As a food writer (and prolific snacker), I have a hot take (or, rather, a mild take?) on hot takes. In short, there are just so many hot takes in the world of food already. Perhaps too many! How does one even add another to the pile? And how can you ever definitively round up all of the best Trader Joe’s snacks of all time? It was already tricky narrowing down my favorite all-time Trader Joe’s products. It goes without saying that, when I was asked to narrow down the best snacks of all time at TJ’s, I knew I’d have many things to consider when it came to nailing down those definitive picks.

And while I included a few of my favorite snacks on my all-around list (based on their acclaimed status as standalone favorites), these snacks are legendary for all their many uses. So in the name of journalistic integrity, I snacked and snacked to get to the bottom of the best all-time snacks you can get at Trader Joe’s. I made sure to look at many of these snacks under various lenses: Are they ideal for a road trip? For sneaking into the movies? For zhuzhing up a cheese plate? And, best of all, could they be morphed into a meal that’s greater than the sum of its parts? 

A mix of classics and underdogs, I think you’ll find there’s a snack in this list for everyone. But if I didn’t include your favorite, please do tell me in the comments! I’m always very open to expanding my snack stash. 

1. Jerk-Style Plantain Chips, $1.99 for 6 ounces 

There isn’t a universe where I’m not snacking on these in some capacity. Straight out of the bag, these thick-cut, crispy plantain chips are dusted in a Jamaican jerk-style seasoning that begs to be added to as many eating situations as possible. I love to dip these in an herby, tart mojo-esque dip, and they’re also a very, very good idea for topping a black bean soup, or using as a vehicle for a shrimp ceviche. If you find yourself opting for the plain plantain chips, do yourself the biggest flavor and grab a bag of these on your next grocery run.

2. Soft & Juicy Mandarins, $2.99 for 6 ounces

There’s fruit that wants to be “nature’s candy,” and then there’s Trader Joe’s Soft & Juicy Mandarins. These dried mandarin segments couldn’t be closer to nature’s candy without actually, uh, being candy. Sweet and tart and slightly chewy in that fruit-gummy-adjacent sort of way, a bag of these have saved many a road trip. 

We’ve all been there; you’re a few hours from your destination and really in need of something novel to bite into that perks up your tastebuds. Try a handful of these and you’ll see why I keep a bag or two of these in my glove compartment just for safe-keeping. And when you get home, be sure to dip these in melted chocolate to truly turn them into nature’s candy. 

3. Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips, $2.99 for 9 ounces

“Unputdownable” is an adjective I try my best to avoid using, but then again some words really succeed in describing one of my favorite snacks. I’m not sure what happens between my first bite of these sour-spicy rolled tortilla chips and the last, but I definitely enter some bliss-like state. 

Each curly chip is a level of sour that I’ve likened to “eating pure lightning,” and yet I gladly eat handful after handful. These are one of those snacks you want to give your full attention to. And unlike many of my other snack picks, I really have no suggestions on how to make these better. Just simply open the bag and enjoy. (Okay, okay, crumble these on your next taco salad, because why not?). 

4. Everything and the Elote Greek-Style Yogurt Dip, $3.49 for 8 ounces

Dips can be a whole food group, a lovely jumping-off point for a meal, a whole way of life, basically. I definitely live the dip life when it means dipping into this elote-inspired one that takes its flavor cues from my other favorite food group: Mexican street corn. 

A rich Greek yogurt base mimics the sour tang of the traditional mayo and lime juice, with bits of fresh corn kernels, powdered chipotle peppers, and Parmesan cheese to round it all out. As previously stated, dips are for more than dipping: Add this as a surprise layer in a seven-layer dip, schmear it on a wrap or burger bun, or, yes, slick it right onto corn on the cob. 

5. Sesame Honey Cashews, $7.99 for 16 ounces

Next to the Soft & Juicy Mandarins in the Road Trip Snack Hall of Fame is a bag of these Sesame-Honey Cashews. Where do I start? They’re just the right amount of sweet (they’re at about a Honey Nut Cheerios level, by my measurements), and improve any granola or trail mix they touch, making them the snacking version of “Shine Theory.” 

