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?
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.
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.
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 😉
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 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.)
~ 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 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.
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 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.
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.
~ 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.
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.
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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…
Questions and Reviews
Wine!! Wine…and more wine. Lol my husband likes their beer too. But seriously they have some of the best selections and even their 12.99 boxed wine is amazing. And not to be called an alcoholic by Edward….they have great dried fruit and froze cauliflower rice too
I used to buy the famous 2 buck chuck, but finally out grew that!
dark chocolate salted almonds, so delicious
Those are up there with the peanut butter cups 🙂
I drive 40 minutes to the only TJ’s in West Michigan. We make a trip once a month. We have a whole host of favorites, but there are a few items they have that I cannot get anywhere else. I can’t have cow dairy, but goat dairy works well for me, and so I always stock up on the following:
Goat cream cheese
Goat cheese slices
Shredded goat cheese
Crumbled goat cheese
Various other goat & sheep cheeses.
ALSO stock up on:
Orange chicken for husband & son
Frozen mini tacos
Asian snack mix
Baby bok choy
Organic Persian cucumbers
Super 8 chopped veggies
Brussel sprouts saute
Frozen cauliflower fried “rice”
Frozen mashed cauliflower pucks
6 pack mini yogurts (sons favorite!)
Argentine red shrimp
Frozen wild caught cod pieces (for fish tacos!)
Frozen French green beans
Frozen organic super sweet corn
Flavored sparkling waters
We usually end up needing more than one basket for our monthly trip. ?
I just bought a delicious goat Brie the other day, yum 🙂
This is really helpful, I’m going to copy this and look for these treats tomorrow!
For me it’s the goat gouda, the baking cocoa (best price and tastes better than the expensive stuff I have) the Greek olive oil and the organic coconut oil, which I use for cooking as well as skin care. I also use their almond meal to replace half the flour in my baked goods to make them more healthy.
Thanks for the post. I drive four hours for TJs. The dried blueberries, low sodium roasted red pepper and tomato soup and 21 seasoning salute are my favorites.
Boy, I never realized how lucky I was to have one so close by ~ I imagine you don’t pick up too many freezer items with that drive.
Hi Sue, you have such a great website — so many amazing recipes and so nice of you to share your TJ favorite finds and how you use them in your recipes. Going to add them to my list on my next visit. Thank you!
Thanks Roseanne, it’s fun to connect with readers now and again with a post like this.
–A couple of cheeses. I love the Asiago with Rosemary, but when I went there last week they were out. 🙁
–The frozen Indian foods, like Palak Paneer, chicken samosas, etc.
–The frozen mac & cheese, especially the spicy one
–Cans of grape leaves
–Something from the meat case that I wouldn’t normally buy at my regular grocery store. This time it was the Tri-tip roast.
Love your list, the frozen mac and cheeses are amazing. Have you tried the one with Brie and asparagus?
Crunchy Cookie Butter!!! Such a treat!
You know I’ve been so late to that party, I’ve got to try it.
I too live TJ and drive 75 miles to shop there. I have never tried any of the products you described so I’m really excited to make another trip.
Oh gosh, what a long trek, I’m not sure there’s any store I’d go that far for!
There are so many items I never leave TJ without them but I never heard or tried the Green Dragon Hot sauce.. and I’m with you – love those chocolate peanut butter cups too much so I stopped buying them for the same reasons.