Secrets Of The Trader Joe's Bakery You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

If you're a Trader Joe's fan — especially a Trader Joe's bakery fan — you're going to want to know all its secrets. There are certainly some secrets about the bakery that the chain guards tightly. However, the good news is that we've uncovered many of them for you. While some of these delightful baked goods cycle through the shelves with the seasons, there are also a plethora of fan favorites you can find more often. If you've been passing by the bakery section at Trader Joe's without paying close attention, you might have missed some of the best items.

We have the lowdown on which bakery items customers like best, when you can find some of your favorite items, hacks to make some bakery items taste even better, how to get free samples, and some tricks for keeping your baked goods fresh. Prepare to be enlightened as we unveil the secrets of Trader Joe's baked goods.

Trader Joe's bread has no artificial preservatives

One reason we really like Trader Joe's is that you don't have to spend a lot of time label-reading. Like the rest of its products, Trader Joe's bakery products have no GMO ingredients, no artificial trans fats, no artificial flavors, and no artificial preservatives. You're likely to see salt or sugar to be the only preservatives. All of that sounds great to us. However, having no artificial preservatives is also why Trader Joe's bread doesn't last long before getting moldy. However, if you buy them with this knowledge, you can keep your bread and pastries from going bad before you can eat them by taking some preventative measures.

When you get home there's a secret to keeping the baked goods as fresh as possible. Keep out as much as you will eat within a couple of days or by the best-by date on the packaging. You definitely don't want to refrigerate the remaining bread because it will become hard. Instead, divide any of the remaining items into amounts that you would normally eat in a couple of days. Wrap each portion in foil to help it retain moisture, and then place each portion in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. You can thaw frozen items by putting them out on the counter. But for some items like bread, you can get it close to freshly baked bread by reheating it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it's thawed or toasted.

The bread shelves work like drawers

Here's a secret you might not know about the bakery section at Trader Joe's: many of the shelves there are actually drawers. To open one, simply press the shelf inward to release the locking mechanism. Then, pull on the portion of the shelf that normally has the price tag, and it will slide toward you like a drawer. This comes in handy if you're short or have short arms and want to reach a product at the back of the shelf. It's also a great trick to use if you want better access to something on a bottom shelf. You'll also want to make sure you click and lock the drawer in place again when you finish so that it doesn't randomly roll out when you're gone.

There are a few other shelves at Trader Joe's that also work like this, but most of the magic shelves are in the baked goods section of the store. If you ever do need something unreachable on a shelf at Trader Joe's, ask yourself if it's a product that the employees likely rotate for freshness before attempting to pull out the shelf. After all, you don't want to be the person responsible for a shelf avalanche from pulling on one that doesn't work like a drawer.

The fresher items are in the back

This may seem obvious for some of you savvy bread buyers, but not everyone realizes that the bread closest to you on the shelf isn't usually the freshest bread. When Trader Joe's employees get a new order of bread or pastries in the store, they stock the new items behind the old items. This practice of product rotation is where those pull-out shelves really come in handy.

If the person who does the ordering for the store has over-ordered, some of the items closest to the front of the shelf may be on their way to Stale Town more quickly than you might think. When the bread arrives at the store, it may have a shelf life that's a couple of weeks, or it might just have a mere four days if the supplier decides to send older products. Without really knowing what the status is on any given day, it pays to look at expiration dates and plunder the back of the shelves for fresher products.

You may not be able to get the same bakery items at every Trader Joe's store because it uses local bakeries

If you happen to make Trader Joe's a destination when you go on road trips, you might start to notice that different Trader Joe's have different baked goods. Some items stay the same, but some items are regional. Trader Joe's is extremely tight-lipped when it comes to who its bakery suppliers are, but many are local. A few of them are open secrets, but a lot of cats haven't managed to spill out of the bag yet. We do, however, know that La Boulangerie de San Francisco makes a variety of organic baked goods for Trader Joe's. Other than that, it's all a big secret. However, if you have a big bakery locally that makes a lot of famous brands, it's pretty fair to guess that some of the bakery items are coming from there with Trader Joe's packaging.

