14 Trader Joe’s Hacks You Should Try, According to Employees

published Aug 31, 2022
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Pit a peach in seconds, transform grain salads with a simple step, keep leftover cake from drying out with a single sheet of parchment paper — a good hack never gets old. Trader Joe’s employees and podcast hosts Tara Miller and Matt Sloan agree. In the latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast, they spoke with several employees about their favorite product hacks and even shared a few of their own. There’s a two-ingredient pizza sauce, a clever trick for opening chips, storage tips, and more!

Just as with the previous hack-themed episode, the hosts played it a little fast and loose with the word “hack.” Still, we can’t wait to try out their recommendations. Let’s take a look!

1. Turn broccoli slaw into a summer salad.

Tara’s recipe for this broccoli slaw salad is an old favorite. “It’s such a great summer salad,” she says. Rather than adding a mayo-based dressing to the mix, she combines a bag of this slaw with half a bag of lightly salted peanuts (she likes a lot of crunch), and some raisins and tosses it with a spicy peanut vinaigrette. “It’s not super spicy, but it does have a kick,” she adds. Matt thinks it would also be phenomenal on a grilled fish taco.

2. Give your veggies the “shishito pepper treatment.”

What’s the shishito pepper treatment? Great question! According to Matt, that’s when you use a hot pan (or cast iron skillet) and blister those shishito peppers over high heat, getting a little bit of char. “There are so many other vegetables that are great given that treatment,” he adds. A few of his recommendations: sugar snap peas, snow peas, and green onions. Just don’t forget the salt!

3. Finish your frozen pizza on the stovetop. 

Don’t put that pan away just yet. Matt has another hot tip for all you frozen pizza fans out there. He puts frozen pizza in a cast iron skillet (or any pan that can go from the oven to the stovetop) and then heats it in the oven at 425°F. “Just as the cheese gets melty and starts to bubble, and gets ever so slightly browned,” he takes it out of the oven and puts it on the stovetop with “some fire under that pan for just a few minutes.” He likes how it gets the crust crispy, but not overcooked.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

4. Turn pizza dough into monkey bread.

Pizza dough is surprisingly versatile. Alex in the TJ’s kitchen likes to use it to make a super-easy monkey bread that he describes as “an awesome hot, sticky, sweet, cinnamon-y bun concoction.” All it takes is four-ish ingredients: pizza dough, brown sugar, cinnamon, melted salted butter, and an optional but recommended teaspoon of vanilla extract. He sometimes adds crushed nuts or drizzles a cream cheese frosting over the top, too. You can find the full recipe in the podcast episode notes.

5. Crisp up your stale baguette by running it under cold water.

Matt is the first to admit this is not a new trick. But it’s clearly one worth repeating. In case you haven’t tried it, Matt recommends you run older or hardened bread, like the TJ’s organic baguette that’s sold in the white paper bag, under a little cold water. (It should be just damp on the outside, not soaking wet, he advises.) He heats it in the oven at 450°F directly on the rack for a few minutes to create “a shatteringly crusty crust” with a still-tender, soft crumb inside. “It also has the secondary effect of making your house smell like freshly baked bread,” adds Tara.

6. Mix bomba sauce and garlic dip to make pizza sauce.

This next pizza hack comes from Chris at store 619 in Ashburn, Virginia. It’s great because it’s quick (and tasty!) twist on pizza sauce. Simply mix one third of a jar of TJ’s Italian Bomba Hot Pepper Sauce with two thirds of a tub of Garlic Spread Dip and spread that on your crust instead of tomato sauce. Chris also suggests tossing it with gnocchi or using it as a spread for a grilled cheese sandwich.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

7. Stash cookies in the freezer.

Storing cookie dough in the freezer is a no-brainer. And for Tara the same can be said for store-bought cookies. Both she and Matt called out citrus options, like TJ’s key lime cookies, as good freezer bets. We suspect those Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe’s would be pretty delightful chilled too.

8. And facial mists in the fridge.

While you’re at it, you’ll want to make room in your fridge, too. The hosting duo recommended keeping your facial mists and gel moisturizer (the one sold in the little tub) in the fridge. Tara said using them straight from the fridge is “super refreshing” and “extraordinary” and a nice little refreshment in the middle of the day. 

9. Use sparkling water and vinegar to make soda.

You might have tried this TikTok “Coke” recipe a few months ago. It combines sparkling water and balsamic vinegar to make a version of cola and a lot of people had mixed feelings about it. Tara and Matt tried this riff on cola with two different vinegars: the classic balsamic vinegar and a new Agrodolce White Wine Vinegar that recently hit shelves. Of the two, Tara was the bigger fan and called the drink with Agrodolce “delicious.” 

10. Turn this vanilla cake mix into a fancy layer cake.

The employees at store 715 in Woodbury, Minnesota, really like coming up with hacks for this vanilla cake mix. This time, they’re dividing the batter between two eight-inch pans to create a two-tiered layer cake. Jenny, the creator of the hack, spreads a layer of jam in between the cake layers — she suggests raspberry, peach, or a mix of raspberry jam and lemon curd — before covering the cake with whipped cream.

11. Open your bag of Ghost Pepper Potato Chips from the bottom.

Also from Jenny, this hack is so simple — and so ingenious. She flips her Ghost Pepper Potato Chips bag upside down and opens it from the bottom. Why? “So that all the goodies float to the top and cover the bigger pieces at the top,” she says. Of course, this tip applies to bagged snacks of all kinds.

12. Cover your tacos in cheese to make taco nachos.

Gone are the days when you need to decide between tacos or nachos. And we can all thank Lilian, also from store 715 in Woodbury, Minnesota, for that. She first cooks TJ’s chicken or beef tacos in the air fryer. Once they’re nice and crispy, she removes them from the fryer, covers them in cheese — a lot of cheese — and then heats them in the microwave for about a minute. The result: taco nachos. 

13. Use scallion pancakes in place of tortillas.

Swapping tortillas for scallion pancakes should be on your list of things to try for your next taco night (or morning)! Tara credits this hack to “the world of social media” and recommends you let the scallion pancakes crisp up a little bit on both sides before wrapping them around your favorite fillings.

14. Make grilled cheese with frozen naan.

The limit of TJ’s freezer cases does not exist. Naan grilled cheese is evidence of that. Simply thaw out the frozen garlic naan — it thaws quickly, according to Matt — and then use it as you would sliced bread to make a grilled cheese. “Just about any kind of melty, gooey cheese would be phenomenal,” says Matt.

Do you have a Trader Joe’s grocery hack? Tell us in the comments below.