A Guide To The Best And Worst Foods At Aldi

In 1948, brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht expanded their family's grocery store in Germany, which was eventually renamed Aldi. Today, Aldi has become one of the largest grocery chains in the U.S. With more than 2000 locations in 39 states as of July 2024 (and counting), it's gained wide recognition as a bargain shopper's paradise. Of course, even with its low prices — which are cheaper than some discount grocery stores– navigating the store can be challenging if you're unfamiliar with the chain's specific brands and products.

While Aldi occasionally stocks brand-name food items, you'll more often find its own line of brands — such as Simply Nature, Specially Selected, and LiveGFree — on its shelves. Given this, you may be unsure which products are worth buying, and which should be avoided. As a regular shopper at Aldi, I've taste-tested a wide variety of its products, and am well-acquainted with what the store has to offer (both good and bad). Here's a guide to the best and worst foods at Aldi.

Best: Frozen gluten-free General Tso's chicken

Avoiding hidden gluten is one of the main challenges of a gluten-free diet. After all, something as simple as soy sauce can potentially trigger a reaction in gluten-sensitive individuals, forcing those individuals to eschew many frozen foods for fear of cross-contamination. Good news, though: Aldi's General Tso's chicken — whether cooked in the air fryer or baked on a sheet pan is a lovely surprise, and almost certainly free of all gluten.

One of more than a dozen products sold by Aldi's LiveGfree brand (a gluten-free line launched in 2018), the breading is crispy and delicious while the sauce is a sweet and tangy delight. Making a homemade General Tso's – like this vegetarian recipe with cauliflower – may be the best option. But when pressed for time, this frozen option is one of the best from Aldi and makes a complete meal with steamed rice and a side of broccoli or green peppers.

Worst: Veggie burgers

Let's face it: On their best days, veggie burgers suffer from a serious case of bad PR. Generally viewed as dumbed-down version of the real thing, even brands like Impossible Burger have struggled to gain a foothold in a market with limited options (that are, at best, just okay). While it would be great to report that Aldi's veggie burgers defy this lackluster stereotype, they unfortunately does not.

The texture is murky, the flavors are dull, and the nutrition isn't even that great. There's only 90 calories, but also only 5 grams of protein — meaning you'd be better off having a grilled cheese sandwich. Of course, if you want to be part of the grilling crowd and have something vaguely burger-like on a bun, one flavor is better than the others. Aldi's black bean chipotle version is passable in a pinch if you add copious amounts of cheese and other toppings (like your own secret sauce), but it's better to skip them entirely.

Best: Mama Cozzi's cauliflower crust pizza

Like many others, I have strong feelings about pizza. Now, some believe that even when pizza is bad, it's still pretty good. But as a gluten-free diner, finding a decent version of pizza has been challenging. I've tried nearly everything available, and generally speaking, gluten-free pizza crust is merely a conveyance for toppings. There's usually nothing special about it, and it's often not worth the effort to eat it. So imagine my surprise when Mama Cozzi's cauliflower crust pizza turned out to be delicious, affordable, and a solid replica of a thin-crust pizza.

This is offered in three varieties: uncured pepperoni, cheese, and roasted veggie. The amount of pepperoni is negligible, so go for one of the other two and add what you like. It's easier than making your own cauliflower crust, and it won't destroy your weekly budget. Find it in the refrigerated section near the veggies.

Worst: Mama Cozzi take-and-bake Mega Meat or Five-Cheese Pizza

Given how tasty the cauliflower crust pizza is, you might expect this brand to have a decent take-and-bake regular pizza, as well — but you'd be wrong. Mama Cozzi must have had an off day when she cooked her Mega Meat and Five-Cheese Pizza varieties. The only thing this pizza has going for it is the price. It costs roughly $7 as of July 2024 — perfect for feeding kids who aren't well-versed in the finer points of a high-quality pizza.

However, if you have a more discerning pizza palate and are looking for mouthwatering cheese, a rich tomato sauce, and a crust that's both chewy and crispy? This isn't for you. The overall taste is bland and the crust lacks any kind of character. The toppings are minimal, too, and the sauce lacks punchy tomato flavor. Whether fresh or frozen, these Mama Cozzi's pizzas are a hard pass.

Best: Individual avocados

With a rich, fatty, and unique flavor, avocados are the star of everything from toast to guacamole. Now, savvy Aldi shoppers know the produce aisle is a hit-or-miss, but one thing that's easy to rely on is the single avocados. Often priced at less than a dollar, your individual Aldi avocados are a bargain and perfect on burgers, chopped into salads, or eaten with a little salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

As with all produce, you'll want to plan your meal before selecting an avocado. Aldi tends to put out fairly green avocados, so consider them for meals several days after you shop. The color under the stem cap of an avocado can help you test for ripeness if you aren't sure, but there are other ways to make sure you're getting the desired level of readiness.

