6 Foods We Surprisingly Didn't Hate In 2022

We didn't have high hopes for any of these grocery products, and we were proven dead wrong.

When you taste as many different snacks and drinks as we do, it's important to have reasonable expectations. And at the risk of sounding too cynical, it's always better to set those expectations too low rather than too high. If you prepare for the reality that hot-dog-flavored candy corn is going to taste awful, then your day won't be ruined when you find out it does, in fact, taste awful.

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On the contrary, when you come across a bizarre or unassuming product that's actually delicious, it can feel downright miraculous. There's nothing quite like the pleasant surprise of really liking—dare I even say loving—a novelty snack. These are the foods and drinks we tasted in 2022 that defied our expectations and turned out to be truly great.

Kellogg’s Instabowls

We weren't expecting much from Kellogg's new Instabowls, aka cups of dry cereal to which you add water instead of milk. The cereal comes packaged with dry milk powder (which Kellogg's press release refers to more snappily as "instantized milk"), so once you add the water and give everything a 10-second stir, you allegedly end up with a convincing bowl of cereal and milk. We had visions of thin, clumpy "milk" and waterlogged cereal.

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The end result, though, was a perfectly average-looking bowl of cereal. A spoonful of Apple Jacks tasted thoroughly normal. The liquid wasn't watery and wan; the label indicated that the dry milk had approximately the same amount of fat as 2% milk, which came through as a subtle richness.

Instabowls are a pretty damn convenient product. Whether you have occasion to buy these things is up to you, but we're happy knowing that just-add-water cereal is a concept that can work. Read our full Instabowls review here. 

Clam-O-Naise

In October of 2021, Cards Against Humanity paid tens of thousands of people $5 each to troll Hellmann's on Twitter, asking it to bring back a clam-flavored mayonnaise that never existed to begin with. Now, courtesy of Cards, Clam-O-Naise is a real thing. And it's good.

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Clam-O-Naise is inspired by a classic clam dish, clams casino, which contains butter, garlic, bacon, white wine, lemon, and, of course, clams on the half shell. As such, the novelty mayo spread contains clam juice concentrate and clam base, along with mustard, garlic, onion powder, lemon juice concentrate, and bacon flavoring. On paper that sounds potentially traumatizing, but you have to remember, clam juice (or base) is already in stuff you probably enjoy, like Clamato, a tomato and clam juice product used to make micheladas.

The Clam-O-Naise website offers a few recipes and serving suggestions, one of which is a simple turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich on toasted white bread, an excellent use for Clam-O-Naise. You can also turn it into dipping sauce evoking the flavors of a michelada. This concoction would make a great salad dressing, a secret sauce for a burger, a topper for fish tacos, or a dipping sauce for shrimp. Read our full Clam-O-Naise review here.

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Walmart Great Value Turkey Gravy

Jarred gravy can be off-putting, glopping out of its container all viscous and jiggly. But it can also be useful if you're cooking for one, building a heat-and-eat Thanksgiving menu, or just don't like making gravy.

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In our taste test of five major brands of premade store-bought gravy, we didn't have exceedingly high expectations for Great Value, Walmart's house brand. But shockingly, the Great Value gravy was the most layered flavor experience of any leading brand tasted—and it just so happens that it's the cheapest gravy on the list too, at just $0.98 per 10.5-0z. can. Read our full store-bought turkey gravy rankings here.

Capri Sun with less sugar

In both original Capri Sun pouches and Capri Sun's new formula with less sugar, the two most prominent ingredients are filtered water and sugar. Monk fruit concentrate, which helps the new product cut down on added sugars, manages to maintain a virtually identical taste to original Capri Sun, with a saccharine hit that doesn't leave the unforgivable aftertaste of most artificial and/or naturally derived sweeteners. It goes down easy, and kids are unlikely to notice the difference. Read our full review of Capri Sun with less sugar here.

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Trader Joe’s Vegan Salmonesque Spread

Vegan food has come a long way. But vegan seafood substitutes are relatively new territory, so we were cautious when trying Trader Joe's Vegan Salmonesque Spread. The dip is flavored with capers and dill, and its base mainly consists of vegan cream cheese, vegan mayo, and flecks of soy-based imitation smoked salmon.

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It's good—great, even. Creamy, gently smoky, and truly reminiscent of salmon dip, since it captures that smoke essence so well. While the flakes of soy-based salmon aren't super noticeable on their own, they're not the point. The real point is to catch the vibe of the dip as a whole, which this product does admirably. Read our full review of Trader Joe's Vegan Salmonesque Spread here.

MTN DEW Purple Thunder

When a beverage takes on the hue of Fabuloso All-Purpose Cleaner, there are two possibilities: Either it'll taste really bad or it'll taste really good. That's the risk we took when sampling MTN DEW Purple Thunder.

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At first sip, Purple Thunder contains much of the sharp acidity of MTN DEW Baja Blast—a flavorful, carbonated bite. But unlike Baja Blast, Purple Thunder settles into something softer with its notes of blackberry and plum.

Overall, MTN DEW Purple Thunder manages to pour up something more subtle and juicy than the daily DEW drinker is used to. If Baja Blast is for shaggy-haired skaters, then Purple Thunder is for shaggy-haired skaters who wear tasteful floral prints. Read our full review of MTN DEW Purple Thunder here.

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