In history books 50 years down the line, the pandemic era could very well be deemed the renaissance of hobbies. With little to do besides sit at home, creating butt-shaped indents in the couch and binge-watching all of The Great British Bake Off, many folks decided to use some of that Netflix time to become self-taught wine connoisseurs and needlepoint pros. Others baked their weight in banana bread. Me? Well, I became a store-bought sandwich cookie aficionado.
Oreos (Buy It, $9, amazon.com) have long been one of my essential comfort foods. Every Monday night as a tween, my mom and I would snuggle up on the couch and watch the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother, a glass of ice-cold milk and a paper plate full of Oreos (or Nestle Tollhouse's break-and-bake chocolate chip cookies, Buy It, $3, target.com) in our hands. In high school and college, I'd grab a few cookies when I was psyching myself out about an upcoming exam or paper.
While quarantining in a tiny NYC apartment last summer, I once again longed for those crunchy chocolate spheres with the sweet filling — and the pick-me-up they provided. The frugal side of me, though, wasn't too pumped about dropping $6 on a pack of Double Stuf from the pricey Manhattan markets. So, as any desperate, sweets-obsessed person would do, I took it upon myself to find the best knock-off Oreos money could buy.
In the months since, I've taste-tested packs of the Amazon-branded Sandwich Crème Cookies (Buy It, $3, amazon.com), munched on generic versions sold at Aldi, and begrudgingly chewed sub-par cookies from Southern grocery chains Harris Teeter and Lowe's Foods. Some were more edible than others, but there was one cookie that was the clear crème de la crème of the bunch: Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Sandwich Cookies. (BTW, TJ's has plenty of dietitian-approved foods too.)
Unlike the other crumbly off-brand Oreos, these Trader Joe's cookies have a dense, ever-so-slightly chewy cookie, so chocolate dust doesn't fall into your lap with every bite. The cookies have a more pronounced — dare I say, real — chocolate flavor than other versions on the market. The snow-white cream inside tastes similar to homemade vanilla icing, speckled with flecks of vanilla bean that make the Trader Joe's cookies feel a bit more ~top-shelf~. In terms of texture, the filling is less "hardened toothpaste" and more "thick, piped frosting," and TJ's definitely doesn't skimp on it. Exhibit A: Trader Joes' cookie filling (right) is twice as tall as the comparable version from Lowe's Foods (left).
Lowe's Foods vs. Trader Joe's Cookies
Worth noting, the Trader Joe's cookies aren't a dead ringer for Oreos — nor are they trying to be. TJs' tropical-themed, ocean-blue box doesn't create an air-tight seal like the cling plastic wrap used by the OG brand, allowing humidity to penetrate the packaging and soften the crispy sandwich cookies (which, IMO, actually makes them better). The cookies themselves are etched with a subtle floral design. And the not-so-artificial flavors used in the filling and sandwich components make the Trader Joe's cookies less of a cavity creator than the real deal. (Plus, you can score TJ's delivery with these hacks.)
Through all my cookie testing, the Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's Sandwich Cookies are the only ones that claimed a permanent spot in my kitchen cupboard. Like Oreos, the Trader Joe's cookies hit the nostalgia button, provide emotional comfort when I need it most, and satisfy my nightly need for something sweet. And with a $3 price tag, they're a dessert decision my credit card and my stomach are more than happy to make.