Ripe avocados will be dark with flesh that has a slight give; avoid ones with indentations or mushy spots. If you pick up this fruit ripe but you don't want to use it immediately, pop it in the fridge, and it should stay good for another three or four days.

Worst: Bagged avocados

If one avocado at Aldi is good, then a bag filled with them must be better, right? Wrong. While buying bagged avocados seems like a good idea in theory, it's a gamble in practice. No matter how many times you rotate that bag and check each fruit, bagged avocados at Aldi are either rock hard, overripe, or a confusing mix of both.

For whatever reason, it's very difficult to obtain a bag that contains high-quality avocados from start to finish. I usually end up throwing out the last two avocados — or more, frankly, depending on how distracted I was when I picked them up.

Sometimes the avocados are billed as "mini," which really just means they're more pit than flesh inside. The price screams bargain (six avocados for just over $4), but you're better off buying full-size avocados individually. That way, you can make sure you're getting ripe fruit and not a mesh bag filled with disappointment.

Best: Organic romaine hearts

Romaine lettuce's crunchy texture is perfectly sturdy for big bowls of salad and mile-high sandwiches. It's easy and refreshing, can be prepped all at once at the beginning of the week, and will be ready whenever you crave something fresh (but don't want to chop veggies for hours). If you love romaine, then, especially in the summertime when cold meals are king, Aldi's organic romaine hearts are here for you.

Aldi's organic romaine hearts have never disappointed. For those who desperately want to eat organic produce but balk at the price tag, Aldi has you covered. Most locations price the organic romaine hearts around $4, which is occasionally less than conventional lettuce from other large grocery stores. Plus, eating food with fewer chemicals is always a good choice. As with all produce, you'll need to make sure the use-by date is good, but these are generally fresh, crisp, and a great deal.

Worst: Fresh herbs

Professional chefs know the difference a handful of fresh herbs can make. The bright, punchy flavor imparted by herbs levels up even the most humble dish, and Aldi's herbs are priced right. A bunch of cilantro or parsley is apt to cost less than $2, and many stores even stock things like basil, rosemary, and thyme. But buyer beware: Aldi's fresh herbs land on the worst list for their inconsistency.

Some weeks, the herbs are gloriously green and bursting with herbaceous flavor. Other times, the cilantro is slimy before you get to your car and the parsley tastes like paper. There's no real accounting for the difference, either. I've shopped at many different times and days of the week, and there isn't a single time period when you can expect high or low-quality herbs. In fact, I've watched staff as they restocked the shelves, then picked up a gross bag of cilantro immediately after. Unless you're desperate or willing to take the time to scrutinize the herbs each time, pass this item up.

Best: Choceur chocolate (or any Aldi chocolate)

Chocolate, glorious chocolate. If the little treat culture has taught me anything, it's that successes and small achievements are best celebrated with a meltingly smooth and delicious piece of chocolate. Some people like it bitter and dark; others prefer the creaminess of a quality milk chocolate. No matter where you fall on the percentage of cacao spectrum, Aldi has corned the market on reasonably priced European chocolate that tastes amazing.

Because the founders of the company are from Germany — a nation well-known for its consumption of chocolate – this focus makes sense. With that in mind, pretty much any bar you choose is going to be a winner, and as a reasonably affordable price, too. This includes regular favorites like sea salt and caramel, as well as seasonal confections that include dried fruit and peppermint. You can also skip the bar and opt for dark chocolate and sea salt-covered almonds, or the milk chocolate and sea salt caramels, instead. There's no wrong choice with Aldi chocolate.

Worst: Fish

One of the ways Aldi keeps prices low is by stocking limited numbers of products. While other grocery stores tend to carry an average of just over 31,700 items, Aldi stores typically carry around 1,300. This difference shows in its seafood offerings which consist mostly of farmed fish and shrimp, with a few wild options. The Atlantic salmon is anemic and looks mealy, even in the packaging. Occasional offerings of sockeye salmon and coho are marginally better, but there's sometimes no use-by date in sight.

Frozen fish offers the occasional decent option, but just barely. The tilapia I tried was flavorless and tough, and the only frozen salmon is pink or chum — two species that generally aren't good for anything other than cat food (or an odd salmon cake). If you're dead set on fish, look hard for a product with a use-by date, and ask an employee if you cannot find one on the package. Select wild-caught fish when possible, or better yet? Just skip fresh fish and head to Aldi's canned tuna aisle, which features albacore tuna in water for around a dollar.

Best: The entire baking aisle

Bakers tired of exorbitant prices, rejoice! Aldi's baking aisle is the very best part of the store. If you're setting up a new kitchen or just need to restock after a vigorous round of churning out pies, cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, head to this aisle for your pantry staples.

Aldi's baking aisle has delicious options for spices, nuts, chips, sugar, and even some alternative flours (like an affordable bag of almond flour or maybe some chia seeds). Look for different kinds of oils, including avocado and organic olive, and pick up premade graham cracker crusts, gluten-free brownie and cake mix, or marshmallows.

For anyone who's not a big baker but is tasked with baking a cake for some kind of celebration, you can get a boxed mix, a jar of frosting, plus some sprinkles for fairly cheap. If you prefer the island vibe, try mixing in some coconut flakes or canned pineapple.

Worst (and Best?): Meats

It's a crapshoot when it comes to buying any type of meat at Aldi. Sometimes, its organic chicken beats the price of other major retailers, but other times? It may cost a dollar or two more. Occasionally, the steaks look good; other times, they need to be pulled from the shelf before a shopper gets sick just looking at them (though that may be a bit dramatic).

Similarly, Aldi lunch meats are priced comparably to other grocery chains and may not be the quality you're used to — especially if you get your deli meat freshly sliced. Some name-brand options may be a better choice, but the selection tends to be uneven and inconsistent. The quality varies from store to store, so proceed with caution.

One big winner, though, is Aldi's roast pre-packed meal. It comes with a 1 ½ pounds of roast beef, plus carrots, potatoes, and onion. It may not be suited for a proper roasted dinner, but do as I did, and chop it up for an affordable alternative to beef stew meat.

Best: Happy Farms cream cheese

Cream cheese is a staple in many households, and with good reason. It makes bagels better, is foundational for cheesecake, and provides a steady base for many dips. People love it so much it's under attack, as a 2021 cyberattack caused a nationwide shortage of this creamy fresh cheese (leading Kraft to offer money to customers to entice them into buying its Philadelphia cream cheese). Largely unaffected by this was the Aldi brand Happy Farms, a company that consistently churns out (get it?) some excellent dairy products.

This cream cheese is no exception, and Aldi remained relatively stocked in this product even when other cream cheese brands were nowhere to be found. The taste and texture is comparable to Philadelphia cream cheese, and Happy Farms baked up a perfect cheesecake in my informal test kitchen. The main difference — and the deciding factor for ranking this as one of Aldi's best buy — is price. Consistently sold for less than $2 per 8-ounce package as of July 2024, Happy Farms cream cheese is a good antidote to any price hikes found at other grocery stores.

Worst: Asparagus

Asparagus is the highlight of spring vegetables and the tightly packed boxes of thin green spears are always tempting at Aldi. But don't do it — don't be lured in by the promise of perfectly grilled and salty asparagus topped with a squeeze of lemon. With slimy tips and rock-hard stems, the asparagus at Aldi are the succubus.

No matter what they seem like when I pick them out, the moment I get ready to prep them, half the vegetables are lost from snapping off tough stalks, while another third end up with decapitated mushy heads. A bonus worst vegetable is green beans. Both are prepacked in sealed plastic, and both are either slimy, rotten, or moldy (or a combination of the three). Neither vegetable tastes as good as you want it to, so let this be a cautionary tale: asparagus (and green beans) are a no-go at Aldi.

Best: Simply Nature Organic tomato basil pasta sauce

Sunday gravy is best made slowly over hours on a lazy afternoon. But sometimes, you lack the time (or inclination) to put in the minimal effort it takes to make a basic tomato sauce. Frankly, then, it's nice to have a backup pasta sauce plan in the cupboard. So consider heading to Aldi, grabbing a jar of Simply Nature's organic tomato basil pasta sauce, and popping it open when you need a quality gravy.

This may be the best pasta sauce available for the money (usually less than $3 a jar as of July 2024), and it also tastes excellent. It's balanced and mild, so you won't find bold spices here. That mild tomato flavor works well on two levels. It easily picks up any added ingredients you like to add (IE browned meat or spicy peppers), but is mild enough for picky eaters who don't really want much in the way of spice or tang. It still has plenty of fresh tomato flavor, though, and is one of the best Aldi food products.

Selecting Aldi's best and worst foods

Choosing from Aldi's best and worst products was a tasty (and sometimes daunting) challenge. I've shopped off and on at Aldi since 2007, and watched the evolution of its gluten-free and organic brands over the years. I've tried a few outstanding products during that time, along with a variety of underwhelming items. 

Before compiling this list, I had purchased and sampled each of the included Aldi products on this list — many of them multiple time. Additionally, because stock and selection can vary across stores, I've also visited multiple locations to obtain these products. The opinions are based on my own first-hand experience buying and tasting each Aldi food item mentioned in this article.