If the world ever decided to come up with a list of the happiest places on the planet, Trader Joe’s might just be on that list (right below Disneyland and your local pub). With Hawaiian shirt-clad employees, bell-clanging cashiers, and tiki-themed store signage, shopping at TJ’s can feel more like a joyous activity than a mind-numbing chore. At TJ’s, you’ll find a wall of cheese, funky frozen foods like Lemongrass Chicken Sticks and Mojito Salmon, and punny product names like “Inner Peas.”
But for all of its hits, TJ’s does have some foods that could use a little extra oomph. Take, for example, TJ’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. Don’t get us wrong—this stuff is delicious and addictive on its own—but when combined with TJ’s microwave popcorn and made into a Cookie Butter popcorn ball, it becomes the stuff of dreams.
We’re telling you to think outside the box when it comes to your favorite Trader Joe’s foods: Make garlic naan into bruschetta, turn pretzel sticks into Pocky, and take boxed cornbread and add jalapeños and beer. After reading this list of incredible home-cooking hacks, the frozen aisle at TJ’s will be a source of endless inspiration—we promise.
Here are 15 awesome tricks to take your favorite Trader Joe’s foods to the next level.