16 Best Snacks You Can Buy at Trader Joe’s, According to a Former Employee

updated Apr 22, 2024
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Trader Joe's fully stocked Covid - June 14, 2020 - San Francisco, CA, USA
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As a food writer (and former Trader Joe’s employee), it was already tricky for me to narrow down my favorite Trader Joe’s products. So when I was asked to choose the best snacks of all time at TJ’s, I knew I’d have many things to consider when it came to nailing down those definitive picks. But in the name of journalistic integrity, I snacked and snacked to get to the bottom of the best snacks you can get at Trader Joe’s. 

I made sure to look at many of these snacks under various lenses: Are they ideal for a road trip? For sneaking into the movies? For zhuzhing up a cheese plate? And could they be morphed into a meal that’s greater than the sum of its parts? 

A mix of classics, seasonal favorites, and underdogs, I think you’ll find there’s a snack in this list for everyone. But if I didn’t include your favorite, please do tell me in the comments! I’m always very open to expanding my snack stash.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. PB&C Snack Duo, $3.99 for 12.7 ounces

Maybe you’ve tried the OG snack duo (the PB&J Snack Duo), but it’s time to get acquainted with the newest addition to the family. Where the original has peanut butter-filled crepe wafer sticks (think: Pirouline cookies) and raspberry jam for dipping, this new iteration flips the script with chocolate-filled chocolate wafer sticks and a peanut butter dip. I cracked open a package and was transported back to the lunchtime gold inside my third-grade Hello Kitty lunch box. I even gasped over how good these are.

Like, can you imagine your 8-year-old self in the school cafeteria? These are basically the same level as getting any other lunch-box MVP (the Lunchables pizza, chocolate pudding, and Gushers) and that feeling was still preserved in my now 33-year-old brain. My rating? 12/10, will stock up on these — whether or not I’m on a desert island.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

2. Perfectly Pickled Pups, $4.99 for 6.3 ounces

Trader Joe’s has a special knack for combining so many of my favorite words in one product, and these snackable, pickle-y corndogs are no exception. The Perfectly Pickled Pups are a mouthful in more ways than one, and have pickle seasoning in the cornbread batter that is subtle enough to not scare away even the very pickle-averse. 

I, however, could have taken a bit more pickle pungency, but that also makes these perfect for dipping into Trader Joe’s Dill Pickle Mustard, naturally. Definitely keep a box of these hidden away for when you need a game-day snack. Truth be told, you’ll be happy to have these on any odd weeknight with your favorite crisp lager.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Piquant Popcorn, $2.99 for 5 ounces

If you’ve got someone in your life who is like, “Nutritional yeast is the least appetizing combo of words possible, I’m gonna pass,” I get it. Still, Trader Joe’s Piquant Popcorn (which is coated in a mix of cheese-like “Nooch,” sea salt, onion powder, and garlic powder) is so good it will make sure you never turn up your nose at nutritional yeast again. 

I never thought anything could beat my friend Jane’s nutritional yeast popcorn creation (she tosses freshly popped corn with a drizzle of soy sauce, which helps the nutritional yeast stick to it — it’s unreal). But this ultra-convenient pre-made version is really going after the popcorn throne here. The savory onion and garlic amplify what I call the “movie theater sprinkle cheese” essence of the nutritional yeast, and I highly recommend you sneak it into a cinema very soon.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

4. Onion Confit Swirls, $2.49 for 2.64 ounces

Sometimes there are items at Trader Joe’s with names so compelling you just have to say “yes” immediately. That was absolutely the case with these Onion Confit Swirls, a spiral of crunchy puff-pastry umami goodness (think: palmier cookie, but savory).

Flaky and buttery with a caramelized onion sweetness, these Emmentaler cheese-laced crackers are just the upgrade for your cheese board this fall. I’m not sure how the food nerds at Trader Joe’s did it, but they somehow packed an Everlasting-Gobstopper experience of a full bowl of French onion soup in each bite, which got me thinking that these would be wildly good as a topper for your next batch of French onion soup (with plenty of broiled cheese on top!).

