I hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in quite some time, so tapped into my IG community for must-try’s and you guys didn’t disappoint! There was surprising demand for a blog post, so here is Part 1 of your most recommended items that I’ve tried so far! Please feel free to share more favorites in the comments for our next grocery trip : )
This little convertible clutch from last spring has been getting more use than ever (comes in lots of colors – see my review)! I love being hands free when running errands, going on strolls, chasing a toddler around, and I like that it can sit higher at my waist, since some of my usual favorite crossbody bags are starting to hang awkwardly with my growing belly. I can fit my iPhone in the outer pocket for easy access, plus a wallet, keys, and some other small items inside. Note the belt strap is sold separately. Also if you have a very narrow waist you can always use a leather hole puncher to add an extra hole.
PPS – I love TJ’s flower section year-round for great prices and selection, but esp during peony season!
1. Frozen Foods Section
Cooking method: microwave 1:45 to 2 minutes or steam inside a pot.
I’ve tried the chicken version of these before and they were just okay to me … but wow, the newer pork & ginger flavor really hit the spot and you simply can’t beat authentic tasting soup dumplings in under 2 minutes!
I usually buy Prime brand frozen “mini juicy dumplings” at the Asian grocery and steam them on stovetop (takes about 30 minutes from start to finish) … so these TJ ones are a serious contender given the ease and flavor. I was skeptical about microwaving them vs. steaming, but it worked just fine! The key is to open just a tiny corner of the package as a venting hole so that the dumplings can steam inside, and avoid over microwaving since I can see that would dry out the soup in the dumplings.
Verdict: would definitely repurchase the pork & ginger flavor. If you don’t eat or don’t like pork, though, the chicken is a fair alternative!
PS – If you haven’t had “soup dumplings” or “xiao long bao / XLB” before, these are not dumplings IN a bowl of soup, but rather dumplings filled with meat and a little soup that bursts in your mouth when you bite in. I nibble a little hole first in the dumpling to let it cool a bit inside and not burn your mouth.
Cooking method: grill, bake, or pan fry.
These are made mostly of shrimp (70%) and pollock fish (23%) and are egg and dairy free. They’re a little pricey for TJ (Boston store has them at $6.99 for 4 patties) but you really get noticeable chunks of shrimp in the patties. We had these with sriracha mayo and homemade Asian pickles, and quite enjoyed it! One of you also suggested cutting the patties up into strips and using in Vietamese spring rolls with nuoc cham sauce – yum!
Verdict: would repurchase!
Kung Pao Chicken
Cooking method: sauté on stovetop (no thawing needed).
Kung Pao Chicken is one of those rare dishes that is actually a traditional dish in China (one of my grandma’s favorites!), and also a Western takeout favorite. To me, it’s not exactly a crave-worthy dish, so I normally wouldn’t have picked this up if I didn’t see my friend Mike’s video listing it as a recommended item!
This was easy enough to prepare by emptying everything into 1 pan and popping some rice into a rice cooker. Note: I only needed to use 1 out of the 2 included sauce packets (can add 1-2 spoonfuls of water or broth to thin it out, if desired), which cuts down on the sodium and sugar of this dish. I actually thought this was pretty good with tender pieces of dark meat chicken and crunchy water chestnuts and peanuts, and was flavorful even with just half the provided sauce amount! It packs a little heat but is even better with TJ chili onion crunch hot sauce.
I like that this made it feel like you cooked an actual meal (with minimal effort), and the ingredients on the back are all straightforward. Next time I would add more veggies like broccoli florets into the stir fry, or as a side. 1 package made enough for Nick & I to have for dinner with rice, plus leftovers for my lunch.
Vegetable Pad Thai
Cooking method: microwave.
This wasn’t bad and had some spice to it, but it didn’t taste like Pad Thai flavors I’m used to (can’t put my finger on it), and was a little over-sauced for my tastes. It was also a smaller portion with a whole layer of bean sprouts on the bottom and then a layer of noodles only on top of that.
Verdict: would not repurchase.
