-free to organic, to brands you can pick up at a gas station, we think we’ve finally found the very best box. If pancakes are your favorite morning treat, this pancake mix will make your breakfast easier, fluffier, and even more delicious.
Best Flavor: King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Pancake Mix
Requiring the most additional ingredients of any taste-tested mix, it was no surprise that this boxed brand had a flavor that rivaled homemade. Although necessitating the most TLC (the batter needs to rest 10 minutes before cooking), our editors loved the sweetness and subtle tang of these cakes, calling the flavor similar to a Nabisco Nilla Wafer. If you’re all about a homemade flavor or need a gluten-free option, this pancake mix should be your go-to.
Try this mix: target.com, $4.29
Absolute Fluffiest: Bisquick Original Pancake and Baking Mix
For intensely fluffy cakes that almost mimic freshly-baked biscuits, pick up this tried-and-true baking mix. The words “sexy” and “oh, yes please” were thrown out in the tasting of this mix, and we loved how a platter of these pancakes transported us to a favorite neighborhood diner. The best part? These fluffy cakes are surprisingly filling, so it only takes a few batches to keep your crew full all morning long.
Try this mix: target.com, $3.39
Tastes Like Childhood: Annie’s Organic Pancake & Waffle Mix
If you’re after perfectly golden, picturesque cakes, this boxed mix is for you. So uniform, they looked (and tasted) like the frozen pancakes you’d pop into the toaster on a busy morning. Even though they reminded us of something you’d get from a fast-food chain’s breakfast menu, nobody was complaining. “Very basic, but would be happy eating these” pretty much sums it up.
Try this mix: amazon.com, $4.39
Most Kid-Friendly:Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix
Get ready to see your child’s eyes widen at the sight of these towering cakes. These pancakes are notably sweet even before maple syrup, although they have a nice absorbency when you drizzle some of the good stuff on top. All-in-all, they’re light, fluffy, and yummy, and as a just-add-water mix, they couldn’t be easier to whip up for your family.
Try this mix: target.com, $1.99
The Classic: Aunt Jemima Original Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix
Neither a favorite or the most forgettable, these pancakes were pleasing in a familiar way. The flavor is mild—perfect to pair with your favorite syrup and toppings—and the texture is fluffy with a slight chewiness. In a pinch, this complete boxed mix will satisfy your pancake cravings.
Try this mix: target.com, $2.69
The All-Around Champion
Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Pancake & All Purpose Baking Mix
After tasting 12 batches of pancakes, you’d think a clear winner would be hard to determine, right? Wrong. Trustee Trader Joe’s has done it again, folks, with some of the fluffiest, best-tasting pancakes we’ve ever had. Not only do these pancakes have serious height, they also have a buttery, rich flavor that makes them easy to mistake for homemade. This mix does call for eggs, but we think that’s why these cakes taste so satisfying and far from artificial. Between the light texture, golden color, and subtle sweetness, we’re calling these pancakes the next best thing to from-scratch.
Try this mix: traderjoes.com, store locator
We Tried 13 Brands of Chocolate Ice Cream to Find the Best One
There’s a reason chocolate is one of the most popular ice cream flavors: It’s good. It leaves your taste buds giddy, your mouth a little dry, and your stomach pleased.
We’ve done vanilla, we’ve done strawberry, and now, in perhaps our most conflicting taste test ever, we’ve dug a spoon into every brand of chocolate ice cream we could get our hands on to declare a winner. And let me tell you, determining the best chocolate ice cream was a lot harder than we thought.
Not our favorites, but still ice cream
So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Chocolate
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Firstly, I’d like to say that we’re not against vegan ice cream, and that several dairy-free ice creams (Jeni’s, for instance) make a tasty product. However, we found So Delicious to be lacking, especially in terms of chocolatey flavor. Even our resident office vegans were disappointed with the flavor, which was overpowered by the coconut base.
Beckon Chocolate Ice Cream
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The idea of separating lactose from dairy is nice in theory, but not always great in practice. Beckon’s lactose-free chocolate ice cream has a very mild taste, which is fine. It’s the texture, which borders more on ice, that leaves more to be desired.
Nada Moo Gotta Do Chocolate
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Despite its coconut milk base, Nada Moo’s chocolate ice cream delivered another (unexpected) flavor altogether: Mint. The results were pretty divided here, depending on how much a particular person liked coconut. The texture is enjoyable, but we wanted more chocolate.
Middle of the road
Edy’s Chocolate Ice Cream
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Edy’s chocolate ice cream pretty much met our standard definition of the treat. There is a pleasant chocolate flavor, and a nice level of creaminess, which is accented by an intense degree of fluff.
