- Insider asked chefs about their favourite frozen items to buy from grocery-store chain Trader Joe’s.
- One expert said they recommend the Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs and another said they can’t get enough of the Trader Joe’s green tea mochi.
- Some chefs suggest purchasing frozen staples, like the chain’s organic wild blueberries and jasmine rice.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Trader Joe’s is known for having unique seasonal offerings and many aisles of frozen foods.
To help you figure out what to add to your shopping list next time you hit up this famous grocery-store chain, Insider spoke to a few chefs about what they frequently pick up from its freezer aisles.
Here are nine of the best frozen foods from Trader Joe’s, according to chefs
The brand’s organic wild blueberries make a perfect addition to a morning smoothie.
Jonathan Olson, executive chef at The Keep in Columbus, Ohio, said he especially enjoys the organic wild blueberries available in Trader Joe’s freezers.
“In my freezer at home, I always have Trader Joe’s frozen blueberries. Blending the frozen fruit with [fresh] banana, almond butter, almond milk, a little honey, and some greens is a great way to start the day,” he told Insider.
Trader Joe’s tamales are a cult-favourite for good reason.
Trader Joe’s may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of a shop that carries well-executed tamales, but its frozen versions are a hit with Wilson Davalos, chef at CLMDO in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Davalos said he favours the cheese and green chile variety offered at Trader Joe’s.
“These tamales are so light and airy with a touch of sweetness. They are filled with mild green chilies. I always add a bit of hot sauce on top – that’s my favourite way to eat them,” Davalos said.
The mandarin orange chicken is a Trader Joe’s classic.
Trader Joe’s mandarin orange chicken is beloved by many, including chef Rhoelle Gabrielle of Amici’s Ristobar at The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch in San Diego, California.
“I really enjoy their frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken. You need to fry the chicken but, for a slightly healthier alternative, I recommend throwing the nuggets into an air fryer before tossing with the sauce,” Gabrielle said.
She said she also tosses the chicken with steamed vegetables and rice for “a delicious and complete meal.”
For a slightly zestier entree, try Trader Joe’s Kung Pao chicken.
Another well-liked frozen dish from Trader Joe’s is the Kung Pao chicken. Its spice makes it a favourite of Joseph Paulino, executive chef at Wall Street Grill in New York City.
“The Kung Pao Chicken is juicy, tender, and spicy, which I absolutely love. All you have to do is heat it up on the stovetop to make it hot,” Paulino told Insider.
The frozen jasmine rice at Trader Joe’s pairs perfectly with the Kung Pao chicken.
In terms of ease and convenience, it’s hard to beat the individually portioned frozen jasmine rice packages from Trader Joe’s.
“The rice takes three minutes in the microwave – it’s fast and it comes out perfect each time. It’s light and fluffy and you don’t have to worry about overcooking,” Paulino told Insider.
If you’re looking for a way to add extra flavour and texture to your rice, Paulino said he suggests creating fried rice by adding chopped garlic, sautéd pineapples, and onions to it.
Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs can be hearty and satisfying.
Bryn Butolph, executive chef at Eat Clean Meal Prep in San Diego, California, said he loves the grocery store’s meatless meatballs because they make for “a quick, easy, and guilt-free meal” when he is in a time crunch.
To prepare the meatless meatballs, Butolph said, you should “bake them in the oven then simmer in your favourite sauce.” He said he recommends using a zesty BBQ sauce or a red curry.
The frozen shrimp allows you to whip up a tasty seafood bowl with the greatest of ease.
For a quick and delicious dinner, Mike Noll, chef at bardo in Charlotte, North Carolina, said you should start with a bag of this frozen shrimp.
“One of my favourite things to buy at Trader Joe’s is the frozen [raw] shrimp,” Noll told Insider.
He said he likes to make a quick “sushi bowl” using rice, sauteéd shrimp, sliced avocado, soy sauce, and TJ’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning.
“[It’s] a perfect quick meal after working a long day,” he added.
Any shopper with a dessert craving might want to grab a package of Trader Joe’s green tea mochi.
Trader Joe’s green tea mochi offers a smooth, refreshing, and not-too-sweet flavour that pros like Michael Welch, executive chef at Backyard Kitchen and Tap in San Diego, California, love.
“Honestly, who doesn’t love mochi ice cream? Between the unique textural components of its pounded sticky-rice shell and its sweet and creamy ice-cream core, this is definitely a frozen dessert worth throwing in your cart on your next Trader Joe’s spree,” said Welch.
Trader Joe’s coconut milk ice cream is an excellent dairy-free dessert option that comes in a few flavours.
Vice Cole, co-executive chef at Territory Foods in the Washington DC area, said he especially enjoys the strawberry flavour of Trader Joe’s coconut milk ice cream.
“I love taking balsamic vinegar and reducing it to a thick syrup and drizzling it over the strawberry coconut milk ice cream. It’s a sweet, savoury, and creamy [treat] for the summer months or whenever you feel like upping your ice-cream game,” he told Insider.