The Trader Joe’s Salad That Transformed My Lunch Game

An ode to the ABC + K Slaw.

January 22, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

Okay, Trader Joe's, I've just about had enough. I already loved you, and then you went ahead and moved into the neighborhood, sending my feelings for you soaring. My go-to gang of cult favorites (Chocolate Croissants; Tarte d'Alsace) quickly found company with new friends (Cultured Salted Butter; Zhoug Sauce), and my constant exploration of your well-stocked aisles continue to yield amazing finds.

My latest obsession? The ABC + K Slaw. Now I must say, I'm not a huge consumer of these ready-made salads and sandwiches that sit alongside the bagged greens (which I do always get), but the cheerful color and promise of an orange poppy seed dressing drew me right in. The layered salad is housed in a clear pint(ish)-sized container, and inside you'll find the raw ABC + K components: apple, beet, carrot, and kale.

It's quite difficult to eat right out of the container, so I'd recommend transferring it to a bowl large enough to toss with the delicious vinaigrette. I was initially surprised at the sheer volume of its contents (it's packed in pretty tightly); I was doubly shocked at my ability to finish it all. The cold, crunchy veg and fruit were exactly what I needed to refresh my palate, which at the time, was overloaded with all of the holiday roasts, heavy sides, and rich treats. This salad was the antidote I didn't realize my lunchtime routine needed.

Hello from the grocery aisle. Photo by Me

At $4.49 a pop, it is definitely on the more affordable end of salad options available in New York City. But if you think about what actually goes into this salad, that $4.49 can seem like a pretty penny (especially if you have it multiple times a week, a frequency I very nearly hit). If you have a shredding or julienne disc attachment on your food processor, or even just a good ol' fashioned box grater, this salad can easily be yours for well under that amount (just save the beet grating for last to prevent everything from going pink!). Buying apples, beets, carrots, and kale bunches whole, and then pre-portioning them out truly feels like you're winning that meal-planning game. (By the way, this slaw is just super with the addition of creamy avocado wedges and grilled chicken breast.)

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As for the orange poppy seed dressing, I still haven't cracked the code (working on it), but this crunchy slaw takes well to vinaigrettes of all sorts. I especially love it with a zingy Yogurt Dressing, replacing the lemon zest and juice with orange zest and juice. I also like to take an Asian turn with our site's very popular No-Frills Miso Dressing.

Thank you, Trader Joe's, for always giving me inspiring new lunch ideas. I'll still pick up the original ABC + K Slaw in a pinch, but I'm so grateful to know I can recreate an even more affordable, flexible version whenever I want it at home—with the help of my grater.

Do you have a favorite Trader Joe's product you lean on for easy lunches? Let us know below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


[email protected] January 20, 2020
I used to love TJ's but got tired of buying ie a bag of salad only to get home & discover that the salad in the center was rotten, or a jar of roasted red peppers with a chunk of something black! I also discovered several x that glass jar products weren't sealed; I didn't like eating a product that didn't identify the country it was made in.
Several items that I really enjoyed: the Almond cookies in a clear plastic container ( addictive), sea salt brownies, T.J's brand of custard yogurt, yum!
As I'm writing this I realize that there is more to like than dislike 😊
Ted January 20, 2020
So, for those of us who'd have to travel to a foreign country to shop at Trader Joe's, could someone give a basic recipe for how to make this ABC & K salad (or a close approximation)?

