I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite ways to relax and decompress is to put on some headphones, blast some French cafe music, and go solo grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. Being a vegetarian, this store is basically a mecca for me, since it is so inclusive with the variety of items that cater to all sorts of diets — I sometimes spend up to two hours just mesmerized by all the options they have to offer. There’s nothing like gliding a cart around all their aisles, in that Trader Joe’s trance we all know and love, carefully perusing every single shelf and stack of goods.
Over the years, I have developed some staple favorites this way, but also discovered many others via family members and friends that got me hooked onto several snacks, sweet treats, and frozen meals from here. To share them with you, I have compiled 18 of my favorite Trader Joe’s hidden gems that encompass refrigerated items, frozen bites and meals, sweet and savory snacks, delicious drinks, and even beauty products. The best part? These aren’t seasonal items that’ll disappear from the shelves in a matter of weeks — they stick around all months of the year. Try them for yourself to see if they become some staples for you as well!
1. Carrot Ginger Miso Salad Dressing
Made with carrots, ginger, white miso, rice vinegar, and shallots, this fresh (and vegan!) dressing is an absolute favorite of mine to zest up salads to the point that I actually genuinely crave them. It’s well-balanced with savory, citrus, and umami flavors, and you can use it in generous amounts without feeling the guilt that comes with most other high-calorie dressings.
2. Organic No Joke Ginger Juice Shots
I am a HUGE sucker for a good ginger shot. The slight burn feels oddly satisfying to me, as I can actively feel my immune system is getting a boost in real time when I down them. Ginger shots are a great way to give yourself a little pick-me-up when you feel a cold or flu coming on, feel nauseous, want an aid in digestion, and so much more. The only problem is that they can often come with a high price tag, but these are about half the price of standard ones.
3. Golden Berries (AKA Cape Gooseberries)
I didn’t know this fruit was sold anywhere but exotic countries — that is, until I walked into Trader Joe’s last year and saw these gleaming among all the other berries in the produce section. Cape gooseberries look like small yellow tomatoes (with a similar texture to them as well), but have a sweet and tart taste that personally reminds me of a cross between a clementine and cranberry. Although I love snacking on them raw, these would be amazing simmered into a sauce, made into a jam, or baked into pies and pastries. I highly recommend everyone to at least try them once!
4. Dairy-Free Creamy Cashew Fiesta Dip
This incredible dip is creamy, hummus-y, queso-y, and ever-so-slightly spicy with jalapeños and green chilies. I loved simply dipping pita chips and corn chips in it, but my friend told me she loves heating it up and putting it on baked or mashed potatoes. So evidently, the opportunities are endless!
5. Spizzico di Pizza
These little bites taste freshly made and have such a good depth of pizza flavor with the super fresh sauce, soft-yet-crispy base, perfectly mild cheese, and hint of oregano, which I always feel is a pizza seasoning must-have.
Let’s be real, potatoes are the single best food group, and there’s nothing I love more than beginning my day with them. I always keep these frozen hash brown patties in my freezer for those mornings when I want something quick, but nonetheless, delicious and satisfying. I just pop a couple in the toaster and wait around three minutes until they get all golden brown, steaming, and crispy! My pro tip is to pour some drops of your favorite hot sauce on them, and after devouring them in a matter of seconds, you’ll be out the door ready to have the best day.
7. Palak Paneer
This frozen curry is very close to the real deal, coming from a person who knows authentic Indian food well! Trader Joe’s palak paneer has been in my freezer from high school (when my mom and I were too lazy to cook dinner but wanted something warm and spicy), to college (when I missed her Indian home cooking), to now (when it’s become a comfort-food favorite after all those years). For those new to this specific dish, it is comprised of soft Indian cheese (“paneer”) stewed in spiced wilted spinach (“palak”). It’s best enjoyed with some warm basmati rice or toasted garlic naan, both of which are also available in their frozen aisle!
8. Yellow Jackfruit Curry with Jasmine Rice
I love me some curry, whether it be Indian, Thai, Japanese — you name it. Jackfruit has also quickly climbed up in my favorites list, with its creamy, rich, and versatile texture (similar to that of a steamed artichoke, for those of you who haven’t yet tried it)! I’ve loved having this curry in my freezer as a backup anytime I’m at home and in no mood to cook, and also no mood to wait for food delivery. It’s spicy, coconut-y, and full of veggies like eggplant and bell peppers that make it a relatively guilt-free indulgent meal!
9. Mango & Cream Bars
Trader Joe’s is not shy of its amazing dessert options. While you might normally be attracted to the super decadent and rich cheesecakes, brownies, cookies, etc., sometimes, you just want a light little post-dinner treat that’ll end you on a sweet note without having to make you want to undo the button in your jeans. Cue the mango and cream bars. These have been my favorite sweet treats to conclude my dinners for years, and mango is just one of those fruits that can work itself into any sort of treat and always taste amazing. The little creamy bit along with the sorbet-like mango bit balance each other out so well with one being sweet and rich while the other is fresh and tart.
