Guide To Staples: The Guardians of the Pantry

October 27, 2014 in Category: Guides

You may have walked right past them in our grocery aisle; you may already have them in your pantry. While unassuming, these simple staples empower you with exceptional culinary dexterity. The can transform the basics—say, two eggs, a head of romaine, or a breast of chicken—from “blah” to “BLAM!” (starbursts and bright colors implied).  And they work equally well whether your time and energy are dwindling or you’re geared up to go hog wild in the kitchen. That’s why we dub these 13 Trader Joe’s tried-and-true The Trader Joe’s Guardians of the Pantry.


Our Culinary Heroes in the Cupboard


21 Seasoning Salute

It’s an evenly chopped blend of onion, black pepper, celery seed, cayenne pepper, parsley, basil, marjoram, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary, cumin, mustard, coriander, garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato, lemon juice and lemon oil. Seasonings: 21. Sodium: 0mg. Salute in Italian means health, after all.

Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute

2.2 oz
Price: $1.99
Super Power: Enhancer - everyday, everything (okay, almost… ice cream, not so much)


  • Brings dimension and depth to anything you grill – burgers, chicken breasts, salmon filets, veggies

  • Elevates eggs whether they’re scrambled, over medium or in-the-hole

  • A sprinkle takes a mashed avocado and slice of toast to the next level


Balsamic Glaze

What can’t you do with Balsamic Glaze? Marinate, sauce, dress, garnish… Deep flavor – the ideal balance of sweet and tangy – our Balsamic Glaze is made in Modena, Italy by combining concentrated grape must and balsamic vinegar. It undergoes a special filtration process that results in a thicker consistency and increased versatility.

Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze

8.5 fl oz
Price: $2.99
Super Power: Power Bestowal — makes anyone cook like “the accomplished chef on the cooking show”


  • Serves as a marinade and finishing sauce for chicken or salmon

  • Adds verve to grilled cheese, especially one with Gruyere and a handful of arugula

  • Elicits attitude from roasted vegetables – beets, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts – just drizzle on top


Tuscano Marinara Sauce

The tomato sauce for the tomato purists. “Sauced” within hours of harvest, perfectly ripe, fresh-from-the-vine, California-grown tomatoes are gently peeled using steam, then blended and cooked with extra virgin olive oil and a savory mixture of herbs and spices. Nothing else is added. Delivers made-from-scratch character from a can.

Trader Joe's Tuscano Marinara

28 oz
Price: $1.99
Super Power: Animation – breathes new life into whatever it graces


  • Soups with incredible ease – boil with water, stir in cooked pasta, mixed veggies, canned beans & Parmesan cheese

  • Transforms chicken nuggets into a rich Parmesan Casserole

  • Turns a day old bagel into yummy personal-portioned pizzas


Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This is a velvety smooth concoction with a subtle tomato base. Its depth of flavor comes from the flavorful spices – garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper – and the slightly sweet finish is courtesy of the roasted red bell peppers.

Trader Joe's Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

32 fl oz
Price: $2.79
Super Power: Power Augmentation - the ultimate base that enhances the character of whatever gets added to it


  • Makes shrimp soulful: simmer with roasted corn, black beans & cooked shrimp

  • Transforms rice, chicken & cheese into a southwestern stew (top with avocado, sour cream and tortilla crumbles)

  • Takes pasta to the next level: add mixed veggies, cheese tortellini and top with shaved Parmesan and fresh basil



You might think it’s just another teriyaki sauce – you’d be wrong. Fresh garlic, fresh ginger and soy sauce form the flavor base for this rich, tangy Asian-style sauce. In addition to the freshness of the ingredients, where this sauce veers from the everyday is in the addition of sesame seeds. They enhance the flavor and texture, setting it quite apart from the crowd.

Trader Joe's Soyaki

21 oz
Price: $2.99
Super Power: Permeation – grilling, stir-frying, seasoning or dressing, it permeates whatever it touches with rich, tangy flavor 


  • THE stir-fry sauce and whether there is time to marinate or not, this sauce bastes in mouthwatering goodness while grilling (steak, chicken, veggies)

  • It’s not “pasta again?” it’s “pasta soyaki!” with chicken, edamame & peanuts

  • Mix into ground turkey to make memorable meatloaf


Spanish Organic Extra Virgin Garlic Flavored Olive Oil

From Spain, home to some of the world's finest olives, as well as a copious garlic crop, this is the perfect (we can assess it confidently, as we took part in the process) blend of bright organic extra virgin olive oil and piquant organic garlic. A little goes a long way to creating attention-grabbing character!

Trader Joe's Spanish Organic Extra Virgin Garlic Flavored Olive Oil

8.5 fl oz
Price: $3.99
Super Power: Reality Warping - adds been-cooking-for-hours depth of flavor in a drizzle


  • As a sautéing black belt  – shrimp, scallops, veggies, beef, chicken – infuses flavor

  • Give a piquant point of view to fried eggs or frittata

  • Dresses up grains, greens, panzanella, tomatoes… with panache (it packs a punch, so use sparingly)


Hatch Valley Salsa

Handpicked in Hatch, New Mexico, these flame-roasted Chiles are hot—not melt-your-face-off hot, mind you—but definitely not mild. To these, we’ve added a small amount of tomatillos and limejuice to round out the flavor, balance the acidity, and tame the heat—ever so slightly.

