The $4 Trader Joe’s Find That Upgrades a Week of Otherwise Boring Dinners

updated Aug 5, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize while being quarantined at home during this global pandemic, prepping and cooking meal after meal after meal, it’s that time spent in the kitchen doesn’t exactly equal energy and enthusiasm for cooking. It’s easy to get in a rut — especially right now — so I’ve been on the lookout for easy ways to make dinner feel, well, fun, without a whole lot of effort. Which brings me to this easy, flavorful, store-bought shortcut that’s helping me liven up countless dishes with little to no prep on my part: Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew, & Basil Pesto.

I first became acquainted with this stuff a few months ago when I stopped in at Trader Joe’s to pick up fresh basil to make pesto from scratch. Of course, I found myself browsing the aisles, as one does at Trader Joe’s, and lo and behold, I found that their prepared vegan pesto in the refrigerated section conveniently had all the same ingredients as my own pesto recipe. While I find most store-bought sauces to be loaded down with extra additives and preservatives, I was pleasantly surprised to see that’s not the case with the pesto at Trader Joe’s. Naturally, I bought a container, and scratched the whole pesto-from-scratch thing.

Credit: Trader Joe's

The taste is on par with my own, so while it involves none of the work, this doesn’t feel like a compromise. And since I started regularly purchasing this prepared pesto, I find myself adding a scoop or two to nearly every dinner I make. Trust me when I say this pesto punches up each dish every time.

I’ve mostly been using this pesto as as a topping for sautéed zucchini noodles. Without the prep time involved with making the pesto from scratch, this container has turned my favorite summer dinner into a five-minute meal. I add the sauce directly on top of the zoodles once they’re plated, sprinkle on hemp seeds for an added crunch, and I’m good to go!

I also like to add a dollop of this pesto atop black bean meatballs and tomato. It just enhances the flavor and adds an herby, fresh zing. Or I’ll spread some on a veggie sandwich for an extra punch. And sometimes I’ll take the super easy way out of dinner planning and I’ll just use this stuff with TJ’s Kale Gnocchi or TJ’s frozen Penne Arrabiata with some frozen kale and peppers stirred in for good measure.

Related: Trader Joe’s Crispy Sweet Potato Gnocchi

It’s less than $4 per container and a single one goes a long way. It’s so versatile and really does a lot to enhance every dish it touches. I love this stuff so much, I’m going to make a bold statement and call it my best TJ’s find in MONTHS.

Have you tried Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto? What’s your favorite way to use it?