Trader Joe’s loves to make knock-offs of anything and everything. While that can be great in some ways, it can also quickly turn into appropriation. When Trader Joe’s removes all cultural context of a food, it doesn’t give credit where credit’s due, makes the eater less educated, and, in my opinion, makes the food taste worse. If you’ve ever tasted something from Trader Joe’s and thought, “How did they think of this delicious item?” I’ll tell you how they thought of it: They didn’t. Somebody else thought of it! Here are just a few Trader Joe’s products that you should know more about.
- Garlic Spread aka Toum
The internet absolutely lost it when TJ’s introduced their Garlic Spread. The creamy white dip is vegan, gluten free, and it’s keto. What some people didn’t realize is that Trader Joe’s didn’t invent this. It’s actually a Lebanese dip called toum. Trader Joe’s sells out of this stuff regularly, so hit up your closest Middle Eastern restaurant to have the locally made version. It’s especially good with chicken (shout out Zankou Chicken).
- Thai Banana Fritters aka Kluai Khaek
These Thai Banana Fritters are new to Trader Joe’s shelves, but have been popular in Thailand forever! Eaten as a traditional Thai dessert or snack, kluai khaek has a crunchy, doughy outside and soft, creamy inside. While typically deep-fried, the TJ’s version is perfect for your air fryer at home.
- Kimchi & Tofu Soup aka Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae
The new Kimchi & Tofu Soup lives in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. Seeing it frozen is bizarre because I’m so accustomed to receiving it boiling in a stone bowl at my favorite Korean restaurant. While there is much debate about exactly when this soup came about, everyone can agree that it has been around for an incredibly long time and it’s actually shocking that Trader Joe’s took so long to make their own version.
- Bread Cheese aka Juustoleipä
Trader Joe’s has not one but two different types of bread cheese: garlic and pizza (which Sporked writer Danny Palumbo tasted and loved). According to WisconinCheese.com, “Juustoleipä, or ‘bread cheese,’ is a buttery, slightly sweet cheese native to Scandinavia.” Similar to halloumi or paneer, bread cheese doesn’t melt when you heat it, instead it gets a delicious crusty exterior and a chewy, gooey interior. Whether you buy it from TJ’s or grab some on your trip to Scandinavia, this cheese is best served warm.
- Crunchy Chili Onion aka Chili Crisp
Chili crisp is a popular Chinese condiment that has gotten the viral sriracha treatment over the last few years. NBC News even called it one of the “MVP[s]…of the pandemic.” Trader Joe’s rendition includes onion, but Lao Gan Ma, one of the most popular brands, makes a wide variety of chili crisp flavors. If you like the Crunchy Chili Onion and want to upgrade to the real deal, I would recommend trying chili crisp with black bean (my personal favorite).