For Trader Joe's fans like me, name brands are out. The Hawaiian-themed grocer's own private-label products have such a great reputation that they're basically on par with some of the biggest brands in the world. So, many consumers—myself included—opt for the TJ's version of nearly everything.
Yes, that's partly due to the convenience of making only one trip to the grocery store, but the shopping experience at Trader Joe's is more enjoyable than other supermarkets, too. If I want to buy pesto, I have one or two options rather than 10. For days when I want to get out of my culinary comfort zone, I look through the internationally inspired section, and for days I don't want to cook, I pick up a frozen meal.
There are always new and seasonal items to peruse, and when I walk to the register, a friendly cashier waves me over and checks me out. For a task that can be stressful and overwhelming, I actually look forward to my Trader Joe's grocery runs.
Of course, there are ingredients I can't buy at my local TJ's. The quality of its produce and meat is not always the best, and sales and promotions at other grocers can sometimes yield a better deal. So, shopping around is still a must. But, after at least a decade worth of trips to this specialty grocery store, I have accumulated a long list of goodies I would have a hard time giving up. These are the best 25 items I come back to time and time again.
There's a reason Trader Joe's is at the top of the list when it comes to this breakfast side. These hash browns have the perfect size, texture, and taste. They're just as good as the ones you get at a brunch restaurant, so having these in my freezer makes the decision to eat at home a lot easier. I can pop one of these into the toaster oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until it's soft on the inside and veritably crunchy on the outside to eat with some eggs and toast, or alone as an occasional snack. Plus, you can't beat the price—$2.79 for 10 patties, which makes them way cheaper than similar patties at McDonald's.
Mildly Sweet & Spicy Beef & Broccoli
This packaged frozen meal is one of my favorite ways to make a simple dinner when I'm running low on groceries. It includes coated, fried, then frozen beef, chunky broccoli florets, and a generous packet of sweet, savory, and slightly spicy sauce.
Despite the dose of cruciferous vegetables, I'll admit that this isn't the most nutritious thing I could be eating, especially because the portion size is wildly underestimated on the package. However, it's quite delicious and even at $7.49, it's still less expensive than ordering Chinese takeout. Some prepare it in the air fryer, but I just follow the directions to pan cook this entrée with a bit of oil, warm it up in the included sauce, and serve it on top of a fresh side of jasmine rice.
Single Origin Organic Coconut Water
Sometimes you need a little incentive to get to the gym. This pink coconut water, which many fans speculate is a dupe for Harmless Harvest's high-quality coconut water, is a refreshing, fun drink to get your electrolytes in, and I often grab one to hydrate after a workout.
Growing up, my family would occasionally pick up a few young coconuts, drain the water, and eat the white coconut meat as a treat. The flavor of Trader Joe's coconut water is the closest I've found to the real thing. Plus, it's relatively affordable. When my coffee order costs $6, a bottle of great-tasting, organic coconut water for $2.29 doesn't seem so bad.
Focaccia Bread with Roasted Tomato & Parmesan
Let's face it. There are better grocery store bakeries out there, but I think this is one of the best baked goods at Trader Joe's: a focaccia loaf topped with roasted tomatoes and dusted with Parmesan for just under $5. When you take a bite, prepare to sink your teeth into a fluffy, doughy pillow of flavorful, savory bread.
My preferred method for indulging in this focaccia is to take an ample slice, pop it in the toaster oven until the edges begin to crisp up, and let the warm bread melt a pat of butter on one of the sides—but you can cut this into finger food and add it to a cheese board, or toast the pieces to make tasty croutons if you'd like.
Coconut & Almond Vanilla Creamer
This is the one TJ's item that I cannot live without. For anyone who likes a hint of vanilla in their morning brew—but would rather not go through the dairy-powered tummy rumblings—this creamer made from coconut and almond milk is the single best coffee add-in I've found, and it's conveniently at my favorite grocery store. It has the perfect creaminess to sweetness ratio, with three grams of sugar in a single tablespoon-sized serving, and comes in an easy-to-pour, recyclable carton. It's also a great deal compared to other brands—just $1.99.
