Three Trader Joe’s Meal Hacks

Trader Joe's Meal Hacks

When we were in Fire Island a couple weeks ago, my friend Linsey disappeared into the tiny kitchen of our rental house, with five little kids running underfoot. Fifteen minutes later, she emerged with the most delicious pulled pork tacos. Crazily enough, she revealed that she had used mostly Trader Joe’s stuff. Here’s her “recipe,” plus a few others…

From Linsey:

Pulled Pork Tacos
TJ BBQ Pulled Pork
TJ Tortillas
TJ Mango Salsa
TJ Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese

Heat up the pulled pork. Then pile on tortilla with mango salsa, cheese and avocado. That’s it!

From my sister:

Trader Joe's Meal Hacks

Boursin and Pea Ravioli

Any kind of TJ Ravioli
1/2 container of Boursin cheese (which Trader Joe’s sells CHEAP)
Dash of olive oil
1/2 cup TJ frozen peas
1/2 pack of TJ Organic Baby Spinach (optional)

Make the ravioli and peas separately. Then mix together, and stir in Boursin and olive oil. If you’d like, stir in baby spinach, which will wilt when mixed with the warm pasta. Add pepper to taste.

From my mom:

Trader Joe's Meal Hacks

Stuffed Red Peppers
Half bag of TJ Harvest Grains
Half can of TJ Cowboy Caviar
4 red peppers
Sour cream

Make half the bag of harvest grains. Then mix in half the can of Cowboy Caviar (or more if you’d like it spicier). Cut off the top of the red peppers and pull out any seeds or ribs. Fill peppers with mixture. Put in a baking pan covered with foil in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream or yogurt.

What Trader Joe’s recipe hacks do you have? I also want to try these easy fish tacos.

P.S. The fanciest Trader Joe’s dessert, and how to get kids to eat vegetables.

(Top photo by Stella Blackmon, second two photos by Tory Williams for Cup of Jo. This post isn’t sponsored, we just love Trader Joe’s:)

  1. Shauna says...

    Wow, what a great post, and the comment section is on fire. Getting a healthy dinner on the table always feels like a struggle, but my mom is the queen of it. She suggested this to me recently, and I of course adapted to feature TJ items.

    Easy veggie flat bread
    TJ garlic naan bread (found with bread, not frozen)
    TJ garlic hummus
    TJ cherry tomatoes and arugala (or really any veggies you like)
    TJ crumbled feta

    Spread a generous amount of hummus on naan bread. Top with diced tomatoes and a little arugula. Sprinkle feta and pop it in the oven to broil until the bread is a little crispy and it’s warm. Done in 10 minutes or so! And you can easily add a salad on the side to make it more of a meal.

    • Amy P says...

      I love this idea! Thanks.

    • jh says...

      I’m not a hummus fan. Any ideas for a substitution?

  2. Stephanie says...

    Two packs of ground turkey, saute, add two cans of black beans (drained and rinsed) and a bunch of TJ’s frozen roasted corn, then add about a packet of TJ’s taco seasoning. Serve over frozen brown rice or quinoa, or with TJ’s tortillas, top with various taco toppings like shredded cheese, avocado, salsa, cilantro. Makes two nights worth at least. We will be having this EVERY WEEK now that school has started. Totally idiot proof and zero effort.

  3. Brooke says...

    I love keeping some of their frozen and bottled products on hand for nights when I don’t have anything else to cook! It keeps us from eating out too much.

    I’m starting to love their frozen cauliflower rice even more than real rice… I sauté it in a little oil (olive or avocado) and season it with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. I sometimes top it with their sweet chili sauce. And I especially like to serve with TJ’s frozen pork potstickers & gyoza sauce!

    Also….their yellow curry sauce (in a glass bottle) is amazing. I dice and cook chicken in a skillet and let it simmer in the curry sauce for a while. I serve it with their frozen naan! I just realized this would also probably be good with the cauliflower rice.

    And one more :) Frozen Diner Mac & Cheese!!! Pop it in the oven (right in the little plastic tray). After its done, stir in a couple spoonfuls of their Verde Salsa. It feels super indulgent PLUS there are no dishes to clean up!

  4. Amy says...

    I will definitely be trying the ravioli – I love finding new uses for Boursin cheese! And I found an amazing pulled pork recipe a while back and I plan to add a mango salsa next time thanks to Linsey. I live in Canada, so no TJ’s here :'(

  5. Lauren says...

    Just made the pea ravioli last night, I threw in broccoli as well – YUM!

  6. Deb says...

    Easy TJ’s Panini sandwiches

    Boursin cheese
    Baby spinach
    Deli turkey (I get the smoked kind but any is fine)
    Sourdough bread
    mayo or spreadable margarine

    Spread Boursin on 2 slices of sourdough bread. Use as much as you want – more is good. Add raw baby spinach and slices of deli turkey meat. Put bread slices together, and spread either mayo or margarine on the outer sides of bread.
    Heat in cast iron skillet or on a panini press until cheese is melted. Slice in half and enjoy!

  7. Emily says...

    I’ve been forwarding this link to friends with a “read the comments!” and am cutting and pasting like crazy. Feeling inspired! Which, for this working Mom of 3 who doesn’t really love to get creative in the kitchen, is a small miracle. Joanna, your blog is hands-down my favorite and this just drives it home.

  8. Cherylle says...

    Have you seen the new Trader Joe’s cookbook entitled, what else, Cooking With Trader Joe’s by Celine Cossou-Bordes? I’ve already marked several pages. The recipes are simply wonderfull!

  9. mimi says...

    TJ pre-cooked lentils + fresh pesto + burrata = a delicious salad

    Another go-to is Tuna Mac
    TJ GF mac n cheese (boxed mix)
    1 can tuna in oil or in water (if water, drain fully; if oil, drain partially)
    1/3-1/2 bag frozen peas or broccoli
    butter + milk for “cheese sauce”

    Make mac n cheese per box directions. Add frozen veg to noodle pan per cooking instructions (noodles take about 12 minutes, usually I add the veggies at about 6 minutes). Drain, add in butter and milk/cheese mixture, then add tuna. Serve as is or topped with sriracha.

  10. I love the samples they put out at ours! Last time they used 1/2 cup of their lemon custard, regular vanilla cake mix, 1 stick of butter, a package of their frozen organic blueberries and 2 eggs. Bake it like a cake and it is amazing as a breakfast cake, or dessert!
    I also love to put 1 container of the roasted red pepper soup, 1 bag of the frozen veggies with the rice and quinoa, and then one bottle of the green curry simmer sauce! Protein, veggies and a little heat! we always cook up a thing of their bread in the oven—so delicious. I leave out a portion without the simmer sauce for my 5 year old who likes it less spicy. Also good served with their garlic Naan!!

  11. Stephanie says...

    Equal parts TJ’s Belgian Chocolte Pudding mixed with Greek yogurt. Tastes like a rich chocolate mousse! Put in individual bowls. Chill. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. So good!

  12. Stephanie says...

    The coziest soup!
    Roast Beef and Vegetable

    Sauté one container TJ’s mirepoix in coconut oil.

    Add two bags of frozen Roasted Vegetables in Balsamic Butter Sauce. Sauté until warmed through. Add spices (I like rosemary and thyme, fresh or dried.)

    Add one box TJ’s beef broth.

    Add one TJ’s pre-cooked roast beef, diced. (Found in the prepared food refrigerated section near the ravioli.)

    Add one can fire roasted tomatoes and a few tablespoons of tomato paste.

    So damn good and easy.

  13. Stephanie says...

    Potsticker soup!

    Cook Gyoza (any flavor). Choose the pan fry method so that they’re browned.

    Sauté TJ’s mirepoix in some coconut oil. I sometimes add some Chinese 5 spice if I have it.

    Add TJ’s chicken broth.

    Add a bag of spinach, some soy sauce, and some sesame oil.

    Add Gyoza to the soup. Top with cilantro (optional) and Sriracha (not optional).

  14. liz says...

