- Trader Joe’s foods are famous for being unique and quirky.
- According to the chain’s website, the store’s private label products also are free of artificial preservatives and flavors, genetically modified ingredients, and MSG.
- A number of Trader Joe’s crew members have taken to the web to share their favorite picks from the store.
Trader Joe’s foods are often unique and one-of-a-kind. They’re at least pretty quirky compared to most standard grocery store offerings.
That’s not too surprising, given the fact the brand employs product innovators to “travel the world looking for the most creative food trends, in order to create the most exciting – WOW! – products for Trader Joe’s,” according to a 2016 job description.
Plus, crew members themselves get to sample the store’s products, to ensure they’ll be a hit with shoppers. That’s a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of Trader Joe’s.
“We don’t buy anything before we taste it…” former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch said in 1999. “Focus groups aren’t necessary, because our buyers and employees are a good representation of the customer base.”
A number of crew members have taken to the internet to share some of their favorite food items from the store. In a 2016 Reddit AMA, one Trader Joe’s manager even noted that boosting your favorite store purchase in a job interview can help you land a role at the chain, writing, “Tell them you love Trader Joe’s and talk about your favorite product and why you like shopping there.”
A few of the products the employees praised have since been discontinued – Trader Joe’s is notorious for axing beloved items if suppliers attempt to increase prices. But maybe a few will inspire you to switch things up and try something new the next time you find yourself in TJ’s.
Here’s a look at some of the food items that Trader Joe’s crew members love:
Chocolate babka, a ‘sweet, swirly’ chocolate cake
“This is a hard one,” a Trader Joe’s crew member of wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA, when asked what their favorite store food was. “I’d say the chocolate babka.”
Trader Joe’s website describes the item as “a sweet, swirly, brioche-meets-cake loaf rooted in Eastern European Jewish traditions.”
Mandarin Orange Chicken, a frozen item that sells for $4.99
A Trader Joe’s crew member of 10 years wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA that it was “tough” to select their favorite food from the store, but added, “If I had to choose it would be The Mandarin Orange Chicken in our frozen section.”
Vegan marshmallows, which are cheaper than comparable ones elsewhere
“The marshmallows are the best,” a Trader Joe’s employee wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA. “Most marshmallows that are marketed as ‘vegan’ are very expensive – at least $5 a bag.”
According to a 2016 post from the store’s website, the vegan items are sold for $2.99.
Instant Miso soup, which has been discontinued
A Trader Joe’s employee – and self-described “soup fiend” – who’s worked at the chain for a decade wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA that they love the store’s instant Miso soup packets, although they tend to pick out the dried portobello mushrooms.
“These taste just like I ordered them,” the employee wrote. “I wish they had seaweed in them, but I can get past that based on the flavor being so right on.”
Unfortunately, the store has reportedly stopped selling its instant Miso soup.
Do-it-yourself guac (plus a pinch of salt)
“The guac kit is a favorite of mine,” a Trader Joe’s employee wrote in a 2012 Reddit AMA. “Hint: add a half of a finely-diced red onion, a little salt, and you’re good to go.”
Writing on a Reddit AMA in 2017, a Trader Joe’s employee of about a decade said that picking a favorite item “is tough because I could list like 10 more things.”
Ultimately, the employee said they’d go with the store’s Kumato tomatoes
“They are the perfect raw tomato,” the employee wrote. “Full of flavor, not too tough or overly sweet… I can put them on a sandwich or eat them like a damn apple… my mouth is actually watering for them right now.”
Cold brews, at $1 a bottle
- stephen boisvert/Flickr
Trader Joe’s is filled with “hidden treasures,” according to a Trader Joe’s employee of six years who posted about their experience in a 2012 Reddit AMA.
The employee specifically shouted out the store’s Josephsbrau beers, saying they “absolutely compete with the authentic German styles for a dollar a bottle.”
Trader Joe’s website said that six packs of 12 ounce bottles of Josephsbrau Summer Brew could be purchased for $5.99.
A total of 3,848 Beer Advocate reviewers gave Trader Joe’s Brewing Company an average score of 3.46 out of 5.
Microwaveable Japanese-style fried rice
A Trader Joe’s employee described the store’s Japanese-style fried rice as “f—— awesomeness” in a 2012 Reddit AMA.
“Seriously, edamame and seaweed in fried rice?” the employee wrote. “Delicious.”
INSIDER’s Ciara Appelbaum agreed, writing that the dish became her “best friend” when she went vegan for a week.
Candies that can throw down with Reese’s
A Trader Joe’s employee wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA that the store’s peanut butter cups were, “Much better than Reese’s.”
An archived post on the chain’s website said that the 16-ounce tubs of peanut butter cups were sold at $4.29.
Crispy cookies that have since been discontinued
In a 2017 Reddit AMA, a Trader Joe’s crew member of about a decade said that they preferred the store’s caramel cashew cookies, which have reportedly since been discontinued.
“Buttery, crispy, and not too sweet,” the employee wrote. “It’s just a damn good cookie when you want a sweet little dessert.”
Fresh, marinated meat
A Trader Joe’s employee talked up the store’s carne asada and pollo asado in a 2017 Reddit AMA.
“The spicy marinade it comes in is amazing, and, since it’s raw meat, you have to cook it,” the employee wrote. “It actually makes you feel like you’re doing real cooking. If we sold the marinade, I’d probably put it on everything.”
Chocolate-covered fruit snacks called Powerberries
Trader Joe’s “powerberries” are fruit snacks covered in dark chocolate.
“They’re like the illegitimate love-children of a truffle and a cordial,” according to the blog What’s Good at Trader Joe’s?
A Trader Joe’s employee wrote in a 2012 Reddit AMA that the snack was one of their favorite items from the store.
Sriracha chips, a crunchy vegan option
A Trader Joe’s employee who said they were vegan wrote on a 2017 Reddit AMA that they enjoyed the store’s sriracha chips, but added, “I love everything at TJ’s.”
Are you a current or former Trader Joe’s employee with a story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.