Thank you.
Karen B. January 23, 2020
Jullienne equal amounts of beets, carrots and apple. Top with a large handful of shredded kale.
Karen B. January 23, 2020
All veg is raw, carrots and beets are peeled.
paulibeverlyhills January 19, 2020
Happy to find a place to comment on TJ's-my happy place. This week tried the brioche bread for making French toast.OUTSTANDING. Love love love their ravioli, fresh, the brussel sprouts & cheese, & the truffle mushroom. Just purchased truffle butter, but haven't tried it yet. I AM a TJ addict. I have never ever seen a store more progressive, & wonderful. From the cheery staff to the expectation of trying new products every trip, it's really a pleasure. I visit the one in Cathedral City (5 min from Palm Springs)..It's usually packed to the rafters. I had a full basket yesterday & a total stranger, some guy, came up to me & said "clearly, you like Trader Joe's". Funny, but spot on. If you haven't tried the Belgian chocolate pudding, try it, it's awesomely decadent. Problem is with me that I eat the whole container in one putting the brakes on...LOVE to hear about your choices. That salad, the slaw, sounds yummy & will try it next trip there. I could make a list of all the things I love--but it would be too long & you might doze off! TJ's discontinued one thing I loved--the maple butter spread. OMG-delicious. They said "sorry,seasonal,maybe". Oh, I forgot the Argentinian frozen shrimp-the best frozen shrimp anywhere--often sold out at my market...sauteed in garlic butter, not overcooked, delicious!!!!
Amanda January 19, 2020
VT native here! I love that TJs was carrying maple butter but assumed it would be seasonal. It's delicious, and their version was spot-on! You can absolutely get this elsewhere year round, it's no stranger to lots of stores in New England. Try the Vermont Country Store or google around. Don't restrict yourself to TJs maple supply; this stuff is too good to only have seasonally ;)
Angela Y. February 11, 2019
I picked up abc+k slaw after reading this article. I made a quick lemon miso dressing to put on top. I liked it! Today I went to my local Trader Joe’s, in San Francisco, to learn that they were sold out and no longer stocking abc+k slaw. I was told it was seasonal. I guess now I will have to learn to make something similar at home or wait for (hopefully) a just as good next salad from TJ’s!
Ttrockwood February 4, 2019
I liked the slaw but wasn’t a big fan of the dressing that comes with it.
My go to TJs easy lunch is i buy two bags of the cruciferous crunch and massage it (like with kale salad) using a bit of vinegrette. It gets better the next day because it softens a bit and stays good in the fridge several days. Then each morning i take a container and add whatever sounds good that day ontop of it- some leftover roasted veggies, diced baked tofu, sunflower seeds, edamame, more raw veggies, cilantro, etc just depends what’s on hand but generally some kind of bean or edamame, some nuts or seeds, and more veggies. It makes for a sturdy tasty salad that keeps me full! I just add a little more vinegrette and mix it all up. Usually i also bring a side of those seedy crisp bread, or some pretzels or other crunchy crackers. Totally beats paying $10+ for a prepared salad in nyc and takes about five min prep sunday night plus another five min assembly each morning.
Amanda February 3, 2019
I'm eating this right now (munch munch) based on your post and OH WOW, you were not overselling this stuff! This is not at all in keeping with my palate, which tends toward rich and savory flavors, but your post was written so convincingly that I grabbed the last tub of this slaw when I went to TJs today. I'm grateful, I'm hooked, I'm full of A vitamins... thank you, Hana!
Becca February 3, 2019
I don't have a TJ's near me, but I'd love to give this salad a try on my own. But help me out, since I've not had a lot of experience with beets. Are they cooked or raw in this salad? And when you prep this on your own without any preservatives, how far ahead can you make it without the apples getting brown? TIA
Hana A. February 3, 2019
Hi Becca!

All the ingredients are raw, including the beets (which I would grate last). As for the apples, I think green/crisp (think Granny Smith) works best here. Just squeeze a little lemon on the grated apple before you store it! I would aim to eat within 2-3 days. Lmk how it goes, thanks for reading!
Liane C. February 2, 2019
Where can I purchase the large bag on the right? Can't seem to find it on the website. Thank you!
Hana A. February 3, 2019
Hi Liane, let me ask around and get back to you, please sit tight! :)
Joanna S. January 31, 2019
The new umami mushroom seasoning is outrageous. Yuzu hot sauce always a winner. The half baked French rolls live nicely in the freezer if you don’t inhale them when you buy
Hana A. February 3, 2019
I'm so curious to try that seasoning (it's the talk of the office!) and yuzu hot sauce! Thanks for the reminder Joanna, and for the great recommendations!
Joanna S. February 3, 2019
Love me some Trader Joe’s. I have many pantry staples and seasonal favorites. I’m a private chef and use them often. Coconut aminos also amazing
Lisa February 4, 2019
Please tell me about the mushroom seasoning? Is it available at TJ’s?
Joanna S. February 4, 2019
Yes it’s new at TJ’s. They ran out so fast at my local tj’s but restocking soon. It’s umami mushroom seasoning. So delicious. Best chicken burgers I’ve ever made. With caramelized mushrooms onions and Swiss. Killer. Would be amazing in meatloaf, stew, steak, etc... veggie stir fry. I can keep going
paulibeverlyhills January 19, 2020
I love it,also, but it's quite salty. If you are low salt, as I am, beware. The seasoning salute spice is my daily 'GO TO". iT'S excellent & I don't even miss salt when using that....

DEBBIE January 31, 2019
We love our TJ’s. Ours just opened when we were sent to Sweden to live for 1-2 years. I wanted to try making croissants and when looking for a video and directions online, I found a blog where a person said he was in search of a chocolate croissant recipe when up pops that you can purchase them at TJ’s. That was it! I couldn’t wait for my first trip home when I could go and purchase those frozen beauties. Enjoyed them and all other flavors too. By the way, I think I might need to try out the Tarte d’Alsace - although I’m not sure what it is. We also love the little apple pie bundles. Great for a quick dessert when you have guests over.
Hana A. February 3, 2019
Hi Debbie!

