Pittsburgh Trader Joe's
Pittsburgh Trader Joe's by David Fulmer (CC BY)

Trader Joe's Best Buys for Packing Your Freezer

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Pittsburgh Trader Joe's
Pittsburgh Trader Joe's by David Fulmer (CC BY)

Cold Cuisine

March is National Frozen Food Month, which means there's no better time to check out Trader Joe's much-buzzed-about freezer section. The quirky grocer manages to pack a staggering variety into those few all-important aisles, making it tough for newbies to know which goodies are worth the spend. Our picks are based on personal experience and reviewer recommendations from all over the Internet. (Got room for bulk buys? Check out our favorite frozen-food buys at Costco.)


Related: 15 Best House Wines From Costco, Aldi, and Trader Joe's

Cauliflower Gnocchi
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Cauliflower Gnocchi

$2.79
The people have spoken, and TJ's Cauliflower Gnocchi is among the best items the store has to offer in several categories. Made in Italy, these versatile little dumplings are also made of cassava flour, potato starch, olive oil and sea salt, which means they're also gluten-free.


Related: 25 Best Gluten-Free Finds at Costco

Pork Gyoza Potstickers
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Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers
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Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers

$3.69
A plant-based burger made partially with quinoa certainly seems buzzy enough to be a new addition to TJ's freezers, but these have been available for several years. Give 'em a whirl if you don't expect a perfect beef clone — as What's Good at Trader Joe's notes, this patty is more zesty, spicy Southwest than Beyond Burger.


Related: This Meatless Burger Fooled Our Taste Testers

Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches
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Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches

$4.79
These things are just decadent: Creamy vanilla ice cream is sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies, and then more — lots more — chocolate chips are sprinkled along the side for good measure. These frozen treats also made the list of TJ's top 50 products of all time, released for the grocer's 50th anniversary.


Related: Best Store-Bought Desserts From Trader Joe's

Mandarin Orange Chicken
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Mandarin Orange Chicken

$5
This frozen dish is a longtime favorite, and customers reaffirmed their love by recently naming it the store's best overall item. For a true takeout-like experience, TJ's recommends putting the thawed sauce in a hot pan instead of a microwave before tossing in the baked chicken. Yum.


Related: 21 Takeout Meals Made Cheaper at Home

Burrata, Prosciutto, and Arugula Flatbread
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Burrata, Prosciutto, and Arugula Flatbread

$5
If you're a pizza lover who's feeling a little fancy, we can personally vouch that this flatbread is up to the task of wowing your tastebuds. The blend of cheeses, from burrata to fontal, is impressive enough, but layering on the thinly sliced prosciutto puts it over the top. Serve it to guests as an appetizer, or wolf it down yourself with a nice glass of wine.


Related: Why Trader Joe's Employees are Surprisingly Helpful and Friendly

Cha Siu Bao Chinese Style Pork Buns
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Cha Siu Bao Chinese Style Pork Buns

$3.49
No, they'll never replace the cha siu bao at your favorite dim sum place. But for a quick heat-and-eat snack at home, TJ's pork buns are an admirable stand-in, popping out of the microwave with a properly soft, bready exterior filled with sweet and savory pork. Freezer Meal Frenzy agrees, saying, "Once that pork hits your taste buds, all your worries just sort of melt away."


Related: Things You Should Skip at Trader Joe's

Organic Silver Dollar Pancakes
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Organic Silver Dollar Pancakes

$2.29
Got kids? Then these miniature treats, a perfect finger food for young kids, are ready to be your morning savior when heating up the griddle is a no-go. All-organic ingredients are just icing on these very convenient (pan)cakes. 


Related: Why Trader Joe’s Employees Are Surprisingly Helpful and Happy

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

$4
Whether you want a painless way to pack in your veggies or you're actively trying to avoid gluten, this pizza crust made from cauliflower and corn flour is at your service. And since each serving is fat-free and only 80 calories, that means you can pile all the naughty things you want on top without feeling guilty, right?


Related: From Plain Cheese to Peking Duck: 25 Yummy Pizza Recipes

Chicken Tikka Masala
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Chicken Tikka Masala

$3.69
Another longtime customer favorite, TJ's Chicken Tikka Masala is a single-serve meal that's pretty close to zap-and-eat perfection, fans say. "My only real complaint is that when it's all gone, I always wish I had more," writes food blogger Sometimes Foodie. "But I think that's a good sign that this frozen dinner is definitely doing something right."

French Vanilla Ice Cream
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French Vanilla Ice Cream

$6
Who needs name-brand ice cream when you have Trader Joe's? That's the consensus of several expert taste testers, including our own. Setting it apart from the competition: A custardy texture that makes for a richer taste and feel. TJ's also brags that you'll still actually get a half-gallon of this stuff for the price, even while other manufacturers have shrunk their containers. 


