We love Trader Joe’s for many reasons (so do you), not least of all for the abundant treasures in their freezer aisle. It’s hard to pick favorites, but these are some of the best Trader Joe’s frozen items to buy.
It’s no secret as to why Trader Joe’s is one of America’s favorite grocery stores—the stores themselves are fun to shop, all of the packages are creatively designed, and who can resist cookie butter and Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning? Most of the company’s products are repackaged under a private label, making for awesome prices, and it never fails to introduce new, on-trend items like cauliflower rice and ube ice cream, or to keep us salivating for seasonal items like pumpkin cheesecake and peach bellini jam half the year when they’re not on shelves. Do you need any more convincing?
If so, just look to the Trader Joe’s frozen food aisle, which offers a globe spanning assortment of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Their emphasis is on simple-to-prepare eats at a great value. Whether you’re looking to stock up on back-to-school solo meals that can be prepared in your dorm with the touch of a microwave button or you need to feed a family of four and time is limited on weekdays, their vast selection is bound to suit your culinary needs. In fact, the multitude of options can be so overwhelming, we decided to narrow down the best of the best, because we know your time is precious.
And yes, you’re sure to get a TJ’s cashier comment on how great at least one of these items is while checking out.
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Apps & Sides
It’s difficult to choose when it comes to Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers—the feta and caramelized onion cups! The shrimp toast! The coconut curry chicken stix! But our freezers are only so big, so here are some of the old faithfuls we never pass up.
Potstickers (Chicken or Pork)
Simply steamed (in the microwave is fine), frozen potstickers are a great solution for a quick weeknight meal, and we’ve been into TJ’s offerings since their debut; the Thai veggie gyoza are also fab. Serve any of them alongside a dipping sauce of soy, sesame oil, and a little brown sugar, plus a salad or some quick steamed edamame and rice, for a complete dinner or lunch.
Organic Riced Cauliflower
One of the most versatile Trader Joe’s frozen products, riced cauliflower can be turned into a complete low-carb meal in minutes. Add sauteed vegetables, shredded chicken, or any veggies waiting to be used in the fridge to make an any-style stir fry. Just a note: This frozen product does contain some salt, whereas the fresh riced cauliflower in the produce section is simply vegetable.
Handsome Cut French Fries
If there’s ever a food that you don’t need to make from scratch, it’s French fries. Let the flash freezer do the work. All you need to do is bake on high heat—or use your air fryer—and eat by the forkful alongside a plate of salad (if you’re being good…if not, make a quick and dirty poutine with store-bought gravy and cheese curds—or leftover pulled pork). Trader Joe’s also has garlic and sweet potato options that are equally perfect for stuffing your face, but there’s something about that classic potato taste that gets us every time.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Last minute get-together? Trader Joe’s has you covered with everyone’s favorite: spinach and artichoke dip. You never have to tell anyone it comes in a solid block once you serve it hot and melty inside of a bread bowl—or even baked with chicken breasts for an easy dinner party idea (which works for weeknights too). Serve a salad on the side and you’re golden.
Here’s an elevated take on the tried and true frozen pizza that is a perfect couples’ meal. The race track shaped crust comes topped with burrata which ends up nice and creamy along with a sprinkling of arugula leaves for a peppery kick. Multiple slices of prosciutto are separately packaged giving you the option of crisping it up atop your flatbread in the oven or adding it at the end if you prefer your cured meat toppings on the softer side. Take note: Prep time is longer than other options on this list—20 minutes to defrost, another 10-12 to bake—so make sure you have time to spare.
Then there’s the vast array of options intended to serve as complete meals; these are some of our favorites to toss in the red cart.
Can’t decide between pepperoni pizza and macaroni & cheese? As that classic meme goes, “why not both?” That’s right, the mad food scientists at Trader Joe’s have Doctor Moreau’d the beloved combo of elbow macaroni and cheddar with the classic trio of mozzarella, tomato, and pepperoni in one freakishly satisfying bowl. It’s like that episode of “Full House” guest-starring Urkel, but in food form. Add some greens on the side if you feel any twinge of guilt.
Joe’s Diner Mac ‘n Cheese
For those who prefer the classics, you can’t go wrong with this option either. Top with steamed broccoli if you’re feeling guilty, crumble with bacon if you’re feeling like a queen—either way, this rich and creamy frozen item is ideal for any comfort food kind of night.
This vegetarian entree is easily the boldest flavor bomb on this list. Basmati rice is laced with vegetables and an array of spices but the star of the show are the plump dumplings, essentially an Indian version of meat(less) balls.
