Pineapples are one of those things I really, really don’t want to juice myself. It’s not a “cut in half and squeeze” type fruit – it’s a whole operation. At minimum you need to cut it apart, which is already a pain in itself, then do some sort of elaborate blending and straining operation. Alternatively you can buy a pineapple corer to avoid slowly cutting pieces of the peel away, but then you’ve got one more single-use thing taking up cabinet space. Maybe there are easier ways to do it, but it’s considered annoying enough that even the good Tiki recipe books will tell you to just buy packaged juice – unlike basically every other fruit you’re going to use.
All that being said, I wanted to at least use the best juice I could get for my drinks, since I’m still putting in a fair amount of effort to make them. Some light Googling turned up recommendations for the Trader Joe’s pineapple juice. After finishing the cans of Dole I had in the cabinet, I stocked up on cans of the Trader Joe’s stuff – just to be disappointed in the results. Some more internet sleuthing turned up the fact that Trader Joe’s actually carries bottled, refrigerated, perishable pineapple juice. Turns out this is what everyone was talking about.
So now we come to today, dear reader. Today is the day I put the three types of pineapple juice side-by-side to save you the trouble. Today is the day that I figure out for good what brand gets my official seal of approval. As I’m a highly-revered professional taster, this is a game-changing endorsement for whichever company I pick. Of course I kid – I imagine I taste only slightly above average.
Alright, on to the juices.
Trader Joe’s 100% Pineapple Juice (canned)
Spoiler alert – every juice I’m trying today is “not from concentrate” – I’m not going to waste my time or your time with that crap. This one is a product of the Philippines, which must have a thriving pineapple industry, since it’s the same place the Dole can (discussed more in depth below) comes from. I know Trader Joe’s whole thing is not revealing their sources, so maybe there’s some crossover in the supply chain there.
Once I pour it into my rustic mini mason jar, I’m getting that classic pineapple juice scent. I take a sip – classic, thick pineapple juice consistency. Classic pineapple juice taste. This juice is a study in “meets expectations” – you’re getting exactly what you’d expect, but it’s not going to inspire any sort of passions.
Dole 100% Pineapple Juice
Dole is the classic can you’ll see on grocery store shelves, and that’s not by accident. This is a massive company, originally founded in Hawaii – and part of their lineage is the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. It should also be mentioned that they’re one of the companies whose practices led to the term “banana republic” – read up more on that if you like.
The Dole juice is, on paper, pretty similar to the TJ’s cans. It’s not from concentrate, and a product of the Philippines. I was slightly surprised it wasn’t from their well-known Hawaiian plantation, but I’m guessing output from there is used to supply fresh pineapples instead (for transit time reasons). There are some additives in this canning, as well: ascorbic acid (which is Vitamin C), Vitamin E, and Vitamin A, so we’re not just talking about plain pineapple juice.
This juice is thinner than the TJ’s canned juice, and has a slightly more prominent pineapple aroma. When sipping, this juice is definitely sharper and more acidic. Based on this, I think it stands up better in a cocktail than the TJ’s cans. I used it for years in cocktails before trying the Trader Joe’s and I never had any complains.
Trader Joe’s Cold Pressed Pineapple Juice (bottle)
When I went to the store to find the bottled Trader Joe’s pineapple juice, I had some trouble finding it and had to ask for help. Turns out it is stored in the refrigerated section. It’s a perishable product, and the expiration date was two and a half months out from when I purchased it, compared to the year+ dates on the cans. Trader Joe’s also helpfully notes on the bottle to consume within 3 days of opening (they’re always looking out for you). This bottle is a product of Guatemala, and the sole listed ingredient is “pineapple juice.”
After shaking this up and cracking it open, I could immediately tell it was a different sort of product from the other two. There’s a bright, vibrant aroma with some grassy notes. It has the least-syrupy consistency of the three juices, and the pleasant pineapple taste is accompanied by the same grassy notes you get in the scent. Notably, the pulp from the juice clings more to the sides of the glass – probably a byproduct of less-intensive processing as compared to the cans. The best way I can think of to describe this juice is “alive” – it feels more like a juice and less like a manufactured product, and it’s the only one I’d personally drink on its own, as well as mix in a cocktail.
None of these juices were bad. Part of that is self-filtering – I didn’t try any bottom-shelf stuff, and stuck to things that were likely to be good. In spite of this, there was still a surprisingly wide range between the three juices.
The clear winner for me is the Trader Joe’s cold pressed, which was just fantastic and probably the closest to fresh pineapple juice taste and consistency. The Dole, however, is a perfectly good choice, and I’d still happily use it in a drink. The Trader Joe’s cans are the worst out of these three, but still serviceable. It’s possible there are better choices out there than any of these three, though – if you know of one, feel free to reach out to me.