Condiments
The 3 Trader Joe's Hot Sauces to Get Before the World Catches On
These unique hot sauces are must-haves on your next Trader Joe's trip.
02-02-2021
Kevin Pang

Deep winter has settled over the Upper Midwest, where I live, and I write this sentence on one of our warmer days: 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold weather is yet another excuse to eat spicy foods, and in the last month, Trader Joe’s has aided and abetted.

Trader Joe’s has long been pushing the American palate toward nonmainstream flavors. One area they’ve done this is in hot sauces. It’s a heck of a deal for less than $4: They last for months, and I get to use them on everything from scrambled eggs to rotisserie chicken. 

Imagine my delight when I discovered these new (at least to me) jarred hot sauces on a recent TJ’s outing. I’ve spent the last few weeks with them, and I've found them incredibly versatile, delicious, and convenient. Knowing Trader Joe’s frequently takes products off shelves, I’m inclined to go out and buy a few more jars before they disappear forever. I suggest you do, too. 

Chili Onion Crunch

Chili crunch, or chili crisp, is the hot, trendy condiment of the moment. The most popular chili crisp is a Chinese brand called Lao Gan Ma: It’s pieces of chiles, garlic, and nuts that get deep-fried and jarred in a luxuriously spicy oil. The pleasure of this sauce is tactile, a tingly crispiness that’s superb over noodles and stewed meats. Here’s our take on the recipe. Trader Joe’s take is called Chili Onion Crunch, a tamer version than the Chinese original (TJ’s product does not contain nuts). It’s less spicy and stored in olive oil, and it dials up the garlic and onion flavors significantly. My favorite usage of Chili Onion Crunch so far has been spooned on tacos and roasted meats. I’d imagine it’s also great dipped with crusty bread and an extra glug of olive oil.

One tip: If you store this sauce in the fridge, let the jar warm on your counter before using (or run the jar under warm water). 

Spiciness factor: 3 out of 10

Italian Bomba Hot Pepper Sauce

My favorite of the bunch and also the spiciest, Italian Bomba Hot Pepper Sauce is Calabrian chile peppers that have been fermented and mixed to a smooth paste. There’s a hint of tang, a hint of savoriness, and a whole lot of back-of-the-throat spiciness. A small spoonful of this mixed into your tomato-based spaghetti goes a long way. 

Spiciness factor: 7.5 out of 10

Harissa

This popular North African sauce is a red pepper–based paste with endless variants. Trader Joe’s version keeps its harissa basic, with the standard spices of caraway seeds, garlic, and coriander. Harissa will wake up most vegetables—especially carrots—or enliven a dish like braised lamb shanks. You can easily make your own, but Trader Joe’s harissa is a perfectly convenient substitute. (Links to these recipes are behind our paywall—yet another reason to subscribe!)

Spiciness factor: 6 out of 10