We've been presenting a bunch of brand-new Trader Joe's products in recent days, and there are more to come after this brief pause. But I needed to move this post up in the queue for reasons that will become apparent tomorrow.
Trader Joe's now sells three different varieties of dried bananas. The one pictured at the top I reviewed here. The other two were new to me.
The first two--regular and organic--are very similar. I had to go back and forth between them a few times before I started homing in on the differences.
The regular is a little sweeter and has more banana flavor. However, looking at the ingredients lists, I conclude that that extra banana flavor is added in processing, not intrinsic to the underlying fruit. I sufficiently confirmed this suspicion to myself by discovering that I could basically lick it off. It's a coating which, after being removed, leaves the chips tasting pretty much like the organic ones, which lack that treatment.
So I should prefer the organic, right? The thing is, I don't. I like that little extra flavor and sweetness, even when I know that it's something they've either sprayed on or dipped the chips in. I also found the organic slices to be harder and tougher, more difficult to bite into. If you think you'd like super-crunchy dried banana slices, go for the organic version. But I don't like that quality.
So for both taste and texture, I prefer the non-organic variety. It has the added advantage of being cheaper.
As for the freeze-dried, well, that's a whole different animal. You really have to try them to appreciate how radically different they are from the other two items. There's zero oiliness, zero moisture. (The others have a bit of both.) They are dry like Death Valley. But as soon as you pop one into your mouth, it transforms.
Upon first trying them, Nina exclaimed, "They reconstitute in your mouth!" My experience is not that, exactly. Sometimes they do--but I found that with just a little pressure between the tongue and roof of the mouth, they don't so much reconstitute as disintegrate.
But either way, you definitely get a powerful burst of banana flavor unlocked basically all at once, in a fireworks-like burst. There's no chewing of these; they're fragile and they fall apart.
Do I like them? Yes and no. I find myself going back and forth. As I said, they release a more intense banana flavor than the others, hands down. But it's not quite the banana flavor I expect after a lifetime of eating bananas. This is probably because we're used to what is essentially a monoculture of commercially available bananas, with one varietal having been selected decades ago for American consumption, and all the others neglected. Trader Joe's says on the package that they're using an uncommon variety for the freeze-dried product, selected for its super-sweetness.
I also find the reconstitution/disintegration mouthfeel a little off-putting. It's just odd, and I haven't gotten used to it, even after eating nearly an entire bag of these things--all except for the few that Nina had. It limits how many I want to eat, whereas with the more conventional chips I'll munch happily until I'm full.
The freeze-dried ones are, then, for me both better and worse than the more conventional products. Unless you absolutely hate bananas, you should probably try them once, just for the novelty of the experience. But ultimately I think I would choose the plainest, cheapest of the three for my snacking.
And what I said about that product when I originally reviewed it remains true: None of them are as good as simply eating a banana (which TJ's will sell you, famously, for just 19 cents apiece).
Will I buy it again?
The original, occasionally. The organic and freeze-dried, probably not.
The freeze-dried bananas are a freakin' revelation. As Bob has so thunder-stealingly revealed, I did describe this as reconstituting themselves in your mouth. It is a very surprising and, to my mind, quite awesome experience.
I will really never bother with the other dried bananas, because they are exceedingly meh—stale, overly sweet, mealy, and not very bananalike, like every other banana chip I've ever had. I like regular bananas. And with the freeze-dried chips you get regular bananas minus the water. All the flavor, none of the spoilage: great for on-the-go portability.
Give them a try.