Trader Joe’s SALSA DE CACAHUATE


“A Southern Mexican inspired salsa made with guajillo chiles and peanuts”

“A peanut based salsa with a unique mix of creaminess, nuttiness and peppery heat. Versatile. Enhances food from burritos to shrimp.”

(summer 2022) New Product – SALSA DE CACAHUATE. I found this to be just terrific, pretty much a “wow” new Trader Joe’s product.

This is bit of an unusual and atypical (regional) salsa (for us at least in the US) which originates from Southern Mexico. It’s a peanut-based salsa. Cacahuate is “peanut” in Spanish, based on the Nahuatl word (you pronounce it : kaka-wa-te). I found this new salsa to be really, really good. It’s unusual compared to more typical tomato based salsa’s at Trader Joe’s due to fact it’s peanut based and creamy. The salsa has a huge depth of flavor. It’s definitely got a kick (med. hot spicy!) and its thick and creamy. Be sure to stir it. This salsa was really tasty on some tortilla chips. It was also delicious with some spinach and cheese quesadillas I made. But it is not “just for Mexican food”. This can be great with lots of things. This can be a great sauce or ingredient for many kinds of foods as Trader Joe’s suggests. For one thing, great with chicken. It is fabulous on chicken, say grilled chicken breasts or thighs. Pork too, it was delicious on some TJ’s CARNITAS cooked into “slices of pork loin”. I also like the idea of trying it with shrimp as TJ’s suggests. It would even be great with TOFU. I will experiment with this, and you should too. It’s excellent! Definitely worth trying. Trader Joe’s indicates this is a summer / seasonal item so if this sounds interesting I would not wait too long to grab a jar to try out (or two). $2.99 for a 12 oz jar.

“If you’ve ever sampled the cuisine of southern Mexico, you’ve likely come across a version of salsa de cacahuate, a savory, often spicy, peanut-based sauce that’s used on a remarkably wide range of dishes, from street tacos to roast chicken to grilled shrimp, and more. Etymologically derived from a Nahuatl word for peanut, salsa de cacahuate has a unique mix of creaminess, nuttiness, and peppery heat that makes it an uncommonly versatile condiment—just the kind of sauce that cries out to be put on everything.

In tribute to this southern Mexican staple, we’re proudly offering Trader Joe’s Salsa de Cacahuate for the summer. And just like the namesake sauce that inspired it, this rich and flavorful jarred Salsa is almost endlessly versatile. Aside from enjoying as a dip with your favorite tortilla chip, you can use it to enhance everything from burritos to burgers to breakfast fare. It adds an extraordinary depth of flavor when served over salmon, steak, or stuffed peppers, and brings out the best of a sizzling plate of fajitas. For a true treat, try spooning it generously over a plate of sliced pork loin.”

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/salsa-de-cacahuate-073992

HACK: Turn Trader Joe’s CARNITAS into CHAR SIU (Chinese Roasted BBQ Pork)


Here’s a hack I came up with to turn Trader Joe’s Pork Carnitas into Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Looking at a half used package of TJ’s Carnitas I had in the fridge, I had an thought. Could I turn it into Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Roast Pork) ? I mean both are roasted pork. Why couldn’t I just add the Chinese flavorings to come up with some Char Siu? So I tried it out and guess what? This hack worked great! The Carnitas now tasted very close to delicious Char Siu aka Chinese BBQ Roast Pork. My wife and I thought the hack came out delicious. Here’s how I did it.

I made a Chinese sauce, grilled up a few thick slices of the carnitas, cooked it in the sauce to absorb the flavors, then spooned on more. To get that BBQ effect, I put the pan under the broiler until it had caramelized and the sauce became a thick glaze. The pork was tender, moist and full of flavor. We were amazed at how good this turned out and how much it tasted like Chinese BBQ Pork aka Char Siu.

I will be doing this now whenever I am in the mood for some easy Char Siu ! (BTW the Carnitas / Char Siu make a great topping for Ramen!) We ate the BBQ pork along side a Chinese noodle dish I made. It could be even good just on top of a bowl of rice too and with a few veggies, or any way you would use traditional Chinese Roast Pork.

Try this hack out yourself and see how easy and tasty it is!

