6 Not-to-Be-Missed Trader Joe’s Groceries That Just Hit Stores, According to a Former Employee

published Jan 7, 2024
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A display in Trader Joe's. The sign says "New Items".
Credit: Jaclyn Vernace

Whether it was intentional or not, my most recent round of new Trader Joe’s items could all fall under the very January feeling of “No, you can’t make me cook anymore. I’m hereby retired from the cooking of the food.” Sure, there might be folks feeling inspired by cracking open a new planner or calendar, the fresh slate of the new year and all, perhaps starting up resolutions to cook more. As for me? I resolve to cook a bit less.

That doesn’t mean I want to eat any less well, though — far from it! Thankfully, Trader Joe’s new arrivals might have made that goal a whole lot easier — almost too accurately, too. (Did someone hear all my urgent and innermost thoughts, that I simply just want someone else to do all the chopping/marinating/sautéing from now on?) It would appear as if whatever mystical force that rules over Trader Joe’s has chosen to grant my wishes. 

If that all sounds magical to you too, you’re going to want to grab these on your next TJ’s run. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Tortilla Española, $5.49 for 21.06 ounces

Tortilla Española (or Spanish omelets) are a dinnertime standby for me — especially when I can go a bit wild with what potato chips I mix in. Would I be happier not mixing up anything at all? Of course, especially when it just involves just plopping one right into my hot skillet, waiting about 15 minutes (giving it a little flip in the middle), and magically there is a who-gave-it-permission-to-be-this-good tortilla Espanñola ready for digging in.

Loaded with tender-creamy slices of potatoes and savory onions, all wrapped around fluffy eggs, the tortilla only needs a sprinkle of paprika to make it a meal (okay, maybe a bit of Manchego on the side). So many Trader Joe’s items can be categorized as “Did we really need this?” I am so, so glad this breakfast-for-tapas-dinner exists, so I can now count myself out of cooking and dishwashing duty. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

2. Chicken Shawarma Bowl, $3.99 for 11.3 ounces

When I see “shawarma” anywhere, I basically float towards it like Pepe Le Pew from a Looney Tunes cartoon. It’s sort of romantic, really. So when I saw that Trader Joe’s had made its own version of my beloved shawarma in bowl form, I had to know if it stood up to the many NYC bodega and sidewalk “street meat” late-night dinners that dotted my entire 20s. 

A seasoned bed of basmati rice is topped with shawarma-seasoned chicken (featuring the classic “C” spices like cardamom, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon), roasted red peppers, spinach, pickled red onion, and the all-important garlic sauce. At just $3.99, it inches pretty close to bodega shawarma territory, and got even better once I added a side of dolmas and more garlic sauce to the bowl. (PSA: No one should come near me for a while.) 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Tofu Sheets, $2.99 for 6.35 ounces

First things first: Tofu sheets (aka yuba) aren’t technically tofu, but rather the delicate sheet that forms on top of soy milk as it is heated.

While these aren’t technically tofu, the sheets are just as versatile as tofu and contain 15 grams of protein per serving (The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound). If they look familiar, they’re actually the same “tofu” that’s featured in one of my favorite Trader Joe’s meals of all time: the frozen Thai Vegan Green Curry. Best of all, they’ll really shake up any Meatless Monday: You can fry them to a crisp, stir-fry them with your favorite sauce, add them to a brothy soup, and even use them as a roll for all kinds of crisp vegetables and warm rice. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

4. Spicy Peanutty Noodle Bowl with Chicken, $3.49 for 10.8 ounces

Trader Joe’s clearly is just showing off now, with yet another ready-to-heat meal that’ll take you off dinner duty (or get you to abstain from ordering takeout for a night). The Spicy Peanutty Noodle bowl, which features ground chicken, is more than just the name of its parts. Personally, I was expecting a pretty straightforward dan-dan noodles-inspired meal, but this bowl had way more going on than I anticipated.

One bite and I was like, “Is that tamarind? And bok choy? And ultra-plush chewy noodles?” Sure, I’ve yet to find out if what I was tasting was tamarind, but this bowl truly bowled me over.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

5. Brazil Cachoeira da Grama, $9.99 for 12 ounces

In the spirit of “groceries that bring me joy,” I collect the new Trader Joe’s small-lot coffees like they’re new Pokemon cards (rare, limited supply, pretty packaging). My main Christmas gift was my beloved mini Bialetti Express, so I’ve been more eager than ever to try new coffee in the morning.

As I ground my coffee beans mid-shop, I knew this Brazilian blend would be pretty stellar just from the scents wafting out alone. Bright, sparkly sweet, and reminiscent of a candied orange, the Cachoiera da Gama (cachoeira translates to “waterfall”) brews a coffee that I’d drink by the waterfall if I physically could. Exaggerations aside, the Brazil Cachoiera da Gama might have ruined me for any other Trader Joe’s seasonal coffee, so I highly suggest you pick up an extra bag for Future You. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

6. Beef Bulgogi, $12.99 for 16 ounces

If I’m choosing the restaurant for dinner, it’s going to be Korean BBQ, especially the ones where you can cook right at your table. But now I can recreate at least part of that experience at home with Trader Joe’s new frozen Beef Bulgogi.

Much like my other eerily spot-on frozen fave, the beef birria, Trader Joe’s beef bulgogi gets frighteningly close to matching the marinated thin-cut strips of beef of my usual Korean spot. Sweet and savory with a marinade (made of onion, garlic, mirin, as well as apple, pineapple, and pear juices), the beef bulgogi barely made it out of my skillet and to my plate. I basically ate half of it right from said skillet. You should do what I meant to do and serve it alongside some spicy kimchi, japchae, or just a simple ball of rice to absorb the umami-rich sauce.