When you are a mom of three boys like me, there are never enough snacks in the house (also in the car, tucked in a purse, or coat pockets). Snacks are essential for active, growing kids and a salve for when minor things turn into dramatic meltdowns—especially because 9 times out of ten, the meltdowns are because they are hungry and cranky. Snacks see my kids through a long day.
And though my kids eat their weight in fresh fruits, dried nuts, and Goldfish crackers every day, my favorite go-to snacks for the kids are dried fruits. They are light, portable, and won’t rot in a hot car while I wait for baseball practice to end. That’s why I am a firm believer that Trader Joe’s dried fruit section is a gold mine for snacks—it’s the grocery store’s most underrated section.
I’ve been to more than a dozen Trader Joe’s across the country, and the dried fruit shelves look similar in all of them: two wide shelves with five or six rows jam-packed with dried fruits of every kind. This is what it looks like:
As you can see, to say TJ’s carries a lot of dried fruit options is an understatement. To make sense of the madness and not get overwhelmed, I categorize the products broadly into four groups as listed below. I also my family’s top picks that we always keep in stock at home.
1. Simply Dried Fruits
Name a fruit and Trader Joe’s likely threw it into a dehydrator and packaged it up for adoring super fans. Most of the fruit is simply dried with no other additives. Without them, the natural fruit flavors shine and they are delicious. These are some of our favorites, all of which are unsweetened and unsulfured:
- Dried Just Mango Slices
- Apple Chip Duo
- New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings
- Dried Dark Sweet Cherries
- Dried Pineapple Rings
- Banana Chips
2. Zhuzhed Dried Fruits
Seasonally, TJ’s will release dried fruits covered in something, like dried chile seasoning, crystallized sugar, melted sugar, and citrus flavors. They aren’t my kids’ favorites, but according to a Trader Joe’s member I found stocking dried fruit one day, here are the most popular ones:
- Chile Spiced Dried Mango
- Chile Spiced Dried Pineapple
- Candied Ginger
- Sweetened Dried Orange Slices
3. Freeze-Dried Fruits
My kids are obsessed with freeze-dried fruit and I can’t blame them. They are delicious, tart, and super fruity, and they melt in your mouth. As much as I love them too, I don’t buy them often because they can get expensive. They’re $3 to $4 per pack, which is a good deal, but my 10-year-old can inhale an entire bag in 10 seconds flat, so it can add up. We love all of the available options:
- Freeze-Dried Strawberry
- Freeze-Dried Blueberry
- Freeze-Dried Raspberry
- Freeze-Dried Berry Medley
- Freeze-Dried Mango
- Freeze-Dried Banana
4. Fruit Bars
These are individually packaged bars of dried fruit and fruit purées. Some bars are just fruit, without added sugars, in yummy flavor combinations like apple strawberry, apple banana, or apple coconut—each of my kids has a favorite. Others taste more like candy and are made with fruit purées and concentrate. I like to pack them into my kids’ lunch boxes or afterschool sports bags.
- Apple Apricot Dried Fruit Bar
- Apple + Banana Fruit Bar
- Apple + Mango Fruit Bar
- Strawberry Mango Peel Away Fruit Leather Buttons