The 15 Best Korean Groceries to Buy at Trader Joe’s, According to a Korean-American Recipe Developer

As a Korean-American recipe developer, I'm always looking for ingredients to incorporate into my Korean cooking. When I first started shopping at Trader Joe’s, I didn’t really see a lot of options, but recently, the fan-favorite grocery has introduced so many types of Korean-inspired seasonings and ready-made meals that make my job easier—and more delicious.

Some of these ingredients are often cheaper than what I can find at H Mart, and the quality and taste are fantastic. I always get these items when I go to Trader Joe’s, and you should, too!

Related: What It's Like To Shop At Costco in South Korea

The 15 Best Korean Groceries to Buy at Trader Joe’s

1. Green Onions

Trader Joe's Green Onions<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Green Onions

Courtesy of James Park

If I had to choose one ingredient I would use in almost every recipe I developed, it would be green onion. I add them to soups, use them as a garnish, and toss them in my stir-fries. But my favorite way to use them is to make scallion-infused oil, which I use in so many ways, including tossing the oil with noodles and frying eggs in the bright green oil.

Related: PSA: Stop What You're Doing and Make the Viral Extra-Crispy Feta Fried Eggs

2. Toasted Sesame Oil

Trader Joe's Organic Toasted Sesame Oil<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Organic Toasted Sesame Oil

Courtesy of James Park

Nutty, toasty, savory sesame oil is one of the secret ingredients that makes many Korean dishes extra delicious. You can use it in a marinade, stir-fry seasoning, and as a dipping sauce for your dumplings. I love to make a simple meal of rice mixed with a dash of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil topped with fried eggs.

3. Rice Vinegar

Trader Joe's Rice Vinegar<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Rice Vinegar

Courtesy of James Park

This essential vinegar adds a slightly sweet yet tangy flavor to many dishes. It also adds acidity to many Korean seasonings, balancing salty, spicy flavors from soy sauce and gochujang. It’s also an essential ingredient for making a good dumpling dipping sauce. You can also add a few splashes of rice vinegar to Korean cold noodles, such as naengmyeon, for a tart finish.

Related: 8 Rice Vinegar Substitutes To Save The Stir-fry Day

4. Albacore Tuna In Olive Oil

Trader Joe's Albacore Tuna In Olive Oil<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Albacore Tuna In Olive Oil

Courtesy of James Park

Canned tuna is an underrated pantry staple in Korean cooking. You can use it in so many ways beyond your typical tuna salad. You can add it to your bubbling kimchi jjigae or ramyun to make it more filling, or put it in your kimchi fried rice for extra flavor and protein.

Related: 10 Best Canned Tunas, Ranked to the Healthiest

5. Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce

Trader Joe's Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce

Courtesy of James Park

Soy sauce, also known as gan-jang, is one of three main seasonings (also known as jang) in Korean cuisine. Its salty, umami-rich flavor is widely used in many ways, including marinating bulgogi and seasoning many side dishes, such as banchan. One of my favorite things to do with this reduced sodium soy sauce is to make jangajji, or pickled vegetables. You can make an easy pickle brine with soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar, pour it over fresh vegetables like cucumber and onion, and it’s ready!

Related: What's the Best Soy Sauce Substitute? Here Are 10 Solid Options To Try—From Tamari to Fish Sauce

6. Gochujang

Trader Joe's Gochujang<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Gochujang

Courtesy of James Park

Gochujang, a fermented Korean chili paste, is a staple in Korean cuisine. It brings its unique sweet, spicy and savory flavor to whatever you add it to. The texture of gochujang is thick, similar to tomato paste or peanut butter. I love to add dollops of gochujang to add some spice when I make kimchi jjigae and mix it into chopped kimchi when making kimchi fried rice. In Asian grocery stores, gochujang typically comes in very large tubs, but the compact size of the Trader Joe's version makes it easy to pack when I travel so I can easily have and gochujang at my vacation rental.

Related: 12 Gochujang Recipes That Pack a Sweet and Spicy Punch

7. Tofu

Trader Joe's Organic Sprouted Tofu<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Organic Sprouted Tofu

Courtesy of James Park

I love this sprouted tofu one for several reasons. First, it’s divided into two smaller portions, compared to one large block of tofu, so it’s easier to keep the tofu fresh longer. I also like the slightly firm texture, which makes it ideal for pan-frying with a dash of oil and toasted sesame oil.