Mayfield Chocolate Ice Cream
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Like Edy’s, Mayfield’s chocolate ice cream is fluffy with a milder degree of chocolate intensity. It’s fine for, say, a kid’s birthday party, but it’s not an option
Blue Bunny Chocolate Ice Cream
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Again, we’ve got a standard, baseline chocolate ice cream—this time with less fluff and richer chocolate flavor compared to the proceeding contenders in this category. Plus, Blue Bunny delivers a nice degree of creaminess.
Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream
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Blue Bell’s trademark creaminess put Dutch Chocolate near the top, but compared to other brands, its chocolate flavor isn’t stand-out strong. Truthfully, it’s more comparable to chocolate milk in terms of choco intensity, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Greenwise Organic Chocolate Ice Cream
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Publix’s organic chocolate ice cream pleasantly surprised us with its well-rounded chocolate flavor and luscious texture. Pretty solid stuff for a grocery store brand.
If there’s one thing we learned from this test, it’s that ice cream is a highly personal experience, and we all have our own priorities in terms of evaluating measures of quality. Various elements, like texture, flavor, overall richness, etc. rank differently among individuals, leaving us with no single chocolate ice cream to rule them all. The following five were our favorites.
Cold Crush Triple Chocolate Ice Cream
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We picked up this carton on a whim, and its rich, cocoa-forward nature won over a solid portion of our tasting panel. Cold Crush’s chocolate ice cream is supported by crunchy chocolate bits and syrupy chocolate ripples, making it decadent as well as delicious. Truthfully though, if a classic chocolate scoop is what you’re after, it’s a little bit too decadent (particularly in the price department).
Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream
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Häagen-Dazs is more cream than ice and a little bit soft on taste compared to its other classic flavors, like strawberry or vanilla. But the consistently incredible creamy texture, especially upon a slight melt, won a lot of love from us.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Organic Chocolate Ice Cream
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Whole Foods’ in-house brand was notably distinct from all its competitors, in a very tasty way. Here, the texture and flavor are balanced, with slight malty notes and a cloud-like texture that scored a lot of loyalty.
Jeni’s Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream
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Those with a taste for richer chocolate notes were steadfast fans of Jeni’s Darkest Chocolate, which is smooth and delectable without boasting too much sweetness. It’s decadent, but not in the way that gives you a headache, making it damn near perfect.
Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream
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Flavor and texture are important when it comes to ice cream, but so is nostalgia. A bite of Breyers chocolate ice cream transported several tasters back to their childhoods. Breyers maintained a great balance of fluffiness and chocolate flavor without going too far in any one direction. Breyers held its own, even among the specialty brands. Additionally, of every single carton, it was Breyers that was emptiest at the end of the tasting.
We Tried Every Boxed Pinot Grigio We Could Find and This Was the Best
Hi, my name is Corey and I love boxed wine—and I will no longer be shamed for it.
Yes, I know I’m not in college anymore. And, yes, I know that many people consider drinking wine from a box one step above drinking it from a paper bag under a highway overpass. But you know what? I don’t have room in my life for that kind of negativity.
Boxed wine is good for the environment, lasts way longer than its bottled counterparts, and most importantly, it’s cheap. So spare me your condescension, Mrs. Moneybags.
But just because I’m on a budget doesn’t mean I want to drink bad wine. I’m on a mission to find the best boxes on grocery store shelves, and I’m dragging my coworkers along for the ride, making them taste along with me.
We chose boxes of pinot grigio because it's light, it’s breezy, and it was available. Here’s how our friends at Food & Wine define the perfect pinot grigio: “Italian Pinots (and others modeled on them) tend to be light, simple wines with suggestions of peach and melon. These crisp, fresh whites are ideal as an aperitif or with light seafood or chicken breast dishes.”
Sounds pretty springy to me!
I went to three stores (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Target) and purchased every boxed pinot grigio I could find. Each box was under $20 and contained the equivalent of four regular-sized bottles of wine.
My coworkers and I carefully tasted each one to find out which was the absolute best. Here’s what happened:
Honorable Mention: Bota Box Pinot Grigio
Price: $16.99 ($4.25 per bottle)
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One tester perfectly summed up this wine: “It’s light, crisp, balanced, and super drinkable.”
We liked how it was sweet, but not cloying. It was unexpectedly buttery and slightly salty, and that’s not a bad thing.
For Drinkers Looking for a Laid-Back Sipper: Target Wine Cube Pinot Grigio
Price: $17.99 ($4.50 per bottle)
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Mild, mild, mild—but still kinda good? It was definitely watery, which was weird, but we did appreciate the citrusy flavor.
For Drinkers With a Sweet Tooth: Barefoot Pinot Grigio
Price: $17.99 ($4.50 per bottle)
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There’s no denying that this is extremely sweet. If that’s what you’re into, you’ll probably really enjoy this wine. Most of us were reminded of our college days.
“Brings back bad memories,” said one tester. “No thanks.”
