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

published Jun 2, 2023
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Woman holding trader joe's paper bag with both hands and smiling. Sunflowers sticking out the top
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I hate to do this so publicly, but I’m formally breaking up with my stove for the summer. It’s just time and we had a lot of fun, but it’s not feeling so hot to be, well, so hot! Simply put, when it’s summer (and there’s much base-tanning, pickle-balling, and hey-look-at-my-pool-handstand-ing for me to do), then my oven and I are officially on a break. A break, I said!

I wish my oven all the best this summer, truly. But we need some time apart so I can focus on all the meals and treats that are pretty much assemble-and-go, many of which I picked up from Trader Joe’s this month. There’s something for anyone, no matter where this summer finds you, whether it’s with your designated Boat/Pool Friend, in a cool movie theater on a too-hot-to-even day, or around a campfire a few s’mores deep. Personally, my beach cooler is about to runneth over with just a few of these new Trader Joe’s items. So what ended up in my cart this month? Let’s take a look-see.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Tres Leches Cake, $7.99 for 12.5 ounces

What’s better than a cake in the summer? A cake you didn’t have to bake (see: all the drama of waiting for it to cool, melty frosting, not wanting to dust off your stand mixer, etc.). And if that same cake is arguably the best cake (ahem, tres leches cake), all the better. Creamy, spicy, and not-too-sweet, Trader Joe’s new Tres Leches Cake tastes, no lie, basically homemade. 

The light and airy sponge cake base is key for soaking up the “three milks” that soak in a traditional tres leches cake (sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream), turning it into a custardy dessert all its own. Trader Joe’s version is even topped with whipped cream, too, meaning it only needs a sprinkle of cinnamon or a few slices of strawberries after its quick defrost before it’s party-ready. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

2. Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Fraîche, $3.99 for 8 ounces

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to spend an appreciable amount of time with a French person, you likely have heard them sing the gospels of crème fraîche. Ever wonder why French food tastes so good? Crème fraîche! Can’t put your finger on what that pasta/soup/dessert is missing? It’s gotta have some crème fraîche. And this vanilla bean-freckled version is no different. 

French for “fresh cream,” crème fraîche is somewhat flavor-adjacent to sour cream (with similar versatility for sweet and savory uses), but with a bit more fat and nuttiness that makes it ideal for swirling into sauces or sweetening for a pie topping. If you see a lot of strawberry shortcakes in your summertime future, you’ll want to pick up a tub of Trader Joe’s Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Fraîche ASAP; toast some halved scones or shortcakes, fill with crème fraîche, and simply top with some quick-macerated strawberries. You’ll be saying, “Whipped cream, who?” after one bite. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Cold Brew Iced Tea Bags with Lemon, $2.69 for 18 bags

In the summer, I basically turn into just a bunch of beverages stacked under a trench coat. I turn from 70% water to 70% iced tea, while my fridge gets next-level ready for any and all levels of thirst, whether it’s margarita mixers, seltzer flavors that sound made up, or spritz components. So when I spotted this box of Cold Brew Iced Tea Bags with Lemon at Trader Joe’s, I reverse lay-upped the box into my cart. 

I’m a longstanding Mango Black Tea stan, especially for mixing into summery Arnold Palmers, but this summer I may just have to brew the new tea in town. Each tea bag takes just five minutes to cold brew in eight ounces of water until you can pour it over ice (and maybe some Trader Joe’s Fresh Squeezed Lemonade?). It’s got that tannic edge that screams “definitely fresh-brewed iced tea” with a lemon flavor I’d perfectly count as a metric squeeze — no more, no less. Iced tea you can basically just pop into your Emotional Support Water Bottle and go? This is the future I want. No notes from me! 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

4. Crunchy Chili Onion Hummus, $3.99 for 10 ounces

Trader Joe’s Crunchy Chili Onion topping is basically my favorite version of sprinkles. They’re crispity-crunchity, floating in an oil that’s basically liquid gold, and a splash of it improves nearly everything it touches (noodles, burgers, tempura vegetables, I could go on … ). And now Crunchy Chili Onion is making hummus (arguably already a perfect food) even better? My heart. 

