Grocery

The 10 Best Kirkland Signature Products You Should Buy at Costco

Grocery-store whisperer Katie Workman reveals which items are as good as—if not better than—name brand.

June 24, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Costco has been killing it in recent years with their house brand, Kirkland. According to Business Insider, 25 percent of their total sales (excluding gas) come from private-label items. That’s a total of $39 billion dollars in 2018, Costco reports in their annual report. And the Costco consumer is a savvy buyer, so we know that means that there is quality in them there hills. No longer something to buy when you feel like saving a few bucks, Kirkland products are well known for their quality and value, and many shoppers are picking Costco products out of preference, not just out of frugality.

Many of these Kirkland goods are made by the very same manufacturers that make the name-brand items that have risen to the tops of their arenas. This means that the excellence you might expect from some brands is very much present in the Kirkland version. Sometimes the manufacturer is easy to discern, sometimes it’s a little more don’t-ask-don’t-tell, but suffice it to say that when you choose Kirkland, you’re often still getting a top-of-the-line item, just not paying extra for the brand name. (But hey! Kirkland is now a respected name in its own right.)

Here are some of the Costco-brand products I often have in my cart, and according to sales, so might you!

1. Balsamic Vinegar

Slightly amusing story here. My older son Jack has always been a balsamic vinegar nut. As in, he dresses his salads with balsamic and often leaves it at that. One time when my kids were little, we were at a salad bar in Florida, and Jack and I were dousing our plates with their balsamic and chatting away about how delicious it was. I asked the manager what the brand was and she came out with a huge bottle of Kirkland balsamic vinegar, and we were loyal fans for life. It’s made in Modena, Italy, home of true balsamic, and the price compared to other balsamic vinegars is terrific: $10.99 for 33.8 ounces (a very big bottle that lasts forever, unless Jack is in your house). We love it in:

2. Olive Oil

I use around a liter of olive oil a week in my daily cooking and recipe development, and if I don’t have a jug or two for backup, I feel a little wobbly—it’s that important of an ingredient to me. Kirkland makes a stellar olive oil, and more than a few professional chefs use it—it’s not diluted with any other oils, and is one of the few to pass both U.S. and international standards for high-quality olive oil. And boy, is the price great: $16.99 for 2 liters. You can buy it in bigger amounts as well for even more savings, if you use copious amounts in your kitchen like I do. Stock up, and try it out when you’re making Parmesan-roasted broccoli, spicy lemon shrimp over rice, or Greek roasted chicken thighs.

3. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is always high on the list of recommended Costco products because it’s excellent in quality and downright cheap, especially compared to what you might pay for pure maple syrup in a regular supermarket. At Costco you’ll pay $13.19 for a 33.8-ounce jug of organic Grade A pure maple syrup (39 cents per ounce!). We love maple syrup on pancakes, French toast, and spoonbread.

4. Saffron

Surprised? Kirkland makes some terrific high-end ingredients, and the pricier an ingredient is, the bigger the savings ounce for ounce (usually). A gram of saffron can easily run around $20 elsewhere, so if it’s an ingredient that makes its way into your cooking, have at it! Here 1 gram is $11.89—plus, it’s organic and from Spain, home to some of the best saffron in the world.

5. Eggs

Many of us have made the switch to cage-free eggs, and once again, Kirkland to the rescue. If you are an egg-loving family or a big baker, then their 24-pack of 2-dozen cage-free eggs are just $3.49! And if you want to go organic, 2-dozen extra-large brown eggs are a steal at $5.99. Well worth making room for in the fridge to make deviled eggs, frittatas, and more.

6. Bacon

Consumer reports rated Kirkland bacon number one in their bacon comparison, giving it their only “excellent” rating. They said it crisped up nicely, had great balanced meat and salt flavors, with a hint of wood smoke and sweetness. Sounds pretty good to me. You can get thin-sliced ($12.99 for four 1-pound packages) or thick-cut ($10.99 for two 1.5-pound packages), perfect for lardons. And remember: Bacon freezes really well.