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

5. Pretzel Bread Sticks, $2.99 for 5.3 ounces

One of the greatest joys of my monthly search for new Trader Joe’s items involves all the absolutely ingenious ideas I get from the crew and managers that work in the stores. One such manager took me on a full-on tour of the store and allowed me to find one of my new favorite seasonal snack combos: these Pretzel Breadsticks and another, dare I say, unexpected dip coming up shortly. 

Let me just say that I’ll never be the same after breaking open this package of airy, crispy sourdough-adjacent pretzel breadsticks reminiscent of the breadsticks you might find at your local Italian joint. To be completely honest, these hefty sticks are the size I now believe all pretzel sticks should be — XXL. I hope other pretzel makers take note of these, because they’re truly the only thing I want to dip into hummus or fondue, or eat right out of the box.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

6. Hatch Chile Unexpected Cheddar Spread, $4.99 for 9 ounces

This is the unpopular opinion of the century, I know: Unexpected Cheddar (widely the most popular cheese at Trader Joe’s) is not on my list of best cheeses the store offers. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a uniquely delightful combo of nutty Parmesan and sharp cheddar, but just not one I use often. That is, until TJ’s created this Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread with Hatch Chile. 

Like the original Unexpected Cheddar Cheese Spread, this seasonal schmear-able version of the popular cheese is ideal for digging in with pretzels, folding into mac and cheese or grits, and spreading onto a pressed sandwich. This Hatch chile version just might be the better of the two; the spice cuts through the sharpness of the aged cheddar and makes it delightfully reminiscent of the Easy Cheese I loved as a kid. Coupled with the aforementioned pretzel breadsticks, you’ve got two components of my new favorite “Girl Dinner” (and Girl Lunch, and Girl Snack).

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

7. Jerk-Style Plantain Chips, $1.99 for 6 ounces 

There isn’t a universe where I’m not snacking on these in some capacity. Straight out of the bag, these thick-cut, crispy plantain chips are dusted in a Jamaican jerk-style seasoning that begs to be added to as many eating situations as possible. I love to dip these in an herby, tart mojo-esque dip, and they’re also a very, very good idea for topping a black bean soup, or using as a vehicle for a shrimp ceviche. If you find yourself opting for the plain plantain chips, do yourself the biggest flavor and grab a bag of these on your next grocery run.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

8. Soft & Juicy Mandarins, $2.99 for 6 ounces

There’s fruit that wants to be “nature’s candy,” and then there’s Trader Joe’s Soft & Juicy Mandarins. These dried mandarin segments couldn’t be closer to nature’s candy without actually, uh, being candy. Sweet and tart and slightly chewy in that fruit-gummy-adjacent sort of way, a bag of these have saved many a road trip. 

We’ve all been there; you’re a few hours from your destination and really in need of something novel to bite into that perks up your tastebuds. Try a handful of these and you’ll see why I keep a bag or two of these in my glove compartment just for safe-keeping. And when you get home, be sure to dip these in melted chocolate to truly turn them into nature’s candy. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

9. Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips, $2.99 for 9 ounces

“Unputdownable” is an adjective I try my best to avoid using, but then again some words really succeed in describing one of my favorite snacks. I’m not sure what happens between my first bite of these sour-spicy rolled tortilla chips and the last, but I definitely enter some bliss-like state. 

Each curly chip is a level of sour that I’ve likened to “eating pure lightning,” and yet I gladly eat handful after handful. These are one of those snacks you want to give your full attention to. And unlike many of my other snack picks, I really have no suggestions on how to make these better. Just simply open the bag and enjoy. (Okay, okay, crumble these on your next taco salad, because why not?). 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

10. Everything and the Elote Greek-Style Yogurt Dip, $3.49 for 8 ounces

Dips can be a whole food group, a lovely jumping-off point for a meal — a whole way of life, basically. I definitely live the dip life when it means dipping into this elote-inspired one that takes its flavor cues from my other favorite food group: Mexican street corn. 

A rich Greek yogurt base mimics the sour tang of the traditional mayo and lime juice, with bits of fresh corn kernels, powdered chipotle peppers, and Parmesan cheese to round it all out. As previously stated, dips are for more than dipping: Add this as a surprise layer in a seven-layer dip, schmear it on a wrap or burger bun, or, yes, slick it right onto corn on the cob. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

11. Sesame Honey Cashews, $7.99 for 16 ounces

Next to the Soft & Juicy Mandarins in the Road Trip Snack Hall of Fame is a bag of these Sesame-Honey Cashews. Where do I start? They’re just the right amount of sweet (they’re at about a Honey Nut Cheerios level, by my measurements), and improve any granola or trail mix they touch, making them the snacking version of “Shine Theory.” 