World's Puffiest White Cheddar Corn Puffs
As a lifelong fan, I'm sad to say I've seen many a top-tier snack at Trader Joe's get snatched from my hands and tossed into the discontinued pile, but these cheesy corn puffs have gracefully withstood the test of time. I reach for them anytime I want to mindlessly munch while parked in front of a movie on my couch. They're as poppable as popcorn and as light as air. Apparently, one ounce of this snack is equivalent to 53 "pops"! You'll have to brave the white cheddar dust, but otherwise, this $2.49 snack is well worth the pantry space.
Matcha Green Tea Latte Mix
If you're anything like me, you've fallen head over heels for matcha, the healthful green tea powder that wakes you up gently without the coffee jitters. To be clear, this $4.99 latte mix probably isn't providing you with the same nutrition and cognition benefits as ceremonial grade matcha with all the added milk and sugar. However, it still tastes cozy and delicious, and the whole tin costs less than a single tall order at Starbucks, so it's tough to beat that. Personally, I prefer less sweet drinks, so I just add a couple tablespoons per cup and add some half-and-half for more creaminess and body. I think a milk frother would take this ready-to-make drink to the next level, if you have one.
Maple Espresso Black Tea Blend
As someone who's sensitive to caffeine, I've learned to give up my regular coffee for a softer wake-up drink. However, I miss the taste, and this seasonal tea, available right now, is the perfect compromise. It's a black tea with notes of ground espresso beans, maple flavoring, and chicory, and when you add a bit of creamer or milk, it mimics the body of coffee.
You get 20 tea bags for $2.99, which is pretty standard for Trader Joe's. Even though it's only available in the colder months, I drink it whenever I need a cozy pick-me-up. I buy a few extra boxes and stretch them out until the next season rolls around and cross my fingers that it never gets discontinued.
Daily Facial Sunscreen SPF 40
To clarify, no, this item is not edible, but it is one of the top-selling products at Trader Joe's. This invisible sunscreen got a lot of social media attention this past summer, as people named it the "Supergoop dupe," since the colorless, oil, free, gel-like formula had a similar formula to the higher-end Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen, but at a fraction of the price tag.
I'm not very eager to shell out nearly $40 for the original, so I figured I'd test out the grocery store alternative. I know you're supposed to wear sunscreen every day, but every time I tried to find one I liked, it would give me a white cast, leave a greasy finish, or cause my skin to break out, so I didn't.
To my surprise, this formula did none of that. The application is super satisfying. It feels like putting on primer with a svelte and invisible finish, it wears well under makeup, and, unlike some facial sunscreens with just 15 or 25 SPF, it has enough UV protection. This $8.99 sunscreen is worth giving a try if you're on the hunt for one. And, if you love it, it's available year round—so please don't hoard them all!
Chicken Gyoza Potstickers
Sometimes it's a challenge to figure what to make for lunch, and when I run out of fresh ingredients, I usually have this handy bag of potstickers in the freezer. If I already have some leftovers, adding a few of these will round out a meal. They're also satisfying on their own, since they're filled with chicken, cabbage, onion, and seasonings.
The package says you can pan-fry these from frozen, but I like to boil a pot of water, warm them up for two to three minutes until the dumplings start floating, then fry them in a pan with some oil. Air frying is also a popular way to prepare them. They pair especially well with a sauce. My simple recipe: add two parts soy sauce, one part sugar, and one part water to pan and reduce. Voilà! You have lunch for less than $3.99—unless, of course, you eat the whole bag at once.
Party Size Mini Meatballs
Some of the most time-saving Trader Joe's products from the prepared aisle are the fully cooked meats. These mini beef and pork meatballs for around $5 are a staple in my freezer to easily add protein to a bare-bones meal. If I have bread, leftover marinara sauce, and some cheese, I can throw together a meatball sandwich. If I only have pasta in my cupboard, I can add these meatballs and whatever veggies I have on hand to make dinner. If I'm having a get-together—bam!—meatball on a toothpick. They heat up in 10 minutes in the oven, and they taste moist and juicy with just the right level of saltiness.
