10 Things I Buy at Trader Joe’s for a Better Dinner Salad
Judging by the killer selection of salad kits, it should come as no surprise that Trader Joe’s has all the goods to help you nail a great dinner salad. With the right selection, you can make a salad that’s filling, delicious, and mixed with cool, quirky ingredients.
Trader Joe’s will also help you check off other important dinner salad criteria, like convenient ingredients for quick assembly and a price tag that won’t kill your weekly food budget.
Here are the things I always pick up at Trader Joe’s for salad night.
The Salad Base
A good dinner salad starts with an interesting base that’s a mix of different textures and flavors. Rather than buying a bunch of different ingredients, start with a salad kit. Trader Joe’s has an exceptional lineup of bagged mixes and kits, and they’re all super budget-friendly. If you’re going heavy on the greens, I think one bag is a good start for two dinner salads; otherwise it can be stretched across four salads.
1. Broccoli and Kale Slaw, $2.50 for 11 ounces: This kale-meets-broccoli slaw blend mixes these namesake ingredients with bits of bitter radicchio. There’s also a separate bag of chewy dried fruit and crunchy nuts and seeds, plus a packet of tangy dressing.
2. Southwestern Chopped Salad, $3 for 13.6 ounces: If taco salad is the name of the game, then this chopped mix of crunchy greens, root veggies, pepitas, and cotjia cheese is a great place to start.
3. Cruciferous Crunch, $2 for 10 ounces: This crunchy, bitter mix of shredded kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and green and red cabbage is my personal favorite. It works for so many different salad combinations.
Between some useful produce section finds, pre-cooked meats, and freezer-aisle favorites, scour the shelves for these toppings. All you have to do is pop them in the toaster oven or a hot skillet and they’ll help make your salad more hearty.
4. Steamed and Peeled Baby Beets, $2 for 8 ounces: Of all the finds in the produce section, these already-cooked, bite-sized root vegetables are a favorite. They save a ton of time and have a soft texture and sweet flavor to balance crunchy, bitter, and salty ingredients.
5. Frozen Falafel, $4 for 12: Found in the freezer section, these three-bite falafel patties are the trifecta of convenient, economical, and delicious. They’re already cooked and just need to be reheated, and give any dinner salad a boost of protein.
6. Mandarin Orange Chicken, $5 for 22 ounces: This is a favorite among TJ’s fans, and it makes a great meaty addition to salad night. The sticky-sweet orange chicken pieces make a convenient and delicious substitution in our Vietnamese-style chicken salad.
No dinner salad is complete without a really good dressing. Trader Joe’s does have an impressive lineup of bottled options, but we love the stand-out stars that transform a simple homemade dressing into one that’s totally incredible.
7. Zhoug Sauce, $3 for 8 ounces: This spicy cilantro-based sauce isn’t exactly a dressing — it’s the flavor booster that makes your dressing taste out-of-this-world good. I love stirring a spoonful into a simple yogurt or tahini dressing, but it would also be great in a basic vinaigrette.
8. Bruschetta Sauce, $3 for 14.5 ounces: This chunky sauce with tomatoes, basil, and garlic is a fun way to bring some Mediterranean flair to your salad. It’s especially a hit mixed with hearty lentils or bean salad base, or when you’re going for a twist on classic caprese or Greek salad.
These are the crunchy or salty things, or the little extras that make your salad feel exciting and special.
9. Organic Coconut Sesame Seed Clusters, $2 for 2 ounces: These crunchy little clusters skew slightly sweet, so they might not give off salad vibes at first glance. But trust me when I tell you they are an amazing topping — especially when your salad contains spicy or extra-salty ingredients.
10. Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, $2 for 2.3 ounces: Sprinkle a generous pinch of this salty, crunchy seasoning blend over the top of your salad (it’s good mixed into a vinaigrette, too!), and you will not be sorry for the flavor and texture it adds.