Kitchn Love Letters

The $3 Trader Joe’s Find I’ve Been Waiting Months for Is Back

published Jun 23, 2023
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Trader Joe's shopping bags in kitchen.
Credit: Diana Liang

There are plenty of great dips, spreads, and sauces to be found in the Trader Joe’s aisles. But one that’s too easy to overlook (hint: Peep the bottom shelf) is a squat little jar of Eggplant Garlic Spread. 

This Bulgarian-made condiment has a lovely sweet-savory flavor and a mixable texture that makes it a total kitchen game-changer. Next time you run to TJ’s with a list you know you’re going to stray from, pick up this $3 jar of Eggplant Garlic Sauce and prepare to have a new grocery fave. 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread?

Of course, the most important thing about any grocery purchase is its taste. And this sauce doesn’t disappoint. Made from a purée of buttery roasted eggplant, sweet red bell peppers, umami-rich tomato paste, garlic, and a bit of sugar, the condiment is decidedly savory with a pleasant sweetness and punch of acidity. It’s TJ’s take on the Bulgarian dish Kyopolou, which is traditionally served with fluffy pita bread as a small plate or appetizer. 

In addition to taste, the sauce also has a wonderful and highly versatile texture. It’s light and spoonable, but not so loose that it can only be drizzled like a dressing. It’s also not so thick that it’s stuck in the dip category (although it makes a great dip with toasted flatbread). You can easily thin the sauce out with a little lemon juice or vinegar to make a dressing for greens, cold pasta, or potatoes. 

And we can’t overlook the price: $3 for a kitchen powerhouse like this? It can’t be beat. 

What’s the Best Way to Use Eggplant Garlic Spread?

I’ve experimented with many ways to put this spread to use. In the morning, it’s excellent smeared on toast with avocado or eggs. You can even swirl it into plain Greek yogurt for a savory yogurt moment (it’s nice topped with fresh herbs and a poached egg if you’re feeling fancy). 

At lunchtime, toss a can of tuna with a spoonful of Eggplant Garlic Sauce, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and maybe some chopped olives or capers to fill a sandwich or top a salad.

The spread makes a single-ingredient pasta sauce in a pinch or a nice alternative to marinara for homemade pizza. You can also marinate chicken, fish, or seafood with a quick mixture of Eggplant Garlic Spread, olive oil, and a splash of acid (vinegar or lemon juice). Or skip marinating and just slather your protein in the sauce straight from the jar before roasting or searing. 

Of course, you can also go full-on condiment and simply display the jar on the dinner table alongside burgers, fries, or other dip-ables (chicken fingers, anyone?). 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

My Go-To Pasta Recipe with Eggplant Garlic Spread

Here’s one of my favorite 15-minute dinners starring Eggplant Garlic Spread. I cook penne, bowties, or any short-cut pasta. Meanwhile, I caramelize a big thinly sliced sweet onion in a cast iron skillet until it’s nice and jammy. 

I’ll save a good mugful of pasta water; drain the noodles; then return them to the pot along with several heaping scoops of Eggplant Garlic Spread, the caramelized onions, and a smattering of sun-dried tomatoes, plus a splash of the oil from the tomato jar and as much pasta water as I need so it all comes together into a silky sauce. 

Lastly, I stir in some crumbled feta and let it get a little melty in the hot pasta. I transfer it all to a bowl and top it off with more feta and some torn basil, if I have it on hand. Yum!

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread, $2.99 for 12 ounces

What’s the one Trader Joe’s item more people should know about? Tell us in the comments below.