Trader Joe's has been my favorite grocery store since I knew it existed — from the small, community-like feel to the prepped frozen snacks I throw in the oven 10 minutes before having guests over, it's been a go-to for me for over a decade.
During the four years in college I didn't live near one, friends and I would make a semi-annual pilgrimage to the one nearest us hours away to pick up our favorite essentials, all on a college budget.
I've been vegan for about six years, and Trader Joe's stayed with me through that transition. For all of my favorites, they have always had dairy and meat-free alternatives. In fact, Trader Joe's became my favorite grocery store because it had more options in a smaller space — I can get everything I need without having to scan a large, warehouse-like store.
As I began to host more dinners and happy hours with friends serving only vegan food, each and every single time I'd hear something along the lines of, "Wait, this is vegan?" Shock was always a reaction, followed by the request for leftovers and a list of everything I got.
My fellow plant-based family will know a lot of these standbys, and any vegan-curious Trader Joe's lovers will be sure to find new go-to snacks, dips, frozen foods, and pastries to add to their regular grocery list.
Organic Creamy Cashew Yogurt
With dairy-free alternatives to foods, a lot of how good it ends up tasting has to do with texture. Cashew is the base of a lot of the best dairy-free alternative foods. Because it is such a fatty nut, it ends up having a really creamy taste. This also a bit of coconut cream added to it, which adds to its super creamy texture.
This does have a fair amount of added sugar in it, so I keep it as a dessert option every now and then. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I tend to favor the vanilla flavor, which tastes amazing mixed in with some granola.
As a truly upgraded dessert option, take a wine glass and alternate layers of crumbled Oreo's, chopped bananas, and yogurt — your guests will love it.
Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Cups
This has been a Trader Joe's fan-favorite amongst all dietary preferences for a long time, especially for those with nut allergies. While sometimes dark chocolate can be a little hard, this is extra creamy. The cups are super indulgent.
I'll keep this as standby whenever I have a chocolate craving. In the summertime, I'll pop them in the fridge as my favorite treat after a long, hot day out.
Miso Instant Ramen
One of my more recent favorites for the past year, I picked this up on a whim when I was (dangerously) shopping on an empty stomach. The ingredient list is a lot more clean and understandable than the standard instant ramen noodles you can get from other grocery stores.
I actually liked this so much that I brought it with me on a few long flights — just add hot water and you have an upgrade to standard plane food. When I'm home, I love adding some sautéed vegetables and spice to it.
Organic Creamy Cashew Fiesta Dip
I probably love this dip too much. I don't know what the actual serving size is, but I'll finish the tub in about three to four sittings. I'll dip just about anything in this — plantain chips, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, tortilla chips, and more. I even made a taco salad the other day and topped it with a bit of this dip.
I've seen people use this as a pasta sauce on Instagram, and I'll undoubtedly be trying that soon, too. The dip is super creamy, just as the name says, and my cheese-loving sister loves this just as much as I do.
Riced Cauliflower Bowl
I'll be the first to confess my undying love for rice. Being Indian, it's always been an essential part of my diet. Cauliflower rice is not my thing. It doesn't taste like rice at all to me, and it has never felt nearly as satisfying.
That said, the added tofu, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes in this make the dish feel hearty and filling. Plus, the tahini and onions in it add a nice flavor that makes it so the cauliflower rice is a nice addition rather than the star of the dish.
I don't get this one a lot as I'm not a huge fan of frozen meals, but I tried it a couple of times and it's a nice, healthy option to keep in the freezer for days I don't feel like cooking or spending money on Uber Eats.
The first time I made this years ago, it ended up a soggy mess that fell apart the second I tried to put a fork through each piece.
Then, I read a recipe that instructed me to dry pan-fry this. I warm up a pan with a small amount of coconut oil on medium heat, frying each side for about 8 minutes. They came out perfectly. I have had this several ways. I'll either just top it with some simple marinara sauce, or just some olive oil and mix of seasonings.
Miyoko's Cultured Vegan Butter
I am not big on butter, but my friend turned me on to this after giving a glowing review of it — and she isn't even vegan. I picked it up next time I hit Trader Joe's, and honestly, it's delicious. I didn't think I could love butter, but the texture of this is creamier than any other butter I've tried before.
I'll use this as an alternative to bottled oils if I'm sautéing vegetables, and mix it in with homemade pasta sauces to add a bit more of a creamy, indulgent taste to it.
Candy Cane Joe Joe's
These heavenly cookies are only available for a couple of months every year, and I always eat enough during those months to satisfy myself for the subsequent ten months. The two chocolate cookies are standard, and the creamy center has little crunchy peppermint pieces in it.
Pairing this with a cup of chai is my favorite holiday treat, and I look forward to it every single year. I'll put these out at every holiday party, and people always love them. I've never tried this, but I've also seen people make chocolate peppermint pie crusts out of this.
