This Is the Best New Fall Item at Trader Joe’s. Period.

published Sep 18, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn

I am a fall flavors super-fan. If a food has cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin, or apple in it, there’s a 100 percent chance that I will want seconds of it. So I was *really* excited to hit up my local Trader Joe’s as soon as the new fall items arrived. I sampled as many as I could get my hands on, and some are definitely going to be staples in my kitchen over the next few months. (Looking at you, Pumpkin Jam!) But there was one standout … and I was NOT expecting to like it. 

The Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese bites are the absolute best item in TJ’s 2021 fall lineup, and I’m not the only one who thinks so: Before I hit the aisles, I asked a few employees at my store to share any insider intel they had on the fall releases. Without missing a beat, they all told me to head straight for the freezer and grab a box of butternut mac bites. 

I figured they’d be good, but how good could they possibly be? So good that every single staffer was raving about them? I had to give them a try.

As I prepared dinner, I added a few of the butternut balls to a small skillet and popped them in the oven, figuring they would make a good appetizer. Ten minutes later, my kitchen smelled amazing — like I’d just spent all afternoon cooking a homemade casserole.

The taste delivered what the scent had promised: These are delicious. I was thrilled and so surprised that the predominant flavor was butternut. They really taste like veggies. After checking the box, I realized that the main ingredient is indeed squash. The second is heavy cream. So it makes sense that these are butternut-forward and extra-yummy.

I cut the balls in half because they’re really too big to be called “bites.” (You might also burn your tongue if you try to chomp down on one straight out of the oven.) This made for some messy eating — not really the sort of thing you can snack on without a napkin handy — but that’s a plus. They’re really creamy and saucy, and if I wasn’t trying to be an adult, I would have polished off the whole box and called it dinner. The preparation instructions suggest either baking or air frying; I don’t have an air fryer, but I bet that’d make them even better. 

A box of Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese Bites retails for $3.99 and comes with 10 bites. Don’t wait to buy these if you’re a fan of pumpkin-adjacent foods — or if you already like Trader Joe’s original Mac & Cheese Bites. If you’re planning on sharing, you’ll want to buy two packages. Trust me: Ten of these babies will disappear in the blink of any eye.

What’s your favorite fall find at Trader Joe’s? Tell us in the comments below.