Look, we love Trader Joe's, you love Trader Joe's, everyone loves Trader Joe's. In the past few months, we've written about everything from the store's best frozen foods, top snacks, and the must-have dips for those bags of plantain chips we can't live without. We've covered their wines and cheeses. We've done our favorite breakfasts, a customer-favorite dessert, and even the stuff you can't eat.
Somehow, we've overlooked the canned goods, which is easy to do even when you're in the store — especially if you're trying to discreetly pull a couple of Joe-Joe's cookies out of the box you just put in your cart. The majority of what Trader Joe's sells is under its own private label, so it doesn't have a huge variety of canned items, but there are still some ... surprising things stacked on its shelves.
Here are a few that I tried.
Dolmas, $2.50 for 9.9 ounces
I didn't expect to pick up a can of rice-stuffed grape leaves on my last shopping trip, but then I started imagining making a Greek-themed meze, complete with halloumi cheese, kalamata olives, and anything I can drench in tzatziki sauce. These grape leaves were good — a little dill-y — and even better when I squirted them with lemon juice. While I was in the store, I also picked up some Grecian-Style Eggplant with Tomatoes and Onions ($2.50) because it was right beside the dolmas and I thought it would make a quick and easy bruschetta topping. (It did, but you have to drain it well first — otherwise it's pretty oily.)
Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce, $2
These are ... exactly what it says on the can. It's not the most exciting combination, but when the Premier League's season kicked off (OH YES THAT'S A SOCCER PUN), I included them as part of a full English breakfast before the first match. Don't tell my Heinz-loving friends, but I may never use anything but these giant beans now.
Organic Coconut Milk, $2
Probably once a year, I tell myself that I'm going to do the Whole30, and every year, it's more like a "whole 30 minutes" before I give up and eat half a jar of peanut butter. Regardless, this is one of the few canned coconut milks that is Whole30-compliant, because its only ingredients are water and organic coconut. It's probably not a coincidence that it's the best canned coconut milk I've had.
Green Jackfruit in Brine, $2
Okay, I'll admit that I haven't cracked this one open yet, although my vegan friends haven't stopped talking about their jackfruit tacos for at least six months. (To my vegan friends: STOP TALKING AND START INVITING ME OVER.) For the uninitiated, plant-eaters swear that jackfruit is a standout substitute for shredded pork in those tacos or on this pulled jackfruit sandwich with peach bourbon BBQ.
Organic Vegetarian Chili, $2.50
No, organic veggie chili isn't the most OMG! of supermarket finds, but I was curious how it would compare to my beloved Amy's organic chili — especially since the TJ's version was $1.50 cheaper. SPOILER ALERT: I still prefer Amy's, although I did really enjoy TJ's turkey chili with beans ($2) — especially over rice.
Tuscano Marinara Sauce, $2.50
The surprising part of this 28-ounce can of marinara sauce is how freaking good it is. Like, it just smells like a real (read: not-canned) sauce, and it's thick enough that you could legit serve it with a fork. I used it as a pizza sauce, and on pasta and TJ's frozen cauliflower gnocchi. Now that was a standout partnership.
Solid Light Yellowfin Tuna and Solid White Albacore Tuna, $2.50 each
Because I eat way too many lunches at my desk, I eat a lot of tuna (and because I work from home, no one can complain about it). Most importantly, these tunas are sustainably sourced — the labels reflect the fishing methods used — and dolphin-safe.
Organic Joe's O's Pasta, $1.50
What can I say? The O's say "I'm an unattended 5th grader" but the fact that they're organic says "I'm a health-conscious unattended 5th grader." These will never not be one of my guilty pleasures (and they're $0.60 cheaper than organic SpaghettiOs).
What are your favorite canned goods at Trader Joe's?