Hi-Protein Veggie Burger
Veggie burgers are often a staple grocery list item for me. I like to top salads with something warm and hearty, so a veggie burger is usually a quick, easy go-to. What I appreciate most about these burgers is that they actually taste good and don't have the mushy, bean-like texture a lot of other veggie burgers can.
I bake this in the oven for about ten minutes on each side. It gets crunchy on the outside and has a bit of a meaty texture on the inside. The warm crunch totally upgrades my boring salads, but be careful not to overcook this as if it dries out too much, it can get a bit crumbly and break easily.
Vegan Kale, Cashew, & Basil Pesto
I bought this once when Trader Joe's first came out with it about three years ago, and I've been buying it ever since. I actually got a lot of my non-vegan friends hooked on it, too.
Stocked in the refrigerated section, the creamy sauce has a fresh taste that makes a delicious addition to any pasta dish. I'll even add it to pizzas and put it in wraps to add a fresh flavor to it. Recently, I've even been putting it in sandwiches to add some extra flavor, too.
Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry
I mentioned before that I'm not a big cauliflower stir fry fan. I don't eat this alone, but I keep it in my freezer to mix in with the Thai takeout I inevitably order several times a month. In an effort to decrease my carb intake, I'll either go half and half with some real rice and this cauliflower rice or replace it completely.
It has such a light flavor with a small amount of garlic and spring onions, so it makes a great addition to any curry dish. If I do just want to make the riced cauliflower the star of the dish, I'll sauté this with some extra vegetables, and then stir in some liquid aminos, tofu, and garlic chili sauce
Trader Joe's Vegetable Fried Rice
Sticking with the rice theme, this isn't something I purchase so much anymore in the interest of decreasing my carb intake, but I used to love indulging in it during college. For the days I was just craving something quick, delicious, and carb-filled, this totally hit the spot.
It was far less greasy than takeout, and the edamame in this added a nice, hearty addition. I used to add some extra edamame, greens, and tofu to this if I wanted it to feel like a more complete meal.
Caramel corn usually has a lot of butter in it, but these little drops of gold are made with sticky brown rice syrup. They're almost a little too sweet for me, so I'll mix this with regular, unflavored popcorn.
Vegan Spread & Dressing Inspired By Mayo
Mayonnaise can be a polarizing condiment, but for me, it was one of the things I missed most when I went vegan. I use it as a base to make a Caesar-esque dressing by whipping it up with apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and cracked black pepper.
My meat and dairy-loving dad loved this so much more than regular mayonnaise that he started buying it for himself to put on burgers. It's become an essential at all family barbecues for the fact that it has a less oily taste than non-vegan mayo.
Vanilla Almond Spiced Chai
Being Indian, chai snobbery is in my blood. So, inevitably, I was a little judgmental about this at first. I wouldn't call it chai, but it happens to be delicious.
Almond milk can sometimes be a little watery and thin in consistency, but due to the addition of coconut cream, it has a really indulgent, creamy taste. It's a bit sweet, so I don't like to indulge in this often, but it is absolutely delicious and I appreciate the fact that the addition of pea protein in it makes it extra filling.
Organic Carrot, Coconut, & Ginger Soup
Another one of my favorites on this list, this is a go-to lunch for me. Soup isn't always filling, but this leaves me satisfied for hours after. Carrot soups can sometimes be a little sweet, but the ginger in this sets that off.
I add some cracked black pepper and cayenne to add more flavor to it, and it's been a go-to comfort food for me for many years.
A vegan answer to Swedish Fish, a lot of gummy and fruit snacks have gelatin in them. For the times I'm craving something gummy, this has been great. I've been picking up a bag of these for movie night for many years, and it'll always be a standby for me.
Of everything on this list, this is my favorite. I'll buy several bottles at a time. It has the luxurious taste of a Caesar salad dressing without any cheese or dairy actually being in it. I'll put it in wraps, on sandwiches, salads, and use it as a dip for vegetables.
It has a tangy, creamy taste that has gotten every single one of my family members and friends totally hooked on it. I top simple spinach and romaine salads with this and some nutritional yeast, and it tastes like I got it from one of the overpriced $20 salads I'll sometimes buy.
Vegan Chicken-less Seasoning Salt
The seasoning on this tastes like the meaty seasoning that goes on ramen. It has this great umami taste I add to everything. It's become almost as essential on my spice rack as cayenne, salt, and pepper.
This goes in all of my stir-fries, baked vegetables, Indian dishes, and Thai dishes I make and brings the flavors to a whole new level.
Non-Dairy Oat Beverage
Oat milk might sound incredibly basic and, admittedly, it probably is. But, it's my favorite dairy-free milk because it is one of the creamiest, and it does not have any flavor. However, a lot of oat milks have a high water content in them.
High-quality oat milks with less water in them tend to be quite expensive, but right on-brand with everything Trader Joe's, this one is high quality with a lower water content and great price.