    Frozen vegetable fried rice, cooked and tossed with a scrambled egg or two, a generous twist of black pepper and oven baked TJ mandarin orange chicken (with or without the sauce). Easy and quite good!

  15. Love these ideas! Lately one of my pregnancy cravings has been chili mac, so my quick TJs fix for it was:

    1 pack of TJs gluten free pasta (macaroni or rigatoni)
    1 container of TJs pub cheese
    1 small can of tomato paste
    1 can of chili (any of the TJ chilis are good, I usually use the beef)
    1 jar of Cowboy Caviar

    Cook the pasta as instructed, then combine with the rest of the ingredients over low heat till creamy & blended and you’re done!

    Also, I love to use a jar of TJs pineapple salsa when I make Spanish rice in my ricecooker. I just use their low sodium chicken broth instead of water, a little less than you’d use for how ever many cups of rice you’re making, then add a jar of the pineapple salsa, a handful of chopped onions, chopped garlic and a big spoon of tomato paste. Come out amazing!

  16. Jihan says...

    Love this post, hate TJ’s produce, which is almost always over ripe and past its prime. I am going to follow these recipes but cannot support TJ’s after years and years of getting tricked into buying their rotten food.

  17. Yummy low cal substitute for sour cream and/or mayo. Thick non-fat yogurt (like FAGE) with some spices or seasoning mixed in. I’ve served it on nachos, as a dip and on fish tacos and no one has noticed the difference.

    • Stephanie says...

      It so works as a sub for sour cream, even better if you get 2% instead of nonfat. We buy literally 6 big tubs of it a week.

  18. mindi says...

    A co-worker shared this brilliant combo with me, and so in the spirit, I will share with you all:
    – TJs olive tapenade (from the refrigerated section, in the plastic tub. Not to be confused with the slightly less good version in the jar)
    – tub of mascarpone cheese
    – box of water crackers

    Scoop the cheese out of the tub into a bowl or onto a plate. Top with the tapenade. Serve with the crackers.

    I don’t mix the two together fully; I let my guests (oh heck, myself. As I eat the whole bowl…) do that, so they can get their own perfect blend of sweet and salty.

  19. Thaomy says...

    This is a variation of something my mom used to make using TJ’s ingredients and it’s such a quick and delicious Asian dish:

    1 package of firm organic tofu
    1 lb of veggie ground beef or real ground beef
    1/4 cup of diced onions
    1 cup of frozen peas (or whatever veggie you have on hand)
    soy sauce

    Sautée onions in pan until translucent. Stir in package of ground beef. Cook until heated if vegetarian version or if raw, cook until browned (drain fat). Stir in cubed tofu. Season with soy sauce and pepper to taste. Add peas (or a handful of spinach is good too).
    Serve over bed of warm rice. Enjoy!

  20. Jilleun says...


  21. Leigh says...

    Super easy spaghetti with clams
    Saute couple cloves minced garlic in couple tbs. olive oil with pinch of red pepper.

    Separately boil 1 pound pasta

    Add 2 boxes TJ’s frozen steamer clams to garlic mixture. Add 2-3 tbs white wine. Cover until clams have defrosted. Taste sauce for salt and pepper. Add fresh chopped parsley.

  22. Julia says...

    Thank you for this post! Having the ingredients laid out in a photo is so handy too. You really filled a need here, not just for busy moms but also for office workers in Chelsea. ;)

  23. hillary says...

    I make versions of many of these and love seeing all of the additions!

    Let me add a plug for the Healthy 8 Veggie Mix. Yes, it is likely the odds and ends left over from all the other prechopped veggies, but still – no chopping!

    Marinated Veg Salad: In a large bowl, make a quick dressing of olive oil, champagne vinegar, dijon mustard, s/p and maybe a little bit of honey. Dump in a container of Healthy 8 Veggie Mix and let it marinate overnight.

    The veggies soften slightly and makes a great, easy to go work lunch over greens with some chickpeas and feta or goat cheese. Even my three year old eats it. Sometimes for breakfast.

  24. Sarah says...

    Any tortellini or ravioli (fresh better than dried, in the refrigerated section)
    Frozen spinach (or veg of choice)
    Pre cooked sausage, cut up

    Toss all into the boiling water and will be done/defrosted when the pasta is done. Drain, drizzle with olive oil, s+p. All these ingredients can be kept frozen for last minute emergency meals.

    Bag of fresh whole wheat pizza dough
    Pizza sauce
    Shredded cheese
    Veg/meat/other fillings of choice

    Easiest calzones or pizza ever! Just assemble and bake to pizza dough directions. Fun for kids to customize. Can also make a few extra ahead and freeze.

  25. C says...

    This is such a great post! I am always looking for quick, easy meals. It is hard to come up with new ideas and we often get stuck in a rut. One of our favorites is putting a package of chicken breasts in the slow cooker with a jar of salsa in the morning and after work the meat is ready to put on tortillas with cheese, veggies and whatever other toppings. It is super easy and delicious and our toddler loves it!

    • Natalie says...

      Yes!! We love to do this with TJs Roasted Tomatillo salsa and juice of one lime. Super tasty chicken for tacos, quesadillas, …

  26. SO MANY GOOD IDEAS. Bookmarking this page 4-eva.

    One of our favorite go-to dinners involves their pre-cooked carnitas. You put this giant hunk of meat in the microwave (I know! I was skeptical!) with half a can of mild green chiles for a couple minutes, shred it, and put it on the best tacos of your life. We add some Trader Joe’s pica de gallo, and it is mega delish.

    • TJ says...

      We do something similar based on a sample we had at TJs one weekend. Carne asana (in the prepared foods section) microwaved for a few minutes so you can pull it apart with 2 forks). Add a can of drained Cuban-style black beans (also from TJs) and a couple of big spoonfuls of salsa verde to taste and heat until warm. Then add whatever taco toppings you like (cheese, avocado, lettuce, etc) and roll up in tortillas. Takes no more than 10 min and carne asana keeps unopened in fridge for a month or so it’s like having a pantry staple.

    • TJ says...

      Carne Asada not asana!

  27. Those stuffed red peppers sound delicious!

  28. Jenine says...

    This isn’t a hack, but TJ’s blue cheese pecan dip served with their corn chips is sooooo good! I live in Canada and it makes me so sad that I can’t eat this all the time :-(
    After reading this post I think I need a trip across the border!

    • Heather says...

      Same here! I just stuffed mushrooms with this dip and broiled them last night. Unreal.

  29. Easiest, quickest (on the go, one stop), yummiest, faux-fancy picnic with TJ ingredients:

    carton of cherry tomatoes
    bottle of white wine
    feta cheese spread
    prosciutto variety pack (also has salami and chorizo in it)

    no utensils needed! this could also be on the couch with a movie instead of in the park or on a date ;) for dessert, may i suggest macarons: they are much better at room temperature, even though they sell them frozen.

  30. Adele says...

    TJs pre cooked frozen shrimp (thaws in 5 mins under running. Water)
    Jar Pesto
    Fresh (dried is fine just takes longer) fettuccine
    – Dinner is done in 7 minutes. Can be served hot or cold. Delicious and fancy enough for guests!

  31. Amy says...

    For an easy appetizer that always wows!

    Mix their lentils (refrigerator vegetable section) with their jar of bruschetta mix (find near the tomato sauce) and the plop a ball of burrata (right near the mozzarella cheese section) on top of the mix. Drizzle with olive oil.

    Then toss a little arugula salad with a lite vinaigrette of lemon juice, salt & pepper, and olive oil.

    Put the salad on top of the burrata. Enjoy! Eat with crackers or delicious by itself!

    *This summer they had these thin Sardinian crackers that went perfect with it. Grab those if they have them!

  32. Gem says...

    The greatest party appetizer of all time: A bag of frozen Trader Joe’s meatballs + Trader Joe’s sriracha barbecue sauce, warmed in the crockpot.

    (You can either do the larger turkey meatballs which are healthier, or the smaller “party meatballs” which are a beef/pork mix. I often do a bag of each for different preferences).