Trader Joe's Hatch Valley Salsa

12 oz
Price: $2.69
Super Power: Firebending – Green and kick-y; it’s transformational


  • Alights it with flavor – from hot dogs and hamburgers to enchiladas and eggs

  • Harmonize styles a la pizza verde with salsa, refried beans, shredded cheese, peppers, olive and seasoned ground beef

  • Add flair to the bowl – from macaroni and cheese to quinoa, black beans, corn & tomatoes, this salsa adds gusto to the bowl


10 Minute Farro

Our Italian-grown Farro (from Marche & Umbria) is packed for us by an Italian supplier who's perfected the art & science of par-cooking these grains. The grains are cleaned, then cooked with steam, then dried, then cooked a bit more with hot air, then cleaned again and packed. This process preserves the taste, texture and nutritive values of the grains, while cutting their cooking time from 30-50 minutes down to about 10.

Trader Joe's 10 Minute Farro

8.8 oz
Price: $1.79
Super Power: Super speed - Faster than any bowl of ancient grains


  • The stuff to stuff – peppers, squash, eggplant, portabello 

  • Use in place of rice for a nuttier and chewier “farroto” – with kale, sausage and Parmesan

  • Puts the grain in grain salads (beets & feta, green beans, mushrooms & bacon)




From the largest Ntolmadakia producer in the world on the isle of Evia, our Dolmas are made according to an age-old, Mediterranean recipe. The leaves are stuffed by hand, one by one, with a soft, succulent white rice that’s mixed with chopped onions, bits of dill and mint. Dexterously rolled and folded, the leaves and rice are transformed into two-bite morsels, which are cooked to marry flavors and create a moist, tender bite. Packed in soy oil, they eat like they were freshly prepared.

Trader Joe's Dolmas

9.9 oz
Price: $2.49
Super Power:  Awesomeness – a little spice, a little savory, a little tang  = a lot of awesome


  • From meze (on their own) to meal (warm and serve with roasted tomatoes)

  • That’s a double wrap! Wrap lavosh around the grape-leave-wrapped rice and garnish with hummus, tomatoes and lettuce

  • Round out a simple serving, like grilled salmon, tzatziki & Dolmas


Organic Black Beans

Nutritionally dense, full of flavor, versatile and exceptionally well priced, Trader Joe's Organic Black Beans are as well rounded as beans can be. Packed with protein, dietary fiber, iron and complex carbohydrates, they have rich, umami-esque flavor, which has been compared to mushrooms, and dense, velvety texture. Grown on organic farms in the heartland of America, these prized beans are carefully cooked with a small amount of sea salt before being canned.

Trader Joe's Organic Black Beans

15 oz
Price: $1.19
Super Power: Energy Blasts – adds unparalleled protein, texture and taste


  • Bowl you over with rice (or farro), black beans, Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa & sliced avocado

  • Just add beans! roasted and mashed sweet potatoes, black beans and Jack cheese quesadillas

  • The meat (or lack thereof) of the matter – black beans, breadcrumbs, onions, eggs and corn blend together to make mighty burgers


Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil

AKA ahi, Yellowfin Tuna flesh is tender, light and pale pink. We pack our Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil with a touch of salt (that’s it!) to preserve its delicate, meaty flavor and firm, flaky texture. This sustainably-sourced, premium catch is pole and line caught, which greatly reduces the incidence of by-catch.

Trader Joe's Yellowfun Tuna in Olive Oil

5 oz
Price: $2.29
Super Power: Enhanced Preparedness – the ready-to-go, go-to protein for classics and cutting-edge


  • Packs protein into or onto stuff: peppers, tomatoes, avocados (mix tuna with a fresh cilantro, lime and red onion then stuff in)

  • Defines salads, whether out of the can onto a bed of lettuce, mixed with white beans, chopped tomatoes and garlic oil or arranged Niçoise with green beans, peppers, olives & onions

  • Makes salads into sandwiches


Organic Polenta

In typical Trader Joe’s fashion, Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta has a world-wise pedigree.  The Washington-state-based company that makes it for us has family roots in Italy.  They are also the pioneers of ready-to-eat polenta. Rather than stirring and waiting, stirring and waiting, you can have fresh-tasting polenta in minutes.

Trader Joe's Organic Polenta

18 oz
Price: $1.99
Powers: Shape shifting - at the ready, it can do anything rice, potatoes or pasta can do – and more


  • The bed – slice and fry, then top with mushrooms, sausages and marinara, caramelized onions…

  • The lasagna sans pasta – layer the polenta with marinara, meat and cheese

  • The side – slice & grill, sauté, or pan fry with garlic oil


Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa

This is uniquely flavored, with a base of sweet corn, blended with finely diced red bell peppers, onions, jalapeño peppers, and a bit of sugar. By "a base of sweet corn", we mean, "lots and lots of sweet corn". As in, 1.8 ears of corn in every jar - we have taken them off their cobs to make them fit. (We've sold enough of this salsa that over time, this has meant more than nine million ears of corn.) It has a little kick, but it's not overpoweringly hot.

Trader Joe's Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa

Size: 13.75 oz
Price: $2.49
Powers: Taste Manipulation – Salsa-less (the dramatic heat and tomatoes) is more (unique, sweet flavor)


  • Straight or as the 5th of a 7-layer dip, this salsa invites scooping with a chip or onto a taco, burrito or enchilada

  • It is relished as a topping for hot dogs, tilapia or flank steak

  • Mix in to make more interesting – chile, salads, potatoes, protein bowls…

NOTE: Since posting, the details of this item may have changed due to fluctuating market prices, federal regulations, currency rates, drought, pestilence, bandits, rush hour traffic, filibusters, clowns, zombie apocalypse, punctilious product developers... Contact our Crew for current price and availability.

Tags: Canned