Popping a frozen food dinner in the microwave serves a great purpose, in that you get fed in a short amount of time. Even if you decide to bake a freezer meal instead of crafting something from scratch, that method still has a certain convenience factor. However you decide to heat your meal, combining it with a delicious choice makes the experience a win-win.
However, frozen food sections of the store can be overwhelming. The cold shelves are packed with so many options that grabbing just anything can be a risky business. Thankfully, long gone are the days when frozen dinners were just powdery potatoes and barely identifiable meats served in flimsy tins. Those still exist, of course, but now they sit in the freezer case alongside a slew of more tempting offerings, like plant-based meals, zesty comfort foods, and low-calorie choices that are tasty and sometimes even good for you.
To help narrow down the selections, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best frozen food dinners available at your local grocery stores.
Sweet Earth Cauliflower Mac
Carb-counting is the foundation for cauliflower’s rise in popularity. It now stands in as a substitute for timeless but carbohydrate-heavy dishes like pasta and rice. To give credit where it’s due, this flowery-looking vegetable has served diners well in its essential new role. From sides like cauliflower wings to entrées like Sweet Earth’s Cauliflower Mac, it isn’t just for salads anymore.
As far as comfort food goes, not much soothes the soul like a bowl of hot and gooey mac and cheese. This vegan, cauliflower-dominated version does not disappoint. Chunky cauliflower florets are mixed with twisty pasta noodles in a cauliflower cream sauce, made a bit more authentic with the addition of crispy breadcrumbs. While the sauce may not be as goopy as a slathering of melted cheddar, this one is still creamy and flavorful. Its smoothness allows the sauce to mix easily with the other ingredients so that you get a saucy bite each time. If finding a healthy choice is your mission, this frozen meal is a pretty good option.
Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken and Gravy
Chicken fried steak is a popular southern comfort food dish where a piece of chicken is pounded flat, battered, fried, and served with gravy. Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken and Gravy offers just what you might expect: a white meat chicken cutlet that’s been covered in breading and gravy.
Callender’s, known for their dine-in restaurants featuring menus laden with homestyle options, updated this meal a few years back according to reviewers, taking away the separate gravy packet. Only having one meal plate to heat makes the convenient meal even easier to prepare. The chicken is tender, easy to cut, and together with the gravy, quite yummy. However, the real hit in this meal is the mashed potatoes. They’re creamy and have a fresh-made taste. The side of corn kernels that tastes like any standard offering of that vegetable. To make them more exciting, combine them with the chicken, gravy, and potatoes for a perfect mixed bite.
Evol Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Truffles are edible fungi known for a few things, like their heady, musky scent, their unique oaky taste, and often, their high price tag. Given all that, they may not be the first thing you think of when shopping for frozen meals. However, the masterminds at Evol found a way to incorporate these mushroom-like entities in their Truffle Parmesan Mac and Cheese. For that, a thank you to the company is in order, especially for authenticity. According to Evol, they get their truffles straight from the forests of Italy.
That sort of thoughtfulness pays off in this frozen meal. Before you even cook this, you get a whiff of the truffles. It’s a surprise for frozen food, as scents usually don’t come to life until the heat starts to thaw the ingredients during cooking. It’s a little strong, but don’t let that deter you. The noodles blend with a creamy parmesan and cheddar cheese sauce, and, of course, the truffles. The pasta has a nice texture as well. The whole meal all comes together for a robust taste experience.
Michael Angelo’s Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplant parmigiana is a gooey, goopy, vegetarian concoction that takes quite a bit of effort to prepare if you want to make it from scratch. Slicing, breading, and frying up the eggplant takes up plenty of time, for one. Then, there’s the added time needed to layer those eggplant slices with cheese and sauce. Worth it? Of course. However, sometimes you need a quick fix. Michael Angelo’s is just the brand to reach for when you have a craving for eggplant parm but not much time.
Michael Angelo’s offers up a rich and hearty version of this meal, with well-seasoned and crispy eggplant rounds. The marinara sauce is a tasty lip-smacker. And the cheese? Forget about it. The layer of mozzarella on top is thick and stretchy, not to mention delicious. It’s frozen food at its best, one that holds up to plenty of casual-restaurant versions and is quicker and more cost-effective than heading to an eatery.