7. Butter

A couple of things about butter: Yes, sometimes “better” butter (meaning that with a higher fat content and usually a higher price tag) is where you might be heading, particularly if you're using it straight up smeared on bread. But for everyday butter—butter you use to bake with, for instance—the stick butter you can find at your everyday supermarket is just fine. It clocks in at around 80 percent milk fat, whereas the pricier European butters get up to 83 or 84 percent. Costco butter is of very high quality and sold at a compelling price: $10.99 for FOUR pounds, each pound packaged in regular 1/2-cup sticks (and again, don’t forget—you can freeze butter!). I don't know about you, but I'll be whipping up these fudgy one-pot brownies and chocolate–peanut butter squares.

8. Quinoa

Kirkland’s Signature Organic Quinoa gets consistently high marks, and if you are a quinoa family, then you should grab one of their big bags. It boasts lots of fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants... (If you're a quinoa person, then you already know this.) But what's most exciting is the fact that this 4.5-pound bag costs just below 14 cents per ounce. Another leading brand retails at 26 ounces for $13, which comes out to about 50 cents per ounce. Big difference! And if you need a refresher course, here’s how to make perfect quinoa on the stove.

9. Virginia Peanuts

All of the Kirkland nuts at Costco have avid fans—but peanuts are my addiction, and I cannot resist the oversized Virginia-style ones. The Costco tin weighs in at a hefty 40 ounces (dangerous), and they are perfectly salted, fresh, and crunchy, ideal for snacking or for using in recipes both savory and sweet. (Salty peanuts in sweet treats? Heaven.) And, uh, it costs $6.69! As opposed to $23.29 for a 32-ounce comparable tin on Amazon. Crunch.

10. Peppercorns

Most of us never think about peppercorns...that is, until our pepper mills are empty. And then we’re like, “WOW, are peppercorns pricy!” To the tune of $4 or $5 for a small jar. At Costco, you can get a 14.1-ounce jar for $4.99. Do yourself a favor and buy one—it should fill your pepper mill many, many times.

What are your favorite Costco-brand products? Tell us in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cookingmom
    Cookingmom
  • Lzureich
    Lzureich
  • Karen Sklar Gordon
    Karen Sklar Gordon
  • HenryDurham
    HenryDurham
  • Tony Nguyen
    Tony Nguyen
Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.

110 Comments

Cookingmom September 6, 2020
Kirkland pesto is a staple in our house! The flavor is great (a little goes a long way) and the containers are large (22oz) so they last a long time. It's great on potatoes, in mayonnaise for pesto chicken salad, and of course, on pasta. Honestly, the uses are endless and my family cannot get enough of it!
 
Lzureich February 13, 2020
Best Kombucha - ginger lemonade. Nothing else compares.
 
Karen S. December 28, 2019
Coffee!
 
Karen S. December 28, 2019
...and meat!!
 
HenryDurham November 5, 2019
I have to disagree about the butter. I was excited to try it when this article first came out as I use a lot of butter for baked goods. Unfortunately I found the Costco butter flat and dull. You could taste the fat but there was none of the buttery notes I look for. So...I'll continue to use Land-O-Lakes.
 
Jennifer M. November 9, 2019
I think they might mean KerryGold Irish butter? I've read a couple articles that laud the price on THAT. The value is definitely there.....Irish butter is amazing in taste and texture. It's expensive at the regular supermarket.
 
Tony N. September 2, 2019
Are articles not allowed to write about Kirkland coffee beans that are "Roasted by Starbucks?" It's basically Starbucks coffee for a little over 4 bucks a pound.
 
Susan S. September 2, 2019
That's great if you are a Starbucks fan-I am not particularly.
 
Tony P. September 1, 2019
The Kirkland coffee pods (Keurig style) are an excellent value. Last month they were $5.00 off. The Breakfast Blend is every bit as good as any other brand of pods that I have tried.
 
