There Are 260 Holiday Groceries Hitting Trader Joe’s Stores This Season — These Are the 16 Staffers Are Most Excited About

published Dec 1, 2021
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Credit: Roman Tiraspolsky

Are you standing in a Trader Joe’s? If not, you may want to change that. ASAP. The latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast came out earlier this week and the hosts, Tara Miller and Matt Sloan, are bringing the holiday merriment. (There’s even a festive musical interlude from employee David, who sings about a gourmet pasta sauce, world-class cabernet, and “lots of truffle flavored stuff.”)

In total, the two hosts counted 260 new and seasonal products hitting store shelves soon. (This number does not include anything pumpkin. That would add at least another 75 to the tally!) Some of their favorite holiday products “have already sold out … or they will any minute,” explains Tara. (This is where you grab your coat and your shoes.) That still leaves hundreds of festive groceries, including Italian-imported items, chocolate-infused brunch fare, sparkling beverages, and a brand-new gift-worthy chocolate bar that weighs more than a pound. Let’s take a look at their top 16!

1. Fusilli Pasta

Frequent shoppers (and podcast fans) know new pasta offerings are a year-round affair. Of course, that includes the holiday season! According to Tara, you won’t be able to miss this black bag of “quite possibly the world’s largest fusilli.” That’s the actual name of the pasta; although the podcast host also notes, “We can’t guarantee it’s the world’s largest fusilli.” The pieces of pasta are “an inch-and-a-half to two inches long” and, even better, “really great-tasting.” 

2. Truffle Picante Pasta Sauce

We’ve tried a lot of TJ’s jarred pasta sauces and we’re excited to add this spicy, Italian-inspired one to that list. It’s “spicier than most spicy pasta sauces we’ve had previously,” says Matt. And it’s “a little thinner consistency, so it’ll work really well with the structure, the shape of those large fusilli.” 

3. Rosemary Sfogliette Crackers

More not-to-be-missed crackers from southern Italy, these Rosemary Sfogliette are “kind of a takeoff on a puff pastry from the Campania region of southern Italy,” says Tara. “They’re just a really simple, flavorful cracker.” She suggests adding them to a cheese tray: “The [rosemary]  seasoning is light enough that you can enjoy them with really any kind of cheese.” Or just enjoy them by the handful, as Matt recommends.

4. Truffle Cream Filled Gnocchi

What’s wonderful about these potato-based puffs is what Matt describes as their “outside in” form. What does that mean? Glad you asked! The creamy, black truffle cheese sauce is on the inside, and when you cook them, they don’t explode or leak out. “I like them actually cooked in a pan, not necessarily boiled,” says Matt. It gives them “a little crispy crunch on each side, and I think they’re great as they are, maybe with a little bit of olive oil” just drizzled over top.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

5. Balsamic Vinegar Aceto Balsamico

TJ’s sells a lot of balsamic vinegar. And this “very special version for the holiday season” will likely be no different. (We tried it!) As Matt explains, this Aceto Balsamico “is incredibly viscous” (read: thick and rich) and invecchiato, which “means it’s aged in barrels at least three years, probably longer.” He thinks it would be fantastic “on a piece of aged Parmesan or a few drops with some fruit” and would be transformative on a cheese platter. (Use this as you might use honey.) Tara also thinks it would be “phenomenal drizzled over roasted Brussels sprouts.” Speaking of …

6. Brussels Sprouts Stalks

The grocer’s been selling Brussels sprouts stalks for “12-ish years or something like that,” according to the hosts. These stalks, which first appear in stores during the fall, are still making appearances. They’re striking, fun, and go into the oven as is. “You know, don’t even take them off the stalk — just season them the way you want, put it right in your oven, and maybe drizzle it with some of that really excellent balsamic vinegar,” says Tara.

7. Truffled Pecorino Cheese

This Italian cheese was introduced a few years ago (Matt thinks 2017), and it’s back for the holiday season. Matt thinks this too: “Would be amazing shaved on top of roasted Brussels sprouts or just part of a cheese board, and maybe with a little drip or two of that balsamic.” 

8. Cocoa and Sea Salt Instant Oatmeal

“What’s holiday about oatmeal?” asked and answered by Tara. “It’s kind of dessert-y. It’s kind of savory. For a sweet comfort food kind of treat, I think that’s a great way to go.” She also suggests including it in a casual brunch.

9. Hot Cocoa Ornaments

Also on this year’s brunch menu are these “sparkly, shiny, almost metallic ornaments,” as Matt called them. “They’re sort of like a hot cocoa kit in and of itself.” Just add an ornament to a large mug with the steaming milk of your choice and wait for the slightly minty milk-chocolate shell to melt away and reveal a pile of marshmallows and chocolate chips.

10. 2020 Diamond Reserve Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon

For some reason Pat, the store’s Wine Developer, withheld this incredibly exciting piece of news from last month’s wine-centric podcast (or maybe it was also redacted). Here’s what you need to know: An exceptionally great bottle of Cabernet from the Stags Leap district in Napa Valley is now available in stores and, according to Pat, “the wine would sell for hundreds of dollars and we’re selling it with a phenomenal retail of $19.99.” We love the power of Trader Joe’s white labeling!

11. Sparkling Pomegranate Punch

“Bubbly, bright, wonderful.” That’s how Matt describes this drink in three words. Of course, he expanded from there, explaining, “It’s not as sweet as one might expect with that punch word in its name.” He also said it’s a “great sipper right out of the can” and thinks “a little fresh mint or even a basil leaf might be interesting with this just to kind of dress it up and make it fancy if you want to go that route.” Tara also thinks it’d be a good stocking stuffer

Credit: Trader Joe's

12. Sugar Plum Sparkling Beverage

This sparkling beverage debuted last holiday season. “It’s 50 percent juice, it’s 50 percent sparkling water. It’s a really nice, smooth, bubbly, pretty beverage,” says Tara. She suggests setting it out on the table or on the bar — maybe in a Champagne flute — for a toast.

13. Pound Plus Milk Chocolate Bar with Caramel Pretzel Bits and Sea Salt

This is a new take on the decades-old Pound Plus Bar, which Matt files under the “giftable gifting gifts for your gift giving needs” heading. If you’re not familiar, Pound Plus is a big bar of chocolate that weighs in just over a pound, 17.6 ounces. (Hence, the name.) It’s made with Belgian chocolate and “the milk chocolate choice was deliberate.” As Matt explains, “Dark chocolate sells really well but when we were tasting different versions with these inclusions — those caramel bits, those pretzels — the milk chocolate just kept winning.” 

14. Pink Peppermint Face and Body Mask

Straight from what Matt calls the “HABA section” (the health and beauty section), is this kale-and-clay-based mask. (Note: As Tara points out, there is no kale in this product.) Made with jojoba beads, Matt describes the mask as a very gentle exfoliator, moisturizing, and “kind of a fun feeling.”

15. Candle Tin Trio

Tara’s a year-round fan of the store’s candle tins. And this trio of smaller candle tins — cranberry pine, fresh currant, and nutmeg — “just leave a room smelling subtly fresher.” She’s given these sets as gifts to teachers and neighbors. She’s also included them in a gift basket. 

16. Chocolate Bundt Cake

This frozen treat is a classic chocolate Bundt cake with chocolate chips and a buttercream frosting. And you frost it yourself. Says Tara: “The frosting is in a separate little cup inside the package. You can put it in the microwave and pour/drizzle the frosting over the cake.”  It’s a limited-availability product, so do like Tara says and “put it on your list for now!”

Which of these are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments below!