A Stunning Look at the 17 Most Popular Items at Trader Joe’s

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Fact: Trader Joe’s isn’t just a grocery store. It’s a tiki-themed wonderland filled with pyramids of Cookie Butter jars and Two Buck Chuck. It’s a place you enter thinking you only need to pick up milk but leave with a cart full of things you never knew existed — PB&J chocolate bars, green tea candy mints, pumpkin macarons, roasted coconut chips, frozen tikka masala… the grub is unbelievable.

The purveyors of novelty eats garnered a cult following over the years, with lines in New York wrapping around the building and spilling onto city streets. The brand has surpassed hipster-cool and become a household name. Yet, like any good relationship, TJ knows how to keep us on our toes while still holding true to what brought us there in the first place — their classics. This year, the company dropped a list of their most popular customer products in 2013.

We broke down the top-selling items by price and taste. Note, this year Triple Ginger Snaps dethroned Cookie Butter for the No. 1 title. Peruse below to see if you spot any of your addictions.

 

1. Triple Ginger Snaps

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TASTE LIKE: DEEP, SAVORY GINGER ORGY

After the initial crunch, the cookie’s inner chewiness melts in your mouth as you bite into the hot, tangy crystallized bits ginger. Like most of Trader Joe’s dessert finger foods, this comes in their standard bucket-sized packaging — a gentle suggestion to share, but you’ll probably be tempted to devour it all solo.

Protip: dunk in Cookie Butter (below).

PRICE: $3.99

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2. Speculoos Cookie Butter

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TASTE LIKE: SNICKERDOODLE DRUG BUTTER

You’ve probably seen this on Instagram with the caption #omg #heaven #obsessed. Texture is creamy like peanut butter and has a nutty, cookie flavor. It’s not unusual for jars of Cookie Butter to disappear the moment it hits shelves and the best/worst part is that is goes great on literally everything from apple slices, bread, shoelaces, etc.

PRICE: $3.69

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3. Joe Joe’s Cookies (All Varieties)

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TASTE LIKE: ‘BETTER-FOR-YOU’ OREOS

The Joe-Joe’s line comes in vanilla creme, chocolate creme and the seasonal candy cane creme varieties. It’s a lot less sweet than your regular Oreo fare and doesn’t carry the same crack-worthy flavor. Still, like it’s cookie brethren, dunk > twist. This is not an option.

PRICE: $2.99

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4. Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole

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TASTE LIKE: TART, LIMEY

This lighter-than-thou item claims to have 50 percent less fat and 40 percent less calories than regular guac. Think guac whipped with Greek yogurt, which lends a light taste that’s surprisingly addicting (I ended up eating an entire container like pudding). Amazingly, the airy dip manages to keep it hearty with chunks of avocado, tomato, and jalapeno.

PRICE: $3.49

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5. Charles Shaw Wine (All Varieties)

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TASTE LIKE: DEPENDS

Yes, it’s no longer the iconic “Two Buck Chuck,” but at just 50 cents more, it’s still a boozy come up. The quality varies, so it’s a bit like wine roulette. In general, however, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to be the best picks of the varieties, while the Saugvignon Blanc usually tastes like spoiled bananas. You’ve been warned.

PRICE: $2.49

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6. Frozen Mac ‘n Cheese

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TASTE LIKE: MILD, SAVORY, SALTY TANG

Gooey, melty and loaded with four different cheeses — the cheddar, havarti, Swiss, and gouda help class this up. A compromise between frozen dinner and stove-top quality, this is as good as microwaved grub gets.

PRICE: $2.99

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7. Almond Butter (All Varieties)

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TASTE LIKE: SALTY POTATO CHIP BUTTER

Make sure to stir this with a knife before attempting to slather it on, as its more liquid than butter. While the saltiness can be overwhelming for some, the almond cuts through for a nice finish. Wear a bib with this one, as it gets messy fast.

PRICE: $6.99

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8. Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

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TASTE LIKE: LIME CHICKEN, MA

At 4 per box, it’s a great deal and a refreshing option if you’re looking for a break from beef. You’ll definitely feel the citrus on this one, while the promised chile holds back. We dressed this up with the Reduced Guilt Chunky Guac, which helped amp the lime flavor, and drizzled on a healthy helping of Sriracha. Definitely recommend trying this at home.

PRICE: $3.49

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9. Fennel Bulbs *

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TASTE LIKE: LICORICE 

Fact: Trader Joe’s kills the vegetable game. The fennel is no different and incredibly aromatic. Grill, sautée, or toss into a salad. You can even chop it up and sprinkle onto the mac n’ cheese for a quick microwave “hack.”

PRICE: $1.99

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10. Pound Plus Chocolate Bar (Milk & Dark)

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TASTE LIKE: A POUND OF GUILT

The fact that this comes in brick pounds is dangerous. While you have the option of breaking it into proper bite-sized portions, you’ll definitely want to tackle this with a friend or two. The flavor is exactly like their mini versions found near the cash register — smooth, milky and indulgent.

