There’s no doubt that Trader Joe’s has some loyal fans.
In the three years that data science company dunnhumby has published its Retailer Preference Index — based on both customer preference and financial performance — Trader Joe’s has claimed the No. 1 or 2 spot every year.
The California-based grocery store chain has stores in 42 states, selling mostly its own branded grocery items that attract budget-conscious foodies.
And although the chain attracts a lot of attention for its Two-Buck Chuck (a line of cheap wines that currently sells for $2.99) and varied-but-limited seasonal items (if they sell out of the pumpkin spice coffee, you’ll just have to wait until next year), we end up filling our baskets in the frozen foods aisles.
Not only are most options convenient and simple to prepare, they’re also also easy on the wallet (all of our picks cost less than $5).
And if you’re trying to dress up a dinner without a lot of effort, TJ’s frozen foods are easily customizable. So if you dress up chili lime burgers with sprouts and avocado, and no guesses that the burger recipe isn’t your own, then your secret is safe with us.
Here’s our top 11 picks for frozen foods from Trader Joe’s.
The 11 Best Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods, According to… Well, Us
We don’t pretend that our list is based on rigorous scientific research — we polled the staff for their favorites and tried them. But we’ve tried to include enough variety for all kinds of foodies, so everyone can find a frozen option for them.
1. Mandarin Orange Chicken: $4.99
There’s no surprise that this easy-bake, already battered chicken took the top slot. It’s Trader Joe’s No. 1 seller and an all-around favorite. Eat it alone, or spice up a meal with the tangy orange and ginger deliciousness.
2. Matcha Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream: $4.49
This sweet treat is vegan, and it’s also soy-, dairy- and gluten-free. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to our panel — everyone across the food spectrum voted for these. The green nuggets balance coconut with trendy matcha flavors for a mouthful of rich and creamy dessert dreams.
3. Chili Lime Chicken Burgers: $3.69
The zesty patties are 150 calories each, and you get four for less than $4. How’s that for Penny Hoarding? There are only six ingredients, and they make great meals for lunch or dinner. They have a lot of flavor and cook well on the grill or stovetop, plus they’re Whole30 compliant.
4. Vegan Tikka Masala: $3.69
If you haven’t branched out into the Trader Joe’s frozen Indian cuisine, you’re totally doing it wrong. Get chicken, vegan or vegetarian: They’re all there, although the vegan option was the office favorite. The Indian selections are cheap and convenient, plus they have a nice balance of proteins, fats and low carbs. (And they taste GOOD.)
5. Mac and Cheese Bites: $3.99
These little devils get gobbled up in less time than the 10 minutes it takes to make them. They’re great for parties, an afternoon snack or as a comfort-food side to any meal. Take the cheesy indulgence a step further and dip ’em in barbecue sauce, ranch or honey.
6. Vegetable Fried Rice: $2.49
The Japanese-style fried rice was a close second, but the vegetable one won us over. It’s great by itself or paired with another dish. Hack it any way you like — with eggs, chicken or tofu. You win in a matter of minutes either way.
7. Gnocchi al Gorgonzola: $3.29
A meal in a bag for $3, and it tastes gourmet? Sold. These pillowy delights are a product of Italy, so we know we’re getting the real deal. They can easily serve two and heat up fast. Top with some cracked pepper or toss in some peas. Just don’t overcook them.
8. Pork Gyoza Potstickers: $3.29
These dumplings combine pork and onions in a savory pocket. The bite-sized gyoza can stand alone as a side or spice up a soup. You can make your own dipping sauce or save time by serving them with the Trader Joe’s gyoza dipping sauce.
9. Organic Brown Rice: $3.79
Sometimes we just don’t have 45 minutes to prepare brown rice for a meal. With this, we can have it ready in three minutes, since it’s already precooked and frozen. You don’t lose quality, and you gain back time. Try serving it with the Mandarin orange chicken. Win-win.
10. Spanakopita: $3.99
Get a slice of Greece without getting on a plane. This traditional spinach-and-cheese pie comes precut and ready to bake, so you can enjoy the taste without the fuss. It’s a great appetizer to share with friends and the perfect party side dish.
11. Burrata, Prosciutto and Arugula Flatbread: $4.99
This thin-crust appetizer is a pizza in disguise. You add the cured meats after the flatbread bakes. It’s enough for two but could go down easily for one person. The ingredients are decent for the price, and it’s a safe bet to keep in the freezer when you need a quick bite.
Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post for 2020.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that empowers millions of readers nationwide to make smart decisions with their money through actionable and inspirational advice, and resources about how to make, save and manage money.