This $3 Trader Joe’s Find Is My Secret Weapon for Quick Meals

updated May 1, 2019
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When it comes to adding a good, filling, healthy, and affordable protein to a meal, there’s nothing easier than peeling open a tin of smoked trout. Whether I’m trying to throw together a serviceable dinner or I’m in the mood for a particularly decadent breakfast, it’s a quick and pretty delicious way to round out a dish. And, thanks to its shelf life, I can stock up and keep it on hand (I get mine at Trader Joe’s and usually snag five or six tins of it at a time).

(Image credit: Amazon)

I love smoked trout for the same reasons I love tuna — it’s a healthy source of filling protein, it’s versatile, and it’s relatively cheap — but recently my love for trout has actually surpassed my love for tuna. (And I say that as someone who usually had at least two or three tins of yellowfin rolling around in my desk drawer, Yup, I was That Coworker. I’m sorry! But I never heated it up, I swear.) It’s less aggressively fishy than tuna is, and the trout’s savory smokiness adds a rich depth of flavor to pretty much everything I add it to. Unlike tuna, I don’t really feel the need to fuss over it with oil, salt, and seasonings; it’s flavorful enough to stand alone.

Here’s how I worked it into my meals, from morning to night.

Breakfast: Trouts Loves Eggs

I try to eat breakfast every day, not only because it’s my favorite meal of the day, but also because if I neglect it, my stomach starts shrieking by 10:59 a.m. and I have to eat what I call a kindergarten lunch. As a breakfast-lover and a savory person, I love scrambling an egg or two and folding smoked trout in with a bit of black pepper and shredded Parmesan cheese. It feels so indulgent and keeps me full until an adult-appropriate lunch hour without knocking me out for the rest of the morning.

On more leisurely weekends, this might become an omelet with ricotta or crème fraîche and a tiny bit of truffle salt. When I’m moved by the meal-prep spirit, I spin this combination into a frittata to keep handy in the fridge.

Lunch: Trout Is a Go-Anywhere Filling

The easiest $5 lunch ever: Mix up a tin of smoked trout with a dollop or two of Greek yogurt (or ripe avocado if you’re dairy-free), salt, pepper, maybe some diced red onions if you’re feeling industrious, maybe some white beans or chickpeas if you’re starving, and a squeeze of lemon. I’ve put this on a sandwich, tossed it in with spinach and arugula for a filling salad, and just actually eaten it straight out of the mixing bowl with a spoon. No shame. (Note: When paired with crackers, this also makes for a really simple snack — either for guests or just, you know, for yourself.)

Dinner: Trout Upgrades Boring Dinners

I’m bad at meal planning and have duly accepted my fate in this realm, so dinner at my house often requires a rather hectic and hangry last-minute trip to the store (or, let’s be honest, takeout order). Smoked trout has been a lifesaver in this realm, because it rounds out dishes and elevates things like soup and pasta from side-dish territory to entrée level.

I recently made a puréed winter root vegetable soup, and finishing it with the trout gave it texture and generally made it taste more robust and less like a thin, hot vegetable smoothie.

It’s also really good with pasta, even in the simplest forms — I’ve added it to garlicky buttered noodles, along with a little Parmesan and red pepper flakes. For a dressed-up take on classic tuna noodle, I bet it’d be great in a creamy pasta with seasonal vegetables, too. And if I’m really pressed for time? I can just peel open a tin, put a spoonful straight on buttered toast, sprinkle some Parm on top, and stick it under the broiler for a dressed-up melt.

Sorry, Starkist, but I’ve never looked back.

Are you a fan of smoked trout? How do you use it?