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

published May 6, 2024
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A Spring display in Trader Joe's. The sign says "Feeling adventurous? Check out our new items. We search high and low to bring you exciting new products."
Credit: Jaclyn Vernace / Shutterstock

One does not simply go to Trader Joe’s with a list of things to buy — but rather, Trader Joe’s tells you what to buy. In the case of its new items this month, Trader Joe’s clearly told me a few things.

  1. Have a party. 
  2. Fill the snack table with frozen items (no, really).
  3. Don’t forget dessert.

All three of which I was more than happy to comply with, so off we went to make a wild assortment of dishes to taste-test this month’s newest items from Trader Joe’s. What I’d find out most importantly is that some of these newbies are not only instant favorites, but one was also even better than the restaurant equivalent I had later in the week (more on that in a bit). So if you’ve been craving something to serve that makes you say, in an almost corny commercial way, “Oh, this? It’s not homemade — I picked it up at Trader Joe’s!” I think you’ll have a great time with these items that just landed on shelves.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Papas Rellenas, $4.99 for 14 ounces

Truth be told, the frozen Papas Rellenas have eluded me on my last few trips to Trader Joe’s. They were simply too popular! In my heart I’m happy for their mainstream success, but my stomach is not. Well the wait was worth it, thankfully. And how could it not? Papas rellenas, as the name suggests (“papas” = potatoes and “rellenas” = stuffed), are stuffed mashed potato balls.

Often found stuffed with seasoned ground meat, Trader Joe’s Papas Rellenas are close to traditional versions of these crispy-edged potato balls that yield to a creamy, savory ground beef center. I will say the potatoes are very dominant here (compared to the filling), but they are memorable on their own, so I won’t knock too many points for now. I grew up eating Cuban-style papas rellenas (where they’re often stuffed with picadillo), and will always pick them up when I’m near a Porto’s, so I feel all the more at ease (and with maybe too much power) knowing I can have papas rellenas at home in under 18 minutes in the air fryer.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

2. Everything but the Bartender Classic Lime Margaritas, $9.99 for 4 200-milliliter cans

My grocery cart this week was much like a mullet: business in the front (snacks for this imagined epic event) and party in the back (these canned margaritas). Let me start off by saying I’ve sampled many (many!) canned cocktails in recent times, so I can confidently say that the newest Everything but the Bartender Classic Lime Margaritas from Trader Joe’s have NO business being so good.

They are truly pour-out-the-can, swirl with ice, and boom — it’s time to get in a hot tub. The lime tastes freshly squeezed, no tinny aftertaste in sight, with enough tequila backbone and subtle sweetness to make this a supremely balanced drink. Just be sure to do what I did: “Dress” your chilled can by rolling the rim through some lime juice and Tajín and be prepared to quickly turn into this TikTok meme.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Jumeokbap, $4.99 for 10.5 ounces

Even though I no longer work for Trader Joe’s, sometimes I can’t resist sharing tips for aimless shoppers. In this case, it’s overhearing no fewer than three people go “No kimbap?” to which I often will whisper, “H Mart has them, too, ya know!” Either way, I think the ears of Trader Joe’s have heard plenty about its very out-of-stock kimbap, and they’ve thankfully rectified it by adding a new Korean snack to the frozen department: Jumeokbap. Dare I say, I think it might be my favorite of the two?

Translated, Jumeokbap means “fist rice” and often refers to how these seasoned rice balls look like a little fist. They come in a wide variety of flavors and serve as a snack or mini-meal. In this case, Trader Joe’s added seasoned bits of vegan bulgogi and shredded vegetables to make for a sweet-savory snack that steams up in just a minute in the microwave.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

4. Milk Chocolate-Covered Honeycomb Candy, $3.99 for 4.6 ounces

I know I’m about to show off my “Unpopular Opinion-Haver” hat, but milk chocolate does not usually impress me. I usually go for a dark chocolate bar whenever possible. So it was a surprise to me how often I kept finding myself in the kitchen to reach for just one more of these Milk Chocolate-Covered Honeycomb Candies. It’s been a minute since I’ve had this experience of, “Wait, how did I get here?” with a bag of chocolate in hand, but it’s easy to explain.

Also known as “sponge candy,” honeycomb candy is a type of toffee made from brown sugar that, with the addition of baking soda and vinegar, puffs up to form pockets of carbon dioxide that make the treat look like a cavernous honeycomb. Crispy and crackly, this particular honeycomb candy tastes like classic British toffee mixed with the toasty topping of a crème brûlée. Then, of course, it’s covered in milk chocolate, making for a creamy, crunchy, caramelized treat that just might be amazing in your next batch of s’mores. I’m just saying …

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

5. Chiles Rellenos Con Queso, $5.99 for 14.4 ounces

Okay, so you’ve got your canned margs and your papas rellenas on deck, which means you’re going to need to fill out this party-perfect feast with, yes, more stuffed and delicious frozen items. This time that means Trader Joe’s Chiles Rellenos Con Queso. Truth be told, I’m a big chiles rellenos gal — it’s always what I order at my neighborhood spot if I’m not making them at home.

On the day I tested Trader Joe’s version I also went out for Mexican and got, you guessed it, another chile relleno. The Trader Joe’s one was just as good as (if not better than) the restaurant version. The crispy exterior maintained its integrity even when it was added to the spiced red sauce, the cheese was milky-salty and oozy, and the pepper itself was smoky with a vegetal crispness all the while. How did they do it? I may never know.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

6. Shrimp Scampi, $8.99 for 13 ounces

Trader Joe’s has yet to let me down on shrimp options (see: shrimp burgers, the red Argentinian shrimp, and its version of bang bang shrimp), so I was prepared to be shocked if the Shrimp Scampi missed the mark. Could I imagine such a fate? My heart didn’t want to.

Spoiler: I don’t need to vamp anymore here, because the shrimp scampi, of course, rules. When you first open the bag you might be confused, though — each tender little shrimp looks to be breaded in a thick coating, but don’t stress! Once you pop the shrimp in a pan over the stove, the coating turns into the ultra-buttery, garlicky-lemon scampi sauce that more than coats each shrimp (leaving plenty left to toss with pasta). 

In a dish as simple as shrimp scampi, there’s nowhere to hide, and I felt like each component of this dish (shrimp, garlic, lemon, butter) each felt high-quality. Like I said before, I really do think you could serve this for your boo/mom/bestie, accept all their praises, and then hit them with a “Oh, this? It’s not homemade — I picked it up at Trader Joe’s!” (adding a cartoon-y “ding!” of a smile to really seal the deal).

Which new Trader Joe’s items are you adding to your cart? Tell us in the comments below.