We’re in the heat of summer and Trader Joe’s newest snacks finally deliver on the frozen goods we’ve been sweating for. Namely, Ube Mochi, Blueberry Dream Frozen Dessert Bars, and those rocket ship three-color ice pops that make me want to slip ‘n’ slide topless down my front yard like I used to do as a kid, but I won’t, out of fear of what they’ll say about me on Nextdoor. (“Her boobs are as uneven as her boxwoods!”)
What else is new? Cacio e Pepe Gnocchi in the frozen aisle, Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips covered in green dust, and Unexpected Cheddar Chicken Sausage. Let’s slip ‘n’ slide into it.
Chili Pineapple Kettle Popcorn
One of this popcorn’s main flavors is intense lime oil, which I associate with a freshly opened bag of Froot Loops. If you love Froot Loops, you’ll love this popcorn. Nauseating, IMO. The popcorn is spicy and limey, but maybe even worse, the label on the bag is as off-center as my, well, never mind. Skip it and stick to the chile-spiced dried pineapple or mango instead.
Salsa Verde Flavored Corn Tortilla Chips
These are basically green Doritos, if you define Doritos as “corn tortilla chips coated in flavor dust.” The onion powder is strong while anything “verde” is mellow, and somehow it all comes together. Can’t stop eating them. But I wonder, what do you dip a dip-flavored chip in? A…chip-flavored dip?
To the Power C of Vitamin C Juice Blend
Remember when people drank juice? Fruit juice sales have been declining for a while now (the sugar, it’s the sugar), and yet here we are with Vitamin C elixir. Great rebranding of “juice.” This is a lovely, smooth blend of pineapple-forward, orange-and-other-stuff juice. As with every new Trader Joe’s beverage, I can only imagine its purpose as a cocktail mixer, and this would be a great one in a summery screwdriver. The “Power C” branding is preying on our health anxieties, though, and I’m not falling for it. I’ll build my immunity the old-fashioned way—by sleeping in.
As a Trader Joe’s lifer at this point, I can say that the mochi packaging has really improved over time. Each squishy treat is cradled in its own plastic crib until it’s called upon. I love the not-too-sweet ube ice cream core, which has a unique, musky and malted vanilla, coconut-esque flavor. Around it, the soft rice flour mochi coating pulls and sticks to your fingers as you eat it, like a tongue to a frozen flag pole but way more fun.
Blueberry Dream Frozen Dessert Bars
Flashback to fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt days. These blueberry pops are made with blended blueberries and ice cream, so they’ve got a dense, nice-to-bite-into texture. They’re a limited summer item, but I wouldn’t tell you to go running to TJ’s to stock up.
Out of This World Ice Pops
The Americana red, white, and blue ice pop, but make it raspberry (best), blueberry (meh), and lemon (Pine-Sol), instead of whatever food dye I ingested as a kid. These are as underwhelming as a 4th of July on a Monday.
Gluten-Free Uncured Pepperoni Pizza
I’m getting Life Cuisine energy from this cauliflower crust frozen pizza, but that’s cool. The crust is thin and crisp, almost to the point of being a little tough. If you try to air-fry it, you’ll burn the outer edge, which is why the instructions (that you ignored) say to cook it in the conventional oven. But you were like, “It’s too hot for that!” And now you have burnt pizza. The toppings all shifted to one side so it was fun to redistribute the pepperoni, and I appreciated the handful of peppers and onions that upped the vegetable portion. It’s a good GF frozen pizza option for those in the market for one. (Not me.)
Layered Beef Tostada
You have to defrost the tostada in the microwave before air-frying it—what is this, America’s Test Kitchen? The tortilla was still soggy, and how could it not be? It’s floundering under a mountain of cheese, a little seasoned beef, and a layer of dense refried beans. It never stood a chance. Still, the tostada format is a vaguely thrilling change from frozen taquitos.
