5 Trader Joe's Sauces That Will Transform Even the Most Basic Dishes—and Leftovers
Hack your weeknight meal prep by letting these sauces do (most of) the work.
I’m a huge fan of weekly meal prep. Every Sunday afternoon, I put on some tunes and spend a few hours getting my proteins grilled, veggies roasted, grains cooked, and vegetables washed and chopped. My one gripe with getting my fridge stocked this way is that I don’t want to have to eat the same exact meals all week for lunch and dinner. Don’t get me wrong: I love a basic salad or buddha bowl, but sometimes I get sick of my go-to flavor and spice profiles and want something different.
I recently realized that every week I was getting bored with my meals—and of eating the same thing the next day for lunch (because, quarantine). I decided to take a foray into the sauces from my local Trader Joe’s, and I’ll admit that my mind was blown by how good the options are at the popular affordable supermarket chain. After experimenting with almost all of their condiment options—and there are a LOT to choose from—I narrowed down my top picks to the five sauces I consistently turn to transform my basic lunches and dinners into mouth-watering meals that are appealing to me (and my family) all week long. Keep these sauces in the fridge to save a boring weeknight dinner and create endless combinations with ingredients you have on hand. And stock up, because I have a feeling you’ll want more than just a drizzle.
Amba Mango Sauce
A fermented, savory sauce made from ripe and green mangoes might sound strange, but trust me when I say this condiment is magical. Amba sauce can be commonly found throughout the Middle East and India, and is used to top everything from falafel to egg dishes. This has been by far my favorite TJ’s find of the year—it’s the perfect combination of fruity yet not too sweet (with no sugar added), perfectly tangy but not sour, and makes even my most basic meals feel a bit more exotic. I like it poured over a piece of white flaky fish like mahi mahi and bake for a perfect protein, pour it over some kebabs after grilling for an extra punch of middle eastern flavor, or even as a unique salad dressing. It’s served in a squeeze pouch, which means it’s easy to get out every last drop of deliciousness.
Green Dragon Hot Sauce
Adding a bit of spice to your dishes is a classic way to keep things interesting. If you’re sick of sriracha or just want to try something new, the Green Dragon Hot Sauce is a unique and tasty alternative. Similar to a salsa verde, the recipe includes tomatillos, two types of peppers, and lime juice for a slightly-acidic kick. Trader Joe’s rates the hotness as a 7 out of 10, so while it won’t burn your mouth, give it a taste test before drenching your meal. I enjoy the hot sauce on just about anything, but I find that it’s especially good on egg dishes from basic scrambled eggs all the way to huevos rancheros.
Sweet Chili Sauce
Trader Joe’s has a slew of cult-favorites, but this sweet and tangy dipping sauce has the honor of being the best-selling Trader Joe’s item in 13 states across America. The combination of chilis, garlic, and sweetness makes this sauce a universal favorite among both kids and adults. Dunk EVERYTHING in this sauce, especially Asian-inspired foods like egg rolls and coconut-crusted shrimp. I’ve used this sauce in a stir fry and also smothered it on tofu before baking, converting many former self-professed tofu haters into fans. On a night when I’m really short on time and inspiration, I pour some of this over steamed broccoli and cauliflower as a side dish with a simple piece of baked chicken or fish. You really can’t go wrong with this TJ’s staple.
This creamy, spicy blend is not your typical hot sauce. Made up of more than 50 percent jalapeños, the Jalapeño Sauce has a little kick but isn’t overwhelming. It reminds me of a crema sauce that you would find in a Mexican restaurant, despite being vegan and not having any actual milk products in the ingredients. A drizzle of this sauce has transformed my fish tacos and I will never look back. I even sometimes use this as a salad dressing to add some extra flavor to my desk lunches, and it’s excellent drizzled over eggs or as a dip for some roasted potatoes. Something about the creaminess of this sauce makes every dish feel a bit more indulgent and satisfying, and I can’t wait to come up with more creative uses for this unique hot sauce.
I love going out to Mexican food, but sometimes I just want those same flavors in the comfort of my own home (and with the ability to choose the quality of my ingredients!). Enter this simple yet utterly delicious enchilada sauce. My easy meal prep these days has been to pour about three-quarters of a bottle of this sauce over a package of chicken breasts and put in the slow cooker on high for three hours (or low for six hours). When I return, I have perfect enchilada chicken ready to be shredded and used in salad, bowls, or full-fledged enchiladas if I’m feeling ambitious. I reserve the last one-quarter bottle for extra drizzling. Like some of the other sauces on this list, the enchilada sauce has a kick but isn’t overly spicy, so you will still be able to taste all the flavors of the rest of your dish.