The Best Store-Brand Products
Deciding when to buy budget-friendly store-brand products and when to pass and go for the gusto can be a tricky task. Luckily, we've done the dirty work so you don't have to. Cooking Light staffers weeded through countless products to bring you the best that the store-brands have to offer.
We'll start with Whole Foods Organic 100% Whole-Wheat Bread. A hearty, dense texture makes this ideal for toast, slathered with a tart fruit preserves.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Albacore Tuna
What you want from canned tuna are distinct, meaty flakes, and that’s exactly what you get here—plus clean, pure tuna taste.
Target Market Pantry Unsalted Butter
Superior creamy texture at a great price—about $2 a pound. This is the butter to stock up on.
Walmart Great Value Pie Crust
Its neutral flavor puts focus on the filling. Straight out of the box, its thickness is ideal for heavy custards or quiches.
Shop: Great Value Pie Crust
Target Archer Farms Steamable Frozen Green Beans
Your standard steam-in-the-bag bean goes upscale with these haricots verts--like beauties. They maintained their flavor and texture, despite being frozen. Grassy, crunchy, and crisp, they're the perfect go-to for the time-strapped cook.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Toasted Sesame Oil
A nutty, nuanced oil that's bold but not bitter. Intensely roasty, toasty flavor with a clean finish.
Walmart Great Value Unsalted Butter
Clean, clear butter flavor.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Canola Mayonnaise
Light, silky texture, balanced vinegar-lemon tang, and a nice salty kick.
Target Market Pantry Lower-Sodium Soy Sauce
Dark, strong, with an intense smoky character.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Ketchup
Flecks of spices set this ketchup apart from other brands. We loved the sweet and naturally clean flavor and applaud Whole Foods for making a great product with only 160 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. Less salt but lots of flavor.
Target Archer Farms Vindaloo Indian Simmering Sauce
Lemony and full of heat, with a backbone of cumin, coriander, and cardamom. Coconut milk and butter provide creaminess (and 4g sat fat). Traditional with pork, but try with potatoes.
Shop: Archer Farms Vindaloo
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Light Coconut Milk
Thinner (without being watery) with a milder hit of coconut flavor. Not overly sweet. Does not have the oaky taste found in some light coconut milks—best in a dessert recipe.
Walmart World Table Salsa Verde
This is a chip clinger with cumin, salt, and heat all getting their turn on the palate. Tangy with a smoky endnote—you can tell the jalapeños were roasted properly.
Shop: World Table Salsa Verde
Target Archer Farms Tortilla Chips
They’re corn-yellow-pretty, delectably crunchy, nicely salted, and loaded with hearty flavor. Plus, a zip-top bag closure staves off staleness (if they last long enough for a third or fourth session).
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Organic Crunchy Mini Twists
Whole Foods’ house brand offered a buttery flavor balanced with just the right amount of salt and crunch (again, not tooth-breakingly hard, but not airy or floury, as several samples were).
Target Market Pantry Light Sour Cream
So thick and luscious that one tester thought it might be mascarpone cheese.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value No Salt Added Black Beans
These hearty beans hold up well during the canning process—firm, yet still tender.
Target Market Pantry Applesauce Natural
The intensity of the apple flavor really hits in every bite—with just the right sweetness to balance the tart notes.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Organic Homestyle Waffles
Crisp on the outside with a tenderly chewy middle. Not overly sweet, so they're the perfect accompaniment for maple syrup.
Walmart Great Value Pure Olive Oil
This oil's clean, fresh taste is the perfect backdrop for sautéing veggies like mushrooms and onions, but its grassy finish was something we savored with a simple slice of crusty bread.
Target Archer Farms Plain Soy Milk
Stands out for its nice, thick, creamy texture and light sweetness.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Balsamic Vinegar
For a budget balsamic, this one packs a thick, rich punch. Ready to drizzle or glaze grilled chicken or salmon.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Oat & Honey Granola
Slightly puffed brown rice gives this not-too-sweet granola a nice, light crunch.
Target Market Pantry Frosted Bite-Sized Shredded Wheat
Its toasted whole-wheat notes are complemented—rather than obscured—by the sweet frosting. Tall, fluffy biscuits don't lose their crunchy mojo in milk.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Diced, No-Salt-Added Tomatoes
A midsummer-fresh tomato taste and a nice, thick texture make this a great option for any soup, stew, or sauce that needs body.
Target Archer Farms Whole-Wheat Spaghetti
Walmart Great Value Tomato Ketchup
Walmart's house brand is thick and clingy, has a robust vinegar flavor, and the standard 190 milligrams sodium. Its brightness is balanced by a smooth, sweet finish.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Unsalted Butter
A good basic-butter choice if you’re looking for organic.