Related Reading: The Best Vegan Food at Trader Joe’s
It wouldn’t be a list of Trader Joe’s frozen meals without this longtime favorite many consider the chain’s best offering. What’s not to love about crispy battered chicken coated in a sticky, sweet, and citrusy sauce? If there was a TJ’s hall of fame, this would be a unanimous inductee. Serve it with steamed rice and sauteed snap peas or steamed broccoli—far better, faster, and cheaper than takeout.
Trader Joe’s is quite familiar with the versatility of gnocchi. Their cauliflower and sweet potato versions don’t disappoint but this innovative take that stuffs mozzarella and tomato sauce into pillowy potato orbs might just be the best of them all. It’s the pasta equivalent of Gushers that you never knew you needed in your life. You know what we’re gonna say: Add a salad and dinner is done.
Related Reading: The Best International Potato Dishes
Sweet Corn Tamales
You can’t go wrong with any of Trader Joe’s tamale offerings but their sweet corn option is a definite standout. The masa is fluffy, the cheese (manchego in this case) is salty and stringy, and the chunks of roasted peppers add a mild chile bite. If you have the time and the equipment it’s worth the extra effort to steam the tamales for optimal enjoyment. You can feast on them alone with a couple accompaniments (guac and chips) or make them part of a bigger spread.
Steak & Stout Pies
It takes nearly an hour in the oven to make these decadent savory pub favorites but it’s definitely worth the wait. The result is a buttery, flaky crust that houses a filling filling of potatoes, carrots, and chunks of beef drenched in gravy. No surprise, this isn’t exactly a healthy option so you may want to save this one for a cheat day.
Though traditionally eaten at breakfast, shakshuka can be enjoyed any time of the day. While your local hipster diner may offer the ever popular Middle Eastern stew on their menu for a price that’s hard to swallow, this starter pack which includes a vibrantly spiced tomato and pepper base can be had for less than two bills. All you have to do is B.Y.O.E. (bring your own eggs) to get a taste of the hype.
Related Reading: This Green Shakshuka Is Brunch Heaven
Paella is one of Spain’s hallmark dishes and while this frozen in a bag version doesn’t quite transport you to Valencia, it certainly won’t let you down, especially for the price. Trader Joe’s doesn’t skimp on the seafood (in this case a mixture of shrimp, mussels, and squid) which is suitably represented amongst the saffron-tinged rice. A package could feed a family of four (with a tapas or two on the side) or you can stretch this out over a couple of meals if you have fewer mouths to feed.
Mahi Mahi Burgers
One of three Trader Joe’s fish burger offerings (the other two are tuna and salmon), the mahi mahi version is the mildest of the bunch and ideal for accessorizing with any number of condiments from your standard lettuce and tomato to roasted pineapple and spicy salsa. Slice a patty in half and enjoy it in a tortilla if you want to go the fish taco route or grab a pack of Aloha Rolls for a kid-friendly slider spin.
If you’re looking for a quick solo meal, this take on Korea’s famed rice bowl will definitely fit the bill. While the traditional stone cooking vessel is obviously not included you will find a pleasant assortment of tender beef, vegetables, and egg served over white rice. A packet of teriyaki-adjacent chile sauce is included but you should consider a squirt or two of Sriracha if you want to amp up the heat.
Honestly, Trader Joe’s frozen desserts could warrant their own article, from seasonal faves like the pumpkin cheesecake to new arrivals like their light ice cream (giving Halo Top some competition)—but there are just two non-entree and non-appetizer frozen items we want to highlight for now.
The only thing standing between you and freshly baked croissants for breakfast is a few hours of proofing the pastries (as long as you can remember to put them out the night before!). Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants are rich, flaky, and a super decadent way to start any morning, especially if you pair them with crisp bacon and seasonal fruit (ripe raw berries in summer, roasted cinnamon-spiked pears and apples in the fall and winter). They also taste anything but previously frozen. (HOWEVER, as of 2018, there has been chatter about the formula being changed and the croissants baking up more bready than flaky. Quel scandale! Have you found this to be true?)
Trader Joe’s has lots of frozen fruit options, from frozen berries for smoothies to acai puree, but don’t sleep on the frozen semi-dried apricots. Once slightly thawed, these magical gems can be eaten like a dessert or cooked down for jam or pastry fillings anytime of the year—or, you can add them to grain salads, rice pilafs, and roasted proteins like pork chops and chicken for a savory option.
Related Video: We Taste Tested Trader Joe’s Employee Recommendations
What’s your favorite frozen item at Trader Joe’s? Let us know in the comments!
The original version of this post was written by Rachel Johnson and published on August 31, 2017. It was updated by David Klein with additional text.
Head image courtesy of Trader Joe's