Trader Joe’s gets especially busy and even more wacky this time of year. In addition to adorable Cypress Grump Trees and other decorative items, the specialty grocery store’s aisles are overflowing with seasonal food and drink products. If you’re looking to throw a Christmas-adjacent get-together or just entertain yourself, these savory and sweet treats deliver. And, as always, the store finds a way to combine smart packaging with even more satisfying prices well below competitors. Here’s the best of Trader Joe’s latest, all under $10, below.
Cornbread Bites, $3.99
Making appetizers for guests isn't a headache if you know how to carefully curate the Trader Joe’s frozen section. These cornbread bites are a particularly bold creation (and gluten-free!). The indulgent bread balls (nodding to tamales with their corn and masa flour) are filled with pepperjack and gouda cheese, plus bits of corn and peppers. Get the pack of 12 extra crispy under the broiler. To make them more attractive, whip up a side of dipping sauce using Greek yogurt, hot sauce, cumin, and chili pepper flakes (as pictured). Whatever your geographic coordinates, your true state of mind will be in the Southwest.
Crispy Rice Salmon Bites, $6.99
If you want to take your bite-sized noshes under the sea, these salmon bites will hit the spot. Par-cooked fish gets rolled in a wheat and rice batter. Trader Joe’s also throws in a packet of aioli seasoned with sriracha, sesame oil, and garlic so you don’t have to worry about making a dipping sauce.
Cuban-Style Citrus Garlic Bowl, $3.49
If you happen to live in South Florida, you can load up on heaps of tasty Cuban arroz con pollo by simply visiting the Publix supermarket hot food station. But if you’re anywhere else, Trader Joe’s has a solution. This frozen version of the classic dish combines yellow rice, chunks of chicken thigh, black beans, plantains, peppers, onion, plus a citrusy and garlicky mojo sauce. Making a homey island dinner just got a lot easier (the portion is small, so a few boxes are necessary if you're feeding a number of people). But please avoid Trader Joe’s recommendation to fold the bowl’s contents into tortillas and make tacos with a “Cuban twist." There's no need to mess with a good thing.
Mini Cheesecake Cones, $3.99
There’s nothing to dislike about cheesecake, except that it can be a big commitment. (Have you ever seen a small slice of cheesecake?) Trader Joe’s has ingeniously stuffed cheesecake into these small cones, which are perfect for a group dessert spread that won’t instantly melt. Made in Italy, the cones are laced with almond, and the filling contains ricotta and quark cheese. Let them thaw and then drizzle on chocolate sauce or lemon juice, or even better, surround them with slices of fresh fruit.
Trio of Cookie Baking Mixes, $8.99
Yes, cookies are better when made from scratch, and no, you shouldn’t feel bad about skipping mixing dough while you have shopping, the rest of dinner, and relatives to worry about. These mixes only require a few ingredients (add eggs, butter, and milk) and appeal to different tastes with toffee oat, cinnadoodle, and triple chocolate flavors. For an easy project, gather the kids to bake the cookies — and, of course, leave out a few with milk for Santa.