    For party appetizers, I usually do: the meatballs above, the pre-made frozen spinach spanikoptikas in phyllo dough, and a cheese plate (always including with Toscano Syrah, my fave TJ’s cheese). Quickest appetizer spread ever, and delicious.

    • Gem says...

      Hahaha I totally butchered that spelled. *Spanakopitas!

  33. Jessica says...

    Vegetarian Stoup (Soup/stew combo thing)

    2 cans Grecian style eggplant
    1 package pre cooked lentils
    1 bag spinach
    cooked quinoa (optional)

    Heat eggplant and lentils together. Stir in spinach until wilted. Serve over quinoa.
    I ate this all the time while pregnant with twins to keep my iron up. It’s definitely not the most photogenic meal but it is SO DELICIOUS. I would also throw a handful of those little heirloom tomatoes from TJs or a few pine nuts on top for crunch.
    So glad for the chance to share this magic knowledge with friends and take advantage of others’ amazing ideas as well! ;)

    • Susan S. says...

      That Grecian Eggplant chopped up a bit and heated with some T.J.’s fire roasted red peppers in the jar (rinsed, patted dry and also chopped), and some chopped T.J.’s Kalamata olives. Sprinkle in T.J.’s Feta and serve over T.J.’s organic whole wheat pasta topped with their toasted pine nuts. So great!

    • Meghan says...

      I just made this! It was so delicious. Thank you!

  34. Karen says...

    Not actually dinner, but a great snack: honey wheat braided pretzels dipped in TJ’s infamous sweet hot mustard… Yum!

  35. Sandra says...

    This should have been I sponsored post! We moved to the ‘burbs and are a lot farther from a TJ’s than I was when I lived in Chicago, but I immediately hopped in the car and stocked up on all of the Trader Joe’s stuff I had been missing. There was one recipe I had at the store once…It was the roasted red pepper soup, black beans, brown rice, and some spices I can’t remember. I used to make it all the time, but now I can’t think of what else I put in it. Cumin? Red pepper flakes? I got some of the soup today and am hoping to recreate it.

  36. Amelia says...

    This was so helpful! I literally was going grocery shopping today so just bought all of that stuff and am making the pasta dish tonight. Great weekday options – thank you!

  37. Kerry says...

    Has anyone tried TJ’s frozen channa masala? It’s soooo good, and you can heat it up and have it with either their frozen brown rice or riced cauliflower and it’s dinner for two in 5 minutes.

    I also love baking up their frozen breaded chicken breasts to throw on top of a salad for a legit meal. And obviously either their coffee bean ice cream or dark chocolate covered pretzel thins for dessert.

    • Nicole says...

      OH YES! TJ’s Indian Cuisine is on the menu almost every week in our house. My husband loves it! Channa Masala, Butter Chicken, Naan, Lamb Kaftas, Chicken Samosas <3

  38. Nicole says...

    I contributed earlier and have been feverishly following the post throughout the day. I’ve seen so many terrific recipes here that I’m thinking about pulling those that I think my fellow Trader Joe’s Evangelists (friends and family) would favor and assemble them for stocking stuffers perhaps with an ingredient or two to start them off. Such a terrific post! Thank You!!

    • Elizabeth says...

      This is an amazing idea! Thanks, Nicole!

    • Caitlin says...

      Awesome idea!!

  39. Blair says...

    Chili & cornbread

    Cornbread box mix
    2 cans chili
    Shredded cheddar cheese

    Bake cornbread according to box directions. Add chili, top with shredded cheese, and bake until bubbling. (A dollop of sour cream is a nice addition when serving.)

    Learned this from the TJs sample counter. So good and so easy!

    • SallyK says...

      I do this the other way around — I put the chili in a pan, top with the cornbread mix and bake according to the cornbread directions. Top with cheese and sour cream as desired.

  40. Tjs pie crust
    Tjs Shredded gruyere/swiss blend
    6 eggs
    1/2 C cream or milk
    Whatever green veg you have
    Bake at 350 til set and you have a perfect quiche that you can make the night before a brunch.

    I roast the TJs teeny tiny potatoes morning of with olive oil, s&p and toss a bag of the prewashed arugula with some of the TJs balsamic glaze and olive oil. Some fresh berries and you’re a hero to all your friends. Also a great breakfast for dinner set up.

    Also have you have the kale/broccoli slaw with the dried fruit, nuts and seeds? My almost 3 y/o and i are obsessed.

  41. Kristi says...

    I could kiss all of you!
    Having recently relocated to Texas from Canada this could not be more timely. I am only just starting to discover our local TJ’s on quick shopping trips that my 6mo twins will allow so this post could not be more helpful!!! Thank you!

  42. amy says...

    I absolutely LOVE trader joes! Instead of take-out chinese food, which makes me feel gross, I will doctor up the frozen japanese rice with extra baby spinach and eggs, make pan-fried dumplings and garlic broccoli. Economical and yummy.

  43. Megan says...

    The EASIEST pasta!!:

    -TJ’s Lemon Pepper pasta
    -1 can tuna in oil

    Cook pasta al dente, drain, throw in tuna and oil, capers to taste, mix up! Good both hot AND cold!

  44. c says...

    Fast Mini Pavlovas:
    TJ’s Vanilla Meringues (saw off the tops with a bread knife to make them flat)
    whipped cream (in the spray can)
    fresh berries

    serve immediately

    • you are a genius.

    • SallyK says...

      I crush the meringues and mix them with the whipped cream and add berries. Super simple dessert!

    • Christian says...

      THIS IS AN AMAZING IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Heather says...

      You could also add some of the TJ’s lemon curd to this. Kinda want that right now.

  45. The tomato-less corn salsa is a favorite of ours. I love it mixed into tuna for sandwiches (satisfies my love of British “tuna and sweet corn” and my desire for a pickle flavor in my tuna). It’s great with shredded cheese in a quesadilla (I love the brown rice tortillas for this as they crisp up nicely), wonderful to sprinkle into a green salad or a slaw style salad for some extra flavor. It’s also just an excellent salsa, particularly with the sweet potato tortilla chips.

    We also live off of Chicken Cilantro Mini Gyoza. I do the pan fry instructions and we love them with a soy-rice vinegar (try half and half) dipping sauce or Green Dragon sauce.

  46. Ashleyb says...

    Easiest app: TJ Rosemary raisin toasts with TJ honey goat cheese.
    Also, TJ spinach artichoke dip and TJ pita chips are something I always have on hand and everyone loves!

  47. Elli says...

    Yeeeeees. This is what I need!!! Loving this

  48. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I have a slight obsession with Trader Joe’s. We don’t have this in the UK, (as far as I know) and I read about the love for this store, mostly over at dinner a love story blog. For people in the know, is it like Sainbury’s, M and S or Waitrose……………….I need to know!!

    • Heidi E. says...

      It’s like a hippy, Hawaiian shirt-wearing version of both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. (At least up to recently there is no drug testing to be hired at a TJs, so occasionally you get a lot of really laid back characters at the registers.) Handwritten signs throughout. Lots of prepared meals (fresh/frozen), produce and flowers that go bad immediately, breads, cheeses, nuts, oils, flours, canned foods, coffee and sodas/wine/beer. Most under Trader Joe’s brand–so you really get a unique in-store experience not found elsewhere.

    • Amy says...

      It’s the most like Marks & Spencers but way cheaper and more fresh food. They do have lots of prepackaged things like M&S. I haven’t ever seen anything in England that compares.

    • Probably closest to M&S, as most all TJ product is sold under their own private label (complete with fantastic signature branding, too!) but on a much, much smaller scale. It’s every bit as magic as you’ve heard, but I’d trade it all in for a pint of Belgian Chocolate Milk off the M&S shelf :)

    • Rhona says...

      It’s like much smaller version of a waitrose. For example there is only 1 ketchup to choose from but you know it is great. Limited choice within an item type but all good and all their own brand so you can’t get any name brand goods here (apart from a few small exceptions). Also they believe in minimizing additives and preservatives. This doesn’t mean everything is healthy they have a huge sweets/ chocolate selection and a lot of their frozen items are high in fat so you still have to check the label. I love it because you can pop in and out v quickly knowing everything is good with lots of prepared or semi prepared options. I dislike slogging through giant supermarkets past 80 different BBQ sauce options for example.