Devour Chicken Enchiladas Suiza
Don’t let anyone tell you that Mexican and Swiss dishes don’t mix. Suiza means Swiss, the Dallas Observer reports, pointing to the immigration of Swiss people into Mexico and the subsequent blending of European and Latin American cuisine. Devour’s version takes tender pulled and seasoned chicken and stuffs it into corn tortillas. The enchiladas don’t fly solo, as they sit atop beans with peppers and corn. It’s all covered with a smooth cheese and sour cream sauce. The chicken, along with the beans, presents plenty of flavors. The sauce cranks this already-tasty dish up a few notches. In Devour’s ads, they encourage you to "eat like an animal." If that means tearing into a savory, saucy delight like this, so be it. Their frozen meals all seem to have a focus on hearty eats, from loaded nacho fried covered in cheese and chorizo to a buffalo chicken grilled cheese, they’re definitely setting out to trigger a primal urge.
Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala often receives praise, and you don’t have to go far past the first bite to understand why. The popular Indian curry sauce is full of spices like coriander, garlic, and paprika, accompanied by other traditional Indian ingredients like tomato and yogurt.
Chunks of roasted chicken breast soak up the sauce. The entrée includes a side of basmati rice, which is distinct from white rice. This basmati is delicious and also nice and sticky for the sauce to cling to. If you pick this up, do yourself a favor and grab a bowl to mix it all together. The tray separates the two for cooking purposes, but beyond that, there’s no need to keep these items apart. Trader Joe’s doesn’t stop with good Indian food with this one, by the way. The store also has also interesting frozen foods available, like Butter Chicken and Vegetable Biryani, an herb-heavy rice dish topped with vegetable dumplings.
Amy’s Cheese Enchilada
The singular description on the package of Amy’s Cheese Enchilada may make it seem like you only get one enchilada here, but don’t fear. You actually get two of these savory goodies in one box. It’s technically considered a two-serving entrée, but it’s easy to down both of them in one sitting. First of all, they are totally cheesy, with a blend of white cheddar and Monterey jack flecked with chopped peppers and olives, which give it a real tang. The cheese gets a bit oily once it melts, though it’s not hard to blot away the excess oil if you choose. The top layer is a kicky sauce full of onion, chiles, and garlic. It’s a little surprising how on par it is with some restaurant enchilada sauces.
If you don’t eat meat or dairy, Amy’s has also produced a Vegan Cheeze and Black Bean Enchilada, though production ceased on many Amy’s Kitchen meals due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, so you may need to be patient or else check out the company’s other vegan options. Amy’s "cheeze" is a plant-based mozzarella that melts well and gets nice and stringy, even though it doesn’t have the same sharpness as the cheddar used in other dishes.
Healthy Choice Korean-Inspired Beef Bowl
The relatively low-calorie frozen meal manages to be full of flavor while still keeping things light. Like cauliflower, quinoa has become a substitute for carb-heavy staples like rice. In Healthy’s Choice’s Korean-inspired Beef Bowl, you will find some red and brown rice mixed in with the quinoa in this bowl, along with barley for plenty of texture. The chunks of beef on top are tender and chewy. The sauce that gives this bowl its pizazz is made from Gochujang, a popular Korean condiment, and soy sauce. With these ingredients, this dressing is a blend of heat, sweetness, and the salty bitterness of the soy, giving the end result plenty of depth. The shitake mushrooms in the bowl lend their own earthy richness, along with leafy greens and sesame seeds. It’s also the perfect size for lunch, with a portion size that gives you energy without weighing you down with a ton of food.
Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat Sauce
Decades after its introduction to shoppers, there’s a reason that Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat Sauce still lines supermarket shelves – it’s really good. This frozen food classic comes in individual and family sizes. The former is hearty and satisfying enough for one person, even without any accompaniments. However, to round it out, you could make some garlic bread to soak up the herbed tomato sauce that surrounds the layers of this classic dish. Said sauce has a nice, tangy flavor. The family-sized tray is a time-saver for a group meal and perfect for pairing with a light side salad.
In this frozen meal, curly-edged noodles are layered with ricotta cheese and a beefy meat sauce, making it a deep and dense pasta square. The real hero of this frozen dinner is the mozzarella cheese covering. It melts well, whether you microwave it or throw it in the oven. If you have the time, though, the latter choice makes this lasagna even better, giving the noodles a nice and crispy edge and making the cheese deliciously brown and bubbly.
Blake’s Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie is a classic British dish sometimes known by its much fancier name, Hachis Parmentier (via Epicurious). Typical shepherd’s pie ingredients include a ground beef base which is covered with mashed potatoes and then baked to crusty perfection. Oftentimes, vegetables like peas and carrots are added to the mix beneath the potatoes. The dish has room for plenty of variation, from family twists to regional variations like a Mexican-inspired shepherd’s pie. Some like it with other meats like lamb, while vegetarians and vegans could whip it up using faux ground beef or mushrooms.
In Blake’s All Natural Shepherd’s Pie, Grandma Clara Blake’s recipe is the inspiration for seasoned beef and organic corn below a topping of organic mashed potatoes. Sometimes the meat in frozen meals leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s not the case here. It is indeed tender and tasty. The corn has a good, bouncy bite and the fluffy mashed potatoes, which Blake’s claims are freshly made, do truly taste homemade and not boxed or frozen.
Lean Cuisine Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Lean Cuisine’s Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese is a great option if you’re looking for a meal that tastes richer than the mere 280 calories that it contains. It’s a great lunch option that takes away the hunger pangs and leaves you feeling satisfied without feeling like you over-feasted.
This meal uses cavatappi pasta, which is like a more extended, winding version of elbow macaroni (via Fine Cooking). Cavatappi also has a ridged surface that’s excellent for grabbing the sauce. Lean Cuisine’s mac & cheese also has a nice bite that still holds up after it’s heated. The white cheddar sauce has a noticeable and crave-worthy sharpness. That latter attribute is what cheddar cheese from Vermont is known for, with a kick makes it intense and distinct. The whole entrée has a light and buttery feel. If it’s not enough to fill you up, it goes well with a side of steamed broccoli or green beans to add to the health factor.
Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells
If there’s ever been a food that might make you feel a little guilty, it’s stuffed shells. Traditionally, large macaroni shells are cooked and then filled with a mixture of ricotta and mozzarella before being covered in sauce and then baked. They’re sinfully good, cheesy, and filling. With a plate of stuffed shells and some bread on the side, your food coma awaits. However, filling the shells can get tricky, and the meal can take a bit of time to prepare.
Thanks to Trader Joe’s, you can experience all the goodness of that dish while taking in only 270 calories, according to Freezer Meal Frenzy. Inside the box, you’ll find two shells plumped from the inside with thick and creamy ricotta mixed with spinach. There’s enough of the spinach that you can taste it and it doesn’t feel like a mere afterthought. Every bite offers a nearly equal cheese-to-spinach ratio. The sweet and tangy marinara sauce is also notable for its flavor. Let’s not forget the mozzarella on top, with a layer that gets bubbly and stretchy when you cook it, making this a small but ultra-satisfying portion of this usual gut-buster.
Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Blackened Chicken Alfredo
Blackened chicken typically falls into the realm of Cajun and Creole food, helped along by luminaries like Louisana chef Paul Prudhomme, who popularized southern dishes like blackened redfish (via Nola.com). In dishes like blackened chicken, a buttered and seasoned piece of meat is seared in a cast-iron skillet until it formed a dark, blackened crust.
While Zatarain’s chicken might not taste exactly like it just left a ferociously hot pan in a New Orleans restaurant kitchen, it’s a tasty nod to the classic, especially for a frozen meal. The white meat strips include in their Blackened Chicken Alfredo have an external crispness and grill marks to give the dish sincerity. When you bite in, you experience a little of that crust while the meat inside is on the tender side. The Cajun spice