7 Trader Joe's Hacks You'll Want to Copy in Your Own Kitchen, According to Employees
There's nothing better than getting insider tips on one of our favorite places to do a grocery shopping spree—Trader Joe's. After all, nobody knows the house-brand products like the people who work with them every day. That's why we're always psyched to hear about the best cheeses, frozen foods, pastas and, yes, wines that employees are loving.
On the latest episode of the official Trader Joe's podcast, hosts Tara Miller and Matt Sloan sat down to taste test some of the many TJ's hacks that employees from around the country sent in—including everything from simple dessert upgrades to loaded burritos. They even chatted about the best ways to keep your grocery store flowers around longer—you can check out the transcript for all the tips.
Here are seven of the hacks Trader Joe's employees are using at home—just make sure you have a pen and paper handy so you can take all this down.
Frozen Yogurt Pops
The podcast hosts credit Tori, a TJ's crew member in Spokane, Washington, for this easy treat. Simply slice an opening in the lid of your favorite yogurt flavor and stick a popsicle stick through the slot, then pop the yogurt into the freezer. Miller and Sloan were fans of the vanilla and blueberry flavors, but the Trader Joe's website also suggests trying this one out on the raspberry, peach and meyer lemon flavors. You may have a tough time getting the yogurt pops out of their cups at first, but pinching the bottom of the cup (or the top of the pop) will help you get it loose, they say.
This recipe hack comes from Cynthia, a TJ's employee in Woodbury, Minnesota. Taking inspiration from ooey-gooey butter cake, Cynthia suggests preparing Trader Joe's Vanilla Cake Mix without milk. (That means you'll still need butter and eggs on hand.) The result is a denser cake that has a brownie-like texture and works as a delicious base for summery strawberry shortcake. Swap it into our recipe for Individual Strawberry Shortcakes for a sweet treat that shines the spotlight on fresh berries and mellow vanilla.
Ice Cream with a Kick
Another Minnesota TJ's crew member, Jenny, suggests adding a sprinkle of Trader Joe's Chili Lime Seasoning the next time you have a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. If you need other ideas to use up your Tajín-style seasoning, you can try it on the rim of your cocktail glass, like in our Beer Cocktail with Lime & Tajín or use it to add big flavor to some baked sweet potato fries.
Here's another way to level up the baking mix in your pantry. Prepare a package of Brownie Truffle Baking Mix as directed. In a greased brownie pan, drop in a few cookie dough pucks from a package of Trader Joe's Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, then pour the brownie batter over the cookies and bake using the instructions on the box. You may need to give this pan of brownies an extra few minutes in the oven, but you're in good shape when you can put a skewer or toothpick in the pan and have it come out clean.
Chocolate Hummus Ice Cream
If you've ever wished a scoop of ice cream was more filling, this hack might be just the thing for you. Boston Trader Joe's employee Meredith swears by popping a tub of chocolate hummus into the freezer for a sweet treat whenever you need it. Just scoop it like ice cream and enjoy however you like. "According to Meredith, it's absolutely delicious and has a little protein," Miller says. "It's kind of a treat, but also like a little on the healthier side, maybe." Sloan adds that he's heard of people adding some chocolate hummus to their chocolate frosting to boost the staying power of a cupcake.
Mandarin Orange Chicken Burrito
This hack may be a little more complicated, but you'll get a complete dinner out of it. One TJ's employee is a fan of combining two fan-favorite Trader Joe's products: the Mandarin Orange Chicken and Spicy Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower. Simply prepare the chicken as directed in the oven (or in the air-fryer, if you want to shake things up). Over medium-high heat, cook the cauliflower rice in a skillet until it's piping hot and fragrant—our hosts suggest using a high heat to get more of the moisture out of the cauliflower so you get a better texture, but be wary of burning your rice.
When the chicken and rice are ready, combine them in the skillet with the sauce from the chicken, then build burritos using large flour tortillas. You should get at least four large burritos out of the recipe, the hosts say. The result is a surprising fusion that the hosts couldn't get enough of. "You get like the crispy sweetness of the orange chicken, the spiciness of the Mexican-style rice," Alex, a guest on the show, said. "You get a little of the vegetable flavors, it plays really well together."
Air-Fryer Chicken Tenders
If you're looking for new ways to put your air-fryer to work, try these two-ingredient tenders. Just crush up some Elote Corn Chip Dippers until they're like breadcrumbs—you can do it by hand or using a food processor. Then dip raw chicken tenders into the chip crumbs until they're fully coated and air fry them at 390°F for about 10 minutes. While the dampness of the tenders should be enough to get the coating to stick, you could always use an egg or a little buttermilk brine to get your tenders in frying shape. (If you're using particularly big tenders, check them with a meat thermometer or cut one open after 10 minutes to make sure they're cooked through. The USDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F.)
You'll end up with simple fried tenders that have a little salt and spice from the corn chip coating—but you could also level them up with some Everything But the Elote Seasoning, like in this recipe.