14 Best Trader Joe's Food and Recipe Hacks, According to Employees

BRB. Making the Mandarin orange chicken burrito ASAP.

Peaches & Cream, Mango & Cream Yogurt Cups
Photo: Trader Joes's

Like it or not, dozens of Trader Joe's food and recipe hacks have been dominating various social media platforms in recent months, which is why a recent episode of the Inside Trader Joe's podcast is all about tricks and hacks that TJ's employees love. Over the course of the 27-minute episode, co-hosts Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing, and Tara Miller, marketing director at Trader Joe's, check in with crew members across the country to learn more about their favorite hacks.

The tips and tricks range from quick and easy dinner pointers to dessert hacks, like using TJ's Vanilla Cake & Baking Mix to create a stellar strawberry shortcake base. And while some of these hacks aren't exactly groundbreaking, they certainly made our Trader Joe's shopping list even longer. Keep reading for some employee-approved Trader Joe's food and recipe hacks you're going to want to try tonight, if not sooner!

01 of 14

Taco Monkey Bread

Trader Joe’s Organic Biscuits serve as the base for this savory bread, which is filled with spicy ground beef and cheese, and served with your favorite taco toppings. To make this creation, start by cooking ground beef with veggies, roasted tomatoes, and taco seasoning, and let it cool. Then, cut each biscuit in half and fill each half with a tablespoon of shredded cheese and a tablespoon of the meat mixture before forming it into a ball. Layer the dough balls in a bundt pan as you go, brush with melted butter, and cook in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Once the bread is done, serve it with guacamole, hot sauce, and other taco fixings.

02 of 14

Everything But the Bagel Onion Rings

TJ’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning has dozens of uses, but if you haven’t called on the blend to upgrade your onion ring game, we suggest you get on that ASAP. Simply begin by making onion rings as you normally would—by submerging onion slices in buttermilk and then coating them with flour—but go ahead and add about four tablespoons of Everything But the Bagel Seasoning to the flour mixture before you start frying. Once the onion rings are done, the result is a crispy game day food that tastes just like the popular spice blend. Pro tip: You can use this hack to upgrade chicken tenders or fried pickles as well!

03 of 14

Ricotta & Pesto Tear & Share

Generally speaking, puff pastry is the gift that keeps on giving, and Trader Joe’s All Butter Puff Pastry Sheets are no exception. Use the freezer aisle staple to make this shareable appetizer by carving a circle out of one pastry sheet and spreading a layer each of ricotta and pesto over the top, as if you were making a pizza. Then, place a second circular pastry sheet on top of the first one and seal the edges. Put a glass in the middle of the pastry and cut it into small, even slices so you have 16 segments of dough. Remove the glass, gently twist each piece, top with raw grape tomato slices, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

04 of 14

DIY Frozen Yogurt Hack

As frequent TJ's shoppers may know, the chain sells six-packs of yogurt in various flavors, such as peaches and cream and Meyer lemon and cream. While it's perfectly acceptable to snack on the yogurts directly from the fridge, a Trader Joe's employee in Washington recommends slipping a popsicle stick into the top of each yogurt and freezing it overnight. The result is a rich and creamy dessert that's almost as good as ice cream, and according to Sloan, has "no weird icy bits." Hack on a hack: For an easy release of the popsicle from the cup, poke a small hole in the bottom of the container.

05 of 14

Vanilla Cake & Baking Mix Hack

As you may have guessed, this hack starts with one of TJ's standard baking mixes. According to an employee in Minnesota, if you prepare the cake by following the package instructions but you omit the milk, you're left with a denser, chewy cake that "feels like a vanilla brownie," per Miller. This hack is apparently also great if you're in need of a strawberry shortcake shortcut.

06 of 14

Chile Lime Seasoning Blend Hack

For this sweet and spicy hack, you only need two ingredients—Trader Joe's Chile Lime Seasoning Blend and some vanilla ice cream. Per another employee in Minnesota, simply sprinkling some of the seasoning on vanilla ice cream yields a dessert with an interesting and delicious flavor profile.