For Drinkers Without a Sweet Tooth: Black Box Pinot Grigio
Price: $19.99 ($5 per bottle)
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This is the anti-Barefoot. It lacked sweetness of any kind, which we all found kind of unpleasant. Most of us were shocked, because we’d only had good experiences with Black Box in the past. But, hey, we can’t all be winners.
Best All-Around: Trader Joe’s Block Pinot Grigio
Price: $12.99 ($3.25 per bottle)
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Trader Joe’s, you never disappoint. The cheapest of the bunch was also our runaway favorite. Our testers called this the “perfect picnic wine” and “super flavorful, but still inoffensive.”
We definitely tasted melon here and thoroughly enjoyed it.
We Tried Every Boxed Rosé We Could Find and This Was the Best One
I’ve said it (many times) before and I’ll say it again: Boxed wine is underrated. It’s cheap, it saves space, and its packaging is better for the environment.
You can keep your bottles, Mr. or Mrs. Fancypants, because my kind of wine comes from a spout—and I’m damn proud of it.
I’m on a mission to find the best boxes on grocery store shelves, and I’m dragging my coworkers along for the ride.
As I write this, it’s summertime and the living is easy. So, naturally, we decided it was a perfect time to taste rosé.
If I learned anything from trying to conduct a boxed rosé tasting, it’s this: It’s really hard to find this stuff in stores. I went to EIGHT DIFFERENT STORES and was only able to scrounge up four boxes. Lots of brands make boxed rosé, but (at least where I live) it’s almost impossible to find them on shelves.
Of the four boxes I could locate, all of our tasters had a clear favorite. Here’s what we found:
Most Likely to Give You a Hangover From Hell: Franzia Sunset Blush
Price: $12.99 ($3.25 per bottle)
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I’m definitely in the minority here (almost everyone else who tried this wine was repulsed), but I didn’t hate Franzia Sunset Blush. It tastes like cotton candy, Boone’s Farm, and a simpler time. More than anything, though, this tastes like a hangover.
Drink it at your own risk.
Best for People Who Don’t Really Like Rosé: Black Box Rosé
Price: $17.99 ($4.50 per bottle)
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Black Box Rosé is light, crisp, refreshing, and totally drinkable. The only problem? It doesn’t really taste like rosé. Though its description alleges that it has flavors of strawberry, watermelon, and white peach, this was definitely lacking the fruity flavors we were expecting.
If you’re a fan of extremely dry wines, though, you might want to grab a box on your next grocery store run.
Honorable Mention: Bota Box Dry Rosé
Price: $18.99 ($4.75 per bottle)
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Bota Box, you never let us down. This box was extremely well-balanced and we loved its subtle floral flavors.
“This is a great middle ground,” said one tester. “Just sweet enough, but there’s a little tang.”
“I love the hints of strawberry,” said another.
While some people thought it was a bit too dry, we all agreed on one thing: We could drink a lot of this.
Best All-Around: Wine Cube Rosé
Price: $17.99 ($4.50 per bottle)
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Target’s signature box won this taste test by a landslide. Our (admittedly picky) testers were impressed by its quality, despite its low price point. Wine Cube Rosé touts “aromas of raspberry and watermelon,” and the flavor definitely delivers.
“The watermelon flavor is surprisingly nice,” raved one tester. “It’s not too sweet. This fruity and refreshing rosé would be great for a picnic.”
“This is wonderful,” another tester said. “It’s refreshing and has the perfect hint of watermelon without being artificial.”
If you’re on the market for an exceptional boxed rosé, pick up Wine Cube on your next Target run—you won’t be disappointed.
We Tried Every Chick-fil-A Sauce and Ranked Them
In the last month alone, we’ve thrown ourselves three separate Chick-fil-A nugget parties: First, we compared them to Shake Shack’s new Chick’n Bites. Then we made a nugget bouquet. Now, we’re ranking every single dipping sauce the chain offers—all in the name of journalism.
Sadly, we weren’t able to procure the elusive cheese that broke the internet this week because local restaurants only carry the seven standard sauces: Chick-fil-A, Polynesian, Honey Mustard, Garden Herb Ranch, Zesty Buffalo, Barbecue, and Sweet & Spicy Sriracha.
We rated them based on dip-ability, flavor, and how well they pair with Chick-fil-A’s signature nuggets. Here’s what we thought.
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1. Honey Mustard
Our No. 1 choice shocked us for a few reasons, but mostly because it looked so darn gross when we opened the packet. It was the absolute worst shade of yellow and looked like a weird, miniature Jello mold—but it was without a doubt our winner. Slightly more savory than most of its kind, this was a nice contrast to the nuggets’ delicate sweetness. We’re used to sweet, creamy honey mustards and were pleasantly surprised by this one’s tanginess. Terrible looks aside, this sauce was definitely a win.