SAUCE TO MAKE CARNITAS CHAR SIU

1 clove of fresh garlic, crushed

1/2 inch ginger, grated

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons palm sugar / light brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

pinch of ground cinnamon (or 5 spice powder if you have some)

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl. In a cast iron or oven safe pan, grill up your Carnitas pork slices under the broiler on low, for maybe 3 minutes, watching carefully until the pork is lightly browned. Flip and brush on some Char Siu Sauce and place back under the broiler on low for maybe 1 minute checking it carefully to make sure it does not burn. Take out and turn off the broiler. Spoon any left over sauce over the pork to coat. Put the hot pan back in the oven and let it sit for 1-2 minutes for the sauce to glaze up and reduce more in the residual oven heat (again keeping an eye on it to make sure it is deeply browned but do not let it get burned) Spooning the sauce over every 30 seconds or so.

Enjoy!

Here’s a more traditional recipe making it from scratch. I made the ingredients simpler in that you can find them all at Trader Joe’s – which doesn’t sell Oyster Sauce, for example (I wish). So if you have that and other Chinese ingredients in your larder, of course add them. The CHAR SIU recipe below in Woks of Life will give you ideas.

Trader Joe’s MEXICAN STYLE ROASTED CORN WITH COTIJA CHEESE


” This unique take on corn combines flavors inspired by Elote, a popular street food in Mexico. Our version is lime spiked slathered in a smoky cream sauce and topped with authentic cotija cheese. “

I find this to be really good Trader Joe’s product. Find this In the frozen veg section. When you open the bag you see corn plus some large pellets. This is the sauce, frozen up, a neat trick. The pellets melt up as you heat it coating the corn in a nice sauce. When its ready to serve you sprinkle on a little package of included grated Cotija cheese (kind of Mexico’s parmesan). Everything works together to make a delicious corn dish inspired by “elotes“. It can be a great side dish for tacos, maybe Carnitas.

$3.29 (14 oz bag)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/mexican-style-roasted-corn-059063

“For this at-home version of what’s often called street corn, we’ve opted to take the kernels off the cob. We’ve enrobed the corn in a creamy, smoky sauce that melts off as the corn heats – it seems magical, but it’s really just simple thermodynamics. It’s also spiked with lime juice and studded with cilantro, lending additional authenticity. A packet of Cotija cheese is included in each package of Corn – when the corn is heated through and ready to serve, sprinkle the crumbled cheese on top. It’s the ideal finishing touch to this crunchy, sweet, smoky, spicy dish. Present it as a side dish with a Mexican-inspired meal, or serve it in individual ramekins as an appetizer course.”

Trader Joe’s GUAJILLO SALSA


Trader Joe’s GUAJILLO SALSA – “A spicy and flavorful salsa with smokey undertones”

This description on the label is right on the money.

I really liked this new GUAJILLO SALSA offering Trader Joe’s came up with, it’s truly an excellent jarred salsa. In fact this may be among TJ’s best salsas of the many they offer. Trying it for the first time I found it was full of complex flavors, spicy, a bit smokey, a bit acidic… just really interesting and delicious. It will spike up all your taste buds. TJ’s usually puts some kind of heat level indicator graph on the salsa’s, however this jar doesn’t have one. So just a heads up this is not “mild”, it’s got a nice little kick to it, I would say medium spicy, however not blow your head off spicy. So imagine a chile graph of “medium”.

Ingredients in this salsa include: tomatoes in juice, tomato paste, guajillo chile pepper purée, vinegar, salt, crushed red pepper, dried garlic, and both guajillo chile powder and chipotle chile powder. All those nice chiles give this a big authentic flavor. Stir before using or shake well, as this has no thickeners added so it’s a bit loose and chunky in a typical Mexican salsa style (unlike some American made salsa brands that are artificially thickened with starch so they stick on a chip and do not drip easily). Even not being thickend, just dip a chip in a little bit of this and I promise you will get it’s flavor.

Use this anywhere you would use your favorite salsa or hot sauce, and be creative. I drizzled some over some simply grilled chicken. This guajillo salsa added a bunch of terrific flavors that went great with the chicken to jazz it up nicely. Drizzle it over Mexican rice, refried beans, tacos, eggs, you name it. Ground turkey tacos? Boring no more. I also just chopped up some fresh ripe tomatoes and mixed in a few tablespoons of this salsa to them to come up with a “salsa fresca” variation which was very tasty. I really like this salsa and if you are a fan of salsa you will likely too. Its way more interesting than the rather plain Jane TJ Hatch Valley Salsa (however I bet if you mixed the two they might be good blended for some red and green salsa flavors). In sum, TJ’s GUAJILLO SALSA is delicious and well worth trying. A 12 oz jar was $2.69. Would I buy it again? Yes. This is something I now like to have in the fridge at all times.

SHAKE OR STIR BEFORE USING. REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING.

Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Corn (frozen)


Ingredients: Corn

That’s it. One ingredient. However what they’ve done is they FIRE ROASTED it. See it blackened up? Doing that to it makes it taste even better than TJ’s regular frozen corn, which is terrific by the way. You can use this fire roasted corn on its own. It was delicious sautéed in some butter as a simple side dish. But of course you can use as an ingredient with things, for example, corn bread, add add it to salsas, soups, stews and of course any Mexican dish. This Fire Roasted Corn is great to have on hand in the freezer. It’s $1.99 for a 1 lb bag and well worth trying.

ROASTED CORN AND FETA SALAD RECIPE (LINK)

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/roasted-corn-feta-salad

TJ’s Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers


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Trader Joe’s Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers have the delectable flavor of Mexican Street Corn in a crispy snack….chipotle, habanero kick, smoky, spicy, heat…. Melt cheese over them for a punchy nacho, crumble atop scrambled eggs… Guacamole….” (from the package)

These may be the best chips Trader Joe’s sells. So good! Terrific product.

Trader Joe’s Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers are a spiced up version of the also excellent regular plain Trader Joe’s corn chip dippers. For this “Elote” version of the chips they add a lot of spices for a spicy delicious variation that recalls Mexican Street Corn (Elote). These are so flavorful and honestly they are pretty spicy* just eaten on their own. If you don’t eat these with something (say guacamole, dip, cheese….) your mouth will probably feel a bit on fire from the chipotle and habanero pepper seasonings. Still not crazy, a tolerable heat unless you’re really spicy-adverse. Naturally just like the plain versions, the shape of these thicker “dipper” shaped corn chips make them perfect to stand up to any dip of any kind without falling apart.

These match especially well eaten with other things, especially guacamole of course, or even just salsa. I even sometimes enjoy eating these Elote Corn Chips with something plain like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, which balances the heat level. You can even crumble these up and put them on things (they suggest atop scramble eggs, that should be great) If you just put grated cheese all over these for nachos you wouldn’t need any other spices, so I think these could make super easy nachos And naturally some beers will go great with these chips, to put out the fire in your mouth.

The Elote spice dippers costs a little more than the plain version of TJ’s Organic Corn Dippers (I think gone up to $2.99 now?)

UPDATE: * These don’t seem to be quite as spicy as they were before. I can’t tell if they’ve changed the recipe or maybe just the lot I got… (if anyone has ideas on this, please leave a comment) I have had a lot of experiences with some Trader Joe’s products I first tried getting “toned down” over time.

EASY RECIPE – How To Make Mexican Street Corn (Elote)


If you’ve been in a Trader Joe’s you’ve probably seen the word – ELOTE – a few times. One might even say TJ’s has a bit of an obsession with Elote. Just in case you don’t know what Elote means, “elote corn” is a typical Mexican street food consisting of corn on the cob sprinkled with cheese and lots of spices served carts by street vendors. In Mexico City there are probably as many Elote carts as in NYC we have hot dog carts.

Elote corn is delicious, slathered with mayo, lime juice, dusted with chile powder and sprinkled with Mexican Cotija cheese. MEXICAN STREET CORN is not hard to make yourself, and conveniently, you can get everything you need at TJ’s. I just made some a few days ago with some really fresh corn and it was so yummy I thought I would share how to make it easily. You will need: Fresh corn on the cob, Everything but the ELOTE SEASONING, CHILE LIME seasoning, some mayonnaise, fresh lime, and Cotija cheese (like a Mexican parmesan). As far as mayo, TJ’s Chile Lime Mayo might work great or Suzi’s Organic Mayo.

SHOPPING LIST: fresh corn, Everything But The ELOTE SEASONING blend, Mexican Cotija cheese (or Parmesan), Lime, Mayonnaise (Chile Lime Mayo?), optional, CHILE LIME seasoning

RECIPE – ELOTE / MEXICAN STREET CORN

If you can grill the corn, great, but steamed corn is fine. Cook corn. When done, hold it with tongs (or spear on a chopstick) or just put it on some foil. Slather some mayo all over with a spatula (mayo is authentic but if mayo turns you off, just use butter). Next sprinkle on a generous amount of Everything But The ELOTE Seasoning. Next sprinkle a good amount of grated COTIJA cheese (or Parm or Asiago). Squeeze some fresh lime juice on it. OPTIONALLY; if you want even more spice add TJ’s CHILE LIME Seasoning blend and/or a little hot sauce of your choosing. Now enjoy!

