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10 Things I Buy at Trader Joe’s for a Better Dinner Salad

updated Aug 19, 2019
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Judging by the killer selection of salad kits, it should come as no surprise that Trader Joe’s has all the goods to help you nail a great dinner salad. With the right selection, you can make a salad that’s filling, delicious, and mixed with cool, quirky ingredients.

Trader Joe’s will also help you check off other important dinner salad criteria, like convenient ingredients for quick assembly and a price tag that won’t kill your weekly food budget.

Here are the things I always pick up at Trader Joe’s for salad night.

(Image credit: Trader Joe’s)

The Salad Base

A good dinner salad starts with an interesting base that’s a mix of different textures and flavors. Rather than buying a bunch of different ingredients, start with a salad kit. Trader Joe’s has an exceptional lineup of bagged mixes and kits, and they’re all super budget-friendly. If you’re going heavy on the greens, I think one bag is a good start for two dinner salads; otherwise it can be stretched across four salads.

1. Broccoli and Kale Slaw, $2.50 for 11 ounces: This kale-meets-broccoli slaw blend mixes these namesake ingredients with bits of bitter radicchio. There’s also a separate bag of chewy dried fruit and crunchy nuts and seeds, plus a packet of tangy dressing.

2. Southwestern Chopped Salad, $3 for 13.6 ounces: If taco salad is the name of the game, then this chopped mix of crunchy greens, root veggies, pepitas, and cotjia cheese is a great place to start.

3. Cruciferous Crunch, $2 for 10 ounces: This crunchy, bitter mix of shredded kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and green and red cabbage is my personal favorite. It works for so many different salad combinations.

(Image credit: Trader Joe’s)

The Toppings

Between some useful produce section finds, pre-cooked meats, and freezer-aisle favorites, scour the shelves for these toppings. All you have to do is pop them in the toaster oven or a hot skillet and they’ll help make your salad more hearty.

4. Steamed and Peeled Baby Beets, $2 for 8 ounces: Of all the finds in the produce section, these already-cooked, bite-sized root vegetables are a favorite. They save a ton of time and have a soft texture and sweet flavor to balance crunchy, bitter, and salty ingredients.

5. Frozen Falafel, $4 for 12: Found in the freezer section, these three-bite falafel patties are the trifecta of convenient, economical, and delicious. They’re already cooked and just need to be reheated, and give any dinner salad a boost of protein.

6. Mandarin Orange Chicken, $5 for 22 ounces: This is a favorite among TJ’s fans, and it makes a great meaty addition to salad night. The sticky-sweet orange chicken pieces make a convenient and delicious substitution in our Vietnamese-style chicken salad.

(Image credit: Trader Joe’s)

The Dressing

No dinner salad is complete without a really good dressing. Trader Joe’s does have an impressive lineup of bottled options, but we love the stand-out stars that transform a simple homemade dressing into one that’s totally incredible.

7. Zhoug Sauce, $3 for 8 ounces: This spicy cilantro-based sauce isn’t exactly a dressing — it’s the flavor booster that makes your dressing taste out-of-this-world good. I love stirring a spoonful into a simple yogurt or tahini dressing, but it would also be great in a basic vinaigrette.

8. Bruschetta Sauce, $3 for 14.5 ounces: This chunky sauce with tomatoes, basil, and garlic is a fun way to bring some Mediterranean flair to your salad. It’s especially a hit mixed with hearty lentils or bean salad base, or when you’re going for a twist on classic caprese or Greek salad.

(Image credit: Trader Joe’s)

The Extras

These are the crunchy or salty things, or the little extras that make your salad feel exciting and special.

9. Organic Coconut Sesame Seed Clusters, $2 for 2 ounces: These crunchy little clusters skew slightly sweet, so they might not give off salad vibes at first glance. But trust me when I tell you they are an amazing topping — especially when your salad contains spicy or extra-salty ingredients.

10. Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, $2 for 2.3 ounces: Sprinkle a generous pinch of this salty, crunchy seasoning blend over the top of your salad (it’s good mixed into a vinaigrette, too!), and you will not be sorry for the flavor and texture it adds.

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