10. Chile Spiced Mango
OK, so this might not be so much of a hidden gem as it is a crowd favorite (at least the crowd I tend to hang around), but I still feel that it deserves a mention! If you love yourself some spice like I do, then this is a snack for you. It’s basically chewy, dried sweet mango dipped in a chili lime salt. I personally wouldn’t consider it to be eyes-watering-forehead-sweating-lip-tingling spicy, but it does certainly leave that little bit of heat that makes you want to keep going in for more and more bites until you’ve magically finished the entire bag and not realized it.
11. Cocoa Baton Wafer Cookies
Another thing I’m a sucker for? Sweet snacks that can be dipped into hot beverages. These cocoa baton wafer cookies are crispy and flaky on the outside and filled with lush chocolate ganache on the inside. My favorite way to eat way more of these than I should at a time is to dip them in hot cocoa or coffee for just a couple seconds and let the inside get all molten. It’s a feeling of euphoria you can’t really explain until you try it for yourself.
12. Caramel Bites
Continuing on with sweet dippable treats, these mini caramel bites, or “stroopwafels,” as the Dutch call them, are the perfect little cookie/cracker hybrids that you’ll absolutely delight in eating. When you dip them in your drink, the heat softens the wafer part into a chewy texture, and melts the caramel sandwiched in between to make it gooey and perfect. They’re great enjoyed as a little dessert with some decaffeinated tea at night too!
13. Mochi Rice Nuggets
These are crispy and crunchy (as advertised on the bag), and the perfect snack for when you want something salty to nibble on while you work or watch tv, or want to sneak something into the movie theater (true story). According to Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, these are made from steamed rice, that is kneaded into a “silky-smooth paste,” then stretched into long ropes which are then cut into bite sized-pieces, fried, and finally dusted with sea salt! The result? Some yummy puffy nuggets that you can’t stop munching on.
14. Lightly Sweetened Coconut Strips
I know coconut can get to be a bit of a polarizing ingredient/flavor, but for those of you who do like it will LOVE these. I eat these as almost an alternative to candy, and they’re not too sweet, but still satisfyingly sweet enough. Coconut is naturally high in calories and fat, so a couple of these strips go a long way. They can be enjoyed in some innovative ways as well, like infused in syrups and drinks, chopped up and sprinkled into your morning oats, baked into cakes, and so much more.
15. Matcha Almond Beverage
I am always on the lookout for a nicely flavored dairy-free drink to keep in the fridge, and this one knocked it out of the park. I’m quite picky about my almond milk-based beverages, as many can have a strange and watered-down consistency that monopolizes any other flavor. However, this one has a lovely creamy texture that is homogenous, and has the perfect amount of matcha flavoring mixed in. It’s definitely best enjoyed chilled!
16. Rhubarb & Strawberry Soda
Name a more iconic duo. This comes in a pack of four perfectly-sized cans of mildly sweet carbonated heaven, made with real juices and cane sugar. I love it on its own, but also found a way to enjoy it in a bellini-like way by adding equal parts of this soda and some sparkling white wine. It was definitely one of those moments where I felt like a creative genius after two of my friends proceeded to do exactly that after trying a sip of mine! You could also mix in a bit of gin or vodka as another way to make it into an “adult beverage.” It’s fruity, tart, and refreshing!
17. Ultra Hydrating Gel Moisturizer
Over the years, I have heard a lot of people swear by Trader Joe’s skincare products, claiming them to be identical dupes for the ones that come at very high price tags, but it wasn’t until just recently that I picked this one up myself to try out. My honest opinion? It’s actually good. Like really good. I did a whole science experiment on myself by using my usual Tatcha The Water Cream on the left half of my face and this on the right half, and the result was almost identical degrees of moisture and texture — in fact, I felt that the Trader Joe’s one absorbed into my skin even faster than the Tatcha, which was something I really appreciated since I don’t like the feeling of lingering moisturizer.
18. Head to Toe Moisturizing Balm
Always a go-to, this balm hasn’t ever failed me. Like it says, you can literally use it head to toe (including your hair), and it has often proved to be the magic potion to heal cuts and scrapes faster than any medicated balm for me. As with all the beauty products I choose to use, this one also doesn’t leave an uncomfortable greasy residue and absorbs really well while keeping the moisture locked in. I’ve used it on dry skin patches, chapped lips, healing wounds, and even on my pup!
Read More: 9 One-Pan Recipes From Trader Joe’s
This article originally appeared on The Everygirl on November 25, 2019.