2. Garden Herb Ranch
There’s not much to explain here, because this just tastes like ranch. Chicken nuggets taste good dipped in ranch. ‘Nuff said.
WATCH: How to Make the Copycat Chick-Fil-A Sandwich
3. Zesty Buffalo
I wanted to rank this lower, but for extremely petty reasons: When I was in college, I worked next to the Chick-fil-A on campus. My favorite thing to eat in the entire world was the original sandwich drenched in Chick-fil-A’s original Buffalo sauce. I ate that meal far more often than could be considered healthy. One terrible day, I opened my paper sack expecting to find my beloved Buffalo. I didn’t. Instead, I found this and I hated it. It’s not bad—in fact, it’s actually quite good—it’s just not the same.
Cayenne pepper and vinegar are the overwhelming flavors here, and we’re all about it. But it did overpower the chicken and that’s why it’s not ranked higher.
4. It’s a tie between Barbecue and Sriracha
Barbecue is pretty much exactly what we expected: Sweet and pleasant, but nothing to write home about.
The sriracha, on the other hand, was actually really delicious—just not as a nugget sauce. We’d definitely use this as a marinade for our chicken or to spice up our stir-fry, but probably wouldn’t order it for dipping purposes again.
OK, let’s pause here for a quick disclaimer: A lot of you have probably realized by now that we’ve covered five out of seven sauces so far and Chick-fil-A’s two most popular condiments have not yet been ranked.
Listen, you guys, we’re as surprised as you are.
We didn’t expect things to turn out this way, but they did. We understand that you’re going to be upset and you’ll likely leave angry comments. That is fine.
Anyway, back to the list:
Chick-fil-A’s signature sauce is underwhelming. It tastes... like their barbecue sauce, but way diluted. Which is essetially what it is. And that's a little meh for a namesake sauce in our opinion. We’re sorry, we know this isn’t what you wanted to hear. Sometimes the truth hurts.
Is this a dipping sauce or simple syrup? One tester liked it, but admitted that nostalgia played a large part in her opinion. Weirdly, it seems like everyone we talked to loved this in high school or knew someone who loved it in high school. Is this a statement on the average teenager's palate development? Who knows. The only thing we’re certain of is that this tastes like concentrated sugar water. Pass.
We Tried Every 'Pioneer Woman' Prepared Meal and This Was the Best
These days a trip to Walmart feels like a visit to a Ree Drummond shrine. The Pioneer Woman has infiltrated the kitchen, toy, bedding, home decor, and refrigerated food aisles—next thing you know, the greeters are going to be wearing floral tops and red wigs.
We went on a quest to try everything in the Pioneer Woman prepared food line and…we couldn’t. There are technically 10 products in the line (four entrées, three side dishes, and three breakfast bowls), but our local Walmart only carries the four entrées: Smothered Chicken, Country Fried Steak, Fried Chicken, and Bacon Meatloaf. So that’s what we got.*
Then we ranked them, because that’s what we do here.
Each dish could be prepared in the microwave or the oven, but we used a microwave because we’re working women and we ain’t got all day for this.
Here were the results:
1. Bacon Meatloaf ($5.98)
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This was by far everyone’s favorite among the four main dishes. Bacon bits were generously scattered throughout the loaf, which was topped with a sweet tomato sauce. Most of us thought the sauce was probably glorified ketchup (a notion that was confirmed by the ingredients listed on the back of the box), but I tasted a distinct barbecue flavor. It was a tad tough for meatloaf, but for a dish that started in a pouch, it was pretty impressive.
WATCH: How to Make Turkey, Bacon, and Cheddar Meatloaf
2. Country Fried Steak ($6.98)
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I’ll admit, I was skeptical about this one. Country fried steak is one of my favorite foods and I assumed the microwave would kill every last bit of crunch in the breading. I’m pleased to say that I was kind of wrong. It certainly could have had a better texture, but again, this is meat that started in a pouch. We enjoyed the seasoning, particularly the black pepper. Also, the included gravy was a nice touch.
3. Fried Chicken ($6.98)
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What we have here is your standard microwaved fried chicken. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible. The chicken was incredibly salty which, while not shocking, was a bit of an assault on the senses. The included gravy was, again, pleasant and very much appreciated. One tester called this dish “alrightish” and I’m inclined to agree.
4. Smothered Chicken ($5.98)
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This was weird. Most of us didn’t hate it, but we were all a little confused and put off by the perfumey, chemical flavor of the chicken. I compared it to accidentally inhaling Bath and Body Works body spray through your mouth. The included sherry sauce wasn’t awful, though, so there’s that.
*Disclaimer: We were extremely hungry and completely forgot to take photos of each entree after it was cooked. The photos we included are from the internet. None of the dishes were ugly, exactly, but they definitely didn’t look like the styled pictures you see here.
