A Brutally Honest Review of Trader Joe’s Lemon Pesto

Pesto is a vibrant addition to a dish. When it’s done right, it’s bright, herbaceous, garlicky, nutty, and oily in a good way. That said, a lot of shelf-stable pesto struggles to capture the brightness and freshness you get from homemade pesto. Maybe that’s why Trader Joe’s released this Lemon Pesto Sauce. What could be brighter or fresher than a burst of lemon hitting your tongue like a ray of sunshine?

Welp, we’ll get to the tongue in a little bit, but we have to discuss something else first. The nose. From the moment I opened this jar of lemon pesto, my nose was hit with an overwhelmingly pungent blast of lemon. If my eyes were closed, I’d have thought there was a freshly baked lemon poppyseed muffin in front of me, but it was much, much worse. If you were on TikTok last summer, you heard food influencer Susi Vidal say the phrase “Call me crazy if you want, but I’ve never liked store bought pesto” over and over again. After this, I have to agree with Susi.

trader joe's lemon pesto

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Trader Joe’s Lemon Pesto Sauce

Pros: Trader Joe’s really made sure lemon was well represented in this pesto. In general, I’d very much consider myself pro lemon. I love yellow Starbursts, lemon-lime soda, and lemon Oreos. I’ll give lemon a lot of room to run. But it appears I have a limit. Freakiest of lemon freaks, rejoice. All others, beware. This pesto is a little chunky and fairly oily, much like other jarred pestos. But the similarities end there.

Cons: The lemon is unbelievably overpowering. It leaves zero room for any of the other ingredients to come through. Apparently, it also contains cheese and almonds, but you’d never know it. First, I tried this pesto on its own and it was like an entire grove of lemons were concentrated down onto a spoon. Next, I ran to the store to grab a box of pasta to see if that worked better—I really wanted to give this stuff a fair shot! Alas, it was all in vain. Because of the intense taste, getting the portions right is a crapshoot. If you approach with caution and use this lemon pesto sparingly, you wind up with a sad, naked bowl of pasta. Add too much and you’ll be tasting lemons for the next week. The jar simply says to “stir a few tablespoons into hot pasta.” Well, I did that and now I’m going to taste lemons in my dreams.




About the Author

Vinz Karl

Vinz Karl is a freelance contributor to Sporked and self-proclaimed Guy Fieri superfan. He believes in breakfast supremacy and is on a never-ending mission to try every flavor of Oreo out there. Originally from the Midwest, Vinz now resides in Los Angeles, where you can find him going on hikes, checking out new restaurants, and preparing for his eventual casting on CBS's Survivor.

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  • Hard disagree here. This pesto (really a lemon sauce) is delicious. You just used too much. People are obsessed with this stuff for a reason.