Mini Cheese Sandwich Crackers
It seems like every grocery store has its own take on these Ritz-style cheese crackers, but I think Trader Joe's does them best. The yellow mini crackers are buttery and crisp, and the cheese filling tastes like my childhood favorite. Something about this snack is highly addictive—almost dangerously so. I can guarantee that a $3.49 box of these golden rounds won't last more than a week in my pantry.
Roasted Garlic Marinara Sauce
When I don't have the time to make a marinara from scratch, this off-the-shelf sauce does the trick. With noticeable garlic and Italian seasoning, it's super flavorful, convenient, and high quality, all for $1.99 per 24-ounce jar. I usually use it with some ground beef to bulk up the sauce, amp up the seasonings, and pour it over some farfalle pasta—delish!
Double Cream Brie
The Trader Joe's cheese section is a fun place to shop for party snacks. The famed Unexpected Cheddar is bound to be a hit, but a soft, creamy cheese like brie almost always deserves a spot on the charcuterie platter. I buy my brie at this neighborhood grocer because I know which varieties I prefer, and I think the bang for your buck can't be beat here. For me, Double Cream Brie for $5.99 per pound is plenty flavorful without being overpowering, but there are many options to suit your preferences. Plus, there are at least a dozen types of crackers just a few aisles over to accompany whatever you pick.
All Butter Puff Pastry Sheets
Any home baker would go nuts for this pre-made all-butter puff pastry. It's an incredibly labor- and time-intensive process to get dough ready to roll into flaky croissants or to fold into apple turnovers, so buying it from the store saves me both several hours and a lot of elbow grease.
Dufour Pastry Kitchen sells a 14-ounce package at Whole Foods for upwards of $10, but I can attest that the limited-time 18.3-ounce box at Trader Joe's that rolls in around the wintertime costs $4.99 and does the job just as well. Holiday home-baked pastries have never tasted so good or been so affordable.
Original Savory Thins Crackers
These rice-based snacks are a hidden gem, and they've been around since I was a kid. To this day, they're the only crackers I can enjoy sans topping, but I also really like this with a hard or soft cheese. They're delightfully crunchy and salty, with a hint of sesame flavor. It's helpful to have if you're hosting gluten-free friends, and it's on the healthier side, as far as snacks go. You can try it for $1.99, but you might have to ask a crew member to find it. In my store, they're tucked above the frozen breakfast and desserts section.
Almond Windmill Cookies
While it's true these cookies have had a rocky past few months, my family and I have kept the Almond Windmill Cookies stocked in our kitchen for years. The flavor is buttery with an almond base, and the texture is mostly firm, but soft enough to give way when you bite into it, with tiny slivers of almond to provide interest. They're also not too sweet, which can prove dangerous when you find yourself reaching into the container too many times in one sitting (speaking from personal experience here). It's tough to say no to this 15-ounce tub when it's only $4.99.
Mini Hold the Cone Ice Cream Cones
There are many times in the week that I'll want just a little sugary pick-me-up, and these mini cones are designed to do the trick. One box comes with eight cones for $3.99. My favorite are the peppermint cones, which are in season right now, but when they're not available, I'll also settle for chocolate chip. Each mini cone is a delectable concert of creamy, cool ice cream topped with hardened chocolate and a sweet, toothy wafer cookie. And also, they look adorable!
If you've ever wanted to try these chewy ice cream balls, you don't have to go to a specialty store to find them. Trader Joe's has a handful of flavors in its frozen desserts section for $4.99 a box. Choose from green tea, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and for the winter, caramel apple. In fact, Trader Joe's claims it was the first U.S. grocer to carry the Japanese dessert back in 2001.