We Tried 13 Brands of Ice Cream to Find the Best One
Ice cream is like a good friend. Sweet, nostalgic, ready on the freezer shelf whenever you need it. It sits with you through movie nights and attends all of your (best) birthday parties. You laugh with ice cream, you cry with ice cream, and every so often you may even go on a "health" kick and turn your back on ice cream. But it will never abandon you, and when it’s the only dessert that will satisfy a cool, creamy craving, the frozen aisle is pretty close to paradise.
Here at MyRecipes, our tasting team wanted to know which ice cream brand to rely on when the hankering strikes. Is it the tried and true, childhood-memory-flooding Blue Bell or the trendy, low-calorie treat distinguished as one of TIME’s best inventions? To find out, we sampled and assessed 13 of the most recognizable and easy-to-find ice cream brands in just one flavor: vanilla.
We know what you’re thinking. All vanilla? That’s so vanilla. But when you’re trying to pinpoint the very best ice cream brand out there in this big world, you may as well start with their most basic recipe, the one that every other winning flavor usually is spun off of.
WATCH: Here's How to Make Popcorn Ice Cream Sundaes
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Yep. All of your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough and moose track cartons are really just various combos of chocolate chips, gooey swirls, nuts, Oreos, you name it... all nestled in a creamy blanket of good ol’ vanilla. Bells and whistles pushed aside, can you really trust a brand if you can’t trust their most classic, simple offering?
As you read through our rankings, keep in mind that ice cream preferences vary widely. Some have stuck to one brand since the 90’s and others are partial to the ice cream of their home state. We are taste testers, not robots, after all. And while we aim to taste as objectively as possible, ultimately, it comes down to the flavor you love. So grab a spoon (and maybe a slice of pie).
Here are our rankings for the best vanilla ice cream.
Not Our Faves… But Still, It’s Ice Cream
MOST ORIGINAL: Museum of Ice Cream Vanillionaire
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“Tastes fancy, but not sure its in a good way.”
If the San Fransisco-based Museum of Ice Cream is on your bucket list, you might be closer than you think. The brand serves up more than just Instagram-famous photos — it now has a complete ice cream line on the shelves of Target. Tasters were a little confused by their vanilla carton, which includes chunks of soft graham cracker-esque cookies throughout. Some were into it, some wondered why you would ruin a good thing. Overall, the editors decided the flavor was too sweet and had an odd aftertaste. But points for creativity!
BEST FLUFFY TEXTURE: Mayfield Creamery Signature Vanilla
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“Fluffy feel, fakey taste.”
If three tasters landed on the word “fluffy” to describe this spoonful, it has to be true. Everybody was pleased with the texture of this classic carton, but nobody was blown away by the vanilla flavor. If a fluff-tastic texture is all you’re after, amp up the flavor with a drizzle of chocolate fudge.
SUPREME VANILLA: Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Organic Vanilla Bean
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“GREAT texture, weird flavor, not a huge fan.”
Whole Food’s signature ice cream served up the vanilla flavor. In fact, you could see little vanilla bean specks in every bite. The texture of this organic brand was also a winning quality, however, the super vanilla-y taste left editors with an unappealing aftertaste that some described as “oily.”
MOST SURPRISING: Trader Joe’s French Vanilla
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“Good crying food—not so delicious that is will make you happy, not so bad that you’ll cry anymore.”
Trader Joe’s never has more than a handful of ice cream flavors to choose from, but this one stays in the lineup year-round, even as seasonal flavors come and go. And although Trader Joe’s product usually do, this ice cream did not impress. Tasters found the flavor to be “blah,” comparing it to a whipped topping instead of a flavorful scoop. Unfortunately, even the boring flavor had a strange aftertaste.
MOST KID-FRIENDLY: Ben and Jerry’s Vanilla
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“I used to love this as a kid… but not so much now.”
Ben and Jerry’s vanilla flavor was not the easiest variety to find. It’s clear that their standout flavors like “The Tonight Dough” and “Cherry Garcia” command a bit more attention. But with the spotlight on vanilla, our tasters were left somewhat disappointed. The vanilla flavor didn’t come through very strong, and a gritty/icy texture remained even after the carton had softened. Although it didn’t suit our palates, we think the mild flavor might be perfect for a kid’s cup or dolloped on a hunk of birthday cake.
Worthy of Your Shelf
DREAMIEST TEXTURE: Edy’s Vanilla
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“Bleh flavor, especially compared to some of the others.”
One of the most cost-efficient cartons in this lineup, Edy’s impressed with it’s creamy, soft-serve-like texture. But in flavor comparison, this brand fell flat. Many thought the flavor tasted fake, and not like the true vanilla they got from the brands nextdoor. Would fully support pairing with cake.
MOST DIET-FRIENDLY: Halo Top Vanilla Bean
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“Less offensive than I thought it would be.”