Cristine August 30, 2019
The large can of San Marzano tomatoes is a great value!
 
Cookingmom September 6, 2020
Oh yes! We love those too!
 
toni August 30, 2019
I really like Kirkland tuna fish
 
Susan S. September 2, 2019
Me too.
 
skylined November 4, 2019
They used to sell Skipjack, which is one of the only non endangered types out there. That went away a few years ago and I’m disappointed.
 
Deb August 3, 2019
Someone mentioned the Kirkland wine, which I also recommend. May I also recommend, ahem, some of their other Kirkland branded booze? They have a vodka that is styled like Grey Goose and a whiskey that is styled like Crown Royal. We have completely switched to these. They come in large glass bottles and are so reasonable, especially in our booze price-unfriendly state.
I also recommend some of the Kirkland clothing. I have rarely bought any of the name brand clothes at Costco, but I have bought a Kirkland long rain jacket (great for traveling) and shorts and hiking pants, all fit well, are good quality and I have several colors.
 
BonnieC. August 3, 2019
Thanks for the heads up re: the clothing - we rarely visit that department.

As for the booze - I am ENVIOUS. Have a heard a lot of good things about their liquor brand, but unfortunately here in Virginia they're only allowed to sell wine. (Boo hoo!)
 
trvlnsandy October 5, 2019
Must say - I stop in at the clothing as you never know what you'll find. My husband delights in the 'bargains' he finds there -- usually closeouts, but, makes him happy. Usually well made for good prices. And totally agree on the booze. We have to travel over 2 hours to get to one that has alcohol - but we make the trek a couple times a year (of course, the closest Costco is over an hour).
 
Michael July 31, 2019
Thank you for the nice article. Other people have already posted all the great things, coffee beans, lamb, paper goods. They really are doing a lot right, I look at the ingredients on everything I buy there though and a lot of the prepared foods have so much sugar, sodium, and added starch its kind of mind boggling. Why do they need to add modified corn starch to the packaged cut up chicken?
Sometimes they change things up. The balsamic vinegar may or may not have caramel coloring added. That makes a difference when reducing it gets a bitterness.
The cold press virgin olive oil is definitely better quality. So on and so forth.
Just like anything know what you are buying is my point, and we all know check the expiration date. The brie is awesome and cheap and usually expired but I like tangy brie!
 
trvlnsandy October 5, 2019
Speaking of doing things right - from what I understand it's supposed to be a relatively good place to work, as well.
 
enthous July 31, 2019
Their organic chicken stock is the best.
 
Mary S. July 29, 2019
Costco also sell avocado oil. Excellent value.
 
Ajm916 July 29, 2019
I’m not sure if Kirkland has its own brand of crackers but that is a pantry item I nearly always put in my cart as well as Kirkland canned Albacore tuna and canned salmon great price great quality!
The only problem I can say abt Costco is every warehouse in this area are so busy/crowded, I wish there were more! Or maybe have some stores that are open 24 hours? I’d love that
 
BonnieC. July 29, 2019
Yes, all of ours here in Piedmont/Northern Virginia are extremely crowded as well. We've found the best/easiest times to shop are on weekdays & as close to opening time as possible. Weekends seem to be horrible no matter when you get there.
 
Deb August 3, 2019
We've found going mid-afternoon on weekdays also helps. Of course if you're working a standard 8-5 M-F job you can't do it, but it's less crowded after the opening rush and before the after work rush.
 
Michele K. July 29, 2019
I have to be gluten free, an often expensive diet. Their price on almond four is amazing. I use almond flour in a lot of my GF baking, and almond flour is the main ingredient in macarons. Costco is GF friendly, and their large bags of Milton baked crackers are excellent. Seasonally, I have found coconut flour, lava cakes and many other GF surprises.
 
