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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138 Comments

    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Roxane Rosalinda Marek
    January 28, 2019 at 7:35 am

    My mom and I are so glad we don’t have to go to TJ anymore. Hahahahahahahahah

  • Reply
    Donna
    January 28, 2019 at 6:08 am

    I want to head to Trader Joe’S today for some of that Heavy cream and make clotted cream. It’s only about 15 minutes from me, but parking is a problem. We’re having some chilly weather in our usually hot south Florida today. Seems like a good day to do some cooking!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:04 am

      Remember your oven temp is critical with that recipe, so make sure it’s at 180F and good luck!

  • Reply
    Andrea Stoeckel
    January 28, 2019 at 5:30 am

    TJ isn’t so hard to park at but, without a car and poor bus routes it’s a pain. However, we were given some Winter Tea that proves that TJs is worth the trip

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:25 am

      Grocery shopping is a huge pain without a car, and in bad weather to boot. I think all the new delivery services are amazing, I wonder if TJs will ever get on board with that.

  • Reply
    MDE
    January 28, 2019 at 4:37 am

    I can’t believe nobody has suggested TJ’s cilantro-jalapeno hummus. It’s amazing, not too spicy and not an overwhelming cilantro flavor. Paired with their mini pita’s, my hubby and I could finish a whole tub in one sitting. We always buy 3 or 4 and share with hummus loving friends!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:06 am

      I’m not sure I’ve ever tried that one, I used to buy their hummus but ever since I started making my own, there was no need 😉 I make a pretty good cilantro hummus, it’s on the blog, but I don’t add jalapeño ~ that sounds good!

  • Reply
    Jo Tourtelotte
    January 28, 2019 at 4:28 am

    I live 2 miles from a Trader Joe’s which has an underground parking ramp, so parking is seldom an issue (except 5-7 p.m. on Fridays!)
    We live their Kung Pai chicken and the tarts you mentioned. And the Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips are wonderful! (slightly sweet as well as salty)
    Now I need to go to TJ’s!

  • Reply
    Caroline G Dorey
    January 28, 2019 at 3:58 am

    My family loves the green casserole from the box of TJ’s mushroom soup and frozen green beans. We also love TJs frozen roasted corn off the cob and family dinners like beefl bourgignon.

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:17 am

      I haven’t tried any of those, but you just reminded me of their individual frozen French onion soups which I love! I wonder if they still sell those?

  • Reply
    Lori J
    January 27, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Chipotle Toscana Cheese. Sparkling coconut water with Yuzu. Cold pressed juices green and red.

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:18 am

      All of which I need to check out 🙂

  • Reply
    Glynn Powell
    January 27, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Years ago the special food samples they were giving out was a soup made from a box of the Tomato and roasted red pepper soup (also a low sodium version) combined with a package of Chimichurri rice. It’s not really cooking, it’s combining, but DAMN if isn’t the best soup Ever!
    I eat it all winter at least once a week combined with a grilled cheese sandwich.
    I serve this occasionally to friend’s without a word about what I’m doing…essentially nothing…and everyone wants the recipe.
    Just sayin!…..

    So, this is one of the things I never leave TJ’s without!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:23 am

      I love recipes that are that simple and delish.

  • Reply
    Ky
    January 27, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    I love that we women are here to do as the article suggests– Share our favorite finds from Trader Joe’s and like the one man to comment has to be rude. J eeze, if you knew anything about TJ’s it’s about getting those little extra specialty items. Dude, let us enjoy our salted dark chocolate almonds!!!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 28, 2019 at 7:22 am

      Down the road I think I will do a post on healthy picks from TJs, he had a point 😉

  • Reply
    Cold girl
    January 27, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Umm, the picture of the heavy cream clearly says pasteurized and that’s the only kind my TJs carries.

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 27, 2019 at 9:49 pm

      Right, it’s the ‘ultra-pasteurized’ cream that you usually find in supermarkets, that’s been heated to an extra high temp for longer storage. Pasteurized is the old fashioned kind, and it’s useful for me because I make clotted cream with it.

      • Reply
        Rita
        January 28, 2019 at 4:47 am

        Can you post your recipe for clotted crem? Im’m the Queen of Scones and now I know why my “clotted cream” was off!

      • Reply
        Barbara
        January 28, 2019 at 5:55 am

        Never leave Trader Joe’s without
        Pineapple juice.
        Riced cauliflower
        Cauliflower gnocchi
        Frozen raspberry danish
        Broccoli slaw
        Water
        Seasonings
        Mini coins mint cookies
        Ohh the miniature ice cream cones

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