    • Emily says...

      … and would you believe, TJ’s is owned by the same parent company as Aldi?? Sigh… As a Californian ex-pat living in Ireland for many years, I keep dreaming one day they will expand to Europe… I think they’d be hugely popular, as a funky and cheaper kind of M&S foodhall.

    • Erica Bondy says...

      Ahh, Shutterbean meets Cup of Jo! Love when my favorite bloggers collide! Haha.

    • MC says...

      I totally second this!

  49. I have SO SO SO many nifty trader joe meal hacks up my sleeve, but I’m almost weirdly protective of them…

    • Jackie says...


    • Sara says...

      Hmmm sneaky house-wife from 50s alert. Kidding !!!

    • E says...

      Yeah that is weird!

  50. Susan S. says...

    T.J’s Salmon and Vegetable Croquettes! OMG … these are restaurant worthy.
    Little patties of salmon with edamame that have a subtle Thai/Asian ginger-y seasoning. I defrost in microwave, lightly saute in some T.J.’s coconut oil (the coconut oil is healthy and works great with the flavor profile, but any oil will do), and then serve over either Baby Spinach, Power Greens, or their new Lemony Greens that I also quickly saute in a little coconut oil. Squeeze a little lime over. Amazing. I eat this at least once a week. Takes like 10 minutes, but seems very gourmet!

  51. Jess says...

    Love this post! For a lighter summer meal or starter (that I can even serve deconstructed for my toddler)- TJs 10 minute farro, room temp or chilled, mixed with their organic arugula, chopped zucchini and topped with their ever so reasonably priced burrata. Drizzle TJ balsamic glaze, olive oil, salt and pepper on top. SO good.

    • Stephanie says...

      I second that farro. It is so damn good. Mix it with sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, add some diced red onion, make a dressing with lemon, olive oil and red wine vinegar, add feta for a mediterranean salad that last forever. This is lunch for days. Throw some leftover chicken on top, even better.

  52. Yesterday I hosted our Moms Club play group, and did a little TJs brunch: a croissant bar using their frozen mini croissants (you have to proof them overnight!) and lots of toppings, think cocoa almond spread (TJs answer to Nutella), butter and jam, slices of cheese and stone ground mustard. Then, since it was 90 degrees out, instead of a pot of coffee I set out a bowl of ice and TJs cold brew coffee concentrate, which guests mixed with milk or cream. We were all too busy chasing after babies to truly enjoy the spread, but it was fun putting it together!

    Also lately I’ve been picking up their stir fry veggies and frying that up in a wok with a few eggs, then dousing it all in a lazy version of Pioneer Woman’s stir fry sauce (1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 T sriracha, 2 T brown sugar) and serving over a bag of their frozen microwavable brown rice. SO fast since it saves you from all the chopping, and super easy clean up too.

    • Barbara says...

      Thank you for sharing. It sounds delicious. Any more you care to write about? I think I’m going to love your hacks!

  53. Kelly says...

    TJ wasabi seaweed snacks and a pack of smoked salmon and some edamame. Pile on a big bowl of sushi rice and call it dinner.

    • Jackie says...


  54. Emily says...

    My roommate and I hosted the most brilliant and easy party– I recommend it for all you TJ fans out there! It was a TJs-themed brunch. Each person brought their favorite dishes/snacks from TJs and saved the packaging. We heated/microwaved/prepped whatever needed prepping (very minimal, SO easy) and then displayed everything with the packaging so people could make a note of what they liked and then purchase it on their own. Our local TJs even gave us some of those little TJ branded coffee cups to serve coffee in for the party. It was quite the hit, and I got to learn of so many yummy snacks and meals to buy! Would love to do it again sometime.

    • Meghan says...


  55. Also – can someone compile all these and make the most amazing cookbook of all time?

    • Katie C says...

      YES! And can this please become a regular series? Pretty please?!

  56. April says...

    Pub cheese
    Can of Veggie chile
    -heat together
    -pour over TJ tortilla chips and top with sour cream and avocado

    Chimichuri Rice
    Can of fire roasted tomatoes
    chicken andouille sauage or chicken apple sausage for less spice

    Fire roasted peppers and onions
    cooked chicken
    fajita spice packet
    frozen rice

    Island salsa over frozen cod and bake!

    Saves us on busy school nights!!!!

  57. Alissa says...

    What a great post! I’m taking notes for my TJs run next week.

    One of our favorites lately is meatball sandwiches:

    TJ frozen turkey meatballs
    TJ pizza sauce
    TJ whole wheat hotdog buns
    TJ sliced provolone

    I brown the outside of the meatballs briefly in a pan, then add the sauce and let the meatballs simmer for a bit (breaking them in half-ish with a spoon once they’re warm enough). Assembled sandwiches go in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese and crisp the buns, with a quick salad on the side (and with extra sauce from the pan for dipping!). So easy and tasty, and my kids love them.

    We’re also big fans of the chili-lime chicken burgers and the salmon burgers, as well as making chicken sandwiches with the brown sugar bbq sauce. I always keep the par-baked rolls on hand (they’re with the fresh bread, but I keep them in the freezer, they only need a few minutes longer in the oven). Great for sandwiches/burgers, topped with broccoli slaw mixed with some mayo and lime juice and sweet potato fries on the side!

    • Katie C says...

      This is my favorite for thing to do for ski trips! Trader Joe’s meatballs are the best. I always throw them in the crockpot with can of TJ’s sauce before we head out for the slopes. Feeds a crowd and after all who doesn’t love a meatball sub?

  58. Christa says...

    Joanna, thanks for keeping it real! This working mom stuff is hard and sometimes following other bloggers makes me feel defeated. It’s nice to know we all struggle to just get dinner on the table every night! Thanks for the help!

  59. Gillian says...

    We love the TJ’s chicken fajitas in our house!
    Being both Texans we get homesick for tex-mex and these do just the trick. They even have the onions and peppers, which definitely make the fajitas.

    I either chop the chicken and serve over TJ blue corn chips or leave as is and put in a corn tortilla, and top with avocado and cheese!

    If feeling fancy I open a can of TJ’s black beans, warm them up and add in some garlic salt, and a little chicken stock (I drain the beans first), and pepper to taste.

    So good. So easy.

  60. Megan says...

    Yes!! Such a great post to come back to for recipe ideas. My fiancé and I buy the uncooked chicken sausage. Slice that along with chopped peppers and onions. Bake at 400 for about 30-40 mins covered with tin foil. So good! Another favorite is pan frying the Italian chicken sausage, add spinach and then add in the ravioli (any kind) and top with the pesto from the refrigerated section. Delish!

    • Stephanie says...

      That sausage is really good if you saute it out of its casing, so it’s like ground meat but seasoned, and then just dump jarred marinara sauce on it when it’s done. Total idiot proof pasta dinner with protein. I’m planning on teaching my kids to make it as their one go-to dinner they know how to make.

  61. Jenny says...

    My favorite winter meal is only two ingredients that you can always keep on hand:

    Frozen Creamy Polenta
    Box of Tomato Soup

    Just heat the polenta until it starts to break apart then add in the soup. Such an easy comfort food that’s even better with grilled cheese!

  62. jen says...

    I’m know among my son’s friends for making the best potstickers. My secret is TJ’s chicken gyoza! I hoard them in my freezer including the frozen edamame’s, together with a side of cooked rice makes an easy kid’s meal!

  63. emily says...

    Love making ‘soup in a breadbowl’ using the TJ’s small ciabatta rolls (they come in a 4-pack) or pretzel rolls. Just carve out a big chunk of the roll to get a hollow bowl inside, toast or low-broil for a few minutes, and ladle in whatever warm soup you like! Their roasted red pepper and tomato is great for these. For added fanciness, broil quickly again with some sliced cheese on top!

