12 Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods We Crave 24/7 (They All Cost Less Than $5!)

A woman places mocha ice cream on a kitchen counter
Matcha Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream from Trader Joe's was photographed at The Penny Hoarder on Monday, August 20, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

There’s no hiding it: We Penny Hoarder staffers love Trader Joe’s.

Shopping at the California-based, budget-friendly grocery chain delights both our appetites and our wallets. The closest location is 2 miles from our office, which means we pretty much live there.

We clamor for everything from the chocolatey cat-shaped cookies and takeout-worthy Indian fare down to the Two-Buck Chuck.

Seeing a staff member unwrap a Trader Joe’s frozen meal for lunch or nosh on Trader Joe’s-brand snacks at their desk is the norm.

So I decided to poll our staff on their favorite Trader Joe’s frozen meals, just to see what would come up — or what I might be missing.

The 12 Best Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods, According to… Well, Us

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: $3.99

This sweet treat is vegan, and it’s soy-, dairy- and gluten-free. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to our team — 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: $3.49

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. Mac and Cheese Bites: $3.69

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.

5. Vegetable Fried Rice: $2.29

We had lots of opinions about the fried rice options. The Japanese-style fried rice was a close second, but vegetable 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.

6. Vegan Tikka Masala: $3.49

Vegan Tikka Masala from Trader Joe's
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

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, convenient, and have a nice balance of proteins, fats and low carbs. Plus, they taste GOOD.

7. Gnocchi al Gorgonzola: $2.99

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 they heat up fast, which is a time-saver for us hustlers. Top with some cracked pepper, or toss some peas in. Just don’t overcook them.

8. Pork Gyoza Potstickers: $2.99

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. Make your own dipping sauce or serve with the Trader Joe’s specialty gyoza dipping sauce if you feel so inclined.

9. Cheese and Green Chili Tamale: $2.69

Handcrafted Cheese and Green Chile Tamales from Trader Joe's
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Like all good things, these come in pairs, wrapped in a traditional cornhusk. They put microwavable burritos to shame. Keep some stashed in the freezer,  pop ’em into the microwave and scarf them down in a jiffy. They’re good for breakfast or lunch, complete with a chili bite.

10. Organic Brown Rice: $3.49

We loved this for the time-saving factor, price and quality. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

The delectable frozen fare at Trader Joe’s makes up for the anxiety-inducing parking lots. If you don’t have one near you, it’s worth the occasional pilgrimage to stock up. Trust us.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d marry the frozen zucchini fries if it were legal.