2. Refrigerated Foods Section
Sweet Corn, Burrata and Basil Ravioli
This was a highly recommended item that’s supposedly seasonal each year. All of TJ raviolis are pretty decent, and this was no exception. It made for a tasty summer meal however neither the corn, burrata, nor basil really stand out flavor-wise so don’t expect a burst of any of those. Some of you suggested serving these over a salad, with pesto sauce, butter & parmesan, or your favorite cream sauce. I just did some simple olive oil plus freshly diced tomatoes and basil and chili onion crunch.
Verdict: would maybe repurchase, but they have so many ravioli flavors to choose from!
Arugula Lemon Basil Salad Mix
Another reader favorite – this salad-in-a-bag that comes with everything you need from dressing to crunchy textural elements. Good summery flavors if you need something light and quick to whip together.
Verdict: would not repurchase. But only as we usually keep greens, parmesan, nuts and lemon at home so can easily recreate a version of this!
Found in the refrigerated meats section, this can be cooked either in the oven or on the grill. I’m a big fan of Middle Eastern flavors and didn’t think this was bad, but it was too salty / heavily marinaded for us. I looked at the spices / ingredients and will try my hand at making something similar at home!
Pictured below grilled & served with rice pilaf and cucumber yogurt salad. We also had this in a wrap with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and greek yogurt to balance out the saltiness and it was pretty good!
Verdict: would not repurchase, but will try and make it ourselves with less salt.
3. Snacks, Drinks, Desserts
Introduced last year, this is one of their summer seasonal items and very popular amongst you guys and my friends alike! As promised on the bag, the flavor is bold indeed and was a little too pickle-y for me, but Nick gobbled up the whole bag …
Verdict: would not repurchase, but Nick disagrees (tho he says: you have to really love dill pickle flavor)
New & another popular seasonal item! This is a mix of 4 differently flavored chips in one bag – 1) sea salt and vinegar; 2) delicious dill; 3) homestyle ketchup; 4) smokin’ sweet BBQ. I think my favorite out of the 4 is ketchup, but I personally find their white truffle chips more addictive. If you like stronger sweet, tangy and pickley flavors though … this mix is for you.
Verdict: this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I wouldn’t repurchase because I’d rather have a bag of 1 flavor that I really love. But definitely worth a try while it’s still available!
Sparkling Fruit Juices
Our store had these individually for $1 each or $3.99 for a 4 pack box (note: it’s a smaller sized 8.45oz can which I personally liked). These were quite refreshing over ice, which also helps dilute it a bit if you prefer less sweet beverages, and I liked that these are mostly or 100% fruit juice with no added sugars!
- Watermelon – refreshing and fruit-forward, perfect for summer.
- Strawberry (new addition this spring) – ditto!
- Coconut water w yuzu – tastes like a slightly sweetened sparkling coconut water with a little citrus
Verdict: Would definitely repurchase watermelon & strawberry, but not coconut with yuzu.
A new summer seasonal item that also was a TJ employee favorite when I asked around. Pretty indulgent for a small treat and only 6 in a package, BUT if you like sweet, crisp, buttery shortbread-style cookies (even better with the addition of sprinkles), I will admit these were quite good.
Verdict: Would not repurchase, only as I would rather indulge in other treats.
Another seasonal item – these have been my favorite treat lately! They’re tasty and textural with a hint of tartness, have a prolonged enjoyment period due to melting slowly (lasts a good 10 minutes while I loaf and watch a show), and are lower guilt at 100 calories and 2 grams of fat per pop. I’m especially a fan of the pieces of granola bits and strawberry within the popsicles.
Verdict: Would definitely repurchase.
Dairy free Thai Tea Mini Mochi (also in mango)
A lot of times Thai iced tea at restaurants is too sweet but this one you can still taste a good amount of tea flavor. These didn’t need to thaw like some larger mochis do, and they happen to be dairy free (coconut-based) for those with dairy intolerance / allergies! I thought these were good, but Nick thought they were really great … I keep catching him sneaking into the freezer for another mini.
Verdict: Would definitely repurchase.
Gosh I didn’t get to several items today including their sauces and condiments (one of my favorite categories!) and our usual must-haves like frozen Indian food, but this post has gotten long, so there will definitely be a part 2!
Let me know your thoughts if you’ve tried some of the above items! : )