07 of 14

Brownie Truffle Baking Mix Hack

For a hybrid dessert hack, prepare these brownies according to the package instructions. But before you pour the batter in a 9x9 baking pan, layer the bottom of the dish with slices of Trader Joe's Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Then, pour the brownie batter on top and you've got an easy brookie! Just make sure to check for doneness with a toothpick since this dessert is a tad thicker than normal.

08 of 14

Chunky Chocolate Chip Dough Hack

Using the same cookie dough mentioned above, you can make some pretty irresistible muffins. Simply place a slice of the cookie dough in each slot in a mini muffin pan and bake it as you normally would. Once done, the treats are basically little chocolate chip cookie muffins that you can tweak to your liking. According to Sloan, you can't go wrong with pressing a TJ's peanut butter cup into the still-warm center of your "muffin." The chocolate melts slightly, creating a "hot lava" center.

09 of 14

Chocolate Hummus Hack

Trader Joe's chocolate hummus is scrumptious at any temperature, but an employee in Boston swears that the sweet treat is even better frozen. To freeze it thoroughly, pop it in the freezer overnight and simply eat it by the spoonful when you're in the mood for a chocolatey dessert. Pro tip: You can also use the (not frozen) chocolate hummus to frost cupcakes or cake.

10 of 14

Crescent Roll Hack

The only thing better than a buttery crescent roll is crescent roll pieces mixed with powdered sugar. To create this sweet treat, which is the brainchild of a Trader Joe's employee in New Jersey, all you need is a package of TJ's Crescent Rolls and some powdered sugar. Simply cut the crescent rolls into pieces, fry them, and give them a toss in some powdered sugar. If you don't have a deep fryer, try making this benoit-like dessert in an air fryer instead.

11 of 14

Mandarin Orange Chicken Burrito Hack

Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken is consistently named one of the chain's most beloved products, and when you combine it with another favorite, the Spicy Mexican Style Riced Cauliflower, the result is definitely worth making over and over again. To create your burrito, start by cooking the chicken as you normally would (sans sauce), either in a skillet, the oven, or an air fryer. Then, cook the cauliflower rice on high heat to get the moisture out. Once both components of the burrito are done, add the chicken to the pan with the cauliflower rice (separating the two) and coat them both in that scrumptious orange sauce. Last but not least, throw everything in a warm tortilla and you're good to go!

12 of 14

Chicken Tender Corn Chip Hack

Coating raw chicken in anything crunchy and salty is always a recipe for success. To make your own chicken tenders instead of buying a frozen version, all you need are some raw chicken breast tenders and TJ's Elote Corn Chip Dippers pulsed or crushed until they have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Lightly coat the chicken in the chip crumbs (you don't even need an egg layer first) and pop it in the air fryer for about 10 minutes. The result is a "moist and tender" chicken dish that's ridiculously easy to prepare.

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Instant Coffee Hack

As Miller noted, there's a trend of shoppers using TJ's instant coffee to add depth of flavor to some unlikely foods and dishes. "People are using instant coffee for things that are not coffee, like inside a chocolate cake mix, or in a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, or anywhere you want to amplify the flavor of chocolate," she explained. "Instant coffee is like a miracle." Sloan agreed, noting that he likes to season meat with instant coffee and sprinkle some on top of ice cream.

14 of 14

Natural Peanut Butter Hack

Natural peanut butter is delicious, but the layer of oil that naturally forms on top of the container can be a tad off putting. To avoid the messiness that comes with that separation (which is totally normal, by the way) Sloan suggests turning your jar of peanut butter upside down and placing it in the fridge (still upside down) when you're about ready to enjoy it. Thanks to gravity and the cold temperature, the oil will rise to the top of the jar (which is actually the bottom) and when you flip it over it will be much easier to mix and less messy to stir. The peanut butter will also stay relatively homogenized if you pop it back in the fridge.

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