Ever since I went vegan in 2016, I've loved shopping at Trader Joe's for its creative options.
It has some fun plant-based dishes as well as affordable vegan staples.
I love the vegan banana bread and ravioli, and I can't live without the peanut-butter granola.
I've been vegan since 2016, and stores like Trader Joe's make it easy.
With aisles packed with easy plant-based meals, cost-effective staples, and lots of creative flavor combinations, Trader Joe's is one of my favorite places to shop for groceries. For several years, it was the only place I shopped, so I had plenty of opportunities to try its vegan-friendly products, and many now make it into my regular rotation.
While there, I pick up products that help me reach my nutrition goals but that also add something fun to my diet.
Not every item I buy has "vegan" printed on its packaging. When I asked Trader Joe's about this omission, a rep said, "While we cannot fit all the attributes of every product on its label, you can be assured that if any of the top nine allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, and sesame) are present in our private label products, they will be clearly labeled in familiar terms in our ingredient statements."
So, like any vegan must, I just thoroughly check the ingredient list on an item before I put it in my cart.
Here are some of my must-have Trader Joe's items.
From the refrigerated section, I grab the vegan spinach-and-cashew ravioli for a quick-and-easy weeknight meal.
Before I was vegan, store-bought fresh ravioli was one of my favorite mid-week meals, so when Trader Joe's rolled out a plant-based version last year, I grabbed it immediately.
And it's delicious. Mixed with a vegan pesto or a tomato-based sauce and some roasted vegetables — asparagus with a squeeze of lemon is the best match, in my opinion — this ravioli is great for a quick, comforting dinner.
The 8.8-ounce pack costs $3.99. I usually buy an extra pack to stash in the freezer when I get home.
I pair the ravioli with the vegan kale, cashew, and basil pesto. The pesto is great in sandwiches, too.
Vegan-friendly premade pesto isn't the easiest thing to find on the shelves — traditionally, it contains Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, or both, Food & Wine reported. If you want that salty kick, this pesto might fall short, but it still has a citrusy tang, and it tastes creamy thanks to the cashews.
As well as using this on pasta, I like to spread a layer over crusty bread before adding lettuce, tomato, avocado, and thin slices of smoked tofu.
This 8-ounce container costs $3.99.
Trader Joe's has a wide selection of meat alternatives, but I usually only get a couple of products, including the soy chorizo.
While I am a big advocate of fake-meat products — and how they can be a gateway to veganism for some people — I don't actually buy many myself. But I make an exception for Trader Joe's soy chorizo, which I add to breakfast burritos and tacos, alongside other fillings such as scrambled tofu, potatoes, salsa, and avocado.
While I've never eaten real chorizo so can't comment on how similar this is, it's vinegary and spicy, and adds some textual variety to my burritos.
It costs $2.69 for 12 ounces, which is a generous portion in my experience. I usually use one half — which makes about four burritos with the other fillings — and then freeze the other half for future meals.
Flavored tofu is great for sandwiches, salads, noodle dishes, and my son's lunchbox.
For another meat alternative, I typically buy extra-firm tofu and then press it at home, before marinating or cooking it. But Trader Joe's sells tofu that has already been baked and flavored, making the whole process much easier.
Its teriyaki- and sriracha-flavored baked tofu, which each cost $3.99 for 7 ounces, can be eaten hot or cold, straight from the packet. Plus, it's a great source of plant-based protein, with 15 grams per serving, which is half a package.
While I love Trader Joe's flavored tofu and soy chorizo, in my opinion, the store falls short of other companies when it comes to other meat alternatives, like its chickenless crispy tenders, so I shop elsewhere for those.
Trader Joe's organic creamy cashew cultured yogurt alternative tastes just like my favorite brand.
I would live on this plain unsweetened cashew yogurt if I could. It's tangy but creamy, and serves as the perfect topping for fresh or warm fruit or oatmeal. I use it in smoothies, baking, and even as a sour-cream alternative.
The $4.99 24-ounce container tastes identical to the organic unsweetened plain cashew yogurt by Forager Project, which costs $6.29 for 24 ounces at my local Hannaford store in New York.
When reached by Insider, Trader Joe's would not comment on the manufacturer of this cashew yogurt, but it does source products from other companies before adding its own labels, SFGate reported.
The yogurt goes perfectly with Trader Joe's peanut-butter protein granola.
I have relatives who live closer to Trader Joe's than I do and know that bringing me one of these bright-blue bags is the way to my heart.
The granola contains chunky nutty clusters, as well as peanut halves, and it gets an extra boost of protein from pea protein. It has 11 grams of protein a serving, but I actually find half a serving — a third of a cup — is enough for me as a topping for yogurt and fruit.
