- Trader Joes
Mackenzie Filson is a food & beverage writer and native Floridian. Her work has appeared in PUNCH, Delish, Kitchn, and EatingWell, amongst others. You can read more of her writing in her newsletter, Book Sommelier, where she pairs books with wine (her one party trick.)
published Dec 2, 2023
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Much of the reason why I shop (and used to work) at Trader Joe’s is because it’s always a feast for the senses. Between the free samples, legendary people watching, and nights when your favorite manager played DJ for the shift, it’s truly sensory overload. This month’s shop, amongst all the post-turkey-buying and pie-ingredient-planning, more than proved that there is plenty to make all your senses pretty happy.
As we solidly enter the giving season, Trader Joe’s is giving and giving and giving some more, in the form of new desserts I might try to play off as homemade, a few dinner ideas to save me on days I just can’t with cooking, and even a couple of items to cozy up my apartment. Not to cause any alarm, but I think you’ll want to rush to your TJ’s ASAP to get some of these before they’re gone for the season.
1. Pretzel Bread Pudding, $4.99 for 7.6 ounces
This dessert is a feat of imaginations run wild, and one that for a very brief moment in time, actually turned me into a Dessert Person. That’s not to say I always say no to desserts, but I have a few salt teeth, so to speak, so it takes a really special dessert to get me on board. Enter: Pretzel Bread Pudding.
This dessert is not holding back at all with the pretzels, meaning they’re not just a sprinkled-on afterthought. First ingredient? Pretzels, of course. Those same pretzels get soft and doughy and ready to absorb the salted caramel topping that makes this a dream in the form of custardy bread pudding. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and salty, and just takes 45 seconds in the microwave. All you really need is a dollop of something cool and creamy to cut through the dense pudding, which I did in the form of topping it with the grocer’s Salted Maple Ice Cream, naturally.
2. Chocolate Croissant Candle, $3.99 for 5.64 ounces
As I said before, sweets aren’t things I naturally seek out (my chip selection runneth over, though). That doesn’t mean I don’t wish things kind of always smelled like a bakery or cake shop. Thankfully, Trader Joe’s new seasonal candle solves that problem for me, with its Chocolate Croissant Candle.
Before you even think it, no, it’s not cloyingly sweet or artificial-smelling whatsoever. It honest-to-goddess smells just like freshly baked chocolate croissants in a way that brings me back to sampling all the seasonal lotions at a 2008 Bath & Body Works (a high compliment). If you’re trying to sell a home (the scent of baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and bread have been shown to help close the deal), or simply want to up the coziness factor to volume 1000, this candle is for you.
3. Almond Chipotle Dip, $3.49 for 9 ounces
Dips are a way of life, meaning that Trader Joe’s dips are basically my lifeblood. One new dip I think gets a permanent spot on my dip shelf? The newest Almond Chipotle Dip.
There are so many things to love about this dip: It is seemingly vegan (yet has a bacon-adjacent rich smokiness), is as good on carrots as it is on tortilla chips, and, dare I say it, would be an amazing spread for sandwiches or tacos, or on eggs Benedict in lieu of hollandaise. Creamy and cheesy — in a way that some vegan products try and often fail to achieve — with chipotle-tinged heat, this dip has some crossover potential into a pasta sauce, too, I think.
4. Empanadas de Ropa Vieja, $5.99 for 9.6 ounces
Foods tucked into a cute little pocket are kind of the best, right? Right. So it goes without saying that buying Trader Joe’s newest empanadas was a major no-brainer. Combining the powers of empanadas with a Cuban-style ropa vieja (a classic dish composed of shredded beef stewed in a spicy, aromatic tomato sauce) meant that these snack-sized bites were eaten by me very quickly.
The filling itself was a great tribute to the ropa vieja I’ve eaten in my home state of Florida, where Cuban food is hard to beat, and the crust became nicely crisp in the oven, ready to take a dive into some hot sauce. Best of all, the cassava crust makes these naturally gluten-free, which means they’re a killer party app that crowds can enjoy.
5. Italian Tiramisu, $4.49 for 13.05 ounces
Well, TJ’s has done it again: The grocer has possibly converted one of my salt teeth into a slightly sweet one, thanks to this new Tiramisu. Differing a bit from its cake-style Tiramisu torte, this new one comes very conveniently in a two-pack, which is great for when you want the Italian creamy, coffee-soaked treat but don’t want to make it into a whole thing by getting a whole tiramisu.
An eight-hour thaw in the fridge is all that keeps you from digging into one of these Italian Tiramisus, and I promise it’s worth it. This tiramisu really has all the depth of a restaurant-grade tiramisu, with hints of marsala wine transforming the ladyfinger cookies into a cakey dream, and plenty of chocolate-y coffee mascarpone cream to keep you spooning in for more. Is it possible I ate one of these for breakfast this morning? Absolutely.