If you are curious about what other TJ's have in the bakery that your store doesn't, all you have to do is log onto the website and change your store to another location. For example, you might only see white, wheat, and gluten-free white sliced sandwich bread in your local TJ's. However, if you set your location to a store in San Francisco (where La Boulangerie is making bread for TJ's), you'll also find vegan brioche, sprouted wheat sourdough bread, and chocolate chip pain au lait. So, don't forget to check the bakery section next time you visit a Trader Joe's on the road.

There's a schedule for when kringle flavors get released at Trader Joe's

If you're a big Danish Kringle fan, you've probably noticed that your favorite kringle flavor isn't always available and that it may be months before you see it again. However, if you've been a Trader Joe's customer for a while, you may have noticed that they arrive in the store on a specific schedule. While the schedule may vary some years, it's usually fairly similar. 

Around the first months of the year — at the end of January or the beginning of February — pecan kringles come on the scene. If you're a raspberry kringles fan, your time will come around April and May. Next up is the cheesecake kringle, which appears sometime around June and July. Then, to help celebrate fall, you'll see a pumpkin caramel kringle around September and October. Finally, our favorite kringles — almond kringles — make an appearance at the end of the year in November and December.

Seasonal varieties like one for St. Patrick's Day or a king cake version may show up in time for holidays. You may occasionally see some other flavors filter in as well, like cranberry, cinnamon, cherry cheese, cherry, wild blueberry, and apple.

You may be able to buy your favorite kringle flavor out of season, but it will cost you

While Trader Joe's isn't forthcoming about who makes all its baked goods, we do know that the O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, Wisconsin, makes Trader Joe's Kringles. The company's information is right on the package, so it's not a secret. But what you may not know is that you can visit an O&H Danish Bakery and get nearly any flavor you like any time of the year. There are five locations in Wisconsin. However, if you're not anywhere near Wisconsin (or within a decent driving distance like Chicago), you can order some by mail.

When you buy a kringle at Trader Joe's, you'll pay $7.99. It's a little expensive, but it's worth it because it will last a while or feed a lot of people since it's a pound-and-a-half dessert. However, they're far more expensive directly from O&H. To mail order a kringle from O&H, you'll pay $23.99 for a single kringle, $9.99 for shipping, and $1.25 for fuel charges, for a total of $35.23. It's even more expensive if you choose one of the ones with no added salt or sugar for $52.49. However, you can find lots of flavors you'll probably never see at Trader Joe's, like the birthday kringle or the Wisconsin Sunset Kringle. Still, sometimes, it's worth splurging to satisfy an off-season craving or to try a new flavor you can't get at Joe's.

You can ask to taste a bakery item if you're not sure you'll like it

One secret you may not know about Trader Joe's bakery is that you can sample anything in the store. As such, bakery items are among the items you can sample for free. That doesn't mean you can just open up a packet of cupcakes and go chomping. However, all you have to do is find an employee and ask to try a sample of the product that interests you. So, if you're worried you won't like the gluten-free bread or that the cheddar jalapeño pull-apart bread may be too hot for you, just ask to try.

There's no need to pass a bakery item by because you're not sure about it. Since TJ's is constantly giving out free samples over in the tasting section of the store, it can just be added to sampling items available for everyone, so it's not as if the product you ask to sample will go to waste. Someone will definitely eat the rest of it.

There's a way to make the baguettes taste like they came fresh out of the baker's oven

If you're looking for super fresh baguettes, Trader Joe's isn't really the place to go. Trader Joe's doesn't have a bakery onsite, so you know baguettes can't be newly made. However, sometimes, you just have to buy one anyway to go with that pasta you're making or that French dip sandwich you're planning. If you get it home and it's nowhere near as fresh as you were hoping, there is a way to refresh it to make it taste like you got it first thing in the morning from a French bakery and not as a last-minute, almost-closing-time snag from the bottom of the baguette barrel.