Although I knew there was no way this couldn’t be great, I was worried the amount of Crunchy Chili Onion on top of the hummus would end up being an amount I call “decorative.” You know how when you pick up a tub of hummus and, to show you what flavor it is, there’s always a cute little garnish of olives or pine nuts on top, yet the flavor essentially ends there? This is not that. There’s really no denying the Crunchy Chili Onion flavor here, thankfully. It’s not only plentiful on top, but also throughout the chili oil-laced hummus that’s got a mellow heat perfect for any dipping vehicle (spears of Persian cucumbers and peppery radishes are particularly good for this flavor), a sandwich spread, or makeshift sauce base for noodles. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

5. Milk Chocolate Bar with Corn Flakes, $2.99 for 6.3 ounces

Like the aforementioned hummus, s’mores are arguably a perfect food, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try our best to improve upon them. If that sounds like just the challenge for you, you’re going to want to meet the newest chocolate bar at Trader Joe’s: Milk Chocolate Bar with Corn Flakes. Having eaten my way through Belgian chocolate (and waffles and fries) in the great Kingdom of Belgium before, I have a pretty high bar for, uh, chocolate bars (sorry). Fun fact: Belgian chocolate is so beloved because it often has more cocoa content and is milled very finely (below the feeling of the tongue’s taste buds), meaning that your taste buds register an ultra-creamy (rather than grainy) texture. 

Thankfully, Trader Joe’s chocolate bars are often from Belgian sources (like this bar!), meaning you, too, can get ruined by chocolate forever, but stateside and without any jet lag. I love a bit of crunch with my chocolate, and this ultra-creamy chocolate bar is packed with crunchy intrigue. Can you just imagine swapping these in your next round of s’mores for max capacity crispy-melty-gooey bliss? You totally can! I knew it. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

6. Gluten-Free Strawberry Muffins, $5.99 for 14 ounces

You know when you spot a new item at the store and go, “Well, if I get x, then I have to get y”? That was exactly my predicament when I spotted Trader Joe’s new Gluten-Free Strawberry Muffins as well as the new Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Fraîche. You just can’t buy one without the other, per my logic. And I’m so glad I brought them both home on my most recent trip. The sweet-tartness of these fluffy, crunchy sugar-topped muffins are hardly what you’d imagine when you think “gluten-free,” either. 

Each muffin is light and airy, with a pronounced strawberry flavor that tastes like an actual honest-to-goodness strawberry and not like (as can be the case) a strawberry-scented candle. As soon as I got home, I did the most logical thing: I split a strawberry muffin and topped each half with a generous dollop of the vanilla crème fraîche, forming possibly the fanciest cupcake possible. I highly suggest you do the same, with both pinkies up. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

7. Beach Day Gummy Candy, $1.99 for 6.25 ounces

A well-packed beach bag can really make or break a day, and that 100% includes the snacks. And while there’s a lot of competition in the gummy aisle, I feel pretty confident saying that these might be the best gummies Trader Joe’s has put out since the Sour Scandinavian Swimmers. And I hate exaggerating! I really do, but these gummies are wildly good, especially as someone who eats a lot of gummies (and that includes taking most of my vitamins in gummy form). 

Like, did some real-life Willy Wonka invent these? Perhaps so, because I took a bite of each shape and quickly said, “The snozzberries DO taste like snozzberries,” in that these gummies taste like the genuine tropical, beachy fruits they’re trying to emulate (including pineapple, peach, and a Default Berry flavor). Each chewy gummy also comes in a tie-dyed variety of shapes, like conch shells, starfish, and sunglasses. My other summertime goal is to be Aunt of the Season/Best Beach Aunt Ever, a title I think I’ll definitely be able to achieve that with a few of these bags in tow. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

8. Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds, $4.99 for 16 ounces

Okay, I’ve made one concession here, cooking-wise. Because … hot cheese. Clarification: hot cheese curds. In lieu of my oven, I’ll certainly be flirting with my air fryer, especially to crisp up a batch of Trader Joe’s Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds. Do you blame me? No, you likely don’t. I’ve read many good and beautiful words in my life, but “breaded” when combined with “cheddar” and “cheese curds” might be the most perfect collection of words I’ve seen in a while. 

Soft, chewy, and yes, slightly squeaky cheese curds are a Wisconsin mainstay for obvious reasons. Often seen fresh or fried, these mild cheddar curds are distant cousins (texture-wise) of some other delicious curds, like Finnish bread cheese and Cypriot halloumi. Like its cousins, Trader Joe’s Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds only get better when heated (in this case, baked or air-fried) as they also don’t melt, instead becoming crispy, chewy, and perfect with along with a beer and ranch (for dipping) or even topping a burger, if I’m being 100% honest.

Which of these newcomers are you most excited to try? Sound off in the comments below.