6. Shrimp Pouches of Many Colors, $4.29 for 8.46 ounces
The tinier the food, the better it tastes. I have no science to back up this finding, but I know it to be true. As a big fan of all of Trader Joe’s various dumplings, potstickers, and buns, I was excited to try this newest seasonal addition to the freezer aisle. These dumplings couldn’t be more perfectly timed, either; each bite-sized shrimp-packed pouch really does look like a little present, coming in bright shades of red, yellow, and green, along with a classic white.
The filling is just as delectable as their appearance, too; each dumpling is loaded with shrimp and a savory blend of aromatics like garlic, onion, and ginger. With four of each color (the bright hues are naturally derived from spinach, beetroot, and pumpkin and turmeric), these pouches would be a great shareable appetizer for two when you’re in the mood for a dim sum night, or an entrée for one — especially when you serve them pan-fried and dipped into soy sauce.
7. Crackling Red Fruits in the Forest Scented Candle, $9.99 for 11.28 ounces
If you, like me, are fawning over an online shopping cart full of those trendy “crackling” wood-wicked candles, but then immediately ❌out of the browser when you see the price? Well, sound the 🚨: It’s time to get yourself down to Trader Joe’s. Not only does the wooden wick charmingly “crackle” out a mellow campfire sound, but the scent also smells deluxe. Like, $40 candle deluxe.
Romantically (yet vaguely) named “Red Fruits in the Forest,” as if it’s a long-lost Taylor Swift song, the candle itself brings to mind tart currants, cranberries, and pomegranates mixed with a sage-y, pine hint which makes it really scream HOLIDAY SPIRIT. I’m already kicking myself for not buying two, so do yourself a favor and get a few of these candles (and maybe gift me one for Christmas).
Which new Trader Joe’s items are you adding to your cart? Tell us in the comments below.
Greetings, I'm an enthusiast deeply entrenched in the world of food and beverage, and I bring forth a wealth of firsthand expertise and knowledge on the subject. My extensive exploration includes not only consuming a diverse array of culinary delights but also staying abreast of the latest trends, innovations, and emerging voices in the food industry. I've closely followed renowned food and beverage writers, attended culinary events, and engaged in discussions with experts, chefs, and enthusiasts.
Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article by Mackenzie Filson, a notable food & beverage writer, native Floridian, and contributor to publications like PUNCH, Delish, Kitchn, and EatingWell.
Trader Joe's Shopping Experience:
- The article highlights the unique shopping experience at Trader Joe's, emphasizing the sensory overload with free samples, people watching, and a lively atmosphere.
- The author reminisces about the festive vibe and personal experiences, such as a favorite manager acting as a DJ.
New Trader Joe's Offerings:
- The article introduces several new items available at Trader Joe's during the given time frame.
Pretzel Bread Pudding:
- Describes a dessert featuring pretzels as a primary ingredient, creating a balance of sweet and salty flavors.
- Quick preparation in the microwave is highlighted, and a recommended pairing with Salted Maple Ice Cream is mentioned.
Chocolate Croissant Candle:
- Introduces a seasonal candle that replicates the scent of freshly baked chocolate croissants.
- Emphasizes the natural and authentic fragrance, suitable for creating a cozy atmosphere.
Almond Chipotle Dip:
- Explores a new dip with potential vegan attributes, showcasing a bacon-adjacent smokiness.
- Suggested uses include pairing with carrots, tortilla chips, sandwiches, tacos, and even as a pasta sauce.
Empanadas de Ropa Vieja:
- Introduces empanadas combining the concept of pocketed foods with Cuban-style ropa vieja, featuring shredded beef in a spicy tomato sauce.
- The cassava crust is highlighted, making these empanadas naturally gluten-free.
- Showcases a two-pack of Tiramisu as a convenient and delicious dessert option.
- Describes the depth of flavors, including marsala wine, transforming ladyfinger cookies into a cakey dream.
Shrimp Pouches of Many Colors:
- Presents a seasonal addition to the freezer aisle with colorful shrimp-filled dumplings.
- Describes the vibrant colors derived from natural sources and suggests serving them pan-fried with soy sauce.
Crackling Red Fruits in the Forest Scented Candle:
- Recommends a wooden-wicked candle from Trader Joe's with a crackling sound reminiscent of a campfire.
- Describes the scent as "Red Fruits in the Forest," evoking tart currants, cranberries, pomegranates, sage, and pine for a holiday spirit.
- Encourages readers to share their thoughts on the new Trader Joe's items in the comments section.
In conclusion, Mackenzie Filson's article provides a delightful exploration of Trader Joe's offerings, combining personal experiences with detailed descriptions of the featured products, appealing to the senses and tastes of readers.