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

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  • Reply
    Joy Kjer
    February 29, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Also, their cornichons are a staple for us and again a bargain. I just discovered (feb. 2020) their box wine and it is decent, affordable wine for everyday.

  • Reply
    Joy Kjer
    February 29, 2020 at 11:24 am

    Their Dijon mustards, both regular Dijon and whole grain. The whole grain is, surprisingly, a secret ingredient in many of my cream sauces. And the price is unbeatable.

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 29, 2020 at 12:26 pm

      Whole grain mustard is definitely one of my secret ingredients!

  • Reply
    Cindy
    January 16, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    Your list looks like mine! But thank you for the helpful list!

  • Reply
    Dena
    October 14, 2019 at 9:03 am

    So many things I lean on Trader Joe’s for! My kids first of all must have the baby bananas in the freezed-dried fruit area, and the freeze-dried mandarins. These are so wonderful to have during soccer and baseball games to snack on kids and adults?! Ok then here is my short list I could go on and on. 1. Frozen garlic Naan, sought sauce ( soooo great on plain hummus everyone asks what is in this?), pita crackers (the best cracker ever), raisin rosemary crisps ( holiday cracker to put your cheese board to another level) any seasonal crisp crackers as well, unexpected cheddar on every cheese board I make, frozen artichokes, arugula, pancetta cubes, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin biscottis the best every any time of year, my kids love the yogurt covered pumpkin cookies, rolled corn chili lime tortilla chips, ginger paste, Asian soup dumplings,cinnamon bun spread , and finally for now alllll if their great wine and beer! I will need to stop there just too many unique well priced awesome food for foodies there! #iloveyoutraderjoes

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 14, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      ok, I’ve got to get back to TJs asap!

  • Reply
    Lori Ann
    October 8, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    I never leave without the Almond Butter Granola in a bag and they have the best Sourdough sandwich bread. The 3-layer hummus, and pita chips are Devine. Oh the coconut body butter is awesome too.

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 8, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      I’m doing a write up about the personal care products, so I’ll check out the body butter!

  • Reply
    Cecile Fleetwood
    October 7, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    I love Trader Joe’s Goat Cheese Crumbles! I put them on salads & sandwiches. Yum!!! I am lactose intolerant so this is my go-to cheese. I also buy the soy based mixed schreded “cheese”. It melts pretty well on quesadillas & pastas. It lives in my freezer til I need it.

  • Reply
    Judy at My Well Seasoned Life
    October 2, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Great list.

  • Reply
    Ali
    June 1, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Their broccoli and cheese mini quiches are THE best. I stock up every time I go. I’m also a fan of their organic banana chips, plantain chips, blueberry goat cheese, Columbian roast K-Cups, macaroni and cheese, almond butter, macarons, chicken Caesar salads, olive oil, vitamin E oil, and spicy buffalo jerky.

    • Reply
      Sue
      June 1, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Love the mac & cheese, olive oil, and almond butter. I need to check out the rest 🙂

  • Reply
    Auntiepatch
    June 1, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    I do a lot of baking so I have to hit the nut aisle for raw almonds, walnuts, and pecans.

    • Reply
      Sue
      June 1, 2019 at 6:00 pm

      I bought a big bag of walnut halves for a zucchini bread coming up this week, such a good buy!

      • Reply
        Sharon Hartstein
        September 14, 2019 at 7:12 am

        I try to keep one of TJs frozen cheesecakes in the freezer for a perfect dessert. As is is my favorite but you can dress it up with fruit and/or chocolate.
        I also love their freeze dried fruit. I mix the raspberries into my brownie batter for the most intense chocolate raspberry combo ever.

        • Reply
          Sue
          September 14, 2019 at 7:59 am

          I’ve just stocked up on all the freeze dried fruit for some bloggy experimentation, I’m so excited to work with them, they’re so interesting 🙂

  • Reply
    Cary
    February 1, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Trader Joe’s mashed cauliflower! ? Not watery like other brands and a whole bag is just 200 calories. My spouse is frequently away on consultation trips and on cold don’t feel like cooking for one nights, micrwaved mashed cauliflower with shredded parmesan and sauted mushrooms added makes a quick and sooo delicious hot meal.

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