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The best foods at Trader Joe's, according to customers

The beloved Mandarin Orange Chicken makes its triumphant return!
TOP TRADER JOES LIST
Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Trader Joe's annual Customer Choice Awards are basically like the Oscars of the food world. Well, maybe that's more like the James Beard Foundation Awards. So maybe this list is more like the Oscars of Trader Joe's grocery aisles.

Since 2009, the folks at Trader Joe's have tallied up the votes of its shoppers' favorite products and published the results. From year to year, they sometimes switch up the categories and new items pop up. But many of the it-list foods remain the same.

Here are the most adored products from the beloved grocery chain of 2020.

Favorite Overall: Mandarin Orange Chicken

This easy-to prep, slightly spicy chicken is customers' top-notch entree.Courtesy Trader Joe's, copyright 2017

For three years, Mandarin Orange Chicken held first place as everyone's favorite overall TJ's pick. That is until 2019 when Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning took its place. But this year, the frozen mealtime staple returned to the spotlight. But let's face it, how many people got tired of cooking and cooking (and cooking some more) at home during 2020. The frozen, as-good-as-takeout chicken dish was likely a flavor saver for many who needed a quick dinner on the table.

Runners-up:

  • Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend
  • Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
  • Unexpected Cheddar

Favorite Vegan/Vegetarian Item: Soy Chorizo

For anyone looking to eat less meat for themselves or the planet, this soy chorizo works as a wonderful substitute. It's easy to love with its heavily spiced essence. But the wonderful workers of Trader Joe's use soy instead of pork in the Spanish-inspired ingredient, so that your pastas, scrambles, paellas and other dishes can be vegetarian or vegan.

Runners-up:

  • Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto
  • Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • Vegetable Fried Rice
  • Vegan Banana Bread with Walnuts

Favorite Sweet Treat: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Dark chocolate. Salty peanut butter. Need we go on?Courtesy Trader Joe's copyright 2017

These delightful chocolates won favorite candy in 2017, 2018 and since the brand combined all sweets into one category in 2019, the PB-cups have taken over. It can be pretty hard to resist eating the whole 1-pound package, which costs $4.29, as they're salty and sweet with just the right amount of bitterness from the rich chocolate flavor.

Runners-up:

  • Hold the Cone! Mini Vanilla Ice Cream Cones
  • O&H Danish Kringle (flavors vary seasonally)
  • Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Brookie

Favorite Beverage: Sparkling Black Tea with Peach Juice

For anyone in the mood for a refreshing daytime drink or a little something to mix into a delicious cocktail, Trader Joe's newer sparkling black tea has won the hearts of many. It's touted for not being overly sweet while still having a peachy flavor and elegant effervescence.

Runners-up:

  • Sparkling Honeycrisp Apple Juice Beverage (seasonal)
  • Non-Dairy Oat Beverages
  • Cold Brew Concentrate
  • Spiced Cider

Favorite Produce: Avocados

Avocados took the Trader Joe's produce prize.Trader Joe's/TODAY

We can't say we're surprised. Trader Joe's is a hot spot for the ever-popular stone fruit. There's plenty of variety at the store (organic, singles or bags) but the Teeny Tiny Avocados, which retail at $2.99 for a six-count bag on the East Coast and $2.69 on the West Coast, are a true hit.

Runners-up:

  • Bananas
  • Honeycrisp apples
  • Organic arugula
  • Broccoli & Kale Slaw Kit

Favorite Snack: Salted Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets

Anyone who likes crunchy pretzels or peanut butter will find this scrumptious snack hard to resist. Dusted with flecks of salt, one bite into one of these little nuggets and your tastebuds are swirling around in a sea of peanut butter. This longtime staple has been a repeat favorite for customers and crew members.

Runners-up:

  • Organic Corn Chip Dippers & Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers
  • Plantain Chips
  • Chili & Lime Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Bamba

Favorite Cheese: Unexpected Cheddar

Expect the unexpected.Courtesy Trader Joe's, Copyright 2017

OK, so we totally expected Unexpected Cheddar to remain top dog of the cheese category. This cheaper, $3.99-per-wedge cheese tastes anything but, well, cheap. It's the kind of cheese where the little salt crystals are still present. It's creamy and great on its own, or melted down into a gorgeous grilled cheese.

Runners-up:

  • English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions
  • Creamy Toscano Soaked in Syrah
  • Wild Blueberry and Vanilla Chèvre
  • Baked Lemon Ricotta (seasonal)

Favorite in Home, Bath and Beauty: Scented Candles

Wake up and smell the ... candles!Trader Joe's

These tiny scented wax candles are $3.99 a jar. Scents, which rotate seasonally, include Peony Blossom, Vanilla, Mango Tangerine and Lemon Cookie. They smell so good you might want to eat them — but we wouldn't recommend it.

Runners-up:

  • Grapefruit & Lemon Hand Sanitizer Spray
  • Ultra Moisturizing Hand Creams
  • Rose Water Facial Toner
  • Shea Butter and Coconut Oil Hair Mask

Favorite Entree: Mandarin Orange Chicken

From its first winning category, it's not surprising Mandarin Orange Chicken won best entrée this year ... and last year ... and the three years before that! Inspired by one of America's favorite Asian takeout dishes, this easy-prep meal consists of breaded chicken and a stir-in sauce made with orange peels, fresh ginger, garlic, green onions and soy sauce. Each bag costs $4.99.

Runners-up:

  • Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butter & Sage

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