How Trader Joe’s Became Known for Its Indian Food

The American grocery chain inadvertently built a line of products — from lamb vindaloo to spicy chakri mix — that appeal to South Asians and non-South Asians alike.

Some products from Trader Joe's private label
Some Indian products from Trader Joe's private label: organic garlic naan crackers, yellow tadka dal, spiced chai, masala simmer sauce, chicken tikka samosas, and spicy chakri mix.

Nikhita Venugopal


April 20, 2021


11 min

For many South Asians who leave home — for college, grad school, or even a short trip — batch-cooked dal, a stack of chapatis, poriyals, or biryani are almost obligatory packing items. There’s a comfort that comes with having home-cooked food available at the punch of a microwave button. Though the U.S. is no stranger to the wonders and affordability of prepared convenience, you may be hard-pressed to find a lot of good Indian fare. But walk down the aisles of your nearest Trader Joe’s — the national grocery chain with over 500 stores — and you’ll quickly find hints of India. After passing the spiced chai, the wildly popular naans, and a pleasantly tangy mango ginger chutney, you’ll end up at the frozen section. There, you’ll find foods that resemble the menus of many Indian restaurants: garlic naan, butter chicken, and palak paneer. For regular Trader Joe’s customers, it’s a culinary journey to India without ever leaving the U.S.; for South Asians across the country, it’s dinner that tastes a bit like home.

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