Courtesy of Trader Joe’s
Whether you’re on the go or eating from the comfort of your own WFH office (or couch!), a quick two-item lunch combination from the nation’s quirkiest grocery store can be both simple and healthy. The best part? The most prep these items require is maybe a quick trip to the microwave or a stir to incorporate them together so you can have a meal ready in minutes.
From working firsthand for Trader Joe’s (and being a total food nerd), I’ve personally tried hundreds of the store’s products. Cursed with the kind of palate that needs a lot to keep it happy, these are my absolute favorite healthy two-item combinations that make any sad desk salad a thing of the past.
1. Balela + Teeny Tiny Avocado
Both fun to say and incredibly delicious, balela is one of my top foundational items for lunch from Trader Joe’s. A bright, refreshing Middle Eastern salad composed of chickpeas, black beans and tomatoes, balela is a true choose-your-own-adventure of a salad. Plus, the mix of beans adds filling protein and fiber that will help keep you full until your next meal. You could go in so many directions with it. I’ve eaten it on brioche toasts, with tortilla chips or atop a bed of arugula. But my favorite path to take with the balela is also the simplest: chopping up and mixing in one of the grocer’s perfectly single-portioned Teeny Tiny Avocados for a boost of healthy fat and flavor. This combination was actually one of my favorite guarded secrets (in hopes that I could keep all the balela to myself), but I’m willing to share it in hopes that it elevates your midday mealtime.
2. Jerk Plantain Chips + Chickpea, Kale & Crispy Red Rice Salad
If you’re anything like me, you love having a variety of textures when it comes to making a balanced meal. I need just the right amount of crunch to keep me truly satisfied come lunchtime. The Jerk-Style Plantain Chips are one of my favorite standbys for midday snacking, and were one my of favorite toppings for the long-discontinued Trader Joe’s Black Bean Soup (RIP). Thankfully, the grocer has brought in a new salad that is just begging to be topped with plantain chips, one of my favorite versions of a crouton. The creamy, herby avocado vinaigrette plus the spicy, salty, crunchy chips makes eating this salad a true event. Not to mention, it’s super balanced with whole grains from red rice, and fiber and protein from kale and beans, so you know you’ll be full and satisfied. This combination woke up my taste buds from the zip of citrus and had endless crunch opportunities between the fresh kale, crispy red rice and plantain chips.
3. Dolmas + Mediterranean-Style Salad Kit
Working at Trader Joe’s for as long as I did, you notice so many items that are slept on by customers. These perfectly briny, rice-stuffed dolmas are one of those IYKYK (If You Know You Know) situations. It’s almost scary how similar they taste to the dill-y grape leaves of my neighborhood Greek restaurant. When I have plenty of time, they make the most excellent centerpiece for a Greek-style mezze dinner with hummus, tzatziki and plenty of toasted pita bread. But when I want takeout flavor but without the takeout time, I love to pair a few dolmas with the Trader Joe’s Mediterranean-Style Salad Kit, which also includes crunchy flatbread strips, roasted chickpeas and feta crumbles. No exaggeration, this is a lunch that makes me feel like my taste buds are all the way in Mykonos.
4. Curry Chicken Salad + Jicama Wraps
Much like the Balela, Trader Joe’s Curry Chicken Salad is, in my opinion, another foundational element for an amazing lunch combo. Sure, you could top some butter lettuce or crackers with this sweet, spicy, savory chicken salad, but why stop there? The grocer has tons of fun, alternative wrap products, like their new egg wraps and Parmesan wraps, but the jicama wraps are my pick for a crunchy and refreshing wrapper for this chicken salad. Studded with cashews, raisins and green onions, the curry chicken salad is a surprising mix of flavors and textures that pairs surprisingly well with the slight nuttiness of jicama. A whole-grain wrap or piece of toast would also pair beautifully.
5. Chicken Sausage Breakfast Burrito + Yuzu Hot Sauce
To me, breakfast is not a time of day. It’s a state of mind. And oftentimes, my mind is very stuck on eating the Trader Joe’s Chicken Sausage Breakfast Burrito whenever possible. Packed with scrambled eggs, sage-y chicken sausage, white Cheddar and roasted potatoes, this breakfast burrito has a meal’s worth of flavor in every bite and is beyond filling with 25 grams of protein. Burritos, to me, deserve their own particular hot sauce or salsa pairing. Luckily, I’ve tried nearly all the hot sauces at Trader Joe’s and the yuzu hot sauce is its perfect match. A tart citrus fruit common in Asian cuisine, yuzu lends a sweet-tartness reminiscent of a grapefruit mixed with a mandarin orange. This delightfully tangy, sweet and subtly spicy sauce is one of my favorites for pairing with this richer-tasting burrito (and stir-fries and breakfast tacos, and I could really go on).