  64. Julianna says...

    A great appetizer I learned from the TJ’s sample counter:

    TJ’s Cooked Lentils
    TJ’s Bruschetta
    TJ’s Feta
    TJ’s Pita Chips

    Mix together and voila!

    I love TJ’s everything – sweet potato tortilla chips, frozen gluten free waffles (top w/ TJ’s salted almond butter), frozen garlic naan (slab w/ butter right out of the oven), shortcake biscuits (only around in summer), mini ice cream cones (think childhood drumsticks), cooked vacuum sealed chicken breasts, frozen kung pao chicken, mushroom fettuccine (add MORE mushrooms). I could go on forever.

    • Julianna says...

      Serve w/ the pita chips haha, don’t mix em in ;)

  65. Lauren says...

    Love this post! We have been making a chicken tortilla soup hack for years…

    2 cans beans (I use black and pinto or kidney but any combo works)
    1 carton chicken broth
    1 container pick de gallo from refrigerated case
    1 package pre-cooked plain chicken breast shredded
    Frozen roasted corn

    Dump ingredients in a big pot and heat through. Then top with avocado, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Even my picky 2 year old will eat this and it tastes even better as leftovers!

    • Lauren says...

      *Pico de gallo!

  66. Boursin and pasta?! Why have I NEVER thought of this. Thank God for TJ’s :)

  67. Jessie says...

    Maybe my favorite post of all time. Seriously! So helpful. Love the visuals.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!!!!

    • i totally do the chicken and cucumber pita too! though I thought I was a genius and made it up myself, lol…

  68. Sarah says...

    Joanna – thank you so much for this! I’ve come back to this post like 10 times today just to get more recipe ideas from all the comments. I love your motherhood posts and I love your food posts – and there are so many requests here for this particular post to become a series. I’d like to request, just to expand on that idea, a post or series on “how to get dinner on the table.” I have a toddler and struggle each week to figure out new recipes that I can either make ahead on the weekend or very quickly while I’m home alone with him after work. I feel like so many readers would benefit from something like this!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great points, sarah, thank you so much! i agree with you, totally!

    • Lauren says...

      I would LOVE a “how to get dinner on the table” post!

  69. Joanie says...

    Roasted red pepper soup
    Frozen roasted corn
    Soy chorizo

    Suate the soy chorizo and then add a cup or so of frozen corn and the soup. So good!!!

    • Cait says...

      Hold the phone they make soy chorizo?! This vegetarian just became very happy!

  70. Amber says...

    Melissa Clark’s Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli using 4 TJ’s ingredients–

    TJ’s precut broccoli
    TJ’s frozen raw shrimp
    TJ’s cumin seeds

    • Jackie says...

      Love this dish.

  71. Margaret says...

    Love this post! My fiance and I love TJ’s frozen turkey meatballs. Simple spaghetti and meatballs with a jar of sauce is a staple at our house. Here’s another:

    1 package frozen turkey meatballs
    1 bottle (or less) TJ’s sweet chili sauce
    TJ’s frozen brown rice

    Heat up meatballs in sauce on the stove or in a crockpot. Serve over rice. Add a vegetable if you’re into that.

    • Nicole says...

      We also love the meatballs with TJ’s Sriracha BBQ sauce over rice (kids prefer plain, but whatever)

  72. Jackie says...

    This is like the best post ever.

  73. Sophie says...

    What the heck is cowboy caviar?!? I live in the UK and have never been to a trader joe’s!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha it’s basically beans, corn and peppers. like salsa.

    • Samantha says...

      Haha, I guess it’s an American thing. I had never heard of that either, and started wondering if caviar was a good choice for stuffed peppers.

    • Sophie says...

      Thanks for the clarification! x

  74. KS says...

    I have never copy-pasted so much in recent times. Love love these comments, noting each one of them and here I come TJs.

  75. Kathleen says...

    Fish tacos!
    TJs breaded tilapia
    TJs shredded cabbage (+lime+salt+pepper)
    TJs tortillas
    TJs green dragon salsa
    (+ homemade pickled onions if we have them in the fridge)

    SO good and easy.

    • Julia says...

      Be careful of tilapia! Almost all of it comes from China, where there are big food safety issues (heavy metals, pesticides, you name it!).

  76. Trader joes is the best for time saving!!! I love to pick up there precooked and seasoned chicken to add to a easy summer salad when I’m running short on time! Tonight I’m about to head to yoga from 5-6 because my dinner prep takes only 10 mins if I used hacks like this! It’s so helpful with 2 littles and a full life!!


  77. Devon says...

    Favorite favorite ever: cooked lentils + mango pineapple salsa.

    It’s a perfect dip, or I spread it on toast with a schmear of TJ’s hummus dip and a slice of tofu. Or, let’s be honest, I just eat it straight with a spoon.

  78. These are euch timesavers. Would love to try the first two recipes. Thanks Joanna.


  79. I love all these ideas and I love that it isn’t sponsored. Good old fashioned advice from one girl to another! Thanks! xo

  80. Um, I can’t wait to try all of these! They all sound delicious!

  81. Elizabeth says...

    I love this! As another reader suggested, if this doesn’t become a series I’d love to see a follow up with some of the favorite suggestions :) I’m currently screenshot ting on my phone

    I could probably go on forever but here are a few faves:

    Grown up grilled cheese:
    -asiago peppercorn sourdough bread
    -Quattro formaggio cheese blend

    Serve with roasted red pepper tomato soup. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll just toast some of the bread and dip it!

    Cranberry pistachio chicken salad:
    -Equal parts mayo and Greek yogurt
    -canned premium chunk white chicken
    -dried cranberries and pistachios

    Combine and add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers or on bread :)

    Never forget their frozen Chinese food, naan, or sliced bell peppers!

  82. Jen says...

    How fun is this! And so timely — I just made Thug Kitchen’s beer-lime cauliflower tacos last night but super simplified with TJs. It’s not quite a throw-and-go recipe, but pretty easy, quick, tasty, and vegan.

    *1 bag cut up cauliflower
    *1 bag shredded cabbage
    *corn tortillas
    *advocado, salsa, cilantro (all optional, but nice if you’ve got ’em)

    Cut the cauliflower chunks in half (they’ll cook faster) and throw in a pan with beer, hot sauce, lime juice for 5 minutes. Toss with chilli powder, cumin, paprikia, then roast for 15 minutes at 400. While waiting, toss the cabbage mix with some lime juice, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar. Let marinate while cauliflower roasts.

    Then just dump it all on a tortilla! It’s delicious, even my red-meat-loving husband heartily approves. I always make extra cauliflower and cabbage to throw on top of a spinach salad for lunch the next day. Yum!

  83. Paula says...

    Panko hacks! Becuase my kid only wants chicken fingers:
    -TJ frozen tilapia (so cheap!) dipped in flour, then egg, then panko, cut in strips, fried or baked (served with rice, and for adults rice with avocado and soy sauce, I call it my deconstructed sushi)
    -TJ thin sliced pork cutlets-same preparation as above, made with side sauce: ketchup, soy sauce, and mirin sauce all stirred together, with the TJ Asian coleslaw salad (this is a Japanese katsu recipe, essentially)
    -TJ chicken breast-prepared as above, but much, much cheaper then their frozen chix. fingers.
    The only downfall, your kid will call random meats and fish-chicken -_-

  84. Meghan says...

    Naan pizza!
    -warm up a slice of tj frozen naan (don’t cook all the way through or it will be tough by the end)
    -drizzle with a little olive oil
    -add tj pizza sauce and top with whatever cheese you want (goat cheese or a piece of string cheese both work well)
    -pop back in the oven or toaster oven until the cheese is melted

    • Joanna Goddard says...


    • Natalie says...

      We also love to use the garlic naan as the crust for BBQ chicken pizza. I never heat the crust first, just smear the BBQ sauce on, added grilled or rotisserie chicken I have on hand, thin sliced red onions or chives if I have them, shredded mozzarella and then into a really hot oven (400ish) until cheese is melted.

