Trader Joe’s does a lot of things well, but the way it marries accessibility with healthy convenience is unmatched. With a tub of Trader Joe’s Vegan Pesto, a box of pasta and a few fresh picks from the produce section, anyone can have a satisfying meal during the busiest time of the week without signing up for an expensive meal subscription or opting for delivery. Trader Joe’s vegan staples empower us to create semi-homemade meals—it’s not easy to heat-and-eat, but the little effort these meals take instills a sense of pride and accomplishment. Did you boil that water to make cauliflower gnocchi? Good for you! A bowl of pre-cooked stir-fry vegetables with a simmer sauce? That’s where the real cooking is.
Trader Joe’s products open the door to get creative and make something delicious in less time. From vegan pesto to pre-made pizza dough, here are 13 Trader Joe’s staples that can whip up a meal in minutes.
What is Trader Joe’s Vegan Pesto Made With?
Search for “pesto recipe” and you’ll find the same four ingredients: pine nuts, fresh basil, olive oil, and a hard cheese like pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano. This is pesto in its most basic form. However, this foundation has countless iterations—including vegan options. We’ve seen plenty of recipes swapping out pine nuts for almonds, subbing arugula for basil, and, of course, omitting the cheese.
Trader Joe’s Vegan Pesto takes its own liberties on this traditional sauce. Officially labeled Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto, the spread combines both kale and basil for its earthy green hue, substitutes cashew butter entirely for pine nuts, and adds a squeeze of lemon for brightness. The result is a bit milder, less umami than pesto in its traditional sense, but it’s still something we’d happily dose noodles with and spread liberally on pizza.
13 Vegetarian is Trader Joe’s staple
In the mood for something other than pesto? Trader Joe’s vegan products make thousands of meals possible through countless combinations. Here are just a few of our go-to picks
1 Cauliflower gnocchi
Beyond its pillowy bite and fluffy texture, we love gnocchi for its quick cooking time. You can boil it in about half the time of wheat-based noodles or pan sear it in a flash…literally, it takes three minutes. We would recommend the pan-seared route for this product, as it can be a bit slimy when boiled. Toss with Trader Joe’s Vegan Pesto or Marinara Sauce and serve with a pre-made side salad for a hearty meal on a cold evening.
2 pizza dough
Trader Joe’s three pizza doughs—plain, garlic and herb, and wheat—are vegetarian by default. Let it rise on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes while you wind down for the day, then quickly roll it out, spread Trader Joe’s marinara or pizza sauce over a jar, and top with whatever veggies you like in the produce section. . Sprinkle on some nutritional yeast or TJ’s vegan mozzarella slices if you like. In a 450-degree oven, it takes less than 15 minutes to bake. We challenge any delivery service to beat it.
3 Baked Tofu
Tofu can be tempting, but you have to do it right. You press it for 20 minutes, come up with a flavor ingredient, then cook it. That’s all we need in a busy evening. Trader Joe’s Baked Tofu varieties are ready. Try the sriracha flavor stir-fry with TJ’s Asian Vegetable Stir Fry or the organic teriyaki option over sticky rice and steamed bok choy. Sometimes, we even slice these blocks of flavored tofu and enjoy them as a protein-packed snack!
4 Vegan Spinach and Cashew Ravioli
Vegan-friendly filled pasta isn’t very common when eating out, so we take it for granted when we see it on retail shelves. These spinach-and-cashew-stuffed pasta morsels take four minutes to cook in boiling water, giving you plenty of time to heat up some marinara or peel off the pesky plastic cling to a fresh tub of vegan pesto. Round out the meal with a side of steamed broccoli.
For many dishes, it’s all about the sauce. A tasty finish also helps us eat healthier. Cover anything in this sweet and tangy swag and we’ll happily eat bowl-sized servings of the steamed veggies and air-fried tofu mix. Use it as a marinade, stir-fry or dipping sauce for TJ’s Sliced Korean Rice Cakes or Vegetable Gyoza.
6 Vegetable Gyoza
Investing $20 in a bamboo steamer basket is worth it for this gyoza. They go from frozen to steam in about 10 minutes and always hit the spot if you want takeout. Toss a bag of frozen Asian vegetables with Beijing-style soy sauce and save some sauce packets for dipping the dumplings.
7 Simply eggless egg scramble
Not only can you find eggs at TJ’s, but instead of labeling this innovative plant-based breakfast staple, the grocer carries Simply Eggless. The pour over works for vegan egg scrambles, omelets and baked applications like quiches and egg bites. Sure, enjoy it for breakfast, but don’t rule out a super quick breakfast for dinner. From bagel egg sandwiches to sourizo scramble with steamed kale, there are tons of meals you can whip up in under 15 minutes.
8 Green jackfruit in brine
For the longest time, we didn’t know what to do with jackfruit. Like tofu, we enjoyed it when eating out but were always too intimidated to try preparing it at home. The time has come to overcome that barrier. To cook Trader Joe’s canned jackfruit, all you do is brain drain, dry the jackfruit, and fry it in a touch of cooking oil. It’s then ready for any flavoring you like, although barbecue sauce is an obvious choice for the consistency of jackfruit’s natural pulled pork. Add organic broccoli slaw, Kansas City style BBQ sauce and a bag of classic hamburger buns to make a light-fast barbecue jackfruit sandwich any day.
9 Vegan Ranch Crunch Salad Kit
You could easily grab a bottle of miso carrot or vegan Caesar dressing and pair it with a bag of chopped romaine, but this all-in-one salad kit makes topping your greens even easier. a mixture of romaine, kale and cabbage; Carrots, sunflower seeds, crispy onions, and a packet of vegan ranch dressing are included in the bag. Add some chickenless crispy tenders to make this a meal-sized salad.
10 Vegan Bolognese Style Pasta Sauce
Trader Joe’s basic marinara is perfectly fine, but for a sauce with more weight and protein, grab a jar of this sauce instead. The bright tomato base is mixed with meatless chunks made from pea protein, adding texture and a little more satiety than the average jar of sauce. Serve over your favorite pasta noodles or spiralized zucchini noodles.
11 Steamed lentils
Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse and add substance to any meal, but they can take a while to cook and most weeknights we don’t have time to watch the water boil. These pre-packaged lentils are ready to go. Toss them in a salad, stuff them into a baked bell pepper, or mix them into a warm bowl of jarred marinara and serve over Trader Joe’s Hearts of Palm Pasta.
12 Stir fry the rice and cauliflower
One can easily get stuck in the frozen aisles of Trader Joe’s and get away with making meals that go above and beyond the basic TV dinner. From frozen vegetables to whole entrees, TJ’s frozen section is a mouth-watering treat. This Cauliflower Fried Rice is just one of these many options. You can pair it with baked tofu from the frozen section or stick to the frozen bunker and grab a package of Korean beefless bulgogi for some protein.
13 Organic Vegetarian Chili
Simple yet hearty, a can of vegan chili fills the need when you want something warm and comforting, quick. Scoop it up with a Trader Joe’s French roll generously slathered with vegan buttery spread, sit back on the couch and enjoy.