The $4 Trader Joe’s Frozen Meals I Eat for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

published Oct 24, 2022
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trader joe's freezer section
Credit: Lauren Masur

If someone forced me to choose just one favorite food, it would be curry — without question.

Curries originate from many different nations and cultures, so they can include a wide array of deeply spiced dishes. Although I love to spend treasured hours tending to spicy, simmering pots that beautifully perfume the kitchen (following the example of my Sri Lankan aunties), sometimes I need a quicker solution.

When I’m low on spices or time, I peek in my freezer for Trader Joe’s Indian entrées — neatly packaged, affordable, and full of flavor. While TJ’s offers a whole line of frozen curry options, two standouts serve as a base for a tasty South Asian-inspired meal: Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Vindaloo

Credit: Amanda Marikar

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Vindaloo?

TJ’s Chicken Tikka Masala includes tender pieces of chicken breast suspended in a vivid, brick-red curried tomato sauce scented with fenugreek, turmeric, and coriander, and enriched with milk, cream, and ghee. Served over steaming rice studded with toasty cumin seeds, the comforting gravy delivers a hint of heat that elevates its flavors.

Trader Joe’s Lamb Vindaloo takes the spiciness up a notch with its vinegary, tingly pepper sauce coating toothsome chunks of meat. This time the side of Basmati rice is flecked with fresh curry and cilantro leaves to balance the flavor of the lamb. Although hotter than some of TJ’s other curry dishes, Lamb Vindaloo won’t blow your top off.

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Frozen Chicken Tikka Masala, $3.99 for 8.5 ounces

Credit: Amanda Marikar

What’s the Best Way to Use Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Vindaloo?

They both come in individual serving trays, each with curry on one side, and fluffy, fragrant basmati rice on the other. Heating takes just four to five minutes in the microwave and then they’re ready to eat. While great on their own, I’ll add a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves, a grind or two of Trader Joe’s new Smoked Ghost Chili Pepper, or a side of chutney or raita for a simple upgrade.

To approximate the variety of a complete rice and curry meal, I often enhance TJ’s Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Vindaloo with some of the store’s other offerings, like frozen Tandoori Naan brushed with ghee, flaky Malabari Paratha, Mini Vegetable Samosas, or packets of Tikka Vegetables or Yellow Tadka Dal, which I’d recommend livening up with fresh chilis, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

The grocer suggests transforming your Tikka Masala by snuggling it in a burrito for a fun lunch or folding your Vindaloo into a triangle of puff pastry for a savory pastry pocket. In my own experiments, I have certainly not hesitated to put an egg on it for breakfast. 

Trader Joe’s frozen Indian entrées might not completely satiate the desire for home-cooked curry, but the Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Vindaloo can truly tick some satisfying boxes on a cold night.

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Frozen Lamb Vindaloo, $4.49 for 9.5 ounces.

Let us know some of your favorite frozen Trader Joe’s standbys in the comments.