  85. Not gonna lie, there’s days when the husband and I live off the TJ shrimp and veggie gyoza. So good!

  86. Sarah says...

    Two of my favorite TJ’s items are the Red Enchilada Sauce and the Thai Red Curry Sauce. I use the enchilada sauce to make these super easy (and everyone thinks fancy!) enchiladas:

    And I use the red curry sauce to make a Thai pizza. Grab the curry sauce, TJ’s pizza dough, any veggie/meat toppings you’d like and shredded mozzarella cheese. Use the curry sauce like you would a tomato sauce on the crust, and then throw whatever else on top and cook. It’s always a hit and has a nice kick to it from the curry.

    • Jessica says...

      Genius!! Thai pizza.

    • Cait says...

      Sarah! I love your blog (I have made the sweet potato muffins from the feeding kids post for myself.) So great to see so many awesome bloggers following this feed!

    • Nicole says...

      Kale/Squash and White Bean Soup*

      Requires zero chopping!
      *pre cut butternut squash
      * two buck chuck – any white wine
      *mirepoix (precut onion, carrots and celery)
      *dorot fozen cubed basil
      *peeled tomatoes in a can
      *canned white beans
      *bagged kale (not the organic Tuscan one)
      *tortellini optional
      *parmesan, Asiago, Romano mix in the container – not the can
      *olive oil
      *italian seasoning
      *better than bullion (not sold
      At tjs but it’s at every other store)
      *garlic powder

      Coat big soup pot with oil. Add mirepoix mix and sautée.
      After 3 minutes add squash and sautée for another two minutes
      Add wine (a cup or two?), one tablespoon of better than bullion, a cup of water, peeled tomatoes, two cubes of basil, garlic powder and Italian seasoning to taste. Let sit for 15 mins.
      Add tortellini if desired. Cook for five more minutes.
      Add Kale and cheese before serving each time. Do not add Kale until you want to eat it or it will get bitter. The hot soup will wilt the kale. When eating leftovers I add a bit of wine to freshen the flavor. This soup lasts me a week.
      *This is a recipe I heavily adapted from an earlier cup of jo post which I can’t find!

      Doctored Mac and Cheese
      Frozen Mac and cheese and everyday seasoning

      Or frozen Mac and cheese with fried onions and rosemary

      Egg bowls
      Mini sourdough loaves
      Quattro formagi cheese
      Eggs (2)

      Sautée veggies of your choice (I like kale, red peppers in a jar, onions and garlic.

      Scoop bread out so that it’s a bowl, toast for 5 mins. Then add veggies, eggs and cheese. layer ingredients and bake at 350 degrees until egg is cooked.

      Truffle flatbread
      *Start with either mushroom frozen pizza. Cook as instructed. Toss arugula with lemon and truffle oil. Place arugula on the pizza!

      Sweet potato French fry nachos
      *Cook the frozen fries according to instruction. Top with black beans, avacado, Mexican blend cheese, cilantro, yogurt or sour cream and tomatillo salsa

      Crazy quinoa
      Microwave quinoa from the freezer section. Cook as instructed. After cooking, add enough Heinz ketsup to coat quinoa. Add a handful of Mexican cheese blend and a tablespoon of balsamic. Heat in the microwave for a minute to melt cheese and warm ketsup. Sounds totally disgusting- has been one of my favorite meals for two decades.

    • Stephanie says...

      OMG thai pizza. You’re freaking brilliant. I’m so doing this.

  87. Brilliant!!!

  88. Jess. says...

    Haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on my to-make list. Meg from What’s Up Moms made this, and your post made me think of it, because it’s basically 100% TJ’s:

    Trader Joe’s forever! One thing I do make from all TJ’s ingredients:
    smear of roasted garlic hummus
    red pepper strips
    fish squares from the freezer aisle

  89. a says...

    TJ’s chicken tacos:
    TJs frozen chicken thighs or breasts
    TJ’s green salsa

    Combine in crockpot (no prob if the chicken is frozen) and cook on low for 6-8 or high for 4-6. Can cook longer. Shred when you’re ready to eat and use as taco filling or nachos topping. Amazing and requires no cooking. Everyone is impressed.

    • Karin says...

      This is my favorite, easiest recipe!

      1/2 hour before it’s done I dump in 1 can pinto & 1 can black beans, stir and let cook on low 1/2 hour

      I serve this over rice and then top with whatever (cheese, avocado, salsa, sour cream) but it also makes great burritos, tacos etc the next day

  90. Amy says...

    Great post! Our go-to Trader Joe’s recipes are:

    Fish Tacos
    TJ’s battered frozen cod
    Bag of cabbage slaw
    Green onions
    Mayo or sour cream

    While the cod fillets bake, mix a couple of Tbsps mayo and/or sour cream with the juice of half a lime and a few shakes of hot sauce (we like Cholula). Pour over the slaw and mix in chopped green onions and cilantro. Cod + slaw mix + salsa + cheese + guacamole or avocado

    Zucchini Pizza (from the blog EatLiveRun)
    TJ’s prepared pizza dough
    Whole milk ricotta
    Shredded mozzarella

    Preheat the oven to 500. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper and spray some oil. Stretch out the pizza dough. Mix the ricotta with salt and garlic powder (or minced garlic cloves if you have time). I add some onion powder and a squeeze of lemon. In another bowl, shred the zucchini and squeeze out the water. Add two cups of mozzarella. Spread the ricotta mix on top of the pizza dough. Top with the shredded zucchini/cheese mix. Sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes. Reduce oven temp to 450 and bake for 12 minutes.

    Also, check out the Instagram account TheTradersTable.

    Next time, perhaps a post on toddler-friendly family recipes? Thanks!

    • mimi says...

      I love TheTradersTable!

  91. Samantha says...

    I’m obsessed with all of their jarred curry sauces! I put it in a put with some coconut milk and chicken tenders and just stir it all together and let it cook on the stove until the chicken is cooked. Shred the chicken (if you want to!), add some frozen peas (they cook super fast!) and serve over rice. So easy and so good!

  92. Ak says...

    We don’t have TJs in Paris but we have Picard, king of all things frozen and also totally delicious. Our go-to is pork chops pre-marinated with dijon and honey, sweet potato fries and some fresh zucchini sautéed on the stove top. 20 minutes while the kids line up the alphabet magnets on the fridge…

  93. Cay says...

    Chili-lime chicken patty, avocado (mashed), and smoked turkey bacon. Pile onto brioche roll. Best chicken sandwich ever.

  94. Anna says...

    We eat TJ’s palak paneer over TJ’s riced cauliflower at least once a week. The stacked eggplant parm over cauliflower rice is amazing too!

  95. Monica says...

    Joanna you are seriously a woman after my own heart (and many others!) I exclaim this to my husband’s tired ears every time you post something that resonates with me — so that means a couple times a week!!!

    Our favorite TJ’s hack is actually the frozen Chinese food. Everyone loves the orange chicken but the shiitake mushroom chicken stir fry is a weekly favorite in our house. We typically only use half of the pre-made sauce and add whatever veggies we have on hand, frozen or fresh, to beef it up a bit. Serve that on top of brown rice or the harvest grains – delish.

    Something else we always have in the fridge is the Country Potatoes with Haricots Verts & Wild Mushrooms. It’s a lifesaver on Saturday mornings when the lines at every brunch spot are out the door. Top it with a 7 minute or scrambled egg with a side of wheat toast makes it feel gourmet – and it takes all of 10 minutes to pull it together.

  96. Heidi says...

    TJ’s miso ginger broth paired with their chicken cilantro mini won tons and some green onions. Yummy!

  97. JILLIAN says...

    They have gyro meat now! It’s delish pan fried with their pitas heated up in the same pan, some organic tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion + cucumber, feta cheese, some garlic powder + mayo. SOOOO GOOD!

  98. Gabrielle says...

    Can this be a series?! I love TJ’s!

    • Erika says...

      I second that! Please make this a series!!!!

    • Min says...

      That would be awesome!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for sure!!!

  99. Steph says...

    Please, please post more easy recipes like this! Love TJ’s and love the easy!!!!