I like mochi because they're easy to hold for a few minutes without melting, since the ice cream is tucked inside a little rice dough pocket. I've shared these mochi with friends who said it was higher quality than other grocery store mochi they've tried. They're fun and squishy, colorful, and not overly sugary. Plus, portion-controlled treats are the secret to eating the right amount of dessert.
Every chip requires a good dip, and this one does all that and more. I found this years after it debuted, and I was intrigued by a salsa starring pumpkin seeds. It's perfect for fall, but this is available all year long.
It definitely delivers on flavor, with a nice roasted taste from the peppers, the nuttiness from the pumpkin seeds, and a balanced level of acidity from the tomatoes and lime. It's a little bit spicy, which helps give it that addictive quality. I've tried it with tortilla chips, Elote Corn Dippers, and homemade shrimp tacos—all exquisite uses for, dare I say, the best salsa at Trader Joe's—but other fans have used it for much more, such as the base for a chili, a topping for scrambled eggs, and a flavoring for lentils. The possibilities are endless! It also looks elegant in this $3.49 glass jar that I will definitely use for iced coffee when it's all gone.
Sparkling Black Tea with Peach Juice Beverage
In the age of non-alcoholic beverages, I really appreciate a fun, spritzy drink I can sip on at a social function without feeling the need to imbibe. Trader Joe's has been releasing some beautifully packaged sparkling tea drinks over the past few years. Of course, I've tried them all, and one of my go-to's is the Black Tea with Peach Juice.
You can feel free to use it as a mixer or drink it straight. It's refreshingly crisp with a hint of peachy sweetness and some bitterness from the black tea. With only two grams of sugar per can, I could drink this entire $3.99 four-pack if I wanted and not feel an ounce of guilt.
Chocolatey Coated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dunkers
Move over, Oreos! These Dunkers are my favorite cookie to plunge into a cup of milk. As the name suggests, these chocolate-covered morsels hold up well against a creamy beverage of your choice. The eating experience is unbeatable: crunchy cookie pieces melt in your mouth and coat your taste buds with milky chocolate and nutty coconut.
It's a little too indulgent to have in my pantry all the time, as other customers on Reddit will agree, but I think the longevity of this treat speaks for itself—it's been on shelves since at least 2017. A giant tub of about 36 cookies is $5.99 in stores.
Shawarma Chicken Thighs
Yet another cooking shortcut, Trader Joe's marinated meats are so convenient for getting dinner on the table with very little legwork, and the Shawarma Chicken Thighs are one of my frequent purchases. Bonus: it's already pre-sliced, so you literally just need to cook it. Whether you prepare it on the grill or in the oven, these chicken thighs always come out juicy and tender, with delicate flavors of Mediterranean spices.
I often serve this with a plate of sliced cucumbers, peppers ,and tomatoes, with pitas and Tahini, as well as some yellow rice. I will warn you that the chicken can be quite salty, so you may just downgrade your salt levels on the other components to balance everything out. At $6.99 per pound, it's more expensive than buying plain ol' chicken thighs, but not by much—and the convenience is well worth it.
When I was growing up, my grandma would make these chips for us with fresh plantains from the store. It was one of my favorite snacks. So, when I first saw these in the chip aisle at Trader Joe's, I had to try them. Of course, these roasted Plantain Chips aren't going to be as good as the homemade ones.
They're thicker-cut and less fresh, but they're still highly snackable and relatively healthy compared to your average potato chip. They're also cheap—just $1.99. Since the chips' debut, TJ's has also come out with Jerk-Style Plantain Chips and Sweet Plantain Chips, but I'm sticking with the original.
Peri Peri Sauce
Even though Nando's made this sauce famous, I find myself reaching for the Trader Joe's version way more often. It's the one I keep in my fridge at all times. The Peri Peri Sauce is creamier and smoother than Nando's, and I enjoy how zesty and slightly spicy it is from the lemon and chili. I wouldn't put it on everything, but it goes really well with Mediterranean food, salads, chicken, and rice, and it adds a vibrant pop of color to my dishes. Admittedly, it's not the most cost-effective sauce, but at $3.49, it ain't bad, either.