I’ll be the first to admit that the Halo Top brand wasn’t the most well-received brand entering the office. Many of us are, well, over the hype. But even still, many had never tried the low-cal pints and eventually realized it doesn’t deserve so much trash talk. The vanilla flavor was a hit, even though the aftertaste and foamy melting were turn offs.
MOST UNIQUE FLAVOR: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla
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“Just tastes super different from the others flavor.”
To some, Blue Bell tasted just like homemade. To others, it tasted like the milk was just a little off. But all agreed the flavor was unique from the other contenders. Without a unified vote, the cult-favorite didn’t make the top of our list. But if a good, malty scoop is what you’re after, you can’t beat the price of this classic Texas brand.
MOST ORIGINAL: Jeni’s Honey Vanilla Bean
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“I really dig the honey-kissed flavor, but it’s not exactly what I want if I’m wanting classic.”
While we are proven fans of Jeni’s complex flavors, we were really after a simple flavor profile with this taste-test. That’s why many were not pleased with the addition of honey in their pint of vanilla. Some thought the honey altered the vanilla flavor too much, making the overall bite taste artificial or even like cardboard, but some really enjoyed the honey-kissed flavor. You can’t please ‘em all. Editors did agree on two factors: the texture was too icy, and the price was a little, uh, much.
Can’t Put Down the Spoon
#4 Breyers Natural Vanilla
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“A classic for a reason.”
Not one foul word could be said by our testers about this flavor. The carton delivered on a perfectly creamy texture and classic sweetness. It’s no wonder the Breyers carton and speckled scoops are so iconic.
#3 Coolhaus Best of Both Worlds Vanilla
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“It’s got that soft, fluffy appeal that McDonald’s soft serve has.”
This LA-based brand combines both Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans in their pints, so we were expecting a suckerpunch of vanilla flavor. Some tasters got it, some really didn’t. But where it lacked in flavor, the ice cream had a creamy, soft-serve-esque texture and super smooth mouthfeel that everybody enjoyed.
#2 Haagen-Dazs Vanilla
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“So smooth and creamy. <3”
Almost unanimously liked, this vanilla carton is one of the only three flavors released when the brand started, and it’s clear why it has stood the test of time. The ice cream is light on the tongue without being icy. The flavor is vanilla perfection and the creaminess resembles butter. We have some serious heart eyes for you, Haagen-Dazs.
#1 Graeter’s Handcrafted French Pot Madagascar Vanilla Bean
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Behold, the hands-down champion of a tedious ice cream battle. The creamy, buttery and perfectly sweet, this frozen treat earned it a solid five star review. Tasters loved the super smooth consistency and delicious, complex vanilla flavor. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve made it.
We Tried the Top 9 Non-Dairy Yogurts—Here Are the Best Ones
Yogurt alternatives are now one of the hottest topics among dairy-free products, but not all options are worth your purchase. No need to try every mysterious cup on the shelf to find your perfect alt-yogurt; whether you’re ditching dairy out of need or just for kicks, we’re here to help. We collected some of the top alt-dairy brands for a side-by-side tasting (vanilla-flavored only) to steer you towards the most delicious options on the market. Here is our complete tasting guide to non-dairy yogurt alternatives.
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Chobani Non-Dairy Coconut-Based Vanilla Yogurt
We’ve been impressed with Chobani’s non-dairy yogurt since it launched at the beginning of 2019, but next to the competition, we’re loving it even more. Our tasters loved the rich, coconutty flavor and the striking similarity to traditional yogurt. However, the texture felt slightly too “gloopy” and the aftertaste stuck around for a minute.
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So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Vanilla Yogurt Alternative
This coconut-based product topped our list because of its smooth, thick texture and lovely balance of sweetness and tartness. One of our editors called it “a really good alternative yogurt experience.” The coconut milk product lacks the protein we expect from a morning cup of yogurt, but is surprisingly low in fat compared to other coconut-based options.\
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Silk Almond Dairy-Free Vanilla Yogurt Alternative
Silk’s almond-based yogurt reminded some of our tasters of dessert, bringing forward a strong but pleasant nuttiness. Though it’s on the watery side, this almond-milk treat has a higher amount of protein to keep you full for breakfast or a midday snack. But with 17g of sugar, it might not be the healthiest way to start your day.
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Silk Soy Dairy-Free Vanilla Yogurt Alternative
Although similar in sugar-content to Silk’s almond milk yogurt, the soy variety tastes even more like the real thing. Taste testers enjoyed the creamy texture and resemblance to Silk’s vanilla soy milk. One taster even commented, “If I needed to go dairy-free, I could absolutely eat this.” With only 3.5g fat, the soy-based yogurt is much lower in fat than most of its plant-based competitors.
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Kite Hill Vanilla Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt
The “artisan” dairy-free product was more popular with some tasters than others. Oddly enough, a few noted an aftertaste reminiscent of PlayDough—after all, between the ages of 3 and 6, we all find out what that tastes like. Many found the consistency to be too thin and watery, better suited for a smoothie than a stand-alone meal.
