Exceptional H-E-B Store Brands

Categories: Top Five

HEB Storebrands.JPG
John Kiely
I banned store brands shortly after high school, after spending less money on a large jar of strawberry jam, and getting sparsely fruited corn-syrupy red sludge. I saved one dollar and tossed out three. But last year I observed, then participated in a blind taste test of five raspberry preserves at Central Market.

All of the tasters picked the Central Market Organics raspberry over the contenders, which included my previous favorite. The Howard E. Butt Grocery Company, which encompasses both Central Market and H-E-B, changed my opinion of packaged private label brands, and at least five of them are extraordinary. I thought that with the new Montrose H-E-B getting ready to open, now was a good time to share.

5. H-E-B Tortillas
When I visited the Meyerland store, the shelves were stripped of all H-E-B Tortillas, while the national brands, such as Mission, languished on the shelves below. Fortunately, the H-E-B man arrived with a new crate of Yellow Corn tortillas. Not only are they tasty and cheap, but with such high turnover, the tortillas are remarkably fresh.

At Central Market, the flour versions are often still warm, and the bag arrives home with fewer tortillas.

4. Central Market Organics Pasta
After I did a semi-puff piece on boiling DeCecco, ArchieLeach commented:

I swore by Barilla for a while and then I switched to H-E-B's pasta. I haven't looked back since.

Good call. It's made in Italy, yet it's competitively priced with American brands, and it's delicious. The pasta isn't as hard as DeCecco, so stick to the recommended boiling times on the package.

Commenter Megan and EOW blogger Christine Uticone also touted the whole-wheat H-E-B pasta, and I'll just trust them on that. Christine's from New York.

3. H-E-B Egg Nog
I've sampled every eggnog in this market, including pricier brands like Borden's and Promised Land, but most of them have an overly creamy taste, with not enough, uh, nog. The last one I tried was H-E-B Egg Nog. The long search was worth it, as this eggnog has a rich, custardy taste, like liquid flan. Better yet, when I mix 1½ ounces of bourbon or rum into 6 ounces of eggnog, and dust lightly with freshly-grated nutmeg, I have the taste of Instant Holiday.

Mistakenly, I once bought H-E-B Light Eggnog. The "lightness" comes from extra high-fructose corn syrup, and as it poured out of the bottle in unnatural gloppy waves, a regret formed.

2. Central Market Organics Preserves and H-E-B More Fruit Spreads
Besides the above taste test, commenter YumYum clued us in on what tastes good on Greek yogurt:

I buy a large container of Fage and a jar of H-E-B fruit spread (Raspberry Yumyum). The fruit spread is not as sweet as preserves. It's closer to what comes in the Fage side car.

And thanks to commenter sunny bogden for turning us on to Morello Cherry from Canada:

I agree with YumYum's idea of mixing the plain with spreads. H-E-B's "more fruit" spreads are really good. I like the Mango/Peach. Central Market also has a Morello Cherry preserves that's delicious.

All of the spreads and preserves are less than three dollars.

1. Central Market Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oils
Harold McGee is a premier food scientist, yet I was skeptical when he reported that olive oils all taste the same when heated. So, I tested several myself, and it's true--heated olive oils taste like popcorn. We use the cheaper CM Spanish oil for cooking, and the Italian for raw applications. Both of them are highly competitive with expensive oils when tasted unheated, and are available at all H-E-B stores.



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20 comments
Kimberly
Kimberly

As an employee of HEB, one of my  perks is that I get a discount on any HCF, HEB, and CM brands.  To date I've saved over $230 this year which means I've bought over $2,300 of store brand items.  I'm a single person so it's safe to say that I spend most of my money on HEB store brands.  Some of my favorite things from HEB are their mac n' cheese, much better than Kraft and about a third of the price.  The other things I really enjoy are their fully cooked line of meats and meals.  The pecan smoked brisket is some of the best brisket I've ever tasted!  I've only sampled the breaded chicken nuggets but they come out crispy from the microwave, hard to do, moist and tasty.  I also love their Carolina style BBQ sauce.  I could almost drink it!  I also don't drink soda but when I did, I really appreciated getting a delicious soda, orange burst was my favorite!, for only $0.50 and still 20 oz. 

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Texas and KC BBQ sauces are fantastic.

William Philpot
William Philpot

If there is an HEB brand equivalent I almost always buy it. Particularly the soda. Like someone else said, I hardly have soda anymore, but if I do grab some the HEB brand is superior to most brand name sodas.

Ali
Ali

I always buy their olive oil. And their sugar-free maple syrup. That is something hard to make taste good. The only company that ever has is Blackburn's and you can't buy it in a store. I discovered it at Waffle House. I used to order it from the manufacturer until I tried HEB's. It was in the same bottle so I thought maybe it was the same company making it for HEB. It is. And it's really, really good. And dirt cheap.

Mike N.
Mike N.

I know it sounds snobby, but to me, for whatever reason, HEB's store brands have never had the "taint" of being low rent like other store brands.

Megan
Megan

One of the things I miss about Texas is HEB.  The grocery stores in KC don't hold a candle; even my beloved Hy-Vee has fallen out of favor.  Could someone please ship some Hatch tortilla chips and CM chimichurri to me?

Deb
Deb

HEB egg nog might be good, but I'm never giving up my Borden's Premium, it's the only one without nutmeg, which tastes really, really good with Jack Daniels.

Brian
Brian

The Central Market brand soups are excellent, especially the tomato-asiago and roasted red pepper varieties. They're the only soups I buy.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

H-E-B-brand stuff got me through college on a budget, and for that I'll be forever grateful. That stuff's been kicking ass for over 10 years now...

ArchieLeach
ArchieLeach

So far, the only HEB items that I've tried that weren't winners were the hot dogs and the "Crystal Light" drink mixes.  Everything else, yums.

John J. Ross
John J. Ross

Which store in Meyerland are you referring to? I wish there were a real HEB in the area. The closest store in Meyerland is a pantry store= glorified convenience store.

Brian Poirier
Brian Poirier

I don't drink sodas much anymore, but occasionally like a flavored one for the taste and sugar kick.  HEB's store brand sodas are awesome: low cost, better flavor than any name brand.  Their ginger ale and cream ones are the best.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I am also an HEB store brand convert. The Morello Cherry preserves paired with lemon-cranberry scones are a constant breakfast staple in my house.

I do think their wheat pastas are exceptionally good--the best I've ever tried. My grandmother is rolling over in her grave, but we just don't eat that much semolina pasta anymore. Exceptions are when we are eating pasta in very light sauces (ex. oil & garlic). Their pasta sauces are also great, as big red mentions. I am partial to their primavera--very chunky, full of veggies, and slightly sweet.

big red
big red

Their different kinds of marinara sauce are very good. And much cheaper than the popular brands. Their eggbeater equivalent is awful, as is their mayo.

Corey
Corey

HEB gatorade, tastes the same and is real sugar too no HFCS..

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

Whole-heartedly agree: HEB's select BBQ sauces are some of the best sauces I've ever had that weren't homemade. Texas and Carolina are my favorites, but they're all fantastic. The Southwest marinara is pretty damn good, too.

John K.
John K.

Yep, that's the one.  It's no match for Belden's across the bayou.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

I totally agree about their whole wheat pasta - the best.

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