The 15 Essential Vegan Items at Trader Joe’s

From cinnamon rolls to veggie dumplings.

vegan trader joes products vegetarian pantry items
Design by Maggie Rossetti for Thrillist
Design by Maggie Rossetti for Thrillist

Trader Joe’s is a store I could aimlessly wander around for hours, all while throwing as many products as I can fit into my tote as possible. Over the past few years, though, I’ve begun to incorporate more plant-based and meatless meals into my diet, thanks to my sensitive digestive system. Thankfully, even with these changes, Trader Joe’s is still a place I frequent due to their steadily expanding offering of vegan and dairy-free products. 

I’ve tried almost every vegan-friendly item so far that TJ’s has introduced, but to keep you from endlessly scrolling for hours, I rounded up some of my favorites that I think are worth a try whether you’re a meat eater or not. From long time classics like the heavily sought after cauliflower gnocchi to newer items on the scene like plantain croutons and 100% vegan chocolate chip cookies, you won’t have any trouble finding new pantry staples. Take a look below and get started on your next shopping list. 

trader joe's greek chickpeas parsley and cumin
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Greek Chickpeas, Parsley & Cumin

Chickpeas are loved by vegans and non-vegans alike. Whether you roast them, boil them, or turn them into hummus, they’re just an all-around good snack. Trader Joe’s canned Greek chickpeas seasoned with parsley and cumin are the ultimate convenience. With literally no preparation required, these chickpeas are ready to use for soups, vegan curry, or with naan. As for the flavors, there could be a tad more cumin and a little less lemon juice, but the citrusy element isn’t overpowering.

Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Cups

Hopefully I’m not the only one who believes in eating sweets before savory, but when I tried TJ’s vegan answer to Reeses, I knew I was on the right side of history. While they don't quite taste exactly like Reese’s cups, they’re still a good alternative, especially if you’re allergic to peanuts. Instead of traditional peanut butter, these cups have a sunflower seed butter center which is earthy, smooth and compliments the dark chocolate shell pretty well. They come in packs of two and are worth the dollar they cost.

trader joe's vegan kale cashew pesto
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Vegan Kale Cashew & Basil Pesto

This vegan pesto—made with kale, cashew, butter, basil, lemon juice and olive oil—is the Swiss army knife of spreads. Keep it on hand in your refrigerator to use as a pasta sauce, to top off a grain bowl, to spread on sandwiches, to marinate meat or fish, or to accompany some crackers. The kale lends itself to an earthy freshness, while the cashew creates a creamy stand in for parmesan. 

Cookie Butter

Yup, the delicious cookie-spread that changed spreads as we know them in 2013 is vegan. Although the hype has died down quite a bit since cookie butter first debuted, there's still a cult following for this sweet and spiced "butter." This vegan-friendly item still pairs great with toast, fruit, or by the spoonful. 

trader joe's organic jumbo cinnamon rolls
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Organic Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls

Accidentally vegan desserts are my kind of dessert. If you try nothing else from this list, you have to try the dairy-free jumbo cinnamon rolls which only take about 20 minutes to bake. Each can has 5 rolls which you may not think are enough, but they’re called “jumbo” for a reason. Although they don’t taste exactly like Pillsbury rolls, they're still fluffy, light, and cinnamon-y. You can even pop them in an air fryer if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Everything But The Bagel Seasoned Potato Chips

The seasoning that has taken over everyone’s kitchen pantries now comes in chip form. But instead of just throwing the seasoning on a bag of plain chips and calling it a day, TJ’s clearly took their time with measuring the chip to seasoning ratio. Each chip is packed with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, and salt to create the perfect medium for dipping into your sauce or dip of choice.

partake foods vegan cookies cookie chocolate chip allergy-free allergen free
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Partake Foods Cookies

Partake Foods is making quite the wave across social media for their vegan, gluten-free and allergy-friendly cookies and Trader Joe’s sells them in store! While all of their cookies are vegan, I’m partial to the chocolate chip ones because the crunch combined with the semi-sweet chocolate chips is unbeatable. The cookies are on the small side so you’ll probably go through one box pretty quickly (like I did).

Cauliflower Gnocchi

The vegan holy grail of Trader Joe’s frozen aisle is the cauliflower gnocchi. The meal options are endless with these bite-sized delights whether you’re going for a savory dish or even dessert. They definitely have a more earthy taste compared to regular potato gnocchi but make a good swap if you’re dipping into a plant-based lifestyle.

trader joe's plantain croutons
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Plantain Croutons

Sometimes the less ingredients, the better the product, and that is certainly true for Trader Joe’s new plantain croutons. Made with only plantain, sunflower oil, dried garlic and sea salt, these croutons go well in virtually any salad or soup.

Soy Chorizo

Trader Joe's has always been at the forefront of vegetarian and vegan-friendly items. This soy chorizo is proof of that: a spicy and savory protein option derived from soy protein that still contains the signature pop of paprika, garlic, and chilies. It's been a fridge staple for many vegetarians over the years. Use it in breakfast scrambles, pastas, or served plain with rice.

trader joe's chickenless chicken strips
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Chicken-less Crispy Tenders 

You either love or hate meat substitutes, but I’m a firm believer in not knocking something until you try it. I’m not the biggest fan of soy, which these strips are made out of, however after letting them bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, they had a pleasantly nice texture; not like that of real chicken, but still tasty with breading. I would highly recommend dipping them in some sort of sauce to further mask the meatless flavor.

Taiwanese Green Onion Pancakes

These flaky, savory pancakes layered with aromatic green onions is a must-buy in the frozen aisle. They require very little preparation—just pan fry them in a bit of oil for a perfect snack in five minutes—and taste just like your favorite take-out spot. Dip them in chili crisp, curry, or eat them plain. 

trader joe's falafel mix
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Falafel Mix

So TJ’s falafel mix does require a bit more preparation than other finds on this list, but if cooked correctly, will yield results that make it worth the wait. The most crucial step in preparing this falafel is you have to let your mixture (which you only have to add water to) sit for 30 to 60 minutes before cooking regardless of if you’re baking or frying them. I found that frying them in an air air fryer or on the stovetop made for a better texture and taste, but instructions for baking are included on the box as well. Of course there are different variations of falafel out there but the flavors of the fava beans, chickpeas, and cumin make for a lunch.

Thai Vegetable Gyoza

Rarely will I ever turn down a dumpling and Trader Joe’s Thai vegetable gyoza is no different. You can cook them a few different ways, including in the microwave, pan frying, or steaming them. For sake of time, I used the microwave and still wound up with hot, flavorful dumplings. The exterior is quite thin but filled with a generous amount of cabbage, onions, radish and chives. They’re delicious on their own but I chose to dip mine in soy sauce to really intensify the flavors.

Spicy Mexican-Style Riced Cauliflower

The final Trader Joe’s find is not for the weak of taste buds. Believe them when they say it’s spicy. Aside from the cauliflower rice, tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, cilantro and lime juice are a few of the standouts that resulted in such a colorful and spicy dish. While it can stand up against other cauliflower dishes on its own, it would also go well in a burrito or taco shell.

Kristen Adaway is a former staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her @kristenadaway

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