To refresh your baguette, you will start by moistening it, either by placing it under the faucet for a few seconds or spraying it with water from a spray bottle until the crust is wet. Then, you should wrap the baguette in foil and place it in the oven. Rather than preheating the oven, you can just place the foil-wrapped baguette in the cold oven. Then, set the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and let it get moist and warm inside the foil over the course of 12 to 15 minutes. If you can't eat it all in one sitting and end up with a hard baguette, it's always a good excuse to make French toast or bread pudding with the leftovers.

Trader Joe's gluten-free bakery products may not always be completely gluten-free

If gluten is only a mild concern for you, you're probably fine eating Trader Joe's gluten-free products. However, if you have celiac or some other condition that causes serious reactions to gluten, you may want to rethink buying Trader Joe's gluten-free products. Trader Joe's says that any product (in the bakery or otherwise) with a "gluten-free" label "has been validated to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten," which is the minimum requirement from the FDA. If you check the labels, you'll find that there aren't any gluten-free products at TJ's with a label indicating that it has been "certified gluten-free" by a third party, which is what you want to see for a guarantee.

Most of the time, you're not going to find any gluten in the gluten-free products at Trader Joe's. However, there have certainly been a few problems from time to time. For example, @jage said in the forum in 2022, "We got some 'gluten free' English muffins from Trader Joe's and they made me quite sick from gluten. The latest post about Trader Joe's bread being questionable was from 2018." So, cross-contamination may not be common, but it's still possible.

Trader Joe's releases a list of customer-favorite items every year so you know which bakery items to try

Since 2009, Trader Joe's has made a habit of announcing its customer choice award winners. So, if you tend to fall into the habit of buying the same things every time you visit Joe's, you can branch out a bit, knowing the winners will be good. To find out what customers like most Trader Joe's asked "If you were to spend the rest of your life on a deserted island, which nine Trader Joe's products would you take with you?" The grocery store got a whopping 18,000 responses in 2023.

While there isn't a specific category for baked goods, you can usually find some baked goods on the list, giving you a good idea of which items you may want to try next time you're at TJ's. In 2023, there weren't any winners from the bakery winning a top spot. However, you could find some among the runners-ups. The fifth most popular item overall was the delectable package of four chocolate croissants. Yummy Danish Kringles, chocolate lava cakes, and brookies were all runners-ups in the sweets and desserts category. You really can't go wrong with any of them, especially if you have a sweet tooth.

Some of the best bakery items are in the freezer section

While a large number of bakery items are on the pull-out bakery shelves and on tables around the store, some of the best are in the freezer section. What makes them so good is that coming frozen, you will need to heat them up before you eat them. While buying them frozen may put a dent in your desire to snack on them the moment you get in the car (drat!), they're still worth it. The result of having fresh baked goods hot from the oven is the next best thing to getting them fresh out of the oven from your local bakery.

Of course, all Trader Joe's frozen bakery items may not be around all the time, just like everything else at TJ's. The fifth-most popular product at Trader Joe's in 2023 was the ethereal chocolate croissants confection, which requires overnight rising but is absolutely worth it. If the fab five from Queer Eye are obsessed with these chocolate croissants, you'll definitely want to give them a try. Other frozen bakery items customers have really been excited about are the four-cheese pastry rolls and the tres leches (three milks) cake. Not all frozen bakery items are desserts. For example, we're a big fan of the Greek spanakopita (a spinach and cheese fillo-dough pie), and you can also find frozen mini croissants.

There are some great hacks to make certain Trader Joe's bakery items even better

Trader Joe's bakery items tend to be pretty great on their own, but we couldn't leave you without a few secret hacks to make them even better. Some of the hacks include adding ice cream, while others involve rolling the item in sugar or cinnamon and sugar.

Plenty of people love the pancake bread on its own, Redditor u/callathanmodd says it's even better when you "heat up the pancake bread and lightly fold it into their vanilla bean ice cream." Redditor u/throwitaway23673 suggests trying "Thai banana fritters rolled in cinnamon sugar with vanilla ice cream." TikToker @boogie_thefoodie explains how easy it is to turn Trader Joe's four-cheese pastries into a dupe for Porto's cheese rolls (a favorite in the Cuban bakery in California) by brushing them with butter and rolling them in large-grained white sugar before baking them.