It's worth noting that this granola doesn't have "vegan" printed on its packaging because, while it does not have any animal products in its ingredient list, it "may contain" traces of milk. This typically means that, while milk has not been added, the item may have come into contact with milk during processing, perhaps because it shares equipment with another product that does contain milk, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
Depending on your preference, you may want to grab a different granola instead. An alternative is the grainless granola, which Trader Joe's website lists as vegan. It's pretty heavy on the coconut flavor but also a delicious option.
Trader Joe's really comes through with reasonably priced vegan staples, such as raw cashews.
A 1-pound bag of raw whole cashews at Trader Joe's costs $7.99, a price my other local supermarkets just can't beat — the same amount costs $11.98 at Hannaford.
Plus, I get through a bag this size surprisingly quickly. I use soaked and blended cashews to add creaminess to soups and sauces, and to make my own vegan cheese, queso, and dips.
Cashews lurk in so many of my go-to recipes that it's great to have a cost-effective source.
I also use frozen fruit every day — for smoothies in the summer or oatmeal in the winter — so I always stock up on bags of mango and berries at Trader Joe's.
I usually grab a 28-ounce bag of frozen mango for $3.29, and a 16-ounce bag of frozen wild blueberries for $2.49.
Beyond smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods, I also like to microwave a bowl of the frozen berries until they get warm and juicy, then top them with the cashew yogurt and peanut-butter granola. It tastes like dessert for breakfast.
No smoothie is complete without a big scoop of nut butter. I love Trader Joe's peanut and almond butters without added sugar or salt.
These nut butters, which are $6.99 each for 16 ounces, add a boost of plant-based protein to any meal, from smoothies or toast at breakfast to noodle, tofu, or curry dishes for dinner.
Trader Joe's sells both smooth and crunchy peanut and almond butters, and with and without salt.
I sprinkle hemp seeds on salads, avocado toast, and breakfast bowls for an added boost of protein, omegas, and minerals including iron.
Hemp seeds are packed with nutrients — some of which vegans have to consciously add to their diets because they're typically found in animal products — such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Additionally, they're complete proteins.
They add a slight nutty taste so go well in smoothies and on salads or toast. They're another staple that I add to my cart at Trader Joe's, where they cost $6.49 for 8 ounces.
In the snack aisle, Bamba are a must-have.
Bamba, an iconic Israeli snack food, are peanut butter-flavored corn puffs. They're somehow both soft and crunchy, savory and sweet, and nutty but not too dry. You cannot just have one of these, and my toddler agrees.
A 3.5-ounce bag, which is 3.5 servings, costs just $1.79.
Trader Joe's also now sells Bamba with a hazelnut-creme filling, which are also free of animal products. They cost a little more for a little less — $1.99 for 3 ounces — but they are, quite simply, otherworldly.
Trader Joe's speculoos cookies are another go-to treat.
These crispy Belgian cookies, which cost $2.29 for a 7-ounce packet, have the same sweet, caramel-and-cinnamon taste of Lotus Biscoff cookies, but they're a bit thicker.
Some people pair speculoos cookies with coffee, or crush and sprinkle them over ice cream, but I think they're perfect dunked in a cup of milky English breakfast tea.
Its lentil-and-potato curls have a subtle, salty taste and a satisfying crunch.
These chips are made from lentil flour and potato starch, although I think they taste more like potatoes. I love them mostly for their satisfying crunch, and I typically dip them in hummus for a more filling — albeit pretty messy — snack.
The bag is big, too. It's 6 ounces and costs $2.99.
The mushroom umami seasoning adds a boost of flavor to anything it touches.
Among Trader Joe's lineup of fun seasonings, the Mushroom & Company multipurpose umami seasoning blend is my favorite. The 2.1-ounce jar, which costs $2.99, is a mix of salt, dried onion, mustard seed, porcini and white-button mushroom powders, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and thyme.
It adds a salty earthiness to a range of dishes, and the red pepper adds a touch of heat. For vegan dishes, it can help bring a depth of flavor. In our house, it's mostly used on creamy pastas, mushroom ramen, or risotto.
Trader Joe's red-pepper spread brings freshness and sweetness to sandwiches.
I mostly like using the spread, which is a mix of pureed roasted red peppers, eggplant, and garlic, in sandwiches along with hummus, greens, olives, and cucumber, but it's also good as a stand-in chutney on crackers with vegan cheese, or with falafel and hummus in pita. It's rich but also sweet, thanks to some added sugar.
The 12-ounce jar costs $2.99.
But if you only go to Trader Joe's for one thing, it should be its vegan banana bread with walnuts.
I always grab a loaf of Trader Joe's vegan banana bread, which costs $5.49 for a pound, or eight servings. It's delicious: sweet and moist, with a strong banana taste and not too many walnuts to get in the way of the soft cake.
Even though I find some vegan baked goods go downhill after the first day, somehow this banana bread stays fresh for a few days ... although it rarely lasts that long.
Read the original article on Insider