The 15 Best Trader Joe’s Desserts of All Time, According to a Former Employee

updated Feb 29, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
A display of cookies at Trader Joe's. A sign says "TJ's Cookies Make Life Better!".
Credit: Jaclyn Vernace / Shutterstock

I often quote Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye, who once wisely said, “A mac and cheese is something that can actually be so personal.” I think the exact same of dessert. Dessert might be the Most Personal, actually. Think about it: There are whole divided camps people who prefer soft and chewy cookies vs. crunchy, lace-edged cookies (I’m the latter, don’t @ me). There’s also the age-old question of chocolate vs. vanilla anything (I’m a strawberry outlier across the board, oops). 

When it came time to round up the best desserts to pick up at Trader Joe’s, I took it very personally. I once worked for the budget-friendly grocer (on top of being a nearly lifelong shopper), so I’ve spent many hours bravely eating my way through the store’s best desserts.

Let it be known that desserts are often my copilot. By that I mean, I often don’t make it back to my car after a grocery shop before cracking open a box of something. With a box of cookies, a rapidly melting ice cream sandwich, or even just a cheeky finger-swipe of cake frosting riding shotgun, my day (or just a red light) is all the more sweet. No matter when you hit the store (I included some seasonal favorites here), there’s a little bit of sweetness here for any day. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Rustic Apple Tarte, $4.99 for 17.6 ounces

I know I can’t be alone in seeing all the aspirationally beautiful galettes filling up Instagram feeds. They’re so pretty! So perfectly imperfect! Realistically, I will not be attempting to make one during any holiday season. Thankfully, the Rustic Apple Tarte saves you from that same fate, because it’s just as good as (maybe better than) what you might have attempted at home.

Let’s get to it: This dessert is like if a classic apple pie and a custard-laced tart had a lovechild that was so very beautiful. The crust alone is worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake, with a sturdy, not-at-all-soggy bottom that is the ideal vehicle for the cinnamon-spiked cream cheese filling, crisp Northern Spy apples, and a crumbly almond topping. On top of all of that, it looks just as cute and, yes, rustic, with a crimped, golden-brown crust that really adds to the whole, “No, this is tooootally homemade” look it so clearly nails.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

2. Chocolate Lava Cakes, $3.79 for 7.61 ounces

Much like the Rustic Apple Tarte, lava cakes are that sort of dessert that, well, I will not be making. That being said, Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes are no consolation prize compared to a homemade (or even restaurant-made) lava cake. They could actually go toe-to-toe, in fact.

As someone who is often bored of chocolate in a “Chocolate, in a dessert? What a surprise” way, these two petite little cakes are dense and fudgy and loaded with a rich chocolate ganache — and, get this, (I’m whispering now), they only take one minute in the microwave. Do with that information what you will.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Salted Maple Ice Cream, $3.79 for one pint

For the sake of journalistic integrity, I must admit that I have a strong bias towards maple-flavored items when fall rolls around. Maple just really gets my heart aflutter in general, and especially when I’m solidly in Practical Magic-rewatch mode, making this Salted Maple Ice Cream the perfect +1. 

This ice cream might be the richest I’ve sampled at Trader Joe’s as of yet, with a double dip of dense, creamy, sea-salted maple ice cream with a swirl of salted maple syrup. Can you just imagine how good this would be sandwiched between a pair of waffles or Stroopwafel cookies? I think you can. 

Also, fun fact: This pint is so smooth and soft that I nearly lost my spoon in it at first bite. I guess I’ll have to eat the whole pint to get it out. Oops!

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

4. Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches, $4.99 for four sandwiches (20 ounces)

One of my favorite scenes is when Ken shouts “SUBLIME!” in the Barbie movie. Not only because Ryan Gosling’s comedic timing is perfection, but also because the scene gifted me the new way I now celebrate eating Trader Joe’s Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches. These ice cream sandwiches truly earn the adjective here.

Let me give you a recap of what these guys bring to the table: Two crunchy-chewy chocolate chip cookies that are then sandwiched around creamy vanilla ice cream that’s then rolled in mini chocolate chips. Look around and you’ll find that there is truly nothing missing in these ice cream sandwiches. They’re so good that you just might need to shout. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

5. Double Chocolate Croissants, $5.49 for 12 ounces

Once again, Trader Joe’s wins the “All the Best Words in the Best Order” game, because its newest contribution to the croissant world is absolute poetry. Are we really shocked anymore? We really can’t be, especially not after it doubled down on the already-very-good Chocolate Croissants. But of course, TJ’s couldn’t stop there: The new Double Chocolate Croissants are not only filled with two sticks of semi-sweet chocolate, but the dough itself is also laminated with cocoa powder so that no inch has been left up to chance. There will be several bits of chocolate in each bite. You will immediately want to dunk this into your espresso for breakfast (or for a cheeky little after-dinner treat).

The hardest part about making these croissants involves no complicated know-how, but simply the virtue of patience: You must wait for these croissants to proof overnight. I promise it’s well-worth it (and a super-fun science project — they’ll nearly triple in size by morning).

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

6. Strawberries & Cream Gelato, $3.49 for 16 ounces

Food is a fabulously fun way to experience some delicious escapism, and this Strawberries & Cream Gelato is definitely the cheapest way you can travel to Sicily. With not a lick of artificial strawberry flavor, each gelato pint is divided between a sherbert-adjacent strawberry half studded with chewy candied strawberry pieces and an airy yet rich vanilla-freckled half. If you’re also a bit of a strawberry flavor outlier (it’s not our fault it’s the best flavor of soft-serve, milk, and cake), Trader Joe’s Strawberries & Cream Gelato will feel like the fancified version of your favorite strawberry/vanilla swirled cone. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

7. A Dozen Sweet Bites, $5.99 for 9.16 ounces

Sleeper hit alert! It’s time to wake up to these beyond-underrated dessert bites. Let’s be honest — you’ve overlooked this box while on your way to grab your standby cheesecake or tiramisu. I get it (those are also delightful). I was once that person. But no more! 

During a recent holiday season (where I set these out for friends), I quickly realized how much time I wasted by not picking up this box of assorted bite-sized cakes that include flavors like chocolate & coffee “Opera”-style, a raspberry “macaron aux framboises.” as well as chocolate & caramel. Indecisive dessert-choosers out there, this box is for you. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

8. Triple Ginger Snaps, $3.99 for 14 ounces

There’s no universe where I could conceivably not include these spicy little cookies. The Triple Ginger Snaps at Trader Joe’s are wildly popular (and permanent best-sellers) for several reasons. Firstly, they live up to their name: Each cookie has fresh, ground, and crystallized ginger that’ll send some subtly sweet heat across your taste buds. Secondly, they have a satisfying crispy snap that satisfies my crispy cookie-loving heart. Thirdly, they’re just so good dragged through lemon curd, crumbled into a pie crust, and even schmeared with fluffy ricotta cheese. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

9. Baked Lemon Ricotta Cheese, $13.99 per pound 

Yes, you read that correctly. This cheese is the perfect reason to partake in a little dessert cheese moment. If you’re unfamiliar (or just simply don’t think of cheese as dessert outside of cheesecake), it’s time to get well-acquainted. Having cheese for dessert will not only make you feel a bit French, but it’s also a guaranteed way to end any dinner on a high note. 

And nothing impresses more than this Baked Lemon Ricotta Cheese, which you can typically find at Trader Joe’s around the winter holidays and sometimes in late spring if you’re incredibly lucky. Much like a cheesecake, this bright, tart cheese is likely what you’d find under the definition for the word “fluffy.” Legendary when spread on an (aforementioned) Triple Ginger Snap, the Baked Lemon Ricotta will have you solidly joining Team Dessert Cheese. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

10. Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles, $2.99 for 6 ounces

As a lifelong crispy, lacy cookie-lover, sometimes a soft, chewy cookie makes me debate my allegiances. These Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles are just that. With a tender, toothsome crumb, these cookies get dangerously (and deliciously close) to that nice whoopie pie-cake territory. 

Ultra-soft and packed with that signature Snickerdoodle cinnamon toastiness, these snickerdoodles are my tried-and-true dunker for many cups of milky Earl Grey tea in the winter months. True story: I may have made it a nightly ritual to have a pair of these to chase my tea while binge-watching Call the Midwife one particularly dreary winter and now they’re an all-year-round favorite. I basically can’t watch a British drama (or British reality show) without a couple of these in hand and have no doubt you’ll have the same (amazing) problem, too. 

Credit: Lauren Masur

11. Ube Ice Cream, $3.49 for 16 ounces

My spidey senses start to tingle when I know it’s getting close to ube season (roughly April/May in Trader Joe’s-terms). This purple yam ends up all over Trader Joe’s stores (in the form of cookies, tea cakes, and pancake mix) each year, but the best expression of all is Trader Joe’s ube ice cream. While it’s nearly (but still not yet!) time for the ube ice cream this year, it’s still worth noting it on your personal calendar. Trader Joe’s ube ice cream is the ideal vehicle for the pistachio-vanilla-y flavor that makes ube so memorable (and that’s on top of the vivid lavender shade). If you need to find me, I’ll be pacing the ice cream aisle until this ice cream makes its yearly return. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

12. Hold The Cone (All Flavors), $3.79 for 7.9 ounces

No matter how fancy your dessert tastes get, there’s very little that beats a sundae cone-style confection. Well, that is until Trader Joe’s shrunk those same frozen cones down to an adorable 1/3rd to create their eminently snackable Hold The Cone flavors (which come in vanilla, chocolate, and chocolate chip flavors, a dairy-free version, as well as fun seasonal flavors like coffee and peppermint). These mini ice cream cones just go that added extra mile, as each waffle cone is lined with a chocolaty coating both inside and out, which not only makes it super easy to eat more than one (or even two), but also keeps any precious ice cream from dripping out. Decadent and economical? It really doesn’t get better.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

13. Lemon Mini Sheet Cake, $5.49 for 18 ounces

Spring and summer are when my personal favorite seasonal Trader Joe’s desserts roll out. All those bright flavors are my favorite way to shake off sweater and jacket season. And let me just say, Trader Joe’s Lemon Mini Sheet Cake is pure sunshine to the square inch, coated in a tangy cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of lemon zest. 

I’m always amazed at how the various mini sheet cakes at Trader Joe’s always manage to taste semi-homemade, and are that Goldilocks just-right size that makes me sincerely wonder why Joe thought it made sense to say each cake is “six” servings when it’s really “three, but likely two, let’s be real” servings. But if that’s my only complaint, then I think we’re doing alright. Lemon Mini Sheet Cake, you’re a 15/10 and I thank you for being the cake equivalent of a sunny Groundhog’s Day omen. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

14. Horchata Inspired Ice Cream, $3.49 for 16 ounces

Anyway you pour it, horchata just makes everything better. I drink it in my coffee, mix it into a panna cotta, and yes, drink it straight up when I can manage to find it freshly made at my local taqueria. Last summer, Trader Joe’s granted all my wishes by taking the cinnamon-sweet rice-based beverage of Mexico and doing what made the most sense: Turning it into a bomb seasonal ice cream flavor. They didn’t leave any crumbs behind either (literally). There are also crumbly, churro-esque cookie pieces folded into the rich dairy-based ice cream, too! I have no notes for this ice cream. It’s simply flawless, and it’s nearly time to scoop this ice cream into your next affogato.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

15. Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds, $3.99 for 10 ounces

Each year I’ve shopped (or worked) at Trader Joe’s, there’s always a clamshell of these salty-sweet almonds safely on my pantry shelf. They’re an excellent “break in case of emergency” snack-dessert, for those nights you somehow forgot to pick up a more substantial sweet treat during your weekly shop and want chocolate ASAP. Each toasted almond is decked out with dark chocolate, then some flaky sea salt, then some crunchy Turbinado sugar, more chocolate, rinse, and repeat. As I’ve said before, these dark chocolate-covered almonds are that variety of snack you don’t remember opening up and grabbing a handful of, but when you emerge from your inevitable bliss state, you’re pretty pleased you found them.

Did your all-time favorite Trader Joe’s desserts make the list? Tell us about it in the comments.