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Professional chefs, they’re just like us. Aside from a passion for great food, turns out we also have a common love of Trader Joe’s. Amanda Frederickson is a perfect example. The food blogger, who has a cookbook and a stint at a Michelin-starred restaurant under her belt, also happens to be a massive TJ’s fan. So in the name of supermarket snooping, we had to find out what is always in her shopping cart. 

From the cheeses Frederickson swears by for no-fuss entertaining to the humble weeknight dinner ingredient we would have never thought to buy, there’s plenty of inspiration to be found in her pantry staples. Read on for five chef-approved items to get the next time you’re at Trader Joe’s—and what to cook with them. 

Imagery by Aaron Bengochea

The Ingredients

  1. Cheeses: Unexpected Cheddar, 1,000-Day Gouda, and Port Salut
  2. Steamed Lentils
  3. Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
  4. Sparkling Watermelon Juice
  5. Pound Plus Chocolate Bar

The Dishes 

The Ultimate Appetizer

“When I want to make an epic cheese board that won’t break the bank, I head to Trader Joe’s,” says Frederickson. While the aforementioned cheeses are the stars of the show, she accessorizes with the supermarket’s selection of nuts, dried fruit, and charcuterie (her favorite is Columbus salami). “Don’t forget the Fig and Olive Crisps to eat all that yumminess with,” she adds. 

The Last-Minute Weeknight Dinner

Steamed legumes, in Frederickson’s own words, are not exciting. “I know that lentils aren’t the most glamorous of Trader Joe’s items, but its precooked version is a staple in my refrigerator,” she admits. On nights when you come home late and hangry, add them to a salad or grain bowl for a quick, filling meal. 

The Unexpected Side Dish  

Everything But the Bagel seasoning isn’t new, but while most people are busy sprinkling it on avocado toast or into their eggs, Frederickson goes an entirely different route. “I like tossing raw veggies in it, along with some olive oil, and roasting them,” she says. “It’s the perfect added flavor for your vegetables.” Serve this easy side dish packed with crunch at your next dinner party.  

The Summer Cocktail

It might only contain two ingredients, but this isn’t your average drink. Frederickson mixes Trader Joe’s Sparkling Watermelon Juice (a twofer of seltzer and fruit juice) with a dash of tequila and serves it over ice for a refreshing cocktail come happy hour. 

The Baking Necessity

“At around $5, Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Chocolate is a great deal—not to mention, the chocolate is delicious,” says the chef. Frederickson recommends swapping out chips for chunks of this chocolate in baked goods like cookies or brownies. “It means more chocolate, in my opinion!” she continues. “I simply chop off the amount that I need for a recipe…or a snack.”  

See more Trader Joe’s stories:  I Use These Trader Joe’s Sauces on Literally Everything The Best Trader Joe’s Products You’ve Never Heard Of This Is Exactly What a Keto Expert Buys at Trader Joe’s