Did you know that the average American supermarket stocks 28,000 products, according to the Food Industry Association? With its sizable testing and development team and a lot of curation, Trader Joe's whittles their selection down to about 2,000 items that they stand behind—and buy themselves often.
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So as we enter 2021 and are restocking our pantries and refrigerators for the new year, the Trader Joe's "crew members" have taken time to round up their MVP Trader Joe's exclusive items. Of course the beloved bagel seasoning made the list, as did one of our go-to charcuterie board stars, caramelized onion cheddar cheese. But we were truly surprised by some of the other inclusions (brookies, coconut smoothie) and omissions (cauliflower gnocchi, wine).
Related: 28 Foods Dietitians Always Buy at Trader Joe's
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Did your favorites make the cut? Keep reading for the complete top 21, and score a printable shopping list here.
Items with a * also earned a spot on the 2020 11th annual Trader Joe's Customer Choice Awards—the 2021 voting is open now!
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See if your faves (🙋 dark chocolate peanut butter cups) made the list.
- Brilliantly Baked Brookies. A brownie-chocolate chip cookie mash-up made for Joe by an "Ohio baker with a reputation for brownie brilliance."
- Vegan Banana Bread With Walnuts. "Boasting a fabulously sweet banana-walnut flavor and dense, moist texture," according to the Trader Joe's product details, this is a winner with vegans and meat-eaters alike.
- Organic Coconut Smoothie. Made simply with coconut water and blended coconut meat, this refreshing tropical drink is made with fruit sourced in western Thailand.
- Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. For a far-cheaper-than-coffee-shop drink, crew members adore this just-add-water, unsweetened, zero-calorie cold brew concentrate.
- Blueberry Lemonade Sparkling Water. Infused with natural flavors derived from actual blueberries and lemons, this La Croix alternative makes hitting your hydration goals more fun (and tasty).
- Cheddar Cheese With Caramelized Onions. Aged for 15 months and " creamy, with exceptionally pleasing texture," according to Trader Joe's pros, this dressed-up cheddar is great in grilled cheeses, as part of an on-the-go snack or stuffed inside jar-cuterie.
- Le Delice De Bourgogne Cheese. Best savored alongside a glass of chardonnay, this triple cream, soft-ripened French cheese is buttery in texture and earthy in aroma. Think of it like "cheddar butter" one crew member says.
- True Thai Vegetable Pad Thai. Available for more than 10 years, it's clear that this is a fan- and staff-favorite in the frozen section. Rice noodles, bean sprouts, chives, tofu, cashews and a punchy Pad Thai sauce star in this single-serving meal.
- Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese. Sold since 2006, this four-cheese—Cheddar, Swiss, Havarti, and Gouda—pasta will please kids and kids at heart. (We'd guess this is *almost* as popular as the mac and cheese recipe that crashed Ina Garten's website!)
- Mandarin Orange Chicken.* This frozen fave is a slightly lighter and lower-sodium alternative to most of its restaurant competition.
- Everything But The Bagel Seasoning Blend.* It's since been spun into a whole line of follow-up items such as a EBTB nut duo, bagels, gluten-free crackers and smoked salmon, but this versatile seasoning mix was the OG in the spice aisle and has been a hit since January 2017.
- Envy Apples. A hybrid of Braeburn and Royal Gala apples, this red variety is vibrant, sweet and "the very best tasting apple, period!" according to one crew member.
- Southwestern Chopped Salad. Green cabbage, carrots, green onions, cilantro, radishes and romaine lettuce come already washed, mixed and ready to toss with pepitas, tortilla strips, cotija cheese and a spicy avocado dressing when you're ready to dive in.
- Hass Avocados. Grown in the U.S. or Mexico, depending on the season, these are always a steal at Trader Joe's: four for $3.49. (ICYMI, here are the top 4 reasons to eat more avocados.)
- Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto. No Parm? No problem. This 100% vegan dip/dressing/spread is made with only kale, cashew butter, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, water, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.* Try these dark chocolate Reese's copycats folded into the dough for these 6-ingredient cookies! (Warning: They're seriously addicting.)
- Super Sour Scandinavian Swimmers. After seeing a wave of success with their original Scandinavian Swimmers, a more natural Swedish Fish snack exclusive to Trader Joe's, the market launched a sour line that gets its pucker from extra citric acid. Instead of artificial ingredients, the bright colors come from fruit and veggie juices, spirulina and annatto.
- Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels. "Excellent anytime nibbles with cocktails, beer, juice, or even sparkling water," per the Trader Joe's team, these are made by an expert pretzelmaker in Pennsylvania and are sold for just $2.49 per pound.
- Chili Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips. These chips are a team winner for their flavor (they're crafted with stone-ground corn masa that's cut, rolled and fried, then dusted with hot chili-lime seasoning) and their natural colorings made with vegetable juice, paprika and turmeric.
- Organic Corn Chip Dippers. Designed to scoop up all of your favorite dips and chilis, these simple chips are made with just three ingredients: organic corn, organic sunflower oil and sea salt.
- Shea Butter and Coconut Oil Hair Mask. This hair treatment "works better than any other high end hair product, for a fraction of the price," reports one crew member. Find it in the beauty section for $3.99 per 5.1-fluid ounce tube.