Trader Joe’s 10 best French finds

Trader Joe’s 10 best French finds

You recognize the logo. You know the stores. Trader Joe’s: The brand that has redefined grocery shopping, and turned it into an fun experience, full or discovery and surprises. Trader Joe’s, the *cool* brand, and its cult-like following. I am lucky: I have two Trader Joe’s stores less than 15 minutes away from my place. There is the old one, that looks like a trading post, where I have been shopping for almost twenty years. There is a newer, larger, prettier one, that appeals to the more affluent crowd. A visit to Trader Joe’s is like going on an international trip. The products come from around the world, and you know you will not find them at other local stores. They are affordable too, and that is, in itself, a great reason to go.

As a French native living in the United States, there are many good reasons to shop at Trader Joe’s. This is my personal list of the 10 best French food products sold there. They are made in France, allegedly (Trader Joe’s likes to keep the products’ origin shrouded in mystery.)

1. Les surgelés: Picard-like frozen food selection.

Picard. You would be forgiven if you have never heard this name before, but I would venture to say the only French people who have never shopped at Picard, do not have one in their neighborhood. Once you have sampled their incredible lines of frozen products, you will never go back. I know. You thought French people only ate fresh food, purchased daily at [organic] outdoor markets or specialty stores. They do not. At least not all the time. French people, like everyone else in the Western world, are often pressed for time. And they take shortcuts. In the U.S., the frozen food aisles in most supermarkets are created equal: same brands. Different prices. Until I set a foot at my local Trader Joe’s, all I could do was mourn my monthly visits at my old Parisian Picard store. Here is a sampling of the wonderful products I find at Trader Joe’s on a regular basis.

Sarladaises
If they were sautéed in duck fat, they could be named “Pommes de terre sarladaises. ” (Trader Joe’s) 
Carottes Parisiennes
Les carottes parisiennes – Trader Joe’s
HaricotsVerts
I always keep a bag in my freezer! (Trader Joe’s) 

2. Les tartes salées (savory tarts)

Perfect for movie nights; or to feed last-minute guests. Just add a green salad, whip up some vinaigrette, and voilà, l‘apéritif is served!

"Tarte d'Alsace:" A pretty good imitation of the traditional Flammekueche.
“Tarte d’Alsace:” Inspired by the traditional Flammekueche? (Trader Joe’s) 

3. Le fromage

One of Trader Joe’s best departments. Variety. Decent prices (Some of these can be found at other supermarkets… for a lot more.)

Not too shabby!
Not too shabby! (Trader Joe’s) 

There are many good French cheeses sold at Trader Joe’s. Le Délice de Bourgogne is a favorite of mine.

DelicedeBourgogne
An aptly-named cheese (Trader Joe’s) 

If you enjoy hosting traditional Raclette parties, as I do in the winter, and have already had to slice Raclette cheese yourself, you, too, will feel like hugging the Trader Joe’s buyer for this wonderful product.

Pre-sliced French Raclette cheese: It's a good thing!
Pre-sliced French Raclette cheese: It’s a good thing! (Trader Joe’s) 

 

racletteknitspot.com

4. La moutarde

From Dijon, Burgundy, of course. Check out this affordable selection. The perfect hostess gift!  — Or keep it at home and enjoy!

Mustards

 

5. Fleur de Sel (the Cadillac of hand-harvested salt) 

I have seen Fleur de Sel sold at local (high-end) retailers and recoiled in fear when looking at the price tag… until I started laughing hysterically. Trader Joe’s, once again, saves the day this season, with this pretty, affordable, new product. Another great hostess gift!

FleurdeSel2
Impressed with the price. Not so sure about the “subtle taste of violets…” (Trader Joe’s) 

6. Les Biscottes 

A staple on many French breakfast tables. Good with butter and jam. Better with chocolate. Out of this world with that chocolate-hazelnut spread. Spreading butter on a biscotte without breaking it up is a rite of passage (Hint: Don’t use cold butter!)

