The Most Underrated Section at Trader Joe’s (It’s Great for Cocktails, Baked Goods, and More!)

published Aug 24, 2022
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When I walk around Trader Joe’s, I have a pretty elaborate strategy to get me in and out: I have to avoid weaving through the aisles, or else I’ll get serious FOMO from all the fun stuff I have to bypass while grabbing my staples. One day, though, on my way to grab bananas, I realized I’d been speeding right by the grocer’s most underrated section this whole time: dried fruit!

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

Let’s be honest: When you’re trying to get through your weekly shop, you’re probably not lingering in the dried fruit section. You may be picking up the requisite raisins for oatmeal cookies, some fruit leathers for lunch boxes, maybe some Medjool dates to stuff with whipped goat cheese (and then wrap with bacon) on occasion. But now we both know better. Having worked for Trader Joe’s, I know firsthand how many gems are hidden in the dried fruit section, ripe and ready for mixing into cocktails, baked goods, and more.

Before you say it, let me make it clear that the section goes way beyond just granola and trail mix mix-ins. After one too many weeks of bananas with too many freckles and strawberries growing fuzz, I began experimenting with Trader Joe’s dried fruit as a low-waste alternative. Here are three of my favorite fruity finds I reach for on the regular.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Trader Joe’s Freeze-Dried Strawberries, $2.99 for 1.2 ounces

I first used these freeze-dried strawberries to top my smoothie bowls, but then also started pulverizing them to make a fancy rim for palomas and margaritas. Better yet, your baking game will never be the same once you realize you can crush freeze-dried strawberries to crumb-coat a cake à la Good Humor strawberry shortcake bars from the ice cream truck. Mix the crushed berries with equal parts crushed Golden Oreos and the resulting flavor is maybe too spot-on. 

2. Trader Joe’s Dried Sweetened Hibiscus Flowers, $1.99 for 4 ounces

Tart and sweet, these dried hibiscus flowers are more delicious than you’d imagine at first glance. I love to freeze these into ice cubes to fancy up cocktails and mocktails, but they’re also fun to eat on their own (as the Instagram caption mentions above, they are reminiscent of a Fruit Roll-Up). You instantly feel like you’re some sort of forest sprite feasting on sweetened flowers. Word to the wise: If you see these at your TJ’s, grab a bag while you can. The seasonal product isn’t around forever.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Trader Joe’s Dried Baby Bananas, $1.99 for 6 ounces

Another underrated favorite? Trader Joe’s Dried Baby Bananas. In a blind taste test, you might even believe a handful of these are little bites of actual homemade banana bread. Once again, don’t judge them on their appearance alone. (There’s definitely a reason these last two items are not in clear bags.) And when they taste this good (with no sugar added!), you just might find yourself buying these in lieu of your regular bunch of bananas on your next grocery run.

Are you a fan of TJ’s dried fruit? Tell us your favorite finds in the comments below.