12 Things I Never Leave Trader Joe’s Without!

Trader Joe's marcona almonds

12 Things I Never Leave Trader Joe’s Without ~ TJs sparks foodie passions like no other store, and our favorites list is as unique as our fingerprints. How does my list match up with yours?

trader joes bag

I love Trader Joe’s, but honestly I don’t get there super often because the parking can be hellish, at least where I live. But there are so many unique things you can only get at TJs, so I brave it every once in a while, and try to stock up. Shopping Trader Joe’s is a little bit like a treasure hunt, they’re always adding new innovative products, hidden gems, and unusual finds, but no matter what I discover on any given trip, I always come home with these staples in my bag…

Living Basil Plant

~I pick this up right as I enter the store so I won’t forget, and I put it right up front in my cart so it doesn’t get squished. I’ve talked before about what a great deal living herbs are. Prepackaged herbs last only a few days, but a plant can go on for a month or more! (And Trader Joe’s basil plant is bigger than those in grocery stores.)  It brightens up my kitchen counter and I love being able to snip off perfect basil leaves whenever I need them. My Basil Marinated Mozzarella with Summer Tomatoes and Easy Whitefish with Burst Cherry Tomatoes and Basil wouldn’t be the same without it.

Trader Joe's Fresh basil plant

Frozen Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons

~ these little wontons have fabulous texture and flavor. You can fry them up like potstickers and serve with an easy dip of Tamari sauce and rice wine vinegar, or you can make a super quick soup like I did with my Miso Wonton Soup. They’re a secret weapon in your freezer for quick meals.

Trader Joe's Chicken Cilantro Wontons

Marcona Almonds with Rosemary

~ one of the best things ever invented…if you’ve never tried them, get yourself to a TJs asap. No cheese plate, big or small, is complete without them, and they make the best snack! Marcona almonds are a Spanish variety that have a buttery taste and a softer crunch than regular almonds. Trader Joe’s sells Truffle Marcona Almonds, too, which sound great but I haven’t tried them, I’m too obsessed with the rosemary ones 😉

Trader Joe's Marcona Almonds

Frozen Edamame Beans (in the shell)

~ there’s something about popping open hot salted pods of edamame beans that is so satisfying, I get a rhythm going and pretty much don’t stop till they’re gone. (I can create a mound of empty pods in record time.)  But edamame beans are healthy, so I don’t feel too bad. I actually prefer the un-cooked version of these pods, but they were out the day I shopped. TJs also sells these beans shelled, too, ready to use in salads like my  Tortellini Salad with Artichokes and Edamame.

Trader Joe's Frozen Edamame Beans in the shell

Tart d’Alsace

~ Trader Joes sells a few versions of these French inspired ultra thin tarts and they’re all good. They take just minutes to cook, so there’s never a dinner emergency when I have one of these in the freezer. Add a salad and it’s a feast. (These tarts inspired my Goat Cheese and Summer Squash Tart.)

Trader Joe's Tart d'Alsace

Slab Apricots

~  oh how I love these! Apricots are my favorite dried fruit and slabs are the ultimate. They may not look as pretty but they more than make up for it in flavor and texture. Slab apricots are the sweetest and most intensely flavored of all dried apricots, and also the moistest. What exactly is a slab apricot? These are apricots that are picked fully ripe (i.e. at the peak of flavor) and so soft that they don’t hold their shape when cut and dried. Nirvana!!

I bake them up in my Paleo Fruit and Nut Bread, or stir them into granolas and breakfast bowls. But one of the prettiest ways to show them off is in a jeweled rice or tabbouleh.

Trader Joe's Slab Apricots

Almond Meal

~ Trader Joe’s carries almond and hazelnut meals, which are so useful in so many recipes. I grab a few bags and pop them right in the freezer so they’ll stay fresh. They also sell Almond Flour, and I’ll use them pretty much interchangeably. It’s what makes my Flourless Warm Lemon Pudding Cakes, Flourless Belgian Chocolate Cake, and Flourless Tangerine Cake so deliciously gluten free.

Trader Joe's Almond Meal

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

~ possibly the best sweet treat ever made. Everything about them is perfect. I stash them in the freezer and eat them cold. The plastic seal on these tubs never makes it home intact 😉   Full disclosure: I don’t actually buy these every time I go to Trader Joe’s or I’d be a thousand pounds. But they’re so good I had to include them 🙂

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Pine Nuts

~ Trader Joes has the best deal on pine nuts, which can be expensive and hard to find. When I do find them in other stores they come in ridiculously tiny bags. I always buy multiples at TJs and keep in the freezer. Whenever I’ve got a Mediterranean recipe that needs a little something, I just toss in some pine nuts, toasted of course. Pine nuts add a special touch to Roasted Asparagus with Crispy Breadcrumbs, Pine Nuts, and Runny Eggs, for instance, and I can’t make on of my favorite pasta dishes, Spaghetti con Pignoli Arrosti (with Roasted Pine Nuts) without a nice big bag like this.

Trader Joe's Pine Nuts

Heavy Cream (not ultra-pastuerized)

~this is one of the few ingredients I’ll make a special trip to TJs for…it’s hard to source heavy cream that has not been heat treated (ultra-pasteurized) and it’s essential for my Homemade Clotted Cream.