Aren't those croissants so great?? I think you'll love the Tarte d'Alsace; it tastes esp. great if you're a fan of white "pizza" and crisp white wine. ;)
Bob January 31, 2019
Great article! TJ's fan here on Long Island. I love salads to take to work! I'm trying this one, then I'll try making my own!
Hana A. February 3, 2019
Thanks for reading, Bob! Please report back. :)
Anita R. January 31, 2019
Living in a rural community without Trader Joe's 😒. Hopefully, you crack the code.
Hana A. February 3, 2019
I will keep you posted Anita, thank you for reading!
Mary L. March 20, 2019
I'm in a rural community as well but love Trader Joe's orange poppy seed dressing. Let me know as well when you crack the code.
JenP January 31, 2019
This TJs salad is one of the few remaining ways I get veggies into my 5yo twins. I chop up about a third of the container into tiny bits, mix it with brown rice and add tiny bit of dressing. They love it!
Hana A. February 3, 2019
That's so great, JenP! Love the addition of brown rice, will have to try it. :)
Kathy R. January 31, 2019
there are a few things we'd all like to have discovered or created. Amazon is one, a cute cat wire toy is another. Trader Joe's is definitely in that category. What fun to shop, to try, to get addicted to and then to wean off a few products you might never see again but can be replaced by something else. It makes grocery shopping fun. and all articles are loved.
Hana A. February 3, 2019
I so agree with you, Kathy! Thanks for reading. :)
Inge B. January 31, 2019
I do my weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe's for a long time! I am just getting tired of certain items, that I really like, to be suddenly no longer available, and then, being told, this is a certain "seasonal" item. "seasonal" seriously? who decides that? What is "seasonal" about that fresh, multi grain bread, or that Toscan Whole Wheat bread that I liked so much? What is seasonal about a certain cheese or the only kind of sausage that I ever bought, that I liked so much? What is seasonal about pastry dough? .......
Traveler January 31, 2019
Last summer, I think July, I wanted their BBQ Coffee Rub as I had run out. I was told it is seasonal. Seriously, when is BBQ season more in season than in July?
Inge B. January 31, 2019
that happened to me too, right after Labor Day last year! I love that bbq rub! Just checked last week, still not available!
Hana A. February 3, 2019
I guess that is what contributes to the cult-like following and eagle eye on all inventory (new and old). At least it keeps us on our toes, thanks for reading Inge! ;)
Traveler January 31, 2019
I m very fortunate in that my small-ish town of 35,000 people has two TJs and they are both always crowded.
Hana A. February 3, 2019
Always a good sign, thanks for reading Traveler!
Aileen January 31, 2019
I’m really “prepared-salad shy” these days, given all the e coli and salmonella scares 😕
elsie January 31, 2019
i agree with you - just hesitant to purchase pre-prepared fruit & veg -- even without bacterial contamination -- recently bought some store made guac at a local luxury supermarket -- it contained a big chunk of 'something' that was definitely not avocado. (i discovered after eating part of it -- yes, gross!) store manager was nice and authorized refund, but swore that it was only a piece of avocado -- i mean, who was i to believe, him or my own lying taste buds (and eyes!) So, if this happens to you, expect apologies and refunds but store employees will not admit a foreign object made its way into a housemade item. fwiw - it seemed to be a piece of a baked item - roll or bun.
Phyllis January 25, 2019
We never had a Trader Joe’s, I never even heard of it. The first couple of times I went I didn’t understand why people were so jazzed about it. One day I went and got a couple of things, then, a couple more. Now I spend a lot of time studying what to get. We live an hour away. There are tons of grocery stores nearby, I now shun them and wait till Saturday when we go. I am addicted.
Hana A. February 3, 2019
This is the lure of TJs, ha! Thanks so much for your comment, Phyllis. ;)
judy September 27, 2020
Destination shopping they call it. My folks one tot to TJ's once a month. It was their favorite rip for the month. this was in the late 60's early 70's to the first store in Pasadena California. They ent for the the "2buckChuck" bottles of wine. My mom was not a cook, but she loved Trader Joes. I grew up knowing that they would bring us kids back something special from their Trader Joe's trip. We were NOT allowed to go. They got us a sitter! As an adult, I shop regularly at Tjs. I, too, get frustrated when they discontinue products. Ah well, still an avid shopper. Always something new to try.
Noreen F. January 22, 2019
I like the Curry Cauliflower Quinoa salad. Because the nearest TJ's is an hour away, I don't get there every week, and can usually justify getting one to take home. I always make sure I've got an insulated bag with an ice pack so I don't have to pass up the refrigerated and frozen goodies!
Hana A. January 22, 2019
What a great idea, Noreen! The Curry Cauliflower Quinoa Salad also looks so tasty, I'll have to try it. :) Thanks for your commenT1
Aime January 31, 2019
One of my favorites. Add some avacodo to make it even better!
Kathy M. February 3, 2019
Is the curry califlower quinoa salad spicy? I'm very wimpish about spicy foods.
Ttrockwood February 4, 2019
Not spicy at all, actually slightly sweet in a way. I liked it better added to a green salad than as is from the container
Noreen F. February 5, 2019
Not hot spicy, but it has a lot of flavor. If you like curry, you'll like it.