These Are the Trader Joe’s Finds Professional Chefs Cannot Stop Buying
Add these to your grocery list.
Whether you stock up on their microwavable meals or seasonal snacks, a trip to Trader Joe’s is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving. (With mouth-watering meals available at a fair, affordable price, it’s safe to say that your wallet would agree.) Of course, we mere home chefs aren’t the only ones who can’t get enough of the grocery store: Lots of professional chefs are also on the TJ’s bandwagon.
From personal chefs to James Beard Award recipients, these trained tastemakers spend all day (and night!) whipping up cutting-edge culinary creations for their clients. However, once they’ve hung up their aprons and called it a day, you better believe that many turn to Trader Joe’s for their off-duty dishes. Curious to see which groceries are pro-approved—if they’re good enough for real cooks, they’re definitely good enough for us!—we chatted with a few chefs about their Trader Joe’s must-haves. From everything from sweet snacks to special spice blends, their picks might surprise you, but one thing’s for sure: Your grocery list just got even more irresistible. Bon appétit!
Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets, $2.49
Looking for the perfect mix between sweet and salty? Chef Kari Kihara, co-owner and head chef at Hayward in Oregon, turns to Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets to satisfy that craving. “When I was a kid, TJ snacks felt like absolute luxury—and number one on the luxury list was peanut butter-filled pretzels,” she explains. “A classic after-school treat, I still reach for that blue and clear bag full of the perfect crunch, salt, and creamy peanut butter! I don’t love pretzels because they’re too dry, but peanut butter is the perfect solution here.”
Snacky Clusters, $3.99
For Alex Wong—who is the head chef at Uncommon Concepts Group in Portland, Oregon—variety is the spice of life. That’s exactly why he reaches for the store’s Snacky Clusters. “Sea salt, potato chips, corn chip dippers, and mini pretzel nuggets are all mixed in milk chocolate,” he explains. “You don’t have to pick a favorite snack, they’re all together in the cluster. Texture perfection.”
Crunchy Chili Onion, $4.49
Trader Joe’s might be the go-to for all your snacking needs, but it has a lot more to offer than chips and cookies. Take your home-cooked meal up a couple of notches with the Crunchy Chili Onion, which Wong says is his favorite crisp to “drizzle on everything.” From dumplings and fried rice to a simple baked chicken breast, this spicy-yet-garlicky spread will give any dish a much-needed kick.
Green Goddess Seasoning Blend, $2.99
For Jay Wright, executive chef and owner of The Wright Service in Southern California, Trader Joe’s spice selection does not disappoint. While he’s a fan of everything from the store’s tried-and-true Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend to its Sriracha Sprinkle Seasoning Blend—a “gem” he found during the sriracha shortage—he’s partial to the Green Goddess Seasoning Blend. “Where to begin with this one. Perfect for dips, marinades, and the flavor profile is wonderful for Mediterranean dishes—specially mezze and lamb chops,” he says.
Colossal Olives Hand Stuffed with Garlic Cloves, $3.49
Klementine Song is setting the record straight once and for all: Trader Joe’s Colossal Olives Hand Stuffed with Garlic Cloves are worth the hype. “I sometimes get these late night salt cravings and these hit the spot,” says Song, who is the Chef de Cuisine at an upscale, Los Angeles-based izakaya called Tsubaki. “Their brine ratio is perfect: The olives are packed with flavor and have the ideal firmness (as opposed to mushy) and the garlic is delightfully crisp. They’re a great accompaniment to a charcuterie board and also go well with pasta. I always save the leftover brine to use in salad dressings!” In fact, Song hoards these olives because she’s afraid they’ll be discontinued one day.
Truffley Soy Sauce, $6.99
If you want to up-level your pantry essentials, Chef Francis Ang of Restaurant Abacá says to add a touch of truffle. “I love using the Truffley Soy Sauce on fried rice or using it to make a sauce with butter and calamansi, this one I usually use as a gravy,” the San Francisco-based chef shares. (Translation: Sushi takeout just got even better.) But, why stop there? Chef Ang and his family are big-time fans of the Tomato Ketchup with Black Summer Truffle. “I like the ketchup on fried eggs but have to hide it from my son so he doesn’t eat it all,” he says. Since both of these truffle-laced picks are part of Trader Joe’s limited-edition collection, do yourself a favor and buy a bunch whenever you see them!
Speculoos Cookie Butter, $3.99
Chef Matthew Accarrino might cook up innovative Italian cuisine at his San Francisco-based restaurants, SPQR and Mattina. But, when he’s off the clock, Chef Accarrino is all about catering to his “not-so-secret” sweet tooth. In fact, he’s a big fan of Speculoos Cookie Butter, which he often pairs with ice cream, toast, or homemade waffles. Talk about a dreamy dessert!
Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers, $3.49
As the executive pastry chef of peasants FEAST in Solvang, California, Taylor Tate is so stranger to sumptuous sweets. So when she sang the praises of Trader Joe’s Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers, our ears perked up and our mouths watered. Equal parts tangy and tart, think of this option as the TJ’s-equivalent to your favorite gummies. “[They] are so soft and perfectly sour, I snag a bag every time I go to Trader Joe’s,” she says.
Steak and Stout Pies, $6.49
Trader Joe’s aisles are filled with sweet treats, but its grocery store has plenty of savory options, too. In fact, Chef Gerald Luna, of b. street Waffles in Los Angeles calls the Steak and Stout Pies his “favorite go-to.” “It’s the closest to reminding me of eating savory pies in pubs in England,” he adds. With a flakey crust and hearty filling, this meat pie is a no-brainer for the colder months ahead.
Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites, $3.49
Yes, even James Beard Award-winning chefs can’t get enough of Trader Joe’s. When he’s not overseeing three new projects in Park City, Utah, Chef Galen Zamarra favors “packaged goods that do not include all of the extra additives that you find in big brand offerings.” Topping his grocery list is Trader Joe’s Super Seedy Cheese Snack Bites, which he says are a “healthier option to chips and other crackers.”