Trying Trader Joe’s Popular Frozen Dinners + Photos
- As part of an ongoing series, I reviewed 15 of Trader Joe’s frozen entrées to find the best ones.
- I absolutely loved the Hatch-chile chicken wraps, garlic-and-pesto pizza, and mushroom ravioli.
- Some meals, like the Cuban-style rice bowl and pad thai, left a lot to be desired.
From shareable snacks, like gyoza, to single-serve dinners, such as jackfruit curry, Trader Joe’s wide selection of frozen foods has been a lifesaver.
That said, I’m picky about which instant meals I choose to buy. So I decided to review 15 of Trader Joe’s frozen entrées.
Keep reading to find out which options I’ll be purchasing again, and the ones I’ll skip next time.
A blend of filling, fresh-tasting ingredients, the riced-cauliflower bowl is a must-buy
There was a lot going on in this veggie bowl, which consists of seasoned chickpeas, tofu, and sweet potatoes all tied together by cauliflower rice and a flavorful tahini sauce.
My mouth was treated to a symphony of textures and flavors with every bite.
The vegetables got to be the star of the show without feeling overly wholesome, but the meal also didn’t taste like convenient, frozen food.
The tofu and vegetables were perfectly cooked, with a slightly crispy exterior and tender center. Remove them from the tray and you could probably convince me that they were roasted in the oven.
Plus every flavor component was a perfect complement to the others.
I enjoyed the soy-like marinade on the tofu, especially paired with the mild cauliflower rice. The tahini dressing’s slightly nutty, sesame flavor offered a nice contrast to the mellow sweet potatoes, while the onion and spiced chickpeas added an understated kick.
I can see this making a great filling for a wrap with a bit of tzatziki on the side.
This dish could’ve omitted the kale, as it didn’t add much flavor and seemed a bit out of place. But there was so little of it that I didn’t mind
VERDICT: If you’re looking for a vegan dish to add to your dinner rotation that isn’t pasta or fried, this bowl is your answer.
The mushroom risotto would work as an easy side
I’m fully convinced magicians work for Trader Joe’s, because there’s no reason why this bagged, frozen mix should’ve transformed into something this good.
I specifically bought this risotto because it was the last one available in my store, and an associate told me it’s one of the chain’s most popular items.
Now that I’ve had it myself, I get why it’s constantly selling out.
At a glance, this risotto’s texture seemed slightly less thick and creamy than some homemade versions I’ve tried, but that wasn’t a total deal-breaker. The rice was still pillowy, soft, and yummy.
It didn’t have an overly salty or processed flavor and actually tasted like the ingredients had been freshly chopped and thrown into the mix. It even included real mushroom pieces.
Although the simple combination of rice, onions, white wine, and mellow porcini mushrooms with a touch of garlic was yummy, the overall taste was a bit boring.
No one component stood out enough to consider this anything more than a side dish.
VERDICT: I can’t see myself buying this all of the time, but I’d snag it to serve alongside a meal.
Even though it made for a simple and satisfying meal, the penne arrabbiata wasn’t very memorable
This was a basic, no-frills pasta dish. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it also didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
The tomatoes dominated the dish, though it had a faint kick of piquant, peppery flavor.
Based on the package’s photo, I had anticipated that the sauce was going to be chunky, but it was thin and broth-like, sliding off the penne a little too easily and leaving behind a soupy pool.
Not all pasta dishes need to be elaborate, but this certainly wasn’t one to write home about. Even though topping it with cheese definitely helped, this desperately needed some salt and herbs.
VERDICT: Although this penne arrabbiata could make for a satisfying, last-minute dinner, it wasn’t memorable enough for me to buy again.
But if you’re looking to feed some picky mouths or children, this could be good to have on hand.
The Kung Pao tempura cauliflower had great flavor but could’ve been crispier
I was very excited to try this cauliflower tempura since I’m always down for anything shareable that can double as an entrée or side.
Making this couldn’t have been easier. I poured the frozen florets directly onto a pan and cooked them for 20 minutes.
Some of the edges developed brown tips, which I assumed were an indication of crispness. They looked just like boneless chicken wings.
I then tossed them in the sauce, which almost entirely coated the light cauliflower smell.
This meal had potential but wasn’t quite there yet. I liked how each cauliflower floret was quite large, making nearly every chunk two bites instead of one.
Plus the ratio of tempura crust to floret was on point since there was just enough of it on each piece to notice it was there without being overly bready.
The main issue was the texture. Although the batter around each piece was nice and crispy, the cauliflower florets were too soft, even bordering on mushy in some bites. I found this strange since they looked crunchy.
I’ve made cauliflower wings in the oven plenty of times and had them crisp up just fine, but maybe the sauce was too heavy. It could’ve also been a result of me cooking them straight out of the freezer, since the water droplets may have made them soggier.
Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but keep popping these morsels into my mouth like popcorn. Once I stopped thinking about them as tempura and instead as their own unique dish, the soft texture became more appealing.
The Kung Pao sauce had a clearly detectable tang and just the right amount of sweetness, with notes of ginger and spicy soy. It was the definition of lip-smackingly good.
VERDICT: Although the cauliflower tempura could’ve been a lot crispier, the Kung Pao sauce was out of this world and made this totally worth the buy.
Next time, I’ll prepare this in the air fryer to see if that helps the texture.
These cheese enchiladas would satisfy a craving for a spicy, cheesy meal
These enchiladas can be cooked in the microwave or oven, but the latter takes 25 minutes, which is far too long to wait for a frozen meal.
I went with the easiest route, and it didn’t seem to have much of a negative impact on the texture. The tortilla edges were less crunchy but there wasn’t any kind of gummy or processed mouthfeel.
Prior to cooking, the frozen enchiladas had a crumbly cheese, corn, and cilantro topping, but after a few minutes in the microwave, those components completely vanished. Tiny bits of red and green bell peppers were the only noticeable contrast to the pool of sauce.
There was no meat or beans in sight, so it sort of felt like eating a baked cheese roll-up doused in red sauce — but not in a bad way. A river of gooey Monterey Jack oozed out of the tortilla seams the moment my fork touched them.
I would’ve preferred more bell peppers or onions. Plus the red sauce was far from the best I’ve had, but it got the job done with a strong presence of cumin.
These weren’t really spicy but did leave a lingering onion taste in my mouth for several minutes.
Overall, these enchiladas were about as basic as it gets when it comes to frozen food, though they could likely be improved with some additional toppings, like sour cream.
VERDICT: For $2.49, these enchiladas are a pretty solid deal. Considering all the time you’d have to invest in making them yourself, they’re a good option to have on hand.
I don’t see myself buying them regularly, but if I ever get a craving for an enchilada and don’t want to make an entire tray, I may throw these in my cart.
The vegetable pad thai was an OK substitute for takeout but could’ve used more spice
I know this pad thai is beloved by many Trader Joe’s customers but I just didn’t see the hype. This dish left me with nothing but questions.
I’m not sure why it used cashews over peanuts. I understand the desire to be allergy-friendly but that crunchy flavor is the key to a good pad thai. Instead, the nuts got buried under everything else.
Also, why did this single-serving dinner have so many bean sprouts? There was no reason for Trader Joe’s to give them a starring role when they’re clearly supposed to be a supporting character.
I’m not exaggerating either. They’re the first ingredient listed on the side of the box. The ratio of noodles to sprouts was a near-even split.
Meanwhile, the tofu suffered from a lack of seasoning, but there was so little of it that I barely noticed it was there.
The rice noodles also had an inconsistent texture. Some parts were crunchy, while others clumped into gummy piles.
But this pad thai had one redeeming quality — its sauce. It was far from perfect but darn good.
It had a nice sweet-and-sour profile with a faint touch of chili that was genuinely enjoyable. Though, it was noticeably sweeter than most pad-thai sauces I’ve had.
Had the other components of the dish tasted better, I might’ve scraped the sides of my tray for it.
VERDICT: I’ll always appreciate Trader Joe’s for offering vegan versions of popular dishes that can be easily customized with the addition of meat and hot sauce.
If you’re new to Thai food and want to try something that doesn’t contain any fish sauce and isn’t particularly spicy, this might be a good entry point.
But between its textural inconsistencies and good-but-not-great sauce, this frozen rendition was mostly disappointing. I won’t be purchasing it again.
These stuffed shells would be perfect for anyone who wants a simple, cheesy dinner
I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty these shells were.
They perfectly captured everything I crave in pasta — an ample presence of gooey cheese, plenty of yummy, luscious tomato sauce, and an al-dente carb to hold it all together.
I would’ve been fine if these shells contained just cheese on the inside, but I appreciated how the spinach made them a bit more sophisticated. Plus I certainly won’t complain about any dish that helps me to sneak extra greens into my diet while still tasting like a comfort meal.
The filling had a slightly bitter, earthy taste, but the yummy tomato sauce and cheese did an excellent job of masking it.
