7 of the Best New Trader Joe’s Groceries to Try, According to a Former Employee
Now that the major holidays are behind us (although I do count the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day as especially important eating holidays), I’m readying my pantry for new winter arrivals, like a sort of epicurean Punxsutawney Phil. Will the winter linger on (more truffles, hygge-inducing tea, excuses to make a hot chocolate, etc.), or will there be a cheeky snap of spring (mango-flavored everything, the bright spot that is asparagus season, a blush-toned peony)?
Well, January at Trader Joe’s has a bit of everything — cozy winter cheeriness for those of us who wish it was the holidays year-round, and perky springtime pick-me-ups to delight the tastebuds. So what ended up in my cart this month? Let’s find out.
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1. Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites, $3.49 for 2.8 ounces
I gravitate towards new cheeses like a moth to a light. So when I spotted this ultra-portable, much-more-appropriate-to-keep-in-my-purse cheesy snack near the chips section, I was on it. These cheese crisps are studded with pumpkin seeds, puffed quinoa, black sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. They are, in fact, super cheesy, with a signature bite like the other cheese bites (think: If cacio e pepe was made into a portable Parmesan crisp, packed with a floral kick of whole black peppercorns). I ate the whole bag in very little time (and can’t wait to use my next bag for croutons on a salad, or a tomato soup topper). I highly suggest you mix your own bag with the next featured snack (below) for a real party.
2. White Truffle Popcorn, $3.29 for 5 ounces
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a truffle hound. I’m sure that I was one in a past life, because I cannot get enough truffles come wintertime. And I can’t believe I nearly missed this newest addition to my snack collection. Personally, I think truffle makes everything feel a whole lot more elevated, and this popcorn is no exception.
This popcorn delivers a much more subtle truffle flavor, almost as if it’s just in the salt, which makes it perfect for combining with other mix-ins for a pretty legendary bar mix. Case in point: On my most recent run, I shook up my bag of White Truffle Popcorn along with the Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites to make a fancified snack mix that tastes super deluxe — and I think you owe it to yourself to do the same.
3. Sparkling Blueberry & Pomegranate Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage, $1.69 for 12 ounces
Amongst my friends, I’m known as an unabashed “beverage girl.” I punctuate my fridge with all different kinds of homemade shrubs, teas, sodas, and bubble teas. So it was not a question of if I’d pick up Trader Joe’s newest sparkling apple cider vinegar drink, but rather how many I’d be able to fit in my fridge. And the blueberry & pomegranate flavor might just be my favorite of the whole bunch.
As someone who enjoys making a homemade vinegar shrub, this flavor is full-on fruit-dominant, with more berry tartness than typical vinegar tang (which I sort of missed, TBH). Let me be clear: I mean it as a high compliment that this drink tastes like a sparkling version of the grape-flavored juice boxes I used to pound as a child. This was a total nostalgia flavor trip, one I’ll definitely be stocking up on as an ideal damp January night-cap (or even shaken up with vodka for a makeshift spritz).
4. Cracked Olive Salad, $3.49 for 11.64 ounces
I’m no stranger to a snack-based dinner, and it didn’t take long for me to crack open this jar of Cracked Olive Salad for an impromptu meal with goat cheese-shmeared crostini. Let me tell you — this jar is worth its weight in gold.
As the name suggests, the olives in this salad are cracked (or smashed), so they absorb more of the briny, giardiniera-style marinade during the curing process. These cracked green and black olives are then tossed with a mix of pickled vegetables to create a mix your sandwiches will feel lonely without. While I’m a huge fan of this on crostini, muffulettas, or tossed into a pasta salad, I have a really good feeling this salad would be bomb on focaccia or pizza, too.
5. Organic Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Pesto Sauce, $3.99 for 9.87 ounces
Sure, I love lingering and laboring over a homemade pesto (my thrifted mortar and pestle is my pride and joy), but when the jarred stuff is just as good, if not better? Well, it’s a no-brainer: It’s coming home with me. While traditional Genovese pesto stars basil, this pesto relegates basil to a supporting role alongside marjoram, almonds, roasted red peppers, and Pecorino Romano cheese.
So far I’ve swirled this pesto into soups, mixed it into mayonnaise for a fry dip, and daydreamed about it on a porchetta sandwich (more than a few times). After all, aren’t sauces the paint of the kitchen? Your pasta, sandwiches, and dips will surely feel like art when you add a scoop of this pesto.
6. Sweet Cannoli Dip, $3.99 for 8 ounces
When I was growing up, I could often be found double-fisting cannolis at one of the many Italian restaurants that was walking distance from my house. And to this day, if you ask me what the platonic ideal of a dessert is, I’d say it’s 100 percent a crackly, just-fried pastry shell filled with a delicately sweet, lightly tart cream filling. Which makes me so glad for two things: 1. That the humble cannoli is finally edging its way to the top of the dessert hierarchy and 2. That Trader Joe’s has made it even easier to add a dollop of cannoli filling to really anything my heart desires.
While the signature ricotta flavor is a bit lost with the cream cheese base in this dip, I’m still giving it points for downright convenience. One drag of Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Cookie Thins (my favorite vehicle so far) through this dip will have you feeling downright Seuss-ian about it: I’d eat it on a plane, train, on an apple slice, layer into a cake, use it as an ice cream base (you see where I’m going here).
7. Coffee & Cocoa, $9.99 for 14 ounces
I must admit that I’m an iced-coffee-year-round person (it’s the Floridian in me), but when I do need the rare hot coffee to warm my hands, I look no further than the seasonal treat that is Trader Joe’s Coffee & Cocoa blend. On more than a few recent mornings (finding myself fresh out of coffee creamer), I’ve combined the powers of coffee and hot chocolate mix to create makeshift mocha. And I’m very pleased that Trader Joe’s makes an even tastier blend of the two each winter.
The coffee itself is a traditional medium roast blended with unsweetened cocoa powder, giving it a subtle chocolatey finish that’s definitely more pronounced when mixed with milk or creamer. While brewing this in a drip-style coffee maker will definitely make you feel like you’re having your coffee and your hot chocolate, too, I’m a huge fan of using this for cold-brewing (of course), adding to brownie batter for extra depth, or simply in my phin filter with frothy sweetened condensed milk for a Vietnamese-style coffee.
Have you spotted anything you’re excited about at Trader Joe’s recently? Tell us in the comments below!
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: 7 Not-to-Be-Missed Trader Joe’s Groceries That Just Hit Stores, According to a Former Employee.