Cacio e Pepe Gnocchi
Real Trader Joe’s heads know that you never, ever make the frozen gnocchi as the bag instructs. They’ll turn out mushy, clumpy, and…well, still satisfying. But they reach ungodly potential in the air fryer. First, defrost them for a minute in the microwave at half power. Then crank the air fryer to 400°. These take 8–13 minutes, depending on the machine you have. I kept an eye on mine in my Breville (on parchment, they’re gooey) until they were deeply golden brown, which took around 12 minutes. They were crispy on the outside, cheesy inside—pillowy, chewy, and with a nice pepper bite. (Don’t have an air fryer? Roast them in the oven at 425°, like this recipe does, and I bet they’ll get nice and browned too. It’ll just take longer.)
Beehive Promontory Cheese
This is a cheese from Utah. (Promontory means a high area of land, like a cape—sounds bougie, no?) This semihard cow’s milk cheese is a great after-school cheese, begging for some Ritz and a few episodes of Oprah, or reruns of The Simpsons if mom isn’t home. It’s inoffensive, not too sharp or crumbly, and slices beautifully; one of the better TJ’s cheeses now that the Jasper Hill’s Vault No. 5 always seems to be sold out.
Unexpected Cheddar Chicken Sausage
The chicken sausage flavor reminded me of kielbasa because it’s a little sweet. Yum. Inside, the Unexpected Cheddar isn’t ridiculous; it doesn’t explode out of the sausage when you cook it, like I’ve experienced with other cheese-filled TJ’s sausages before. On the one hand, I’m torn. I miss the exploding cheese. On the other hand, this is a juicy, great chicken sausage. Literally, I’m eating it out of my hand cold and leftover from the fridge. Would buy again.
Organic Chicken Nuggets
I’d been searching for these for months in the frozen aisle, but they’re in the fridge section, by the hummus, weirdly. And they’re fantastic, though I’m not sure if they taste very different from any other chicken nugget, a generally fantastic category of food. They air-fried in 6 minutes and came out almost puffy. The chicken inside was moist and uniform, a reminder that chicken nuggets are a phenomenon nature never intended but instead was a gift to us by the corporate overlords. I love them with TJ’s honey mustard Incredisauce.
Brazil Nut Body Butter
I was putting the TikTok-famous hot pink tub back on the shelf when a lady came up to me and said, “No, you’ve got to get it! There’s this Facebook group and everyone says you HAVE to get this stuff.” People, you do not. It’s thick and creamy, but it smells like the mall. The perfume is so frosting-sweet and strong—it’s caramel and pistachio-scented—that I only slathered it on my upper thighs, and when I went to a friend’s house she said, “Somebody smells good!” And I was like, “It’s my thighs.” And everyone was uncomfortable. Except my thighs, who were enjoying the spotlight, soft and slightly stuck to each other.
Kalamata Olive Oil
I taste-tested this next to some fancy Italian olive oil. The TJ’s oil was much thinner-bodied, almost watery. But where my fancy oil asserted itself with intense olive-ness and a peppery burn in the back of my throat, the kalamata oil was mild. I’ll use it in salad dressings and get on with my life.
Trader Joe’s finally sells the Korean chili paste, gochujang, but only in the little 7.05-ounce container, which isn’t cost-effective if you make kimchi udon as often as I do (or this roast chicken, or this squash, or this sambal pork noodle dish). The first ingredients are rice and tapioca syrup, and I didn’t taste any flavor variations from the other sticky-hot gochujang in my fridge. A reliable, if tiny, staple.
Yellow Cake & Baking Mix
You know it’s a good cake mix because it calls for melted butter and milk (flavor, baby), not water and vegetable oil. I used one box of mix to bake one 9" cake, plus four cupcakes in an old aluminum Comet pan, a thin pan that makes muffin edges nice and browned-crispy in a way my new muffin tin can never. The house smells like Baskins-Robbins, and the cake is buttery and fragrant, best eaten warm, straight from your hands.
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit