The $4 Trader Joe’s Freezer Find You’ve Been Sleeping on, According to a Former Employee

published Apr 25, 2023
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Los Angeles, California, United States - 04-03-2019: A view of the frozen food section at Trader Joe's, with a shopper looking at products.
Credit: The Image Party/Shutterstock

We all have those “break in case of emergency” meals, don’t we? When your current mood can only be described as “can’t even,” but you still want to end your night with a dinner satisfying enough to get you back to “can even” levels. Well, you might be surprised to know that my key to making a meal that saves the day is Trader Joe’s frozen rice. And no, not the bags you’re thinking of! 

To the corner of Trader Joe’s ultra-popular frozen bags of brown rice, Jasmine rice, Vegetable-Fried or Chicken-Fried Rice, you’ve maybe overlooked what I think is the best of them all: Trader Joe’s Japanese-Style Fried Rice

Believe me, those other rice options are very, very respectable. I worked for Trader Joe’s for over two years, leaving me with many opportunities to taste-test them all and watch customers buy them in droves (leaving plenty of the Japanese-Style for me to buy after work). But I’m here to tell you it’s time to stop sleeping on it, and pick up a bag of Japanese-Style Fried Rice (or two) on your next Trader Joe’s run

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Japanese-Style Fried Rice?

While the other fried rice varieties at Trader Joe’s are well-seasoned and packed with plenty of vegetables, the Japanese-Style Fried Rice contains a whole lot more intrigue and depth in each forkful. Each bite isn’t nearly as “same-y” (my very technical term) as the other bags of rice, with the Japanese-Style containing a confetti of hijiki seaweed, shredded carrots, fried bits of tofu, and plump edamame beans, all dressed with rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. I truly could eat it plain and still not be bored, either. But I hardly ever stop there. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

What’s the Best Way to Use Trader Joe’s Japanese-Style Fried Rice?

The real question might be what can’t you do with this bag of frozen rice? As it turns out, I’m still discovering new uses for the Japanese-Style Fried Rice each time I pick up a bag. My standbys include either topping it simply with an over-easy egg (or stirring in scallion-studded scrambled eggs) along with a hearty slash of chili crisp. That’s level one. 

Level two involves broiling teriyaki-marinated tofu cubes until they’re crispity-crunchity or cutting ribbons of smoked salmon and adding them to my rice (along with cucumbers, furikake seasoning, or spicy kimchi) to create a makeshift poke bowl or wrap it all into a sushi-burrito. My next experiment is a solid level three, taking the cooked fried rice to roll into crispy fried arancini balls to dip into a Sriracha-mayo. As you can see, Trader Joe’s Japanese-Style Fried Rice is truly a choose-your-own-adventure in a bag — and a delicious one at that. 

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Japanese-Style Fried Rice, $3.49 for 16 ounces.

What do you think is the most underrated Trader Joe’s item? Tell us in the comments below.