10 Surprisingly Gourmet (& Healthy) Things You Can Buy at Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is one of our favorite grocery shopping experiences, full stop. It’s easy on the budget, great for staples, and its flavorful proprietary products somehow have us excited about eating bagged salads and keeping our freezers stocked. But Trader Joe’s is more than just a great place for everyday food supplies. TJ’s is also up to the challenge when it comes to more elevated selections — Trader Joe’s can honestly hold its own against pricier food markets, even when it comes to gourmet.
What constitutes “gourmet” is largely in the eyes (and mouth) of the beholder, whether it’s a matter of elegant presentation, richness of flavor, expensive ingredients, merely being French, or a combination of these factors. No matter your metric of choice, here are ten surprisingly gourmet, (and healthy!) items you can buy at Trader Joe’s.
Cheese plates are certainly en vogue right now, and Trader Joe’s offers a real cheese plate stunner: Mobay. Modeled after French cheese Morbier, sheep and goats’ milk combine with a layer of vegetable ash for a truly ooh-la-la, marbled look. A well-crafted cheese board can function as everything from cocktail party fare to a meal unto itself to an especially Francophile dessert. But cheese is also an excellent source of protein and calcium — just portion accordingly since it’s a fuller-fat item, and adorn your cheese plate with healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables, too.
Proof that gourmet freezes well: these wild-caught Argentinian shrimp have a rosier color than conventional shrimp, and a sweet, meaty taste akin to lobster. Shrimp is naturally low in fat, and a dynamite source of protein. Cocktail sauce isn’t remotely necessary when these naturally flavorful shrimp are styled in the manner that TJ’s offers: with ginger-garlic butter getting a leg up from Togarashi Style Seasoning, which combines spice, citrus, and seaweed.
To be fair, we are lovers of all things artichoke, but these are the closest you can find to the proper Spanish tapas dish. Rich and flavorful, you can serve them on their own or as part of a tapas spread (alongside a Spanish omelette, patatas bravas, some steamed mussels, and olives, perhaps). They’re also great in a simple pasta dish or tossed on top of a piece of grilled chicken or fish.
A whole roast chicken is emblematic of that which is simultaneously humble and gourmet. “Spatchcocked” merely refers to the presentation of a whole chicken that has been cracked and flattened to ensure more even, speedier cooking, but since it really feels like restaurant menu terminology, let’s call it upscale. Brined, then marinated with citrus and herbs, this spatchcocked chicken from Trader Joe’s is ready to go into the oven or onto the grill, perfect for impromptu, Provençal-themed evenings.
You may be wondering how something as simple as lentils qualifies as gourmet. But these are more than just lentils; these are French lentils, and they are special enough to warrant their own PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in France. (TJ’s even puts the label in cursive script, so you know you’re dealing with something elevated.) Already cooked and delicately flavored with spices and aromatics such as garlic, bay, thyme, and cloves, these are as low-maintenance as gourmet gets, while bringing heavy doses of protein, iron, and fiber to the occasion. Use them in tacos or as a bed for an elegant protein.
Speaking of elegant proteins, Trader Joe’s supplies an easy and elevated way to turn a simple salad into something worth entertaining with. Steak tips come from the sirloin of beef, a flavorful cut that is naturally lower in fat than something like ribeye. Not only does red meat bring on the protein and iron, but it’s also an excellent source of potassium. (We tried, but we can’t think of any way that bananas qualify as gourmet.) Balsamic and rosemary flavors are delicious, but the seasoning element to these steak tips also includes porcini mushrooms, which are basically black truffles’ next door neighbor.
Mustard may seem like a humble condiment, but there is something decidedly gourmet about whole grain mustard, which brings additional texture and a je ne sais quoi look to mustard’s natural tang. Employ it as the base for a couture salad dressing, or simply use it by itself as a prêt-à-porter marinade or rub for chicken, fish, or pork.
Balsamic vinaigrette is already basically the fanciest choice in salad dressings. Balsamic vinegar originates in Northern Italy, made from grape must and typically aged for several years in wood, giving it its trademark hue and natural sweetness. But not all balsamic vinaigrettes are created equal. Trader Joe’s selection is organic, for one, and also incorporates figs and honey for a rich, sublime dressing that is equal to the task of both salads and marinades.
White tea is made from the same plant as black tea, just harvested younger and handled more gently, for a more delicate flavor and color. White tea is full of antioxidants, as is its pomegranate companion here. This Sparkling White Tea with Pomegranate Juice is a lively and refreshing sparkling soda that promises to put some elegance in your afternoon. (Garnish with additional pomegranate seeds for full fanciness points.)
Truffle oil may be a fad from a decade ago, but it’s still holding strong on restaurant menus across the country. Truffle oils can be tricky, however, since they tend to be artificially flavored, and you’re adding fat along with that irresistible essence, but leave it to Trader Joe’s to bring us real truffles in a friendlier format. Trader Joe’s Truffle Hot Sauce adds flavor in two big doses: heat and umami, perfect for dialing up the flavor in any dish.
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