Elizabeth J. July 29, 2019
During the holidays, Costco always has great deals on bags of pecans and walnuts. I always get a bag of each for my cookie baking. Terrific buy!
 
BonnieC. July 29, 2019
Even year-round Costco has great deals on nuts. Husband is a pistachio lover, so we always keep a canister filled with Kirkland pistachios. And their bagged walnut & pecan halves, as well as their pine nuts always have a home in my freezer.
 
jane F. July 29, 2019
Katie, love your article on Costco, I would also add it is a great place to try new products and be ahead of the food trends!
 
BonnieC. July 29, 2019
Definitely! And you do have to love the many different sample tables & how generous they are. One Xmas season our closest Costco was literally stuffing those adorable (& delicious) little Lindor Truffle chocolates into every nearby hand. We've ended up purchasing a fair number of items after having tried a sample.
 
peter S. July 29, 2019
The exceptional quality of products that Costco carries is unquestionable, as all of the comments here exemplify. I would like to suggest that a company of this dedication to the quality of the work they do, take a stand against plastic packaging. No amount of "recycling" by us will have any real effect, but if an organization with the economic power of Costco demanded it of their suppliers, I bet we would see immediate effects - no more toilet paper in an giant plastic sack, itself containing multiple smaller plastic containers. Until the demand for plastic stops, we will continue to clog the oceans, and it is appearing in our own bodies now, as evidenced by articles in the Guardian (Sept 5, 2017 and October 22, 2018}. So I would like it if Costco weren't selling water to people in plastic bottles wrapped in plastic as well as educating customers about what we all can do to stem the flow of plastic in our economy.
If I felt that Costco were just another multi-billion dollar corporate monster, I wouldn't waste my time, but their attention to quality and reasonable price as well as the intelligent way they provide for their workforce makes me hope they might be willing to listen to our concerns.
 
MLa July 29, 2019
Amen to that!
 
BonnieC. July 29, 2019
All this may very well be true, but honestly - did you really have to get up on a soapbox during what was meant to be a lighthearted, enjoyable discussion on the best of Costo's Kirkland brand? I really don't think the lecture/buzzkill was necessary here.
 
Agatha B. July 29, 2019
Ditto.
 
Billie July 30, 2019
I totally agree and wonder how to get them to stop with all the plastic.........it's everywhere!
 
S September 4, 2019
I didn’t realize commenters weren’t allowed to express their opinions about Costco’s overall corporate social responsibility, and our hopes for improving the state of various business impacts on the environment. Note to self...
 
trvlnsandy October 5, 2019
Although, having us buy larger packages helps in a way. But agree. Write to them.
 
Phaedra July 28, 2019
I appreciate that Costco provides decent quality products for the budget-conscious. That said, I am not sure that it is sustainable. Their olive oil (last I checked) is in a plastic container, their eggs may be "cage-free" but the US sets a very low bar in terms of what that actually means. It costs more but "pastured" eggs are the only ones which guarantee a modicum of fair treatment for chickens. I guess that Michael Pollen said it best : Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn't paid at the cash register, it's charged to the environment or to the public purse in the form of subsidies. And it's charged to your health.
 
BonnieC. July 28, 2019
Yes, their olive oil (& other products) is in a plastic container, but it's recyclable. As for their eggs, that's an entirely different brouhaha than what's being discussed here. And frankly, I don't consider any of Costco's food "cheap", & definitely not in the way good old Michael Pollen considers it.
 
Mary S. July 29, 2019
I have found Sicilian olive oil that is contained in glass.
 
Spencer July 28, 2019
No one has mentioned their CAT AND DOG FOOD! Their complete line of dry and wet is both best quality (protein content, etc.) and best price.
 
Linda July 28, 2019
We ALWAYS have the honey smoked salmon in our fridge...sometimes 2 packages. It's great for appetizers, chowder and I have a killer recipe for pasta with the salmon, pine nuts, etc. If they ever stop carrying it I'll have a major meltdown.