7 Trader Joe's Ingredients You'll Want to Put on "Just About Anything," According to Employees
The bounty of products at Trader Joe's is enough to boggle the mind of any grocery shopper. That's why we're always scoping out suggestions from the experts on what to try next. We love some of the classic picks (like these customer-voted favorites) and the dietitian-approved buys, and we're always ready to pick up some seasonal finds.
But now, thanks to the hosts of the official TJ's podcast, Matt Sloan and Tara Miller, we have even more products on our to-purchase list. Sloan and Miller teamed up this week to chat about all of their favorite hacks from Trader Joe's employees across the country, and they ended up sharing seven of the items they always keep on hand.
From lip-smacking sauces to twists on pantry staples, these Trader Joe's buys have our full attention—we might just have to make a quick mid-week grocery run.
The hosts are obsessed with Trader Joe's smoked paprika, a mild but flavorful spice that has the smoky flavor you love without the underlying fire. "I love this simple, basic, essential Spanish spice—this smoked paprika," Sloan says. "It comes to us by way of a facility outside of Valencia, the area in Spain, and its power is in its simplicity. If you're looking for rich smokiness with this undertone of sweet pepper—like a bell pepper, not spicy—this is the thing for you." Sloan recommends using the smoky spice on roasted potatoes, soups, pasta sauces and roasted chicken.
You'll find a flavorful dose of smoked paprika in our Baked Piri-Piri Chicken Thighs and Clean-Out-the-Fridge Vegetable Soup, so you can test out Trader Joe's version in a tried and true five-star recipe.
If you're looking to make a 30-minute soup recipe taste like it's been simmering all day, a little black garlic could give it the depth you're looking for. Because black garlic is aged—usually over several weeks in a humid, low heat climate—then dried, it has a smoky, mildly sweet, mellow flavor that will level up your garlicky dishes, similarly to finishing off a dish with a splash of balsamic vinegar. "So to me it adds the flavor of time, T-I-M-E kind of time," says Sloan.
Miller suggests using black garlic in eggs, soups, sauces and grilled chicken when you're short on time but in the mood for something with slow-cooked flavor—our test kitchen editors also say it works as a swap for roasted or raw garlic in most recipes, so try it out in a garlic-forward dish like our Skillet Honey-Garlic Chicken Thighs or One-Pot Garlicky Shrimp & Spinach.
"Just about anything is made better with this garlic," Sloan says.
Organic Garlic-Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For an extra boost of garlic flavor even when you've run out of cloves, keep this oil in the pantry. Sloan calls the product "magic," touting its tasty effect on everything from roasted veggies to fried eggs. This infused olive oil would be sure to crank up the volume on some of our favorite recipes, like this Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette or these Melting Potatoes. (Honestly, it would probably be a delicious swap in just about any of these olive oil-based salad dressings.)
If you're just using the instant coffee in your pantry for, well, cups of instant coffee, you're missing out. Miller shares that instant coffee is a sneaky way to amp up the chocolate in just about any of your favorite dessert recipes, while Sloan says it's a key ingredient when you want to try a coffee rub on grilled meats in the summer. He even recommends sprinkling some granules on a scoop of vanilla ice cream—which sounds pretty incredible.
"Instant coffee is like a miracle," Miller says, and it can be the star of more than just your morning meal. We use it in tasty treats like these Mocha Yogurt & Raspberry Parfaits and dazzling main dishes like this Sirloin Steak with Deep Red Wine Reduction. And if you're anything like us, you may still have some granules around from the Dalgona coffee trend of summers past.
100% Ginger Drink Mix
When you're in the mood for ginger tea—but not in the mood to peel and slice some fresh ginger—these packets of dried ginger powder have your back. "I love it as a cup of hot ginger tea, but I also love to add it to marinades and dressings," Sloan raves. "It is intense. It has got a lot of ginger flavor, some of that ginger heat, which is a little different than a chili pepper heat." You could try it yourself in our Teriyaki Marinade, either to boost the ginger flavor or as a swap for the fresh ginger.
Organic Spicy Honey Sauce
Trader Joe's take on hot honey has a lot of flavor and just three ingredients: organic honey, organic white vinegar and organic chili pepper flavor. This sauce is one Miller and Sloan want to slather on anything in eyesight, from poached fish to roasted vegetables. It's an especially good finishing sauce for dishes that need some extra oomph, Sloan says. Miller says it's a must for roasted Brussels sprouts or carrots. We bet it would be tasty on our smashed sprouts or carrots, too.
If Glaze feels a little vague to you, you're not alone. It's the new name of TJ's recently rebranded balsamic glaze, which can't technically be called a balsamic glaze because it isn't produced in Modena, Italy. "Think of like a really syrupy, thick balsamic kind of thing that you can put over anything that could use a little bit of acidity, a lot of sweetness and that sticky, almost molasses-like quality," Sloan says. In his house, it's a go-to addition to basic veggies or grilled salmon. (We love a dose of balsamic glaze on our salmon, too.)