We don't have to tell you why it's so easy to love Trader Joe's. The aisles are stocked with lick-the-plate-clean foods and other fresh finds that are always affordable, and it's a well-known fact that everyone working there can readily put a smile on your face. So it's probably no surprise, then, that you have a well-honed routine when you shop at this chain and often stock your cart with the same familiar products. But how many of those items are from the frozen food section?
The frozen food section at a grocery store is the perfect place to pick up items out of convenience, but Trader Joe's makes it so you're not sacrificing flavors in the name of saving time. We think that it's just as important to have fresh produce in your fridge as it is to have a well-stocked freezer, and that's why we've picked the nine things from this grocery store that you should always have chilling at home. From chicken masala and soup dumplings to salted caramel gelato and riced cauliflower, these options can either be eaten on their own or used to enhance a dish you've whipped up yourself.
And in case you need some inspiration, we've also included recipes that would pair well with these frozen foods, too. Read on to get our recommendations, and get ready to stock your freezer.
Frozen Pie Crust
As every baker knows, there's a certain skill to creating the perfect pie crust from scratch. And if you don't feel like practicing—but you're definitely in the mood for a homemade pie—then let Trader Joe's handle this tricky component for you. Every box comes with two frozen pie crusts, and all you'll have to do is figure out what to fill them with.
Possible Pairing: Paleo pumpkin pie from Food Faith Fitness.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Since it was introduced a decade ago, this frozen chicken masala option has been a perennial favorite among TJ diehards because its rich flavors don't dull during a reheat. The chicken in each package is roasted in a tandoor before being sealed in a tomato-based curry sauce, and rice comes on the side, too. All you need is some naan, and this becomes a perfect meal.
Possible Pairing: Homemade naan from Half Baked Harvest.
Organic Tropical Fruit Blend
When you have one of these tropical fruit blend bags waiting in your freezer, it's that much easier to make a smoothie as either a quick breakfast or a nutritious snack. Add in some yogurt and spinach for texture and flavor, and you're good to go.
Possible Pairing: Energizing pumpkin seed granola bars from Hello Glow.
When you've had one of those super busy weekdays and the idea of cooking a full dinner from scratch is out of the question, then it's the perfect time to heat up one of these veggie burgers. All you need to add are some fresh ingredients—like sliced onions, tomatoes, and lettuce—and then top everything off with a slice of cheese and two toasted buns.
For an added touch, you might also consider making an aioli, too.
Possible Pairing: A shredded brussels sprouts and bacon salad from Half Baked Harvest.
Macaroni and Cheese
That being said, if it's been a particularly rough day—and you don't mind a meal that's assembled entirely from the freezer, then opt for this reduced-fat macaroni and cheese. Wisconsin cheddar, low-fat milk, and elbow macaroni come together in this classically comforting dish, which goes very well with a glass of wine.
Possible Pairing: Lavender white wine sangria from How Sweet Eats.
Salted Caramel Gelato
A freezer should never be without ice cream, and this pick—which is churned with Argentine-style dulce de leche caramel and flecks of fleur de sel—makes for a decadent choice. Aside from having a scoop or two whenever a craving hits, this pint should also be on hand if ever unexpected company comes over for dessert. Served in a glass dish or in a waffle cone, this ice cream can be an impressive yet simple treat.
Possible Pairing: Chocolate-dipped oatmeal peanut butter cookies from Joyful Healthy Eats.
Chicken Soup Dumplings
Once again, a frozen food option comes in handy whenever you're looking for an easy way to bring another dimension to an entrée. In this case, steamed chicken soup dumplings can add a layer of richness and texture to a dish that features fresh vegetables. But if you'd rather eat these just as they are, that's fine—there's also a meal in themselves.
Possible Pairing: A dumpling soup with squash from Half Baked Harvest.
When most of your attention is focused on a show-stopping main course, like a roast chicken, then a frozen side like this riced cauliflower can save you the extra time and effort of considering the dynamics of a completely-from-scratch meal. This rice comes together in a pan in a few minutes, and is just as fluffy as if you did all the work yourself.
Possible Pairing: A roast chicken with a lemon herb pan sauce from The Modern Proper.
Frozen pizza is an obvious need for any kitchen, and this option remains a Trader Joe's favorite because of its mix of pepperoni, bell peppers, sausage, onions, and plenty of cheese. Eat the slices by themselves, or add a fresh salad for a complete meal.
Possible Pairing: A bacon and spinach salad from Foodie Crush.