And let’s not forget the crunch of the sesame seeds! The seeds are not just for show, either — they stud each cashew to add an earthy-savory foil to the honey coating. Add these to your glove compartment stash (and cowboy cookies or a classic sans rival cake) while you’re at it. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

12. Ghost Pepper Potato Chips, $2.99 for 9 ounces

In this era of hot wing challenges, I want to give a shout out to the slow-burning snacks out there. These Ghost Pepper Potato Chips are proof that slow-burns are truly underrated. One bite of these ridge-cut chips reveals a mellow spice that verges on sweetness. Hmm, you might think, that’s not soooo bad

The crisp airiness of each chip keeps your hand solidly in the bag, until: Bam. A tingly burn blankets your tongue, but not in an unenjoyable way. You’ve entered Ghost Pepper Potato Chip land, where each bite reveals a candy-box variety of sweet heat (not sure what you’re going to get), while also still being infinitely snackable for those of us with a spice tolerance that’s solidly in training mode. For a good time, add these to your next turkey sandwich. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

13. ABC Bars, $3.49 for six 1.2 ounce bars 

I think a large part of why I shop at Trader Joe’s is the detective work that goes into figuring out which name brands are sold under the Trader Joe’s name. Case in point: I had a double-take experience when I first tried these ABC Bars (which stand for Almond Butter & Chocolate), featuring a chocolate-oat bar that’s filled with almond butter. 

They’re eerily similar to a popular name-brand bar, but at a fraction of the price. These bars are so similar that it’s basically like the snack version of The Parent Trap (just swapped with almond butter instead of peanut butter). While the jury is out on who truly makes these bars, they are definitely a mainstay. They’re great as a break-in-case-of-hanger snack to throw in your bag, and perhaps too child-friendly (my nephew often looks at me with jealousy when I break one open), so pack your snacks accordingly. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

14. Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno Dip, $3.99 for 10 ounces

I can only do one magic trick and it’s making this dip … disappear. And not just by dunking lime tortilla chips, baby peppers, and carrots in it. Or adding it to breakfast tacos and topping burrito bowls with it. Sure, that’s cool and all, but this creamy-spicy dip that’s packed with briny artichokes is meant for much, much more. 

Fun fact: Did you know it makes the perfect binder for a rice and beef mix for filling cheesy stuffed peppers, too? Well, now you do. And now you know why this dip is the ultimate disappearing act! 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

15. Super Seedy Cheesy Bites, $3.49 for 2.8 ounces

A recent addition to my MVP list, these Super Seedy Cheesy Bites are the definition of a sleeper hit. So be sure not to sleep on them! They may look simple, but each cheesy bite packs in tons of complexity; it reminds me of a nutty Parmesan crisp that became best friends with bits of spicy, floral peppercorns. 

I don’t know about you, but I often observe a very Liz Lemon-esque “Night Cheese” ritual and these certainly elevate it by 100%. And you know what? They also elevate bowls of tomato soup and Caesar salads, and make a perfect dipping vessel for bruschetta. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

16. Popcorn with Herbs & Spices, $2.79 for 5 ounces

I’m not sure how it’s possible, but Trader Joe’s Popcorn with Herbs & Spices packs a whole meal’s worth of flavor into each kernel. Coated in a garden variety of herbs and spices (like dill, celery seed, and onion), this bag of popcorn will definitely “yassify” your next movie night; it’s basically movie popcorn, with one pinky up. 

Straight out of the bag you’ll surely fall in love with the big dill flavor, but it’s a worthy contender for a fancied-up snack spread, a party mix, or a crunchy garnish for mac & cheese or even a cocktail (yes, I said it). I love to set this out in a bowl as a cheese-board accompaniment that pretty much always surprises my guests after they take a bite. 

Did your favorite Trader Joe’s snacks make the list? Sound off in the comments below.