Recipe: Easy Frozen Dessert Recipes 

Mini Chicken Tacos
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Mini Chicken Tacos

$4.49
TJ's freezer section is arguably better at Asian food than Mexican, but among your best south-of-the-border bets are these scrumptious little two-bite wonders. Each tiny corn tortilla holds a mix of chicken, green chile tomatillo sauce, and jalapeno. Pair them with your favorite salsa and some sour cream for a Taco Tuesday-worthy snack any day of the week.

Reduced Guilt Macaroni and Cheese
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Reduced Guilt Macaroni and Cheese

$2
A light version of mac and cheese may seem a little beside the point of this indulgent dish, but we have to say that TJ's gets it right. The generous single-serve portion is still plenty cheesy and creamy, but it has only 270 calories and 6 grams of fat — not bad — plus a surprising 15 grams of protein. 


Related: 20 Super Simple Twists on Boxed Mac and Cheese

Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls
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Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls

$3.99
Exactly the type of zany, off-beat product Trader Joe's is known for, Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls are certainly a mouthful to say — and to eat, in the best possible way. Tough critics on Reddit give the sweet and spicy new concoction, filled with chicken and veggies, sterling reviews.

Gone Bananas!
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Gone Bananas!

$2
Sometimes it's the simple things that really hit the spot, and so it is with these frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas. The price is right, and it's easy to grab just a couple when you want just a little something sweet without too much guilt. Prefer strawberries? Check out Gone Berry Crazy! instead.

Vegetable Fried Rice
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Vegetable Fried Rice

$2.49
Whether you choose this or TJ's equally tasty Chicken Fried Rice, you'll have a ready side for the Mandarin Orange Chicken we know you won't be able to resist. Cook it on the stovetop if you want those crispier grains, but we've zapped it enough times in the microwave to know it's plenty flavorful that way, too. 


Related: 20 Cheap and Easy Ways to Use Rice

Steak and Stout Pies
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Steak and Stout Pies

$7
Despite being among the freezer section's pricier buys, Steak and Stout Pies have endured for several years at TJ's. Granted, this particular item won't win any health awards (hello, high fat and sodium content) but the hearty chunks of steak, carrots, and potatoes bathed in an indulgent gravy will certainly fit the bill as comfort food on a cold day.

Gnocchi al Gorgonzola
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Gnocchi al Gorgonzola

$3.29
These fluffy gnocchi filled with a gorgonzola sauce are this author's favorite — just be warned that one package is supposed to serve two, but you'll want it all to yourself. Don't take my word for it: Reviewers at Freezer Meal Frenzy also give it plenty of love, though they recommend adding a dash of pepper.

Jumbo Sea Scallops
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Jumbo Sea Scallops

$18
No, even Trader Joe's can't somehow magically sell quality scallops on the cheap, but considering we could pay $25 for a pound of scallops at Whole Foods, we won't complain too loudly. TJ's reviewer Become Betty says "they were just about on the same level as my local seafood shop," and commenters agree, so spend with confidence here.


Related: Most Expensive Products at Trader Joe's

Berry Medley
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Berry Medley

$3
Nothing earth-shattering to see or taste here, but if you're a smoothie lover, you'll always appreciate a bag of frozen berries sold at a good price. Your final price works out to around 19 cents an ounce from TJ's, while Kroger charges 25 cents for a similar blend.  


Related: 25 Smoothies That Are Better Than Ice Cream

Chocolate Lava Cakes
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Chocolate Lava Cakes

$3
This decadent desert, a standby on the menu of practically every chain restaurant in the country, is one of those things that you want to make at home, but probably never will. TJ's version is convincing enough to pass off as homemade, according to The Daily Meal. Pair it with ice cream and a few sliced strawberries for the ultimate convincing flourish.

Turkey Meatballs
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Turkey Meatballs

$4
TJ's frozen turkey meatballs are among The Kitchn's favorite timesavers from the chain, and we agree: On a sandwich, in some pasta, or served plain with a side of fruit for picky kids, they've saved our tired behinds many a night.

Mushroom Risotto
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Mushroom Risotto

$3.29
Any would-be chef knows that making risotto can be a major time suck, and if you're not about to babysit a simmering pot on a busy weeknight, we hear you. Five minutes of stirring is all it takes for this easy side. 


Related: 50 Simple, Cheap, and Delicious Instant Pot Recipes

Spinach Artichoke Dip
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Spinach Artichoke Dip

$3
Nothing ground-breaking here: This microwavable dip is a perennial crowd pleaser that's great for those before-dinner or during-the-game nibbles. If you're feeling fancy, put it in a bread bowl or serve it with some crostini. Otherwise, grab a bag of tortilla chips and go to town.

sweet potato fries trader joes
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Sweet Potato Fries

$2

This is our go-to side on burger or Sloppy Joe night, not to mention the taste-test favorite of the team at MyRecipes. These little slices of carb heaven are "surprisingly crispy and comparable to restaurant quality," they rave. We agree.