Trader Joe's Heavy Cream

Clarified Butter

~ Where else are you going to find clarified butter? Because clarified butter has the milk solids removed, it can be used to cook at higher heats, when regular butter would burn. It’s great to have on hand for authentic Indian recipes like my Lemon Chicken Biryani.

Trader Joe's Clarified Butter

Green Dragon Hot Sauce

~ When I’m not making my own green hot sauce, I make sure to have this one around. It’s hot but not too hot, with lots of jalapeños, tomatillo, vinegar, cilantro, garlic, habaneros, and lime. I love it on eggs.

Trader Joe's Green Dragon Hot Sauce

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Trader Joe's Pin

So that’s my list, but of course there’s so much more, like those peanut butter pretzels ~ fresh tubs of pesto ~ frozen (unbaked) croissants ~ chocolate chip dunkers ~ Hatch chile mac and cheese ~ spanakopita ~ Parmesan pastry pups ~ mini Brie bites ~ sliced rosemary ham ~ I could go on and on…

So now it’s your turn ~ what awesome Trader Joe items have I been missing out on??

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 11:38 am

    I don’t go to Trader Joe’s although I could easily since parking is generally not an issue in Minneapolis. What I don’t like about it is all the packaging. I have membership at a great food coop which has much less packaging and has all I need, bring my own bags. I make my own ghee. I also make my own yogurt when I realized how many plastic containers pile up, even though they are recyclable. Less plastic use!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 12:11 pm

      Great points. I love to make yogurt ~ and I just decided to do a post on making homemade ghee, any tips?

  • Reply
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    January 27, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I’d probably choose the same things if we had Trader Joe’s in the UK!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      It’s probably just a matter of time 🙂

  • Reply
    Kathy B
    January 27, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Sue, I like Trader Joe’s shampoo and body wash. I love their selection of cheeses (and the price!), the carb free cheese bites, dark chocolate almonds, toasted hazelnuts. At Christmas, I bought a tabletop rosemary Christmas tree.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 12:14 pm

      One of the things that I was going to put on my list was cheese for sure, any kind, their selection is fun. I also buy the rosemary trees at xmas.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 11:09 am

    I wish we had Trader Joe’s over here. It looks like you can get some great things.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 10:16 am

    French Roast Whole bean DECAF coffee beans because I haven’t found them anywhere else!
    Spanish Olive Oil
    Tomato Paste in a tube, best price around
    Low sodium Soy Sauce, good value
    Seasame seed oil
    Parmigiano-Reggiano in a tub
    Asian Chili sauce
    dijon and whole grain mustard
    frozen edamame SHELLED

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 10:19 am

      Love your list, I need them all.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 10:08 am

    We are visiting friends in the US at the end of June. Will have to take this list with me and see what I can bring back on the plane!!

  • Reply
    Heather Hughes
    January 27, 2019 at 9:47 am

    We love their frozen vegetarian and pork pot stickers. I buy MANY bags for quick, busy weeknight dinners. So easy to stir fry a few veggies along with it.
    My teenage sons are addicted to their frozen hash browns. They’d eat the whole package in one sitting if I let them.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 9:50 am

      Haven’t tried the hashbrowns, but that makes so much sense, and the potstickers are one of their best products!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 9:47 am

    What I always pick up
    1. Raw whole cashews
    2. Clusters cereal, maple pecan
    3. Organic, maple agave
    4. Creamed honey
    5. Spinach & cheese spanakopita
    6. Organic green beans
    7. Turkey stock
    8. Riced cauliflower stuffing
    9. Pesto pizza
    10. lemongrass chicken rolls
    But non food.. I always get
    1. Moisturizing cream
    2. Spa face wash with tea tree oil. I just never leave the store without those 2. I do buy plants and sundries. Lots of new items to try. I will buy boxes sets of baking things just to have on hold as well. Last one I tried over Christmas were Maple pecan shortbread bar box!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 10:07 am

      I just noticed the creamed honey for the first time the other day, it looks so good, what do you do with it? And yes to the Spanakopita, I make dinner out of it, one of my favorites 🙂 Love the lemongrass chicken rolls, too, I almost included those on my list.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 9:41 am

    I love all your faves, as well, especially the peanut butter cups. 🙂
    But our family favorite is hands-down Soyrizo! My Mexican father in law didn’t even notice it was a veg option when I made it for him, and when I told him what it was after he complemented my cooking, he was shocked at how authentic it tasted. He’s now fully converted to TJ’s soyrizo and doesn’t even buy the Mexican-made pork variety any more.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 9:42 am

      Great suggestion, I haven’t tried it but it does sound so interesting. It’s amazing what they’re doing with meat substitutes these days, and we need them so badly!

  • Reply
    Monique Domian
    January 27, 2019 at 9:22 am

    I go to TJs on the regular and one of the many delightful products I would recommend is the Pink Grapefruit Marmalade. I make a grilled Brie and Havarti cheese sandwich with crispy shallots on sliced brioche bread with a schmear of Dijon mustard on one side and a Tbsp of marmalade on the other. The flavors together are meltingly delicious. And I sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar on top of the sandwich to give it a bit of a French toast twist! I could also imagine making a citrusy thumbprint cookie and using a dollop of that marmalade.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 9:22 am

      omg you’ve got me drooling Monique!!

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