PRICE: $4.99

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11. Almond Cocoa Spread

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TASTE LIKE: I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT NUTELLA!

Trader Joe’s shameless interpretation of everyone’s beloved hazlenut spread manages to impress. While there’s the obvious lack of hazelnut in their version, the Cocoa Almond Spread delivers the same cocoa richness as the original. Just what we need. Another reason to eat dessert for breakfast. We see you TJ.

PRICE: $3.99

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12. Rosemary Marcona Almonds

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TASTE LIKE: DELICATE, BUTTERY PINE

Marcona almonds seem to be the gourmet food world’s not-so-secret best-kept secret. Chefs name drop marcona almonds on menus, lauding the Spanish-bred delicacy for its sweeter taste and wet texture. Personally, I think of them as upgraded bar nuts. Plumper and softer than other varieties, Trader Joe’s Marcona Almonds have a great oily feel with explosions of roasted rosemary.

PRICE: $6.49

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13. Corn & Chili Pepper Salsa

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TASTE LIKE: SYRUPY SWEET WITH A SLOW HEAT

A great swoop for those who enjoy a lack of tomato guts in their salsa. The sweetness more than balances the spiciness and don’t be shy if you get the urge to eat spoonfuls of this straight from the jar. I like to throw this on my taco when I’m feeling like adding a sweet, chunky change-up or on my burger to keep things interesting.

PRICE: $2.49

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14. Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels

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TASTE LIKE: WARM, COMFORTING NUTTY FLAVOR

Sometimes, walking into a Trader Joe’s can be awesome dangerous for chocolate lovers, as they carry everything from chocolate-covered potato chips to chocolate-covered almonds. These caramel snacks are a favorite of that category,  packing an especially sweet combo of caramel decked in dark chocolate. Expect an incredibly sticky richness and don’t be surprised when you accidentally finish off an entire box. Whoops.

PRICE: $$3.99

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15. Chocolate Orange Sticks

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TASTE LIKE: CITRUS CUT WITH CHOCOLATE BITTERNESS

Remember what we said about TJ covering everything in chocolate? These chocolate orange jelly sticks aren’t your average orange peels. Rather than hardened orange peels like most on the market, the jelly gives way to a soft, juicy inside. The slight bitterness of the dark chocolate adds a beautiful layer of complexity to this snack.

PRICE: $3.99

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16. Mandarin Orange Chicken

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WHAT: SAVORY, GINGER TANG

TASTE LIKE: This was one of the products no one in the office had tried yet and to be honest, we expected it to be the usual frozen-to-table fare. Then, after heating it up on a skillet for a few minutes and dousing it in the microwaved sauce packet, our mouths melted. The chicken was crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside. The orange tang of the sauce brought a superb punch of flavor, but didn’t overwhelm the savory chicken taste.

PRICE: $4.99

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17. Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

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TASTE LIKE: ANYTHING BUT KALE. ZESTY BLISS

Usually, when you see “reduced guilt” on something you expect it to be a lesser version of it’s more indulgent self. This spinach and kale combo manages to reverse this standard and take your average picnic dip to the next level. The replacement of Greek yogurt for sour cream lends an unexpected zest that’s refreshing. The spinach and kale bits bring texture, making this low-calories dip feel hearty and satisfying.

PRICE: $3.99

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Big shout out to Chris at the Trader Joe’s in Tustin, California for helping us tackle this phenomenal grocery list.

*Omitted, seasonal items: Pumpkin Coffee, Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Pecan Instant Oatmeal, Cranberry Goat Cheese Log, Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix, This Cranberry Walks Into a Bar…, Pesto Gouda



Charisma has an undying love for gritty literature and drinks coffee like water. She also hails from Toronto, Canada and is a die-hard Maple Leafs fan, sigh.



  • Miggs

    GOOD GOD, THOSE DISGUSTING MUSTACHE PHOTOS. I’VE SWORN OFF ALL TJ’S COOKIE BUTTER, SPREADS, ETC NOW BECAUSE OF THIS. GROSS!!!!!!!!!!

    • Clatonian

      I have to agree..

    • Linda Lovelush

      Yeah, that was pretty disgusting and totally not necessary.

    • Gene Christianson

      What mustache photos?

      • Miggs

        Yessss! We won!!!!!

      • Maggiemay

        is mustache photo some kind of code?

        • JD Kai Hartert-Force

          I think it’s code for: Whatever he (Miggs) has been smoking, it’s clearly gone bad!

  • Kimberly Tia

    My favorites! The orange chicken and that Mac n’ Cheese!!! That orange chicken is usually always sold out!

  • TTT

    Another seasonal must-grub: pumpkin cream fuckin’ cheese! Goes well with drunk munchies.

  • Clatonian

    What about the Cheddar Horseradish potato chips?

  • Lauren Ellert

    Where’s the jerky? :0

  • Linda Lovelush

    They had me at Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole, then lost me at Greek yogurt. Can’t stand the stuff.