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Kite Hill Greek-Style Vanilla Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt
With a thick texture, fuller body, and 10g of protein per serving, it definitely resembles a greek-style yogurt. But the attempt to mimic the tartness of greek yogurt results in a flavor verging on sour milk. After a few bites, an unpleasant chalkiness takes over the mouth and leaves a flavor similar to beans. If anything, we recommend masking it in a smoothie.
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Forager Project Organic Vanilla Bean Cashewgurt
Another contender for most bizarre flavor comparison, taste testers found it to be similar in taste AND texture to shampoo. Low in calories and protein, the product was also lacking in rich texture and body. Finished off with a poor aftertaste, this is not an item our team will be seeking in stores.
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Vega Protein Vanilla Cashewmilk Yogurt Alternative
The plant-based brand packs 13g of protein into every serving of their cashew-based product. Unfortunately, the taste wasn’t as impressive as the nutrition label. The flavor was acidic and gritty, almost as if “a bad protein bar were a liquid,” one taster said. The smell was similar to wheat bread and the color discouraged one editor from trying it entirely. With a chalky, mouth-coating effect lingering, some wondered how the product made it to the market in the first place.
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Lavva Vanilla Plant-Based Yogurt
Lavva plant-based yogurts stand out with their brightly colored packaging and use of pili nuts, plantains, and cassava root. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of this yogurt alternative was also its pitfall. Tasters used words like “horrid” and “nightmare” to describe their experiences, adding comments like “tastes nothing like any food should.” I’ll try to spare you the details, but a certain substance that “comes back up” was referenced by more than one. Proceed with caution.
After one of the more difficult taste-tastes we’ve completed, we had to assess whether or not alt-yogurts are worth the trouble at all. Sure, if you had a morning yogurt routine set in stone before discovering lactose intolerance, we understand it would suit your needs. But for the average dairy-avoiding Joe? The high amounts of sugar and fat in the better-tasting products almost outweigh the probiotic benefits.
We Blind Tasted 6 Boxed Brownie Mixes and This Was the Unanimous Winner
Have you walked down the baking aisle lately? Between the bags of flour, bottles of extracts, and tubes of icing, there is an unavoidable wall of boxed brownie mixes. Seriously, when did the boxed brownie mix game become so extensive? We trekked to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and our local supermarket to get ahold of some of the major players for a blind, side-by-side taste test. If there’s one takeaway from this fudgy experiment, it’s that not all boxed brownie mixes are created equal, and there’s one obvious winner.
Betty Crocker Supreme Original($2.59/22.25-oz. pkg)
If a gooey and ultra-chewy brownie has your name written all over it, then this is a great option for your chocolatey desires. One staffer described it as “soft and welcoming, like a brown cloud.” Poetic, I know. While it was definitely lacking in the crispy crust department and was too creamy-soft for some, this OG of baking mixes is an all around respectable boxed brownie choice.
Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge ($1.69/18.4-oz. pkg)
As adorable as the little Pillsbury dough boy is, we’re going to have to give this one a thumbs down. When baked according to fudgy package instructions, these brownies came out dry, unexciting, and spongy. Compared to the other richer options, this one barely had a detectable chocolate flavor. There was also a very apparent lack of chocolate chunks dispersed throughout, which made for an altogether lackluster brownie-eating experience. The one pro is that this brand was the cheapest, so if funds are tight and you’re craving an easy and sweet, freshly baked treat or need a brownie mix to use as a component of another recipe, this surely won’t break the bank.
Madhava Deliciously Organic Ooey-Gooey Chocolate ($5.99/18-oz. pkg)
It’s almost unfair that we threw this one into the taste test, but we felt it was important to incorporate a brand sold at Whole Foods that’s boasting organic sweeteners and ancient grains. And let’s just say, it’s way more expensive (by far) because of these qualities. Boy, was the difference in taste apparent. One staffer wrote, “what trickery is this?” It wasn’t nearly fudgy or chocolatey enough, and the chocolate flavor that was present had an off-putting aftertaste; I assume that’s the ancient grains talking. The lesson here is that if you’re going to make a batch of brownies, stick to the classics and make your healthy choices for another day (it will save you money and heartache).
Annie’s Organic Double Chocolate ($4.99/18.3-oz. pkg)
It might be organic, but this brownie was not short on flavor or sweetness at all. In fact, many of us agreed that it might be pushing the limit with how sweet it is (yes, that’s possible). This mom-favorite brand offers a super gooey texture and a deep chocolate flavor, so if maintaining an organic diet is important to you, this is a solid choice.
Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownies ($2.99/16-oz. pkg)
Although the winner of the blind taste test was unanimous, this was a close second. Ultry fluffy, rich, and chocolatey, these brownies had acquired a lot of fans by the end of the test. The texture fell right in the happy medium between obscenely gooey and aggressively cakey, making it a surefire crowd pleaser. TJ’s has yet to let us down, and this easy boxed mix is just further proof.
The Unquestionable Crowd Favorite
Ghirardelli Chocolate Triple Fudge ($2.99/19-oz. pkg)
The hands-down, no-questions-asked winner of our blind taste test goes to these Ghirardelli brownies. Possessing a crispy sheen on top and a irresistible gooey center, these brownies taste like the perfect combination of a rich, chocolate dessert and bake sale nostalgia. The mix includes fudge and chips, which is a real game changer for the overall texture and richness of the final product. These fall right in the middle of the price range, so we can’t think of a reason why you’d buy any other box mix.
We Blind Tasted 6 Boxed Blueberry Muffin Mixes and This Was Our Favorite
For a lot of folks, the only way to get that fruity, breakfast pastry fix is to head the nearest coffee shop or cafe and pick out something from the fresh bakery selection. While this is obviously a very legitimate option and something that we fully support you doing, it’s also possible to bring the joy of a freshly baked muffin right inside your home kitchen.
Yes, muffins from scratch are obviously delightful, but if you’re short on time or can’t seem to muster up the energy, don’t worry. Boxed mixes exist, and frankly, this is a fact of life that should be taken advantage of more often. In order to make your next boxed blueberry muffin mix experience the best one yet, we did the only thing that #serious #journalists would do, and tried all of them to see which brand makes the best one. Long story short, there was certainly a winner.
The Least Favorites
Betty Crocker Wild Blueberry ($2.59 per 16.9-ounce package)
One thing about boxed blueberry muffin mixes is that it’s pretty common for the final product to taste...artificial. For some, this flavor might bring back a wave of nostalgia, and if that’s you, we understand. However, the artificial flavor of these muffins in particular was borderline unbearable. One staffer said the baked good “tastes like the pre-packaged muffins you get at a gas station.” In other words, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making muffins at home, at least opt for something that doesn’t taste so fake
Martha White Blueberry Mix ($0.99 per 7-ounce package)
As much as we want to cut this mix some slack because it’s a “just add milk” mix versus the others that require eggs, oil, and water, we just...can’t. Not only were these the most visually unappealing of the bunch, but there was something seriously off putting about the blueberries. One commenter referred to them as “blueberry pebbles,” and that about says it all. If you are planning on sharing a batch of these with anyone besides yourself, just be aware that it's highly unlikely anyone will ask you for the recipe.
Namaste “Sans Gluten”($5.39 per 16-ounce package)
Admittedly, this was intended to be the outlier of the taste test. Not only is this mix gluten-free, but it also doesn’t include blueberries. Instead, we threw in some fresh blueberries to the plain mix and baked them according to the package instructions, in order to see if the fresh blueberries would take a boxed mix to the next level. The verdict? Not really. Although the fresh blueberries were much larger, juicier, and noticeably present in these muffins, versus the dehydrated berry varieties, the flavor of the mix itself was too upsetting to get past. An odd combination of bitter, gritty, and oddly corn-muffin like, this mix (which is the most expensive of all that we tried) is not a convenience product we would buy again, whether we have fresh fruit to add to it or not.
The Runners Up
Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix ($0.89 per 7-ounce package)
Don’t worry–we didn’t hate them all. In fact, we were pretty surprised by the lovely appearance of these muffins. Despite a somewhat cakey texture, the blueberry flavor that this mix offers was not offensively articifical. Overall, it was a pretty standard boxed blueberry muffin experience–they’re not going to change your life, but they’re also not going to leave guests asking why they were invited to the worst brunch ever (your friends can be your toughest critics, admit it).
Duncan Hines Simple Mornings($2.99 per 20.5-ounce package)
I should clarify that this was not a runner up for everyone, but it was well-liked enough by most that we’re going to say it is. For someone who prefers a wheat-ier, whole-grain flavor, this is your best option by far. It’s not too dense or dull, yet still possesses a good level of sweetness and blueberry flavor. For some, the flavor was not their favorite because it felt too “healthy,” but if a nuttier, grainy taste is something you’re into, then these will be right up your alley.
The Clear Winner
Krusteaz Supreme Wild Blueberry ($2.29 per 17.1-ounce package)
Despite some mixed feelings about the muffins in the middle of the pack, everyone agreed that this was our winner. The tops of these muffins baked beautifully, acquiring a perfectly golden-brown dome that is tricky to achieve in a basic, from-scratch version. The texture was fluffy and tender, while the flavor was a healthy level of sweetness and enjoyably fruity. These are muffins that you could easily serve to others with confidence. Before you put your hands up and run out to the cafe, we think you should give these blueberry beauties a try.