Now just in case you are a lazy bones and this sounds too complicated for you here’s a simpler version I do when I’m in a rush. Make your regular fresh buttered corn and just sprinkle a good amount of the EVERYTHING BUT ELOTE seasoning all over it. Easy enough?

Do you think Trader Joe’s has an ELOTE obsession?

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/discover/entertaining/we-like-it-elote

https://traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/059063

Watch how fast this Elote vendor is !

   

TJ’s HABANERO LIME FLOUR TORTILLAS


Trader Joe’s HABANERO LIME FLOUR TORTILLAS ($2.69, 17 oz package of 10)

There are some traditional regional food divides in some countries. Traditionally in Mexico in the North they lean towards using flour tortillas (Tortillas de Harina) while Southern Mexico traditionally prefers tortillas made from corn (Tortillas de maiz). I generally prefer corn tortillas as they’re more flavorful and have a chewier texture when cooked. However sometimes I do buy flour tortillas as they have certain qualities that make them useful for some things. For one thing, flour tortillas are softer and more pliable so easier to fold. They are usually bigger too so can hold more ingredients inside. They can be used for Quesadillas and Burritos. They can also be used for “wrap type” sandwiches, etc. If you want flour tortillas, I think the Trader Joe’s HABANERO LIME FLOUR TORTILLAS are an interesting choice as they bring a bit of flavor to the party. These tortillas have a little bit of heat in them from habanero chiles, plus a bit of lime flavor. They have a lovely color, tinted reddish orange from anatto seed (a natural food coloring). Package says “MEDIUM HOT” but remember when you add fillings that moderates the spicy level.

Last night, I made Quesadillas (vegetarian actually) for dinner with these Habanero/Lime tortillas. Filling was: Pepper Jack Cheese, Soy Chorizo and TJ’s Refried Salsa Pinto Beans (which I gussied up*). Topping of avocado, tomato, more cheese and Green Dragon SauceMore Refritos on the side…. They were really tasty!

Need a recipe for Quesadillas? Here’s one…

  • TIP – Out of the can, TJ’s Salsa Pinto Refried Beans are really boring. They need a little work if you want them to have some taste. I add olive oil, oregano, cumin, chile powder and a little Green Dragon or Zhoug. Cuban Style Spice Blend works great with these or any beans. Warm frijole refritos over low heat, stirring often so the bottom doesnt burn. Some cheese on top is nice!

Everything But The Elote Seasoning Blend



RAVE

Here’s another nice addition to Trader Joe’s seasoning blends, in a similar vein obviously to their very popular “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning (which is excellent btw, and something I will review in future). Well, “everything but the bagel” is pretty obvious to most people but “everything but the elote” maybe not quite as obvious at least in the US. What is “Elote” anyway that this is “everything but”?

Elote corn is a popular street food found all over Mexico, which is hot corn on the cob, adorned with mayonnaise, cheese, chile powder, lime juice and grated cheese…. Trust me if you’ve never tried it, it’s crazy delicious. The Elote vendor takes an ear of corn, which he then sprinkles with lime, spreads mexican crema or mayonnaise over it, sprinkles it with a tons of grated cotija cheese, chile powder and sauces. The combined flavors will send you to heaven.

This blend has everything but the corn. Typical Mexican spices replicating the taste. And by the way, add your own corn and make Elote Corn yourself!

Here’s a video I found on Youtube of a Elote vendor in Oaxaca prepping one for a customer in a jiffy with all the works. Watch how fast this guy is!

Don’t you wish we had smellovision?

Trader Joe’s did a good job of capturing all these flavors into this seasoning, which is so good this stuff has quickly been capturing the internet by storm. It gives you the cheese-sy smell, sweet and spicy flavor profile of Elote. Ingredients include cheese, cumin, chile, salt, sugar, chipotle… Very yummy stuff.

