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

Thanks for pinning!

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
    Kimberly Gilmer
    January 27, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    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

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 8:13 pm

      I used to buy the famous 2 buck chuck, but finally out grew that!

  • Reply
    Christina Ringo
    January 27, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    dark chocolate salted almonds, so delicious

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 8:02 pm

      Those are up there with the peanut butter cups 🙂

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    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
    Jicama sticks
    Baby bok choy
    Organic Persian cucumbers
    Super 8 chopped veggies
    Brussel sprouts saute
    English crumpets
    Roasted macadamias
    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. ?

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 8:14 pm

      I just bought a delicious goat Brie the other day, yum 🙂

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 9:44 pm

      This is really helpful, I’m going to copy this and look for these treats tomorrow!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 7:31 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    Rosanne Surette
    January 27, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks Roseanne, it’s fun to connect with readers now and again with a post like this.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    –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
    –Olive oil
    –Something from the meat case that I wouldn’t normally buy at my regular grocery store. This time it was the Tri-tip roast.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 6:00 pm

      Love your list, the frozen mac and cheeses are amazing. Have you tried the one with Brie and asparagus?

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Crunchy Cookie Butter!!! Such a treat!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 5:59 pm

      You know I’ve been so late to that party, I’ve got to try it.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 5:23 pm

      Oh gosh, what a long trek, I’m not sure there’s any store I’d go that far for!

  • Reply
    2sisters recipes
    January 27, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    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.

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