Biscottes
Sorry Proust. These are my “Madeleines.” (Trader Joe’s) 

Come to think of it, a suggestion: Try spreading some of this delicious mousse on a biscotte. Ah, Heaven!

Truffle Mousse Pate

7. Les tartes sucrées (sweet tarts) 

Trader Joe’s sells French macarons, and they are ok. These tarts (the pear tart, especially,) are my favorite French desserts there. I always keep a couple in my freezer. After all, it is customary in France for a hostess to purchase (rather than make) dessert. Shortcuts are ok, remember? – Just serve a quality product.

Pear Tarte

 

Rapberry tarte

Doesn’t this look délicieux?

Pear tarte2

8. Les Pâtes feuilletées (flaky dough) 

Trader Joe’s sells croissants, and pains au chocolat. This product, however, is a bit more original, a traditional specialty from beautiful Brittany, le Kouign Amann (French people have a hard time pronouncing it, too.) Here is an online review for the [trendy] Kouign Amann.

KouignAmann

9. Caramel au beurre salé (salted caramel) 

You can purchase the sauce, presented in a pretty jar; the chewy caramels; or these cookies. I have tried them all. This week, I went back to the cookies. Butter, milk chocolate, caramel: How bad can they be? Merci Trader Jacques !

Salted caramel cookies

10. Les boissons (beverages) 

Trader Joe’s wine selection is small, but well stocked.

Vins
The Bordeaux shelf – Trader Joe’s

They have [renowned] French bubblies, too.

Champagne

 

But the best part is getting your hands on a Trader Joe’s special find…

Jackpot!
Jackpot! (Trader Joe’s) 

To be enjoyed after the meal… or to be used in cooking. If Calvados is good enough for Normandy, it is good enough for me.

Have you tried any of these? What did you think? Are there other French products you like chez Trader Joe’s?

Here is one I would not mind finding there this week, when the French celebrate l’Epiphanie (the Epiphany,) with a traditional Galette des Rois (click here for the recipe.) 

Kings Cake Epiphany

Granted I could always make my own, thanks to Trader Joe’s most excellent (but unfortunately, seasonal,) pâte feuilletée, made with pure butter…

Puff pastry

Bonne année à tous ! Happy New Year!

A bientôt.

43 Responses to Trader Joe’s 10 best French finds

  1. Great post! I do most of my grocery shopping at TJ’s and like you always keep a bag of French Green Beans in my freezer. But there are a few things I haven’t seen yet (Fleur de Sel is one of them). I’m going to check out the Queen of Croissants, too. Looks delicious.

  2. I was just at Trader Joe’s today, but now I cannot wait to go again, and select so many of your suggestions! I’ve never tried those desserts but I will now!

  3. 2 more things:
    – La moutarde de dijon de marque t-joe. Tres bonnes
    – Les petits cornichons! Parfait avec le saucisson…

    et d’ailleurs à ce sujet, le salami Secchi en pack de 2 à T-joe est un des plus proches de ce que l’on trouve ne france (baton de berger :-)).

    • Merci de votre visite Olivier. Je connais bien le salami, que j’utilise l’été pour les pique-nique (avec mon couteau Opinel, bien sûr! 🙂 Et les petits cornichons sont indispensables à une bonne raclette! Merci de vos suggestions. Et merci Trader Joe’s!

  4. I shared this with my daughter, who just moved to a new apartment in NYC and is happy to have a Trader Joe’s nearby! Hopefully she will be able to find some “good French food.”

  5. My French teacher said Fleur de Sel was expensive, even in France. I’ve always wanted to try some. Guess I’ll be going to TJ’s today.

    • Your French teacher is correct. Fleur de Sel is expensive because it is harvested by hand, a time consuming process. The flavor is also more concentrated than regular salt, so you have to use just a pinch! This is a really good price for it, though, and the tin container is so pretty!

