Best Trader Joe’s Foods to Buy, According to a Culinary Judge + Photos

The chili-onion crunch adds heat and texture to everything from eggs to nachos.

stacked jars of chili onion crunch at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s chili-onion crunch is great as a topping.

Meredith Ochs


Alongside a panel of culinary experts and journalists like myself, I’ve previously been a judge for the sofi awards (dubbed the “Oscars” of food). Many of the products we taste land on market shelves across the country.

So I use my knowledge of food while shopping for my husband and myself, and I particularly love some of Trader Joe’s products, such as the chili-onion crunch.

This item contains crispy onion bits suspended in olive oil, with dried chili peppers bringing the heat and bell peppers rounding out the flavor.

I’ll slather it on a toasted wedge of sourdough and baked Brie.

A 6-ounce jar costs $4.29.

Cultured butter contains healthy probiotics and has a gently tangy taste.

Packs of butters stacked at Trader Joe's

European butter has a lower water content.

Meredith Ochs


There are plenty of reasons to eat this cultured butter that’s produced in Brittany, France, and costs $2.99.

It has probiotics that benefit your microbiome. Plus European butter has a lower water content than the American stuff, and less moisture makes for better browning and baked goods.

I eliminated certain fats, chemicals, and additives from my diet as a teenager for health, taste, and environmental reasons, so high-quality butter and unrefined vegetable oils are mainstays in my kitchen.

I also like to finish dishes with a knob of butter, à la Chef Scott Conant.

Trader Joe’s organic cherry plums are like candy for grown-ups.

stacked packages of cherry plums at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s cherry plums are great in salads or on their own.

Meredith Ochs


Trader Joe’s carries all sorts of fun, seasonal hybrid fruits, and these cherry plums are divine.

The thin, red skin gives way to an intense burst of jammy sweetness, followed by a tart finish.

If we don’t eat the whole box, I’ll cut up a few and add them to an arugula salad with goat cheese, honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and candied pecans.

The 16-ounce package costs $4.79.

Yuzu hot sauce is salty, sour, and sweet with a great afterburn.

Bottles of yuzu hot sauce on shelf at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s yuzu hot sauce tastes great on seafood and chicken.

Meredith Ochs


This chili-spiked, vinegar-based hot sauce is built around the aromatic peel of yuzu, an East Asian citrus fruit with complex notes of florals, herbs, and spice.

It’s spectacular on cooked or raw seafood and brightens chicken dishes. I also drizzle it on sliced ​​avocado, grilled asparagus, and, in the summertime, grilled peaches.

This stuff has a long, yet forgiving afterburn and a bottle costs $4.99.

Malabari paratha is a layered, no-yeast bread that breaks apart almost like a pastry.

Hand holding frozen pack of malabari paratha at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s frozen Malabari paratha is a great side.

Meredith Ochs


When I go out for Indian food with friends, I often find myself making a case for paratha while everyone cries for naan.

I cook Trader Joe’s frozen take in a hot pan slicked with ghee, and in a few minutes, I’m tearing off pieces to dunk in a bowl of the chain’s tikka masala.

A five-pack sells for $2.29.

I love these cashews coated in chili powder, Thai lime leaf, lemongrass, and salt.

clear bag of thai lime and chili cashews in red Trader Joe's cart

I add Trader Joe’s Thai-lime-and-chili cashews to my rice-noodle dishes.

Meredith Ochs


Thailand is one of my favorite travel destinations, and the combination of herbs on these cashews mentally takes me back there.

A few handfuls of these large, whole nuts look great on a cheese plate with a fudgy cheddar and a chunk of blue cheese. Plus they pair well with a Thai beer or citrusy beverage.

They also add spice, pucker, and meatiness to my rice-noodle dishes.

The 16-ounce bag costs $7.99.

The chain’s organic, frozen raspberries look good while delivering a dose of micronutrients.

white and yellow bag of frozen raspberries at Trader Joe's

Raspberries are high in fiber and antioxidants.

Meredith Ochs


Some frozen berries come out of the bag as a lumpy mess and lose all structural integrity when defrosted in the microwave.

However, these raspberries often look good enough to top a cake, but we eat them a couple of times a week for their sweet-tart taste and health benefits, like high fiber and antioxidants.

I defrost them in a bowl on the counter and stir them into a cup of yogurt with a handful of walnut pieces or add some on top of my oatmeal and buckwheat pancakes.

The 12-ounce bag costs $3.99.

Shelf-stable whipping cream is very convenient.

Stack of blue boxes of whipping cream at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s shelf-stable whipping cream can last in the pantry for up to six months.

Meredith Ochs


Many recipes benefit from a bit of cream, and this shelf-stable variety lasts for up to six months in the pantry.

It enhances my chowders, gravies, and curries, plus it whips as well as a sprinkle of powdered sugar when very chilled. I’ll often float a cloud of it on top of espresso or add a dollop to a bowl of berries for a quick, light dessert.

The box costs $1.39.

Buying this organic, cold-pressed green juice is much easier than making my own.

Bottle of cold-pressed green juice in red Trade Joe's cart

A bottle of Trader Joe’s cold-pressed green juice costs about $6.

Meredith Ochs


The way I feel about kale is the way some people feel about that one liquor they overdid back in college: I overused it, and now it makes me recoil.

But sipping this juice throughout the week circumvents my aversion and gets some of that green goodness into my system.

The cucumber, lemon, grapefruit, and bit of mint tea give it a cooling quality that’s especially revitalizing in hot weather.

The 32-ounce bottle costs $5.99.

Trader Joe’s kettle-cooked chicken soup feels magically restorative.

stacked containers of kettle-cooked chicken soup on shelf at Trader Joe's

You can store Trader Joe’s chicken soup in the freezer.

Meredith Ochs


Good soup is deceptively simple but quite hard to pull off.

I’ve yet to master a truly decent chicken soup, so I rely on Trader Joe’s take, flecked with carrots, celery, and plenty of shredded chicken.

It’s sold in the refrigerated section, but I keep a container stashed in our freezer in case one of us doesn’t feel well. Sometimes I’ll doctor it with frozen corn kernels and fresh dill.

A 24-ounce container that yields two big bowls or 4 cups of soup costs $4.99.

The vanilla meringues have an airy, crisp exterior and melt in your mouth.

stack of clear packages of vanilla meringues at Trader Joe's

Meringues can be difficult to make.

Meredith Ochs


I’ve rotated through many of Trader Joe’s dessert offerings but always come back to these elegant, impossibly light cookies.

Even though they’re simply made of sugar, egg whites, and vanilla, homemade meringues can be easily derailed by humidity, over- or under-beating, or even the tiniest drop of yolk.

These are just right for dressing up a dessert plate or satisfying a craving for a sweet cap to any meal.

A container of meringues costs $3.49.

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