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
    February 1, 2019 at 9:41 am

    I’m a ginger fanatic, and TJ’s has two ginger items I can’t pass up: ginger turmeric tea and dark chocolate covered candied ginger pieces. We just got our Trader Joe store here two years ago; it was a long time to wait! I’m going to try a few of the items you suggested as well as some listed in the comments. Yum!

    • Reply
      February 1, 2019 at 10:31 am

      I haven’t tried either of those and I love ginger too, thanks!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Frozen almond turnovers
    Frozen rice (brown, basmati, jasmine) – perfect rice in 3 minutes in the microwave
    1/2 salt dry roasted almonds
    Triple ginger cookies
    Lattemiel cookies
    Mini milk chocolate peanut butter cups (amazing when frozen)
    TJ’s shampoo and conditioner
    Mango shaving cream

  • Reply
    Karen w
    January 29, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Everything but the bagel seasoning
    Yellow cake mix ( really really tastes homemade!!)
    Unexpected cheddar- like cheddar with Parmesan added
    Artichoke and jalapeño dip
    PB filled pretzels
    Beer bread mix

    This all from the bestly located Trader Joe’s, at Patriot Place next to Gillette Stadium! Go Pats!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2019 at 9:24 am

    Just back in before we crash to 5 degrees and -20 wind chills here in Western Pa.
    At TJ and got the wontons, almonds, tart and edamame. So that means for the tart I will have to empty out my oven of all the pans I store in there and fire it up! They look so yum. Thanks!

    • Reply
      January 29, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      lol, I think the tart will be worth it!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    I wish Tyler Texas had a trader Joe’s..

  • Reply
    Donna Grubbs
    January 28, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Many thanks for the recommended Top 12 Trader Joe Items, plus your wonderful recipes. We never leave T.J’s w/out 3 bags of Plantain Chips!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    I always pick up their Greek Feta cheese in the large tub. My husband loves the Thai chile Almonds. Other must haves are Cambazola (sp?) Cheese, their gold label balsamic vinegar, and vine tomatoes. Love their European style plain yogurt too!

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      I’m obsessed with imported feta so I’ll check that one out. Cambazola is another one of my faves from the cheese section 🙂

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    My regular go 2’s are the: ciabatta bread, banana applesauce, mini beef tacos & thier marinara sauce.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      Ok, why haven’t I heard about this banana applesauce???

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Be certain to mention the frozen garlic cubes!!
    Wonderful aroma

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      I’m such a garlic wimp I haven’t tried those 🙂

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 8:29 am

    Frozen sliced leeks. What a time-saver!

    I used them in stir fry, eggs, and as a side dish with butter.

    p.s. I live in Portsmouth.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 8:31 am

      First of all, I’m so jealous that you live in Portsmouth, I miss it so much. What an amazing city. Second, I adore leeks, and I’ve never used the frozen, so thanks.

      • Reply
        January 28, 2019 at 9:03 am

        …and wouldn’t those frozen leeks be great for a quick potato leek soup?

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