  6. I so wish we had a Trader Joe’s in Central Illinois! The closest is about 3 hours away 🙁 I believe they also have the orange drink that is so popular in France — can’t think of the name. My youngest granddaughter asked for it every time we stopped to eat!

    • Bonjour Sandy. You are referring to Orangina. I once wrote a story about this popular French drink. You can find it on the blog 🙂 I have not seen it at Trader Joe’s for a while. It may be a summer product for them. Sorry you live so far away from a Trader Joe’s. Keep your fingers crossed. They open new stores all the time, and you can check out future locations on their website. Bonne année !

  7. Salut & Bonne Annee! Tarte d’Alsace is always in the freezer for a quick Friday dinner with salad, a glass or two of wine and Bill Maher on the television. The potatoes, green beans and cheeses are seen on my list often. Will have to try the croissants, raspberry tarte and the brioche toasts as well. As to the wine, I will try them all! Merci!

    • Bonjour Holly. I have not tried all the wines at Trader Joe’s, but they have a decent Bordeaux selection if you like them. I picked up a bottle of Sancerre yesterday. I used to enjoy it when I lived in France. Glad you already know and use their French products. Bon appétit !

  8. v- I was so happy to see an expanded piece on your most wonderful finds at Trader Joes-My sister saw the FB post and showed me-we happened to be spending the day in Princeton-well the seed had been planted and I was like a mad woman-“had to get to the closest store”-there was one close to Princeton but I chose to proceed to the one closest to the house, which is not close! You would think living in a city like Philly there would be some scattered in the various zip codes-but NON! So I set out in search of the products picture on FB – well the store was pretty empty which made the experience more enjoyable-I scored the macarons-which I agree are good but not my favorite-haven’t tried the pear tarte although there is one in the freezer-I purchased the eggplant parm, frozen leeks and various cookies, which they have all the time, oh…. and a new coffee I had not tried– BAY- in a blue canister- dark roast and it could definitely give any of the dark roasts at Starbucks a run their money-I usually drive to New Jersey to do a Trader Joes run-the store is ALWAYS super crowded and the diagonal aisle lay out poses its own set of tactical nuisances or annoyances depending on my mood-in short going to Trader Joes is a conscious decision for me due to location and atmosphere in the store…but a store I will not give up on-Oh how about the 99 cents cards and the flower selection good quality and reasonable prices-and the health and beauty section-VERY SMALL and VERY LIMITED but GREAT QUALITY and fair market prices-many come from France . Oh and the nuts are fair, if not better priced than most supermarches in this area; although I have taken to going to the ethnic stores for a wide variety of raw nuts-ALL IN ALL I ADORE A GOOD TRADER JOES RUN-sadly it is not as frequent as I would like. This comment is super long but do you know the store ALDI-Trader Joe’s cousin-a rift between two German brothers gave birth to the 2 stores like addidas and puma…HAPPY NEW YEAR DEAR FRIEND-another great read AS ALWAYS!!

    • Loved your comment, g. Thank you! It shoes how determined some Trader Joe’s shoppers can be. 🙂 I agree with your reviews of the other products. I did not mention them here as I was focusing on French ones, but I do enjoy their nut selection (a lot more affordable than the supermarket versions,) their fresh flowers, and most of their dry or canned grocery items. I am not too fond of their produce, fish or meat, usually, but I can get those somewhere else. Since you mentioned the Health and Beauty department, they have an excellent French soap there. I picked up a bottle yesterday for my bathroom. Orange flower. It smells heavenly, and again, so much cheaper than anything you would buy in another store. Thank you for your visit, dear g. I wish you a Happy New Year, too!

  9. Wow, you are so lucky to have two TJ close by. Finally, we are getting them in Florida. In the future I will have to look closely in the frozen food section for these products….love TJ!

  10. Merci beaucoup for all the wonderful French finds at Trader Joes. I must make a trip there again soon.

    Happy new year! Cherie

  11. Three years in France and I didn’t know it is customary for a hostess to purchase dessert… I could have saved myself a lot of trouble! We finally got a TJs in our town four years ago… a month before we moved to France!

