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
    Marilyn Bement
    January 27, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    FrozenMashed potato disc, frozen cauliflower disc, raspberry jam, hair mask, spices, and the list goes on and on.. Discover something new every time I shop there.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      I need a good hair mask, checking that one out!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Back off, Edward. If you pay attention and keep an open mind, you can learn something new in the way of recipes and cooking from Sue.

  • Reply
    [email protected] is How I Cook
    January 27, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    It took me awhile to love TJ’s. But slowly I got used to it and am lucky to have one 5 minutes away. You are right, some things you just gotta have. Like Marcona Almonds!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Sue your diet is a health mess. It’s not easy to slowly commit suicide at Trader Joe’s but damn girl – you found a way.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      This definitely doesn’t represent my health recommendations, Edward, just a fun round up of stuff I really love ~ if you peruse my site you’ll see I’m pretty even keeled when it comes to a healthy diet 🙂

    • Reply
      Nora J Winn
      January 27, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      Edward! Why would you even think for one tiny little man-second that this was ever meant as anything more than a list? I guess no one ever man-splained this to you before. So.. Now you know.. List =list =list.
      OH wait! I just had an epiphany! If making a list, which includes several things that might not be totally healthy, which then Must mean everything that person cooks/consumes is unhealthy… So if I only make lists that are 100% healthy then I will be 100% healthy? That’s it? Dang Ed.. Ive been doing this wrong for 65 years! Phooey. I need more time. Hope you r at least smiling. ?

  • Reply
    Sandra Shill
    January 27, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    I always get a bag each of their frozen mushroom risotto and frozen asparagus risotto. Heat one of those up in the microwave and mix in some leftover chicken and you have a really yummy dinner in under 10 minutes that is actually fairly low in calories!

    TJ’s is also the cheapest place to buy most nuts (even including places like Walmart), so, ever since reading an NYT article that documented scientific studies showing that having almonds every day drastically reduces the incidence of many medical issues, I always buy a couple of bags of plain, raw, whole almonds when I go, and stick the one I’m not ready to use in the freezer.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 2:17 pm

      I agree about the nuts, they can be so expensive elsewhere, but I have to put in a plug for my Instant Pot risottos which take 6 minutes (plus the heat up and venting time) ~ they are SO good, I’ll never make risotto any other way 🙂

  • Reply
    Krista Daily
    January 27, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    I love the coconut strips. They’re a great snack.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 2:17 pm

      I’ve never seen those!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    I love these TJ’s lists because I always find a new item or 2 to try! I always buy the frozen brown and frozen jasmine rice, salsa verde for white chicken chili, the sliced yogurt cheese (tastes like cheddar!), freeze dried strawberries, glazed pecans, goat cheese, marscarpone, salami, bacon and seasonings like the pink salt grinder, Chile lime, garlic salt and everything but the bagel seasoning. I also love the precut broccoli! I could go on and on!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 2:18 pm

      I love lists too, and I agree with all your choices, the goat cheese was a staple buy for me for years.

      • Reply
        Nora J Winn
        January 27, 2019 at 5:20 pm

        Another great item.. Even if my mouth (after damaged sub-mandibular salavary gland due to internal radiation almost 20 years ago) can not take really spicy things so I have to pour out over half of the yellow curry sauce & add honey.. The jackfruit in yellow curry sauce is really good. I like they have the rice separate.

  • Reply
    Amy | The Cook Report
    January 27, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    I so wish we had Trader Joes in the UK, all this stuff looks amazing!

  • Reply
    Karen Anderson
    January 27, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    You should mention that the happy workers will open any package for you to taste. I don’t know any other store that will do that.
    I have 2 TJ’s close to me but the parking is awful in both. One I won’t even try to get into and the other is iffy at best. So when I do go, I stock up on nuts. The raw almonds are good but my favorite is the almonds and chocolate! Yum! And the walnuts for baking are a must.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    I love their German soft pretzels in the frozen aisle. Brush with a little water and heat up in the oven. Taste like being back in munich.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      OK I didn’t know about the soft pretzels, I’m heading back to the store today 😉

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