Kitchn Love Letters

This $3 Trader Joe’s Find Is the Greatest Crunchy, Salty Snack of All Time

published Oct 9, 2022
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Trader Joe's shopping bags in kitchen.
Credit: Diana Liang

Of all of the hundreds of Trader Joe’s products I’ve bought throughout the past decade-plus of shopping there, nothing has delighted me as much as the first bite of the Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets. The satisfying crunch echoes like a personal ASMR machine, and like the little mochi nugget band on the front of the bag, it’s music to my ears.

Credit: Alyse Whitney

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets?

In a word: everything. Everything about Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets — a mouthful of a name that matches my insatiability for this absolutely bonkers-delicious snack — is excellent. Each bite-sized morsel of fried glutinous rice is ultra crispy and crunchy, and is coated with just the right amount of salt to be able to eat a handful without needing to chug water.

These aren’t perfect little cubes, and that imperfection is part of their magic. The bag is full of irregularly shaped chunks with craggly bits and extra-crunchy pieces jutting out of the main square of the nugget, which creates a joyful mix of textures. Because these are fried, there is a light trace of greasiness, but not enough to stain my fingers or make me feel weighed down mid-snack attack. They remind me of a rice version of Bugles, but less airy and hollow (and unfortunately unable to be perched on your fingers for Halloween spookiness). 

Before discovering these nuggets a few years ago, I only turned to mochi for a soft-and-chewy experience. These crispy chunks changed my perspective on what mochi can be. When fried, it’s reminiscent of the base of spicy tuna crispy rice. The undertone of sweetness in glutinous rice comes through to balance out the salt, making it an ideal dipper for both sweet and savory dips. I love them with Trader Joe’s Green Goddess and Caramelized Onion dips as much as I enjoy them as a surprising dunker for chocolate fondue.  

Credit: Alyse Whitney

What’s the Best Way to Use Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets?

My most recent invention with these crispy nuggs is adding them to a snack mix with white cheddar Cheez-Its, popcorn, pretzels, Chex, whatever nuts I have on hand, and optional-but-encouraged Trader Joe’s mini milk chocolate peanut butter cups. I bet they would also work in a revamped sweet-and-savory Puppy Chow this holiday season, and I’m curious if they could be folded into crispy rice treats. My friend Tiffany Kim of Loaf Language in Los Angeles makes Mochi Krunchies with soft morsels of mochi embedded inside, and now I have to ask her if we can try experimenting with both crunchy mochi and chewy mochi for a dynamic duo of textures and flavors. 

When the nuggets were temporarily out of stock for a few months, I panicked. (They only had a spicy version, which had too many flames on the bag for a low-spice-tolerance wuss like me.) As soon as I saw them again, I bought five bags. With my excess, I’ve used them as killer croutons for chicken Caesar salad and as a topper for tomato soup.

For my next act, I’m thinking about smashing some up (true rockstar mochi rice nuggets band behavior) to use as gluten-free breadcrumbs for pork katsu or trying a panzanella using these and Japanese flavors. Or perhaps, in a nugget-on-nugget situation, breading chicken nuggets with them. Whoa — nuggetception! 

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s The Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets, $2.99 for 6.35 ounces

What’s your all-time favorite snack at Trader Joe’s? Tell us in the comments below.