    • Bonjour Liene. I am sure your guests appreciated the trouble you went through! 🙂 Many French women still serve home-baked desserts, especially when entertaining in the afternoon, for the “goûter” ritual. But nobody frowns on those who don’t, and why should they? Most pâtisseries offer stellar desserts! Happy New Year to you and yours on the East Coast.

  12. Bravo ma fille,pour ^ta publicité des produits français de trader joes:Il devrait te faire une bonne réduction pour cette publicité gratuite et en plus tu en fais profiter les fabricants français:génial!!!!(tu pourrais demander une commission pour cela!bises mom

    • Bravo à la maman! Elle a raison!!
      Mais je suis sur votre site par accident. Je me fais régulièrement une petite tarte d’Alsace mais l’autre jour je me disais que je les trouvais moins bonnes qu’avant et ce soir, a mon 33e éage à New York, même impression. Alors, j’ai regardé la boîte et je ne vois plus le “Made in France” ou “Imported from France”….Est-ce que TJ nous aurait trahis???? Ou est-ce que j’ai rêvé? Ou confondu avec d’autres produits?

  13. I don’t miss much about about living in the United States to be honest Veronique, but goodness knows I do miss Trader Joes. We absolutely loved it and shopped there a lot! One little tip (not France related)… hunt out Argentine Red Prawns in the freezer section.
    They come in approximately a 1 pound bag. They aren’t available all the time as they are seasonal so when they are in stock, get a dozen bags for the freezer. These prawns are red in colour before cooking and their taste is somewhere between prawn and lobster – amazing! Oddly enough, we also found these for sale in France (at Auchan) – not with TJ’s packaging of course but from a Spanish supplier. Sadly, we can’t get them in the UK. I think I need to make a shopping trip to France – it’s a bit easier for me that Trader Joes!

  14. 🙁 I finally got around to making a trip to TJ’s, but I was too late to buy the Fleur de Sel you mentioned. At least at the TJ’s in Ballard, they have not carried it for a while. Oh well, I’ll just have to go to Camargue and some 🙂

  15. Ironically enough I am in France at the moment, Nîmes specifically. Have you any recommendations for stores anywhere in France that are similar to TJs or my other fave, Grocery Outlet. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your message. I do not know stores like Trader Joe’s in France. I know the Monoprix chain (usually in city centers,) appeals to a wide audience. Locally, you will also find more specialized grocery stores. Paris, for example, has stores carrying Asian, African, even American products. Enjoy your stay in Nîmes!

  16. I love the pear tart too. It’s amazingly good. However, I was so sad to hear at my local trader joes that it is now discontinued across all stores. I wish I had filled my freezer with them.

  17. I cannot understand why TJ has stopped carrying Trader Joe’s Pear Tartes in Prescott, Arizona. I believe I am having withdrawal symptoms. Yes, I admit I am addicted to them. An employee told me they were discontinued because they had poor sales. I find that hard to believe. I would buy them by the case if they would keep in my freezer. Its’a sad, sad, sad day in Prescott!

    • Same at my local Trader Joe’s Ralph, but they still carry the raspberry tart. I have heard similar stories from readers around the country. There must have been a problem with the pear version, though they won’t publicize it. C’est la vie!

  18. Love your list! We are headed to France. Is there anything like Trader Joe’s in France. And do you happen to know some reasonable priced good wines we should try in France?
    Thank you in advance!

    • Bonjour Susan. Merci de votre visite. There are plenty of grocery stores in France, though Trader Joe’s is pretty unique. As for wine, sample “un pichet” of local wine at the local restaurant. You will be amazed at how much more affordable wine is in France. Bon voyage!

  19. Hello. In our store there is now salted butter from brittany and freezed mini croissans and chocolate croissant

  20. Does anyone know if Trader Joes has continued to sell Calvados for Christmas season 2016. I’m looking for case quantity if available.

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