While I intend to of course try it on fresh corn this summer when corn is available in season, you can use this seasoning in lots of ways besides on corn, as yummy as that will be! You can sprinkle this on all kinds of veggies or meats. I tried it out on some boneless chicken breasts for dinner, I hit them with olive oil and a good amount of the Elote powder all over them, let them marinate for 10 minutes or so, before grilling them in a hot cast iron pan (recipe below). The chicken turned out fantastic with a super flavor. I also tried it out just mixing some of the blend into greek yogurt, which made an instant delicious dip or sauce and tried that on tortilla chips and that too was super Yummy. Hey you can put that yogurt sauce on top of the chicken (or what have you)!

Trader Joe’s has a number of “elote” products now.
A jar of this is $2.49. I hear its flying off the shelves. It’s very worth trying if you like spicy, cheesy, delicious stuff.

https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/everything-but-the-elote-seasoning-blend

Here by the way is my patented greatest method to cook boneless breasts of chicken so they come out juicy, not dry. The seasoning can be almost anything you can think of.

Prep your chicken breasts. Season them. Put them in a very hot black cast iron pan, or non-stick pan with some olive oil, or oil and butter. Grill on one side for about 3-4 minutes till nice and brown, then turn them over and grill for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and cover the pan. This is the secret. Let them rest without peeking for about 5 minutes. The breasts will continue to cook through but not over cook and dry out. There will be juice in the pan which you can pour over the chicken breasts when you serve them or serve these pan juices on the side. You can also mix the pan juices with some greek yogurt, or any sauce you care for. Everyone will tell you how juicy the chicken is.

Try this recipe with a good amount of the elote seasoning blend, or everything but the bagel or your own. 

Just in case you didn’t get enough, here’s another “elotero”in action ; making it a lot slower so you can check out all the additions (god, he puts crema and tons of mayo!) … cheese made from goat and cow…homemade red chile paste…. All for just around $1.

Trader Joe’s GREEN DRAGON HOT SAUCE


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Trader Joe’s as you know carries a whole bunch of condiments and sauces, many being outstanding. It has quite a few hot sauces, most of which are VERY good. TJ’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce is one of my favorite Trader Joe’s items, along with Bomba and Peri-Peri and of course ZHOUG).

Now I would easily say Trader Joe’s GREEN DRAGON is a fantastic hot sauce and if you Google it, you’ll find it has many, many fans. GREEN DRAGON has far more fans than the TJ’s Sriracha (which while not bad is nowhere the equal of the original classic Huy Fong Sriracha {red rooster label) IMHO.

Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce‘s ingredients include: jalapeño, tomatillo, garlic, cilantro, vinegar, garlic, lime juice and habanero. It is spicy of course but not blow the roof of your mouth off spicy. This stuff has a lot of lovely flavors going on, it’s not simply “hot”With the above ingredients naturally Green Dragon can be viewed as a type of classic Mexican/South American style salsa. But it works with all kinds of cuisines and foods in particular I find Asian or Asian style food. When I’m making many Chinese or other Asian dishes I tend to use Green Dragon a good deal. Its very floral as it is made from fresh green chiles, herbs and aromatics. Used judiciously this sauce adds flavor to all kinds of dishes with a hint of spiciness. A few drops can go a long way in the flavor department, so you can use it a bit sparingly (unless you love heat, in which case use more of course!) For example a splash of this when you are making eggs, either in scrambled eggs, or on top of fried eggs… It’s great with egg dishes. I even put a few drops on something “boring” like cottage cheese (no really, try this combo on a toasted bagel – or on crackers which I have above) Cottage cheese with some GDS is boring no more. Toast up a bagel, top with cottage cheese, dot with Green Dragon; Thats one yummy breakfast. AVOCADO TOAST? YES! See below for a mini-recipe.

I just put some GDS in a lentil soup I had made and found it was perfect for that too, it added just that little bit of something extra that the soup needed. It is easy and fun to experiment with Green Dragon. Once you start trying it on different things, you will also discover, “umm, that works with this too”. Green Dragon sauce is one of my “always got to have in the fridge” TJ items! I never am without it and I keeps one in the pantry too, as I never want to come up empty. It’s a steal for $3.29 a bottle (18 ounces). In another Gourmet type store, something like this would be six bucks no doubt.

Avocado Toast: mash a ripe avocado up with salt, pepper, a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice then add Green Dragon to taste. Spread the avocado mixture on lightly buttered sourdough toast, a sliced brioche, a bagel, or any of your favorite toast. This is really yummy. Side note – add some into your guacamole, of course that’s also a fantastic match).

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