Related: 40 Plant-Based Tofu Recipes Even Meat Lovers Will Enjoy

8. Fully Cooked Pork Belly

Trader Joe's Fully Cooked Pork Belly<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Fully Cooked Pork Belly

Courtesy of James Park

I only started buying this affordable yet delicious item recently, and it has saved my weeknight dinner so many times. Because it’s fully cooked, all you just need to do is heat it up. I love to make a quick stir-fry dish with pork belly and kimchi, which tastes similar to what I used to get in the Korean cafeteria. Or you can simply eat it with a side of rice, which means dinner is served in less than 5 minutes.

Related: The 18 Best Korean Grocery Items at Costco

9. Seafood Blend

Trader Joe's Seafood Blend<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Seafood Blend

Courtesy of James Park

This item doesn’t scream Korean cuisine, but it might be one of my most-used freezer items. This blend has shrimp, calamari rings and scallops, and I love to use it to make crispy seafood scallion pancakes. My other trick is to add them to my ramyun, which instantly turns an instant food into a glorious meal.

Related: Asian-American Chefs Weigh In On The 10 Best Trader Joe's Groceries You Need to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2024

10. Crushed Garlic

Crushed Garlic at Trader Joe's <p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Crushed Garlic at Trader Joe's

Courtesy of James Park

You can’t skip the garlic in Korean cooking, and these crushed garlic cubes help save me tons of time. I can pop these cubes into my soupstir-fries and even in my rice to boost the flavor with zero work. It lasts for a long time in the freezer and has a slightly more mellow flavor than raw garlic, which just means that you can use more.

Related: How to Store Garlic to Keep It Fresh

11. Jumeokbap

Trader Joe's Jumeokbap<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Jumeokbap

Courtesy of James Park

Trader Joe’s has carried a handful of frozen Korean items, and this is one of the newest items to show up in stores. Jumeokbap is a seasoned Korean rice ball that's often eaten as a mid-day snack or a side dish for dinner. I love to crisp one up in a skillet for extra texture and enjoy it with stir-fried kimchi.

12. Spicy Tempura Seaweed Snack

Trader Joe's Spicy Tempura Seaweed Snack<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Spicy Tempura Seaweed Snack

Courtesy of James Park

This savory snack is inspired by kim-bugak, fried seaweed paper coated with glutinous rice paste, and I was thrilled to see it! Even though it’s a snack, you can easily eat it with rice as a banchan. And it makes an excellent drinking snack with an ice-cold beer.

13. Kimbap

Trader Joe's Kimbap<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Kimbap

Courtesy of James Park

This is one of the first Korean frozen Trader Joe’s items that went viral, and there was good reason for it! It’s not only delicious but it's also packed with vegetables. Kimbap, one of the most beloved Korean street foods, can be hard to find unless you go to specialty stores like H-mart, so seeing it widely available at Trader Joe’s made me so happy. You can microwave it to heat it up, but I love to dip the slices in beaten egg and pan-fry them to make them more flavorful.

Related: Costco Is Finally Selling Kimbap, So Trader Joe's Better Watch Out

14. Beef Bulgogi

Trader Joe's Beef Bulgogi<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Beef Bulgogi

Courtesy of James Park

This is another sleeper Korean frozen staple I get whenever I go to Trader Joe’s. The package includes a generous amount of seasoned meat, and you can serve it with rice or toss it with noodles for savory Korean pasta. I also make Korean pizza with this, which is a really fun party dish. I add cooked beef bulgogi to the pizza dough, top the beef with mozzarella, and bake it in the oven until it’s melty. It’s amazing!

Related: How to Prep Fresh Mozzarella For Pizza

15. Tteok Bok Ki

Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki<p>Courtesy of James Park</p>
Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki

Courtesy of James Park

I was skeptical when I first saw this Korean dish in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s, but it pleasantly surprised me. The chewy tteok (rice cakes) are packaged with a sweet-and-spicy sauce. This frozen meal is delicious on its own, but I love to add some cheese and ramyun noodles to make it heartier. The creaminess of the cheese tempers the spice, while ramyun noodles pair so well with chewy tteok. Who can say no to a carb-on-carb moment?

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