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The 16 Fall Groceries the Trader Joe’s Staff Is Most Excited About

After a months-long hiatus (okay, two), the latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast dropped yesterday and, in a surprise to no one, it’s all about fall flavors. The episode is filled with fun facts (did you know people started asking, “When are the pumpkin products coming?” in July?) and a short detour into the art of “pumpkin thumping” (hollow-sounding = a good gourd). There’s plenty of pumpkin to go around; Mark and Tara, the hosts, guesstimate 75 products for the season. But the crew’s list of seasonal favorites also include other autumnal staples like apples, maple, butternut squash, and beyond. Trader Joe’s staffers name-dropped 16 standouts — let’s take a look.

Jack, the produce category manager at the “other Trader Joe’s mothership in Boston,” joins at the top of the episode to discuss the seasonal hash, which debuted last year. The mix of diced vegetables includes sweet potatoes and butternut squash, along with parsley, sage, and rosemary. Jack praises its versatility as a side dish or main meal (just add a protein).

We at Kitchn have a deep love for salad kits. Throw some cheddar and apple cinnamon chips in the mix and we could have ourselves a new seasonal standout. According to Jack, the grocer purposely chose a spring mix over one kind of lettuce because “we want the best leafy greens that we have at the time.”

Mark, who calls pears wildly underrated, is wild about this assortment grown in Washington and Oregon. They’re available through mid-winter and, he adds, “They look great in a fruit bowl.”

Another fruit-bowl beauty, these citrus darlings look like a grapefruit on the inside, but they taste very sweet and are actually less tangy than other oranges. Tara suggests tossing them in the aforementioned Harvest Apple Salad Kit to literally compare apples to oranges. (She couldn’t resist!)

Pumpkin Spiced Espresso Beans 

Each 2.5-ounce bag contains a little more caffeine than a cup of coffee, which makes sense considering Product Developer Jenny was inspired by Trader Joe’s pumpkin-spiced coffee when she created this on-the-go snack. Fun fact: It took three or four versions to get these through the tasting panel.

Spiced Pumpkin Madeleine Cookies

Another repeat from last year, these twists on the classic French cookie are slightly more brown because of the added seasoning but have that same crispy exterior and moist, cake-y interior.

Maple Espresso Black Tea Blend

Come early October you can, once again, have some coffee with your tea. And as Mark suggests, maybe one of those spiced pumpkin madeleines (see above). “You get a nice, deep, roast-y bitterness from the espresso,” adds Mark, and a little bit of sweetness from the maple sugar. 

The pumpkin-season spin on the increasingly popular alternative to dairy milk is lactose-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan. According to Tara, it actually has pumpkin purée as well as the pumpkin spice flavors. Oh, and it’s new this year.

Another made-with-actual-pumpkin newcomer, Product Developer Trang discloses this new sauce was inspired by the grocer’s very successful Alfredo sauce program (you may have noticed this Alfredo cousin on shelves recently). She says they tried at least 25 versions of the sauce before landing on the final one. It’s very cheese- and pumpkin-forward (pumpkin is the first ingredient!), although the seasonal sauce only has two cheeses, whereas the traditional Alfredo has four.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese Bites 

Mark and Tara head to the kitchen with Trang to taste test these bites in the air fryer. (They only take eight to 10 minutes to cook.) According to Trang, these started out as pumpkin mac & cheese bites during development, but 25 versions later (anyone else sensing a trend here?), the sweetness of the butternut squash reigned supreme. Spoiler: They’re all big fans.

Arriving in stores right now, this product is part of the grocer’s Small Lot Coffee program (read: supply is limited). It comes from Dausa, a village on the island of Bali where farmers hand-pick coffee cherries and wet-process them using the traditional giling basah method, resulting in a stronger body and relatively reduced acidity. Grab some ASAP — emphasis on the S. 

Mini Maple Walnut Biscotti 

Thinking about new ways to incorporate maple flavors beyond breakfast? Funny, that’s precisely how these cookies came to be. While they “smell sort of like French toast,” says Mark, you can and should enjoy these at all hours of the day … perhaps with a cup of small-batch coffee.

Tara reminds us all that “a few years ago, this entire product category didn’t even exist.” But at about 100 calories per can, 5% alcohol (the same as a lower-alcohol beer), this seasonal riff on hard seltzer is the latest iteration in a trend that shows no sign of ending. 

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bites

This new product already has a permanent spot in the store’s freezer case (Tara also fell “so in love” with these at the tasting panel). Visually, they’re eerily similar looking to the Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese Bites, alleges Mark, which, sure, they are both round. These, however, are made with steel-cut oats, rolled into balls, breaded on the outside, and frozen. You can toss them in the air fryer, oven, or toaster oven, and take them to go.

Thanksgiving Pie Chocolate Truffles

After another audible tasting, Tara and Mike agree that people will, and I quote, “really like these.” The box of eight pie-shaped, Belgian chocolate truffles, with holiday-pie-flavored fillings (two per flavor), are reminiscent of apple and pecan pies, to name a few.

Platinum Reserve Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 

Mark and Tara were tight-lipped about naming the producer of this penultimate pick, which also succeeded a lengthy drumroll. Here’s what they did reveal: It comes from a winery that is known for extremely expensive bottles of wine (“in the hundreds-of-dollar-range-expensive bottles of wine”). There’s only about 10,000 cases of the 2020 vintage in existence. It retails for $14.99 everywhere Trader Joe’s sell wine, except, according to Mark, in Ohio.

Which of these are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments below!

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