Ahh, Trader Joe’s. I feel like we can all agree by this point that it’s not technically a grocery store as much as it is a snack store or at least a “food product” store. But just because it’s not necessarily the best place to go for basics doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some products that we keep going back for. If you’re looking for trendy, niche products, there’s no better place to go, and you won’t find some of the stuff they have lining store shelves anywhere else. Without further ado, these are some of the all-time best Trader Joe’s products.
While this is a limited-time offering, I personally hope that Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Watermelon Sticks become a permanent staple at the grocery chain. The watermelon-flavored center is nice and soft and is encased by rich dark chocolate. Scorching temps are not required for the melt-in-your-mouth texture, so while this is a summertime offering, I could really eat it at any time of the year. If you haven’t tried these yet, they’re worth a taste.
It’s true: I am one of the world’s laziest people. When I can’t even bring myself to brew a pot of coffee before I get started with my day, Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate is the only thing that keeps me functional. Take note of the word “concentrate” because you really don’t need much of this stuff to make a solid cup of cold brew. There’s also the Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, which is perfect if you want a little extra bit of flavor in your cup. But if you’re boring like me, the plain stuff is even better.
When I first saw the Cheeseburger Burrito at Trader Joe’s, I rolled my eyes: It just seemed like yet another poorly done frozen fusion meal. But I was curious, so I picked up anyway, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. This burrito contains ground beef crumble, cheddar, cheese, onions and tomato. But what really brings everything together is the dill pickle relish. It’s all wrapped up in a flour tortilla that makes for easy transportation when you’re on the go.
Admittedly, the soup dumplings you’ll find at Trader Joe’s are not of the same quality you’d expect from an actual restaurant. That being said, they’re still plump, juicy and filled with flavor, which is about all you can ask for from a frozen meal. Personally, my favorites are the Pork and Ginger Soup Dumplings. Surprisingly, you can really pick up on the flavor of the ginger, and there’s plenty of pork in each dumpling. When I’m looking for a quick meal that takes pretty much no effort, these dumplings make my day.
If you ask me, there is truly nothing as delicious as a dill pickle. Briny, salty, refreshing: Dill pickles really do it all. But if you’ve ever been disappointed by the spice level of a jar of pickles, you should make your way to Trader Joe’s to check out their Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles. They are decently spicy, but they’re certainly not overwhelming. The best way to eat them is straight out of the jar, of course, but they also make a fantastic addition to pasta and potato salads.
Everything But the Bagel Seasoning has to be one of Trader Joe’s most beloved products. Personally, I think it’s just okay, and I don’t keep any around the house. But that seasoning really shines with it’s paired with smoked salmon. The next time you see the Everything But the Bagel Seasoned Smoked Salmon at your local Trader Joe’s, you have to give it a try. The salty seediness of the seasoning adds some much-needed crunch and flavor to every bite of the salmon, taking your lox bagel to a whole new level.
Trader Joe’s definitely has some delicious desserts, but the one I always keep going back to is the Tarte Aux Fruits Mixed Berry Tarte. This is the ultimate not-too-sweet dessert. The crust has a lovely, crumbly texture to it, but it gets even better when you let it sit for a while and the berry juice begins to soften it even more. The berries are more tart than sweet, which complements the sugary crust perfectly. Whenever I have friends over during the summer and I can’t be bothered to make a dessert from scratch, this is what I serve them.
One Trader Joe’s product that has been getting a lot of attention lately is the Ube Spread. Ube, a kind of yam grown in the Philippines, has exploded in popularity over the last few years, so I wasn’t surprised to see that Trader Joe’s has now embraced the ingredient. The spread itself is fantastic: subtle, nutty, buttery. You can keep it simple by spreading it on toast, but it also makes a great topping for all kinds of desserts.
There are some products out there that are so genius, you wonder why nobody thought of them before. That’s definitely the case with Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dunkers. These crumbly, chocolate-studded cookies are dipped in chocolate, but they’re also the perfect shape for dipping into a mug of milk (always whole—sorry, I don’t make the rules). I wish I had these things when I was a kid for my mom’s sake so she wouldn’t have to clean up the milk I invariably ended up spilling when I jabbed my awkwardly shaped cookie into a too-small cup of milk.
The way figs are fertilized is less than delicious, but luckily, that doesn’t translate to Trader Joe’s Fig Butter. Sweet and tangy, it’s great for spreading on toast or a biscuit, but I also love to use it in conjunction with savory dishes. Spread it on a grilled cheese or a burger, and you’ll see what all the hype is about.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.