If you’re a vegan, you’re probably well aware that it can be hard to find all the plant-based pantry staples you need to stay satisfied without going to several different grocery stores. In some cases, you’re lucky if your local supermarket even sells tofu. Thankfully, Trader Joe’s is filled to the brim with vegan products that are so good (and affordable), even omnivores enjoy them. From truly convincing dairy-free butter and creamer to versatile, protein-packed meal staples like premade falafel and hummus, there’s not a lot you can’t find at TJ’s.
But which of TJ’s many vegan products are actually worth your time? To find out, we asked Sharon Palmer—a vegan registered dietitian, creator of The Plant-Powered Dietitian, and frequent Trader Joe’s shopper—what she can’t leave the store without. These are the 11 items she loves the most—plus, how she uses them to whip up nourishing, tasty meals on a moment’s notice.
Steamed and peeled baby beets
Palmer is a big fan of this ready-to-go veggie because it makes cooking with beets super-easy—no strenuous prep or pink-stained hands required. All you have to do is open the package and dig in. She’ll use them to make her salads a bit more filling or even to add some veggies and a pop of color to smoothies. Look for them in the refrigerated section.
Refrigerated and cooked lentils
It’s no secret that dried lentils can take a painfully long time to cook, but they’re also an excellent source of protein that many vegans rely on. Palmer swears by these precooked lentils because they save her time and taste as good as lentils she would cook herself. “They’re not canned, so they have a firm texture,” she explains. “Perfect for making lentil patties on the fly or sprinkling into salads.”
Organic baked tofu
Palmer says that this tofu is a great staple to keep on hand because it’s pre-marinated and can be quickly sliced to serve with salads, sandwiches, crackers, and more. It’s available in a wide range of flavors, from sriracha to teriyaki, and a good way to add a protein boost to your meal without having to work for it.
Extra-firm sprouted tofu
When it comes to tofu, this is the one that Palmer always has in her fridge. She loves it because it contains sprouted soybeans, which means that it has more protein and calcium than tofu that hasn’t been sprouted. Plus, it’s preportioned into two half-size containers, so you don’t have to use all of it right away or worry about having to pack up the leftovers. “The other half stays fresh if you’re only using a small amount for a recipe,” she explains.
Rather than using this dairy-free creamer in her coffee, Palmer loves to cook with it. “I use this for baking and cooking as a replacement for dairy cream,” she explains. “It’s delicious in potatoes gratin or creamy soups.” And if you feel like adding a splash to your coffee, you totally can, too.
Vegan mozzarella shreds
Finding vegan cheese that tastes like the real deal is no easy feat, but Palmer says that these mozzarella shreds definitely fit the bill. She keeps a package on hand at all times, just in case she suddenly has a craving for lasagna or enchiladas. Of course, it would taste equally great tossed with tomatoes and basil and dressed with balsamic or melted into a sandwich, if you so desire.
“This is my go-to when I don’t make it myself,” says Palmer. As a vegan, she likes to keep hummus around because it’s rich in protein and equally good in both starring and supporting roles. Enjoy it as she does, whether that’s smeared on a sandwich or as a dip for chopped raw veggies.
Organic 3-grain tempeh
When you’re at tofu capacity, consider this tempeh. Equally nutritious, it has a hearty texture and nutty flavor that holds up well in faux meat recipes, like shepherd’s pie and breakfast hash, says Palmer. Plus, it has a really long shelf life, so there’s no rush to use it.
Palmer keeps flavorful falafel on hand for busy nights when she doesn’t have the energy to do any cooking. She says you can simply pop them in the oven and enjoy them over a bed of rice or wrapped up in pita bread for a quickie meal.
Vegan spread and dressing
This spread tastes so much like actual mayo, you honestly might not be able to tell the difference. That’s because ingredients like pea protein, ground mustard seed, and cornstarch create a similarly creamy and silky effect without any eggs. And Palmer recommends using it in all the same ways you would mayo—on sandwiches, in salad dressings, and beyond.
Miyokos vegan butter
Palmer says that this butter—which is made from a blend of coconut oil, cashews, and sunflower oil—subs perfectly into baking recipes that call for actual butter. She uses it for all her baking needs, whether she’s whipping up cookies, cakes, or lemon bars.
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