    However, I love TJ’s. I need to get over there again soon. I LOVE the mini chicken-cilantro wontons. And I’m totally looking for that corn salsa.

  • Anonymous

    The real Biscoff cookie butter is better.
    And Maranatha roasted almond butter is better.

    BUT

    TJs Cioppino, Dried Fruit, Curry Chicken Salad, Crispy Green Beans, and Chiles Rellenos are fantastic…

    • http://www.traderjoesfoodreviews.com rin

      biscoff is defffffff better!!

  • Kylah G. Klinge

    Interesting list! Wrote “A Stroll Through Trader Joe’s In 52 Thoughts”–covers a few of these! http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2014/05/02/shopping-kylah-goodfellow-klinge?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=140502

  • Brian williams

    Yeah I wasn’t impressed with Trader Joes. We have a local store here that is just like them only 10 times better.

  • Wendy Barron

    Tiki-themed? I think you’re confusing Trader Joe’s with Trader Vic’s.

  • Norman

    are the products organic ?

    • http://soundvessel.com/ Matthew Giacomazzo

      Watch Penn and Teller’s episode of Bullshit of Organics. A real eye opener. The short answer is really only a few select organics are worth the extra cost.

      Most “organic” food is made by the same big companies that make bad regular food and are just trying to cash in on the craze. Even Whole Foods has lobbied with those businesses to add some pretty questionable stuff allowed now with the USDA Organic label.

      Buying local and paying more attention to the source of your produce will yield better results. Trader Joes seems to take extra care in sourcing what they sell which is why I continue to love them.

    • yogaFlo

      No, full of sugar too. Basically, it’s almost all processed food; tastes delicious, but little or no nutritional value.

  • Maggiemay

    So they sell sugar, is what you’re saying.

  • http://soundvessel.com/ Matthew Giacomazzo

    Surprized Soyrizo didn’t make the list

  • Florian Brody

    Put the Chocolate Orange (or Raspberry) Sticks in the freezer – much better – even with a heavy Red ($5 – $8 Down Under Shiraz). Great tip from the ex room mate of my ex GF.

  • TFO

    So basically what this article is demonstrating is that Trader Joe’s is a glorified candy store.

    • Jim Jarvis

      Candy store? Whatever you need to tell yourself in order to
      feel superior. I doubt if anyone would read this article if it was about the things most of us go to TJ’s for:

      Inexpensive, organic, unsweetened soy milk or unsweetened cranberry juice. A huge selection of artisanal breads – there’s probably even one or two that would be acceptable to the Eurosnobs that insist on trashing TJ’s. They have a great selection of coffees. I have taken a liking to the Nicaraguan
      Maragogype medium body stuff . It’s nice to have an altnernative to French Burnt. Or maybe wild salmon or Salmon burgers? Microwavable veggie burritos? Chili/lime
      mixed nuts -it’s not a coincidence that chili is listed first. It’s almost like a Thai curry in each bite. A little less biting is the chili/lime cashews. I love the high quality pineapple, pomegranate or blueberry juices. Inexpensive bananas and the wide range of cheeses from the four corners of the globe are more reasons to go. I love the Maryland Crab cakes and dairy-free frozen desserts like the cherry-chocolate
      frozen soy cream or the mango sorbet.

      I suspect the next customer’s list looks nothing like mine, but it shows how TJ’s has found a good niche with healthy staples. You might want to check it out if you ever
      lower yourself enough to visit the states.

      • TFO

        Hey Jim: Work for the company much?!? Geez. I live 2 miles from a TJs and shop there often. Happy?

        That doesn’t take away the reality that if these are the most popular items, people are not buying their “artisanal breads”, “Nicaraguan Maragogype” coffees, or the Chili/Lime nuts that are “like a Thai curry in each bite” AS MUCH. You’ve got a future in marketing though, bro. Oh, wait….

        • Jim Jarvis

          Nah, just a big fan. I get a little sensitive when people generalize. To tell you the truth, I never even heard of speculoos.

  • MsMrs

    The Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl…..

  • Anonymous

    Charles Shaw wine and the Fennel Bulbs are the only things off this list I have ever bought there and I shop at Trader Joe’s a couple of times week. Just goes to show bad America’s diet really is.

  • JD Kai Hartert-Force

    This was an incredible article! I really enjoyed reading about all the things that (now), I can’t wait to try… Just one thing surprised me though. Did someone forget to PROOFREAD this? I’ve never seen so many grammatical errors, in just one article. Otherwise, Thanks Again FOODBEAST, for another dynamite offering!

  • Sarah

    My kids adore the yogurt, and won’t eat any other brand anymore. I am in love with the buerre muniere popcorn. OMG YUM!

    • Jim Jarvis

      I have to agree that TJ’s yogurt is superior to most.

  • saltydog

    They should stop wasting so much packaging on the produce. I’d like to select my own tomatoes and all that plastic goes to waste

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