  100. Tiny Bubble says...

    I made this the other day:
    In a heavy pan, add:
    – 2 packs of frozen italian meatballs.
    – 2 cans of whole stewed tomatoes, crushed the tomatoes with your hand into smaller pieces. (Watch out from being squirted by the juice from inside the tomato!)
    – an onion peeled and cut in half.
    – 3 tablespoons of butter, cut up in pieces
    Turn on the fire to lowest setting and cook for 45 minutes or until the sauce is separate from the oil. Stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end.
    The meatballs had great texture, made with better ingredients than the turkey ones and the smokiness meatball lent the sauce a sophisticated hint.
    Although 45 minutes sound like a long time, you can leave that largely unattended.
    We had it with TJ’s Organic whole wheat spaghetti, which was one of the better whole wheat pasta I have had.

  101. Heather says...

    Now these are the kinds of recipes I can get behind! More, more!

  102. Kelly says...

    Please, please, please more of these recipes.

  103. janelle says...

    great post, perfect timing. heading to an airbnb in a couple weekends and was wondering what to pack!

  104. Candace J says...

    OMG I love this post. I was just thinking this week that I need to research more quick TJ’s meals.

    My go-to quick, vegetarian weeknight TJ’s dinner is a veggie stir fry with steamed gyoza.

    TJ’s Asian Vegetables with Beijing Style Soy Sauce
    TJ’s Vegetarian Gyoza
    TJ’s Gyoza dipping sauce
    generic chili sauce

    Stir fry frozen veggies in a wok while you’re steaming the gyoza in a second pot. When the veggies are done, throw in the veggie sauce packet contents along with a bit of chilli sauce. Pile cooked veggies in a bowl, top with steamed gyoza, drizzle with gyoza dipping sauce (and maybe a bit of Sriracha if you’re feeling bold). Done.

    Dinner in exactly 10 minutes.

    Our other go-to cheater dinner is a wacky take on mac-n-cheese. With the beans and salsa it becomes a Mexican-food-inspired single pot dinner that doesn’t feel Quite as naughty as eating mac-n-cheese for dinner as an adult. Great car camping meal too – no prep besides opening cans.

    TJ’s Mac n Cheese
    TJ’s Diced and fire roasted tomatoes
    TJ’s Black Beans
    TJ’s Jarred Salsa Verde
    TJ’s Power Greens (if you’re feeling the need for health)
    TJ’s New Zealand sharp cheddar (for extra yum)

    Cook Mac n Cheese according to instructions (leave a bit al dente). Once cheesy and delicious, dump in black beans (drained), tomatoes, and as much of the salsa as you’d like. Heat over medium, stirring frequently until heated through. Either mix in a handful of power greens at this point so they wilt, or fill bowl with power greens and top with mac n cheese mix. (Sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese for extra indulgence.)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!!!!

    • Mindi says...

      I made this tonight and loved it. Thank you! P.S. I put sour cream in the Mac n cheese, instead of milk. Delish.

  105. Meaghan says...

    TJs Articoke bruchetta
    TJs focissa pizza crust
    TJs Italian cheese mix

    Put Articoke mix on pizza crust top with cheese and salmi and cook as directed on crust packaging.

    Delicious. My go to fast entertaining appetizer and everyone thinks it’s so fancy.

  106. Jessica says...

    I throw three frozen chicken thighs, 2 cubed peeled sweet potatoes, and a jar of the Curry Simmer sauce into my Instant Pot and set it to poultry. Once it’s done I shred the chicken and add half a bag of frozen cauliflower rice and half a bag of the frozen Harvest Vegetable mix and let it sit for 5 minutes until all the veg is thawed and heated through. Boom. 20 minute chicken veggie curry. SO GOOD.

    • Heather says...

      The Instant Pot is pretty pricy… is it worth it? It looks so awesome!

    • Jessica says...

      Heather- I love my IP! If you keep an eye out it usually will go on sale-I know it usually goes on super sale for Black Friday! I use it all the time to make hard boiled eggs, beans, quick soups/stews/curries, apple sauce, yogurt, rice, etc.

    • Heather says...

      Fascinating! I’m going to keep up on it and see if I can find a good sale. =) Thank you!

    • Melissa says...

      Could you do this with a slow cooker?

  107. Nicky says...

    Love this post and all these comments! I had a lot of leftover tortilla the other day and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. If you toast it, it becomes a great thin crust for mini pizzas ready in 5-10 minutes:

    I layer cooked tomato/marinara sauce, some spinach, and sprinkle parmesan cheese on toasted tortilla.

    For breakfast, i’ll add spinach, a sunny-side up egg, sprinkle some parmesan and drizzle balsamic vinegar on a toasted tortilla.

    Also, if I’m in a time crunch, i’ll get store bough roasted chicken (Costco makes the best one for $5!) and make chicken tacos with hot sauce, lime, red onions and whatever veggies I have in the fridge. If you caramelize onions and stir it in sour cream as a topping, it adds great flavor to it than just plain old sour cream.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yum!!! thanks for the tip!

  108. Nice! I totally make fish tacos with those frozen “fish nuggets” (as they call them) (totally unappealing-sounding, but very yummy). I also buy a bag of their shredded green cabbage, and mix together a little sour cream and lime juice to make a crema to put on top. That’s pretty much all I use and they’re great! Also, I just have to say that their packaged lasagna (the one in the cooler section, not the freezer section) is AMAZING. It’s so cheesy and the sauce has just the right flavor to it. One of my go-tos when I want quick comfort food.

    • Lindsey says...

      Just came here to say that the chicken lasagna in the cooler section is AMAZING. Lindseys think alike it seems!

  109. Julia says...

    Mirapoix + Pre-packaged steamed lentils + Thai Green Curry sauce. Served over shredded cauliflower “rice” (available by bag at TJs). Nothing better than dumping that $2 pre-chopped mirapoix into the pan. Saves so much time!

  110. Ainsley says...

    We make this TJ’s “stew” a few times a month – it’s sooooo good!

    – 1 carton tomato soup
    – 1 jar cowboy caviar
    – 1 package fully cooked long grain brown rice (I think that’s what it’s called?)
    – 1 package jalapeño chicken sausages, chopped up

    Heat everything together in a pot until hot, serve topped with sour cream and crushed tortilla chips!

  111. Sara says...

    My favorite fall/winter TJ hack is red pepper soup, frozen multigrain blend with vegatables & sliced up chicken sausage. Heat everything up & eat! Very yum :)

  112. rach says...

    Great post! Trader Joe’s is the BEST.

  113. Teresa says...

    There is a recipe for a Black Bean- Corn-Cilantro-Avocado-Quinoa Salad on the back of Trader Joe’s Dried Red Quinoa package. All ingredients can be found at TJ’s and it is a delicious lunch or side dish!

    Thanks for the tips :)

  114. Sarah says...

    I’m so excited to read through all the comments on this post. My mother-in-law made this for lunch during a vacation at the beach and it was SO good:
    – Trader Joes Lemon Pepper Pappardelle
    – Tuna packed in olive oil
    – Carton of cherry tomatoes, halved
    – Herbs, parmesan, capers, squeeze of lemon (ALL optional but good additions if you have on hand)
    Cook pasta according to package, flake in tuna, and add tomatoes. Any or all of the optional ingredients can be added. It’s so tasty and makes a great lunch the next day, even cold! Like pasta salad.

  115. Meg says...

    Would LOVE more posts on this.

  116. Auste says...

    Can we make TJs Hacks a regular (monthly? Or even seasonal?) series? I’m ALWAYS looking for new and easy TJs recipes. I’ll be jotting down all the ideas from the comments for my next TJs run, too… Keep ’em coming!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you’re so sweet! we can definitely try to come up with more!

  117. All-a-sudden I *need* to go to Trader Joes…I’ve been cooking a lot more recently as my husband is finishing is dissertation and it’s crunch time. Those tacos would be such a great addition to the rotation and faster/cheaper than a Chipotle run.

    Trader Joe’s should totally sponsor cupofjo after this post! I’d love to see more TJs stuff on here!

  118. Leah says...

    Easy chicken curry: Combine one can of TJs coconut milk (light or full fat), a bottle of their red Thai curry sauce, and their organic chicken tenders in a pot and cook on low until cooked through. Serve over rice or quinoa. You can add any veggies you like, too.

    • rach says...


  119. Cat says...

    These are so handy! Thank you. We love the TJs frozen Japanese fried rice with scrambled eggs and kimchi.

  120. Don’t have a Trader Joes in the UK, but fair play, I enjoyed this post – it’s always good to have a few quick meals ready to go if there’s lots of littles running around!


  121. EsLin says...

    So useful! So much love for this post! Reading all comments too!!

  122. Clara says...

    Two of our faves:

    – trader joe’s roasted red pepper tomato soup + 1 bag of their frozen chimichuri rice. Pour the soup into a pot on the stove, add the frozen rice, cook until everything is heated through! We like adding tortilla chips to our bowls as well!

    -trader joes pre cooked lentils+small tub of goat cheese crumbles+jar of TJ’s bruschetta. Heat the lentils and stir in the other ingredients once done. So good!

  123. Nicole says...

    Sooooooo many but this is our quick fave:

    Chicken Chili Lime Pitas

    Chili Lime Chicken Burgers
    Pita Bread
    Pepperjack Cheese
    Jalapeño Yogurt Dip
    Lettuce, Spring Greens, Mixed Salad

  124. Sasha says...

    We don’t have TJ’s where we live :(
    But here are two of my favorite “cheater” recipes.
    Red beans and rice:
    Onions, garlic, salsa, red beans (kidney or pinto or black work too), as much chili powder, cayenne, cumin, smoked paprika as you like. Cook up in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve over rice. You can crack eggs into skillet and bake in oven too.

    Tortellini soup
    Favorite broth, sauteed garlic, sage, canned tomatoes. Boil tortellini, drain and serve with broth, with parmesan on top.

  125. Celeste says...

    This is ingenious! I’m making those stuffed peppers tonight, for sure.

  126. clare says...

    The precooked lentils, bruschetta, and crumbled feta salad. Good with the premarinated sundried tomato chicken tenders too, although I haven’t seen those recently.

    • Ashley says...

      Agree on the lentils!

      My favorite is:
      -1 package precooked lentils
      -1 can chickpeas
      -Cherry tomatoes (halved)
      -Chopped green onions
      -Olive oil/red wine vinegar/lemon/salt pepper dressing
      -Serve over spinach greens (fresh or cooked)
      Lentils and chickpeas can be heated slightly or served cold

    • heather says...

      Are these lentils frozen? Canned? with the refrigerated produce?

    • G says...

      Lentils are in the refrigerated produce section.

      I use them to make the lentil avocado salad from 101 Cookbooks, although we use more avocados. Baguette on the side, and it’s an easy no-cook dinner even my 3 yr old will eat.

  127. heather says...

    This is my favorite food post in CoJ history. Will be following all the comments!

    We will buy a bag of the frozen fettucine alfredo and then while it’s cooking add some TJs frozen peas and chopped mushrooms.

    A TJ’s is scheduled to open in our neighborhood this year and there were a number of neighbors who protested a chain grocery store coming to our historic neighborhood. All the parents of young kids in our ‘hood were like: Shut Up.

    • Lucy says...

      Heather – shot in the dark, but do you live on Capitol Hill in DC? If not, we had the same issue, but I’ve got two toddlers and am down with it!

    • heather says...

      Hi Lucy. Yep, capitol hill in DC! Hine development FTW!

    • Mollie says...

      I agree! I love seeing all the ideas in the comments as well!!

    • Lucy says...

      Ha, small world! And two Whole Foods are coming in. Now the trick is going to be working TJs, WF and Eastern Market into the weekly grocery shop…

    • Meg says...

      So nice to see fellow Capitol Hill residents here! We adore Eastern Market, but I’m so tired of going to Clarendon for TJs.

  128. Michelle says...

    I just made a version of that fish taco hack this week! It’s bananas good. Recommend putting fish in broiler at end to get extra crispy.

    Another hack: take the TJ spice seaweed ramen, fry up the TJ pork belly to add in, make soft boiled eggs = poor lady momofuko.

  129. Emily VanWagenen says...

    Love these ideas! We do a similar thing to the burritos, but we bake a sweet potato and stuff it will the pulled pork and top it with salsa, shredded cheese, avocado, a dollop of Greek yogurt, shredded lettuce or cabbage and maybe even a fried egg if we’re feeling ambitious! :)

    • rach says...


  130. mimi says...

    Not exactly a hack, but I always try to keep a few of TJ’s fresh black bean & cheese burritos on hand. They are yummy and only take 2 minutes in the microwave. I usually top with avocado and either salsa or enchilada sauce, but they’re also good plain.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      My sister does the same thing! She’ll do a deconstructed breakfast burrito, but cutting the burrito down the middle and adding a fried egg and avocado. Sounds sooo good. (I’m suddenly starving.)

  131. Chelsea says...

    Ahhh I love Trader Joe’s so much! I moved out of the city last Fall when I got married, and I love living in our small-ish town in east Texas, but I absolutely miss walking to Trader Joe’s the most. Every time I’m back in Dallas, I stock up on as much as I can!!

  132. Ashley says...

    Love this.

    I make a meatless taco casserole thing (fancy sounding, I know).

    I use:

    TJ Enchilada Sauce
    TJ Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
    TJ Corn Tortilla’s
    TJ Cowboy Caviar
    TJ Fire Roasted Bell Peppers and Onions
    TJ Taco Seasoning Mix

    I heat up the veggies and season with a little of the taco seasoning mix (probably only a tablespoon) then I layer it like a lasagna. The enchilada sauce, corn tortillas, the cheese the cowboy caviar, and the veggies until I get to the top.

    Bake at 350 until the cheese bubbles.

    It’s great too if I want just a little fix of something like that. I can make it in a smaller pan and throw it in my toaster oven and make a single serving. It’d probably work in a crock pot too!

    • heather says...

      This is brilliant.

    • Alyssa says...

      Ashley, this sounds amazing! How much bell peppers/onions do you usually use?

  133. I also make tacos using Trader Joe’s ingredients! I typically use their carne asada pre-marinated meat, tortillas, cruciferious crunch, shredded cheese, tomatillo roasted salsa, and refried black beans. So good!

  134. Colleen says...

    Carnitas Quinoa bowls! My sister turned me on to the Trader Joe’s frozen quinoa and we’ve been using it to make quinoa bowls on nights when we’ve been working late (or more likely are feeling lazy) and want something healthy, filling and flavorful. We microwave a bag of the frozen Quinoa, one package of the premade TJ’s Carnitas (we split 2/3 of the package between us and a lucky one of us gets the leftovers for lunch), and a can of the TJ’s Cuban Black Beans sprinkled with extra cumin and chili powder. Once everything is heated through, we then layer Quinoa, Beans and Carnitas into a bowl and top with a scoop of salsa, half a sliced avocado, some pickled jalapenos and a sprinkle of whatever cheese we have in the drawer. Takes under 10 minutes and it’s delicious.

    • Suzieq says...

      This sounds amazing!

    • Erika says...

      I can’t wait to try this!

  135. Lauren E. says...

    This isn’t Trader Joe’s (although I suppose you could sub in ingredients with TJ products) but I’ll make any stuffed pasta with Rao’s vegetable tomato sauce, and on the side a crusty baguette broiled with butter and garlic powder. The exclamations of my family would make you think I’d gone to Italy and sourced the ingredients directly. It’s always a hit and it takes about 10 minutes tops!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sounds SO good! i love love love rao’s pasta sauce.

  136. Abbie says...

    Costco also sells Boursin at a CRAZY cheap price, even less than TJ :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!! good to know! at our local grocer, it’s $7.99!! (!!)

  137. Elisabeth says...

    This is the best post yet! I’m going to stalk suggestions all day :-)

    Not as easy as the ones you posted, but we love the Masala Rice Bowl with Chickpeas from the TJ’s website: