The 10 Best Trader Joe’s Desserts of All Time, According to a Former Employee
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 of soft and chewy cookies vs. crunchy, lace-edged cookies (I’m the latter, don’t @ me). And then there’s the age-old question of chocolate vs. vanilla anything (I’m a strawberry outlier across the board, oops). So when it came to rounding up my personal ranking of the best desserts to pick up at Trader Joe’s, I took it very personally. I once worked for Trader Joe’s (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. A box of cookies, a rapidly melting ice cream sandwich, or even just a cheeky finger-swipe of cake frosting make the day (or just a red light) all the more sweet. No matter when you hit the store (I included some seasonal favorites here), there’s a little bit of sweetness for any day, no matter the sweet tooth.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
First, 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. Second, they have a satisfying crispy snap that satisfies my crispy cookie-loving heart. Third, they’re just so good dragged through lemon curd, crumbled into a pie crust, and even (spoiler alert) schmeared with fluffy ricotta cheese.
4. Baked Lemon Ricotta Cheese, $13.99 per pound
Yes, you’ve read correctly. This cheese is the perfect reason to partake in a little dessert cheese moment. If you’re unfamiliar or 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.
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 perfect homemade 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.
5. 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 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. I basically can’t watch a British drama (or British reality show) without a couple of these in hand — and I have no doubt that you’ll have the same (amazing) problem, too.
6. Ube Ice Cream, $3.49 for 16 ounces
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 pint makes its yearly return.
7. 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 — especially if it’s in miniature form. Trader Joe’s super-snackable Hold the Cone flavors (which come in vanilla, chocolate, and chocolate chip flavors, plus a dairy-free version, as well as fun seasonal flavors like coffee and peppermint) just go that added extra mile.
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.
8. 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 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 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. That’s my only complaint, so 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.
9. Horchata Inspired Ice Cream, $3.49 for 16 ounces
Anyway you pour it, horchata just makes (almost) 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. Two summers ago, 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.
It didn’t leave any crumbs behind either (literally). There are 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 you scoop this ice cream into your next affogato.
10. 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 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.