12 New Trader Joe's Hacks You Need to Try, According to Employees
Just like they monitor sales trends to determine what deserves a precious spot on their curated shelves and do market research to try to predict the latest food trends to test at their tasting panels, Trader Joe's higher-ups apparently keep a keen eye on listener statistics for their branded podcast. So when they noticed a spike in interest and downloads related to the 7 hacks that debuted in episode 49 back in April, they started compiling even more ideas to share on the just-released episode 54 of the Inside Trader Joe's podcast, "Trader Joe's Product Hacks, The Sequel."
Co-hosts Tara Miller, marketing director, and Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing, dished about their own hacks—which Sloan defines as "solutions or workarounds … or in this case, Trader Joe's product hacks"—then tapped fans and fellow employees to pack 25 minutes full of tricks. After listening to every second of the episode and taking thorough notes of the ones that sounded most fun, here are 12 that we can't wait to try ourselves.
1. Spicy Peanut Broccoli Slaw Salad
For a four-ingredient, quick-fix side dish, Miller says you should steer clear of the mayo-based dressings the next time you snag a bag of slaw mix. For a lighter, more unexpected option, toss together four ingredients: Organic Broccoli Slaw, lightly salted peanuts, raisins and spicy peanut vinaigrette. The resulting mix delivers "a little chew and a little sweet. It's not super spicy, but it does have a kick," Miller explains. "I'm serving it cold, but you know what? OK, so here's another hack on a hack. I'm gonna try this cooked because I've never cooked it. It is such a great summer salad."
2. Chilled Face Mist
In other summer news, this beauty hack is one that many EatingWell editors already swear by: popping certain skin-care products in the refrigerator for an über-refreshing self-care moment. If you want to give this a go with Trader Joe's items, Sloan and Miller agree that this works particularly well with the facial mists and gel moisturizing cream.
3. A Better "Healthy Coke"
Whether you said "gross" or "so good!" after your first sip of "healthy Coke," there's no denying that the internet can't stop buzzing over the bubbly TikTok trend. (ICYMI, we tried "healthy Coke"—here's what we thought.) During the podcast, the crew members sampled three twists on the concept: Sparkling water with either balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze or agrodolce, which Miller describes as, "white-wine vinegar with grape must." While Miller said she was "very skeptical about this" and whether it would really taste like cola, they agreed that it was actually pretty tasty—especially with one vinegar in particular. "I'm liking this way more than I thought I would," Sloan chimes in. "The agrodolce was fantastic, because it's sweet."
4. DIY Pan Pizza
For something on the heartier end, the next four Trader Joe's hacks are all about pizza. Sloan admits that he "always struggles with getting the crust crispy, but not too overcooked," on his frozen pizza. So instead of baking it in the oven, "I start with a cast-iron skillet or a pan that can go from oven to stovetop … I put the pizza in frozen and the pan is cold, and I put it into a hot oven, say like 425°F." Watch the pie closely, he says, and "just as the cheese gets melty and starts to bubble, and gets ever so slightly browned," he removes it from the oven and crisps the crust on a stovetop burner. (Try medium heat until the bottom is golden and cooked to your liking.)
5. Air-Fried Pizza
If you ask Miller, there's only one way to cook frozen pizza, and it's the tried and true TJ's freezer aisle BFF: the air fryer. "I'm like a broken record," Miller says, of her obsession with popping frozen food into the countertop appliance. "I put them in the air fryer. It gets much crispier."
6. 2-Ingredient Spicy Pizza Sauce
Chris, an employee at Trader Joe's store 619 in Ashburn, Virginia, suggests that instead of sticking with the plain ol' marinara, pesto or Alfredo to star atop your pie, you should mix two other sauces for an even more magical topping. Stir together ⅓ cup Italian Bamba Hot Pepper Sauce (found in the condiment aisle) with ⅔ cup Garlic Spread and Dip (from the refrigerator case near the hummus). Try this as a sauce for pizza, gnocchi or cauliflower gnocchi.
7. Sweet-and-Savory Pizza-Dough Monkey Bread
Crew member Alex believes that the refrigerated fresh pizza dough is "very versatile and very hackable." His favorite remix is to use the dough to make two versions of pull-apart bread, one sweet and one savory.
- Sweet: Allow the dough to sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes to bring it closer to room temperature. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it's about ½-inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to slice "nugget-size pieces" that are about 1 inch long. In a small bowl, microwave a stick of butter for 30 seconds or until it's fully melted. Then in a larger bowl, combine 1½ cups of brown sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cinnamon. Dunk each dough "nugget" in the melted butter, then toss with the cinnamon-brown sugar. Stuff the coated dough pieces into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Allow the cooked bread to rest for 5 minutes or so, then invert the loaf pan onto a sheet pan or serving platter. If desired, garnish with crushed nuts or drizzle with warmed cream cheese frosting. "It's like cinnamon upside-down monkey bread … It kind of eats like cinnamon doughnut holes," Sloan says.
- Savory: Follow the same method with the dough and butter, then toss the buttery bread pieces with Trader Joe's Ranch Seasoning. Bake as explained above.
8. Bakery-Style Baguette
Sloan is a firm believer that "crusty crusts" are what makes a good loaf of bread great. So to "reanimate" a Trader Joe's baguette, he says, "Run it under a little cold water. You don't get it soaking wet; just damp on the outside. Throw it into a hot oven, like 450°F, directly on the rack just for a few minutes." The cold tap water helps to yield a "shatteringly crusty crust, but the inside is still the soft crumb. It's tender. Just a few minutes and that baguette is transformed into something wonderful."
9. Chili Crisp Grilled Cheese
Crew members who were attending a "Trader Joe's University" class dreamed up this lunch hack. Next time you sizzle up a grilled cheese sandwich, cook it in a spoonful of Crunchy Chili Onion (Trader Joe's take on chili crisp) instead of melted butter or oil. This condiment has enough fat to crisp up the edges, while the chiles add heat and the crunchy onions lend a little more textural interest.
10. Ultra-Easy Layer Cake
Jenny from Trader Joe's store 715 in Woodbury, Minnesota, has a next-level layer-cake idea. Bake the new Yellow Cake and Baking Mix in a 10-by-15-inch pan instead of a 9-by-13-inch pan for thinner results. Follow the baking instructions, then cut the baked cake in half horizontally. Layer one half with a "big glob" of raspberry jam, peach jam or lemon curd, then use a spatula or knife to spread the jam evenly on top, edge to edge. Place the other cake half on top, then cover with whipped cream.
11. Ghost Pepper Chip Chicken
Jenny is also the source for this spicy breaded chicken hack. In place of standard breadcrumbs or panko, coat chicken tenders with the crumbs left in the bottom of a bag of Ghost Pepper Potato Chips (or any flavor of potato chips you like). Our Panko-Crusted Chicken recipe will coach you through how to do this. Pan-fry, air-fry or bake on a wire-rack-topped baking sheet until the chicken is cooked through.
12. Scallion Pancake Tacos
Take a break from tortillas next taco night, Miller suggests. Instead, she recommends, "You know those scallion pancakes we have in our freezer? [Cook one in a skillet to] crisp up a little bit on both sides," and use as a taco shell or tortilla swap.