And let’s not forget the crunch of the sesame seeds! The seeds are not just for show, either, studding each cashew to add an earthy-savory foil to the honey coating. Add these to your glove compartment stash (and cowboy cookies or a classic sans rival cake) while you’re at it. 

6. Ghost Pepper Potato Chips, $2.99 for 9 ounces

In this era of hot wing challenges, I want to give a shout out to the slow-burning snacks out there. These Ghost Pepper Potato Chips are proof that slow-burns are truly underrated. One bite of these ridge-cut chips reveals a mellow spice that verges on sweetness. Hmm, you might think, that’s not soooo bad

The crisp airiness of each chip keeps your hand solidly in the bag, until: Bam. A tingly burn blankets your tongue, but not in an unenjoyable way. You’ve entered Ghost Pepper Potato Chip land, where each bite reveals a candy-box variety of sweet heat (not sure what you’re going to get), while also still infinitely snackable for those of us with a spice tolerance that’s solidly in training mode. For a good time, add these to your next turkey sandwich. 

7. ABC Bars, $3.49 for six 1.2 ounce bars 

I think a large part of why I shop at Trader Joe’s is the detective work that goes into figuring out which name brands are sold under the Trader Joe’s name. Case in point: I had a double-take experience when I first tried these ABC Bars (which stand for Almond Butter & Chocolate), featuring a chocolate-oat bar that’s filled with almond butter. 

They’re eerily similar to a popular name-brand bar, but at a fraction of the price. These bars are so similar that it’s basically like the snack version of The Parent Trap (just swapped with almond butter instead of peanut butter). While the jury is out on who truly makes these bars, they are definitely a mainstay. They’re great as a break-in-case-of-hanger snack to throw in your bag, and perhaps too child-friendly (my nephew often looks at me with jealousy when I break one open), so pack your snacks accordingly. 

8. Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno Dip, $3.99 for 10 ounces

I can only do one magic trick and it’s making this dip … disappear. And not just by dunking lime tortilla chips, baby peppers, and carrots in it. Or adding it to breakfast tacos and topping burrito bowls with it. Sure, that’s cool and all, but this creamy-spicy dip that’s packed with briny artichokes is meant for much, much more. 

Fun fact: Did you know it makes the perfect binder for a rice and beef mix for filling cheesy stuffed peppers, too? Well, now you do. And now you know why this dip is the ultimate disappearing act! 

9. Super Seedy Cheesy Bites, $3.49 for 2.8 ounces

A recent addition to my MVP list, these Super Seedy Cheesy Bites are the definition of a sleeper hit. So be sure not to sleep on them! They may look simple, but each cheesy bite packs in tons of complexity; it reminds me of a nutty Parmesan crisp that became best friends with bits of spicy, floral peppercorns. 

I don’t know about you, but I often observe a very Liz Lemon-esque “Night Cheese” ritual and these certainly elevate it by 100%. And you know what? They also elevate bowls of tomato soup and Caesar salads, and make a perfect dipping vessel for bruschetta. 

10. Popcorn with Herbs & Spices, $2.79 for 5 ounces

I’m not sure how it’s possible, but Trader Joe’s Popcorn with Herbs & Spices packs a whole meal’s worth of flavor into each kernel. Coated in a garden variety of herbs and spices (like dill, celery seed, and onion), this bag of popcorn will definitely “yassify” your next movie night; it’s basically movie popcorn, with one pinky up. 

Straight out of the bag you’ll surely fall in love with the big dill flavor, but it’s a worthy contender for a fancied-up snack spread, mixed into a party mix, or as a crunchy garnish for mac & cheese or even a cocktail (yes, I said it). I love to set this out in a bowl as a cheese-board accompaniment that pretty much always surprises my guests after they take a bite. 

Did your favorite Trader Joe’s snacks make the list? Sound off in the comments below.

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