Overall, these shells made for a totally satisfying dinner, and I loved that I didn’t need to turn on my stove or oven to make them.
Unfortunately, some of the sauce-and-cheese mixture solidified into a thick ring of burnt crust that clung to the sides of the tray, rendering it totally inedible. I didn’t microwave it any longer or less than instructed, so be mindful of your appliance’s strength when consulting the cooking time.
VERDICT: Although I could’ve done without the dieting lingo on the label — “Reduced-guilt” pasta? C’mon, Trader Joe’s — I thought these stuffed shells were worth the buy.
The mushroom ravioli was a dream come true
I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s fresh ravioli in the refrigerated section, so I had to try this.
Unlike the fresh options, this ravioli comes with the sauce in the frozen mix, which I’ve found can be a hit or miss. As a result, I lowered my expectations.
Turns out, I seriously underestimated Trader Joe’s.
This ravioli was unbelievably delicious. Between its soft mushroom-ricotta filling and rich, yet amazingly not heavy truffle sauce, this meal felt far more luxurious than a frozen entrée.
The sauce was like a thick gravy, with tiny bits of mushroom speckled throughout that accentuated its savory flavors. It seeped into the ravioli pockets and gave them an irresistibly buttery, melt-in-your-mouth quality.
Each bite boasted an earthy, umami truffle flavor that balanced out the saltiness in the sauce. The only thing missing was the presence of an herb.
Overall, this was pure comfort food in less than seven minutes.
VERDICT: If you’re a fan of mushrooms — and particularly, the taste of truffle — this is an absolute must-buy.
Although the Cuban-style rice bowl had some good qualities, it didn’t blow me away
Based on the box’s picture, I was led to believe this bowl would contain a vibrant, colorful medley of ingredients, but I found a muted, yellow palette.
Most notably, there was no green to be found, as the cilantro is not included.
Unfortunately, the lack of color seemed a good predictor for what was to come, since this rice bowl left a lot to be desired.
The rice component tasted fine and had a subtle lime flavor, but the chicken was dry and flavorless while the beans had a decent, albeit boring, profile.
On top of that, there were only three plantain chunks in the entire bowl, which I found super disappointing since they added a unique sweetness that paired well with the citrusy component.
The hot sauce I added made the meal better, but this dish didn’t feel worth it.
VERDICT: This could’ve been great with a few minor tweaks, but it was pretty lackluster as is and not worth the $3.49 price tag.
This garlic-and-pesto pizza was one of the most amazing frozen pizzas I’ve ever made at home
This pizza’s strength was in its simplicity.
The crust was the star of the show, with just the right balance of buttery and salty flavors. I loved how it had some puffy, airy pockets and crunchy thin sections, giving me the impression of freshly baked dough.
I was initially skeptical about the lack of tomatoes or sauce, but this was loaded with so much scrumptious flavor that I didn’t even miss it.
The combination of four luxurious cheeses — mozzarella, Parmesan, burrata, and provolone — along with the garlic bits, mouthwatering crust, and dollops of smooth, nutty pesto was otherworldly.
But this pizza’s brilliant construction was what really set it apart. The dollops of pesto around the surface accentuated the other flavors rather than overpowering them, so every ingredient had time to shine.
I genuinely had to force myself to stop eating the entire thing in one sitting.
VERDICT: As someone who has eaten plenty of frozen pizzas in my life, I can say with full confidence this may be one of the best.
Between the fresh-baked taste of its crust and scrumptious, cheesy pesto topping, it’s yummy enough to keep me from ordering delivery.
For instant vegan comfort food, look no further than this yellow jackfruit curry
Jackfruit is the true MVP of plant-based protein. This stringy, meaty fruit has rapidly become one of my favorite meat replacements.
This meal took upward of five minutes to make in the microwave but was well worth the wait — it was easily one of the best foods I’ve tried from Trader Joe’s frozen section.
The rice and curry are separated, which is nice since I could alternate bites. Though to get the full effect, I mixed mine together in a separate bowl.
In addition to jackfruit, this curry boasted a delicious melange of colorful bell peppers, onions, and eggplant, which didn’t develop any kind of rubbery texture in the microwave. The rice also turned out perfectly fluffy and yummy.
But what really won me over was the sauce. The complex combination of aromatic spices, like coriander and turmeric, with the rich sweetness of coconut milk was absolutely amazing. It also had a decent amount of heat to it, about on par with a medium salsa.
Plus the meal kept me full for hours without feeling heavy, which I absolutely loved.
VERDICT: I highly recommend adding this jackfruit curry to your list. It was easy to throw together and incredibly delicious.
Trader Joe’s French-onion soup tasted much better than it looked
Straight out of the package, this entrée comes as two frozen masses of broth, onion, and cheese about the height of a small coffee mug.
I liked that it comes with two individually wrapped servings, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking everything all at once. Plus no thawing is required.
Per the instructions, this soup can be prepared in the microwave or oven, but since this is a roundup of convenient foods, I opted to cook it the fastest way possible.
Unfortunately, the soup looked pretty mediocre out of the microwave. Clumps of cheese separated into tiny bits, giving the broth a chunky and murky brownish-white appearance that was anything but appetizing.
Still, it smelled delicious.
Thankfully, this meal tasted better than it looked. I wouldn’t call it amazing, but it totally satisfied my craving for French-onion soup.
The broth was decent, though noticeably less salty than restaurant versions, and the onions were definitely the dominant flavor, which gave it more of a mellow, earthy taste than a savory, beefy one.
Thyme or a splash of red wine could’ve added some depth, but since this soup came together in my microwave in less than 5 minutes, I leveled my expectations.
VERDICT: If convenience is your priority, this is definitely worth having on hand. I’ll be keeping this in the back of my freezer, especially during the winter months.
The vegetable gyoza is totally worth keeping on hand at all times
This gyoza has been my jam for several years now. I’ve tried many other frozen options from different brands, but none have held a candle to this one.
Each dumpling tasted light and fresh, like a spring roll, but was flavorful enough to satisfy a savory craving with its yummy vegetarian filling of scallions, cabbage, and carrots paired with bold notes of garlic and ginger.
I say this as someone who loves sauce on everything: These dumplings are yummy enough to eat plain.
If you’re interested, Trader Joe’s sells gyoza sauce, but these only need a bit of plain soy sauce, if anything at all.
Quick, convenient, and delicious, these gyoza are hard to beat as far as frozen foods go. They retain their firmness even after being microwaved, which makes them a great meal to throw together in a time crunch.
If you like your dumplings to have a crispier bite, you can cook them in a pan with some oil.
VERDICT: Great as a last-minute dinner or on a platter for groups, this easy-to-cook, vegetarian gyoza hit all of the right notes. It’s a repeat purchase in my house.
The Hatch-chile chicken wraps exceeded all of my expectations
Until these wraps, I’ve never found a frozen meal that was so yummy it stopped me mid-bite. I immediately had to text my friend, “Hey, next time you go to Trader Joe’s you’ve got to try this.”
Trader Joe’s frozen section offers a ton of different Tex-Mex and Mexican-inspired dishes, but I noticed these because of the “Hatch chile” description.
The Hatch chile is a green pepper from the Southwest part of the US that’s known for its bold, spicy, and smoky flavor. Compared to its cousin, the Chipotle chile, it’s slightly sweeter, so it’s great for giving dishes an obvious, yet not overpowering kick.
The package has two separate wraps, so you can turn it into two light meals.
Each wrap contained several chunks of juicy chicken, mildly spicy green chiles, jalapeño, black beans, and gooey mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheese. These flavors formed an incredible combination.
On the outside, the folds of the flour tortilla provided a nice backdrop for all of this savory, salty, and spicy goodness.
I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to regular frozen burritos after this.
VERDICT: Even though I’ve only tried this wrap once, I can easily see it becoming my newest obsession.
The vegan bolognese was so delicious that it gave the meat version a run for its money
Even though I’m no longer a full-time vegetarian, I’m grateful that I live in a time when there are so many delicious meatless options. And this bolognese marks another addition to my ever-expanding list.
I’m still amazed by how well the mushrooms mimicked the texture, flavor, and scent of sausage. Had you served this to me without saying anything, it would’ve assumed it was meat.
Overall, this vegan bolognese was pretty good. It boasts twisted lentil pasta and a thick, chunky tomato sauce with strong notes of rosemary.
I’m not sure why Trader Joe’s opted to use lentil pasta, since it didn’t make this meal gluten-free, but the added kick of fiber and protein was still nice.
However, I quickly got bored of this dish after a few bites. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was missing, but it lacked something crucial to make me want to keep eating it.
It may have needed some cheese, which defeats the purpose of it being vegan, but this was begging for an added kick of salty Parmesan or creamy mozzarella, at the very least.
VERDICT: For $3.49, this is a pretty great bargain for a decent-sized vegan meal with plant-based protein.
Between its solid protein content and savory meaty taste, I can totally see this dish winning over even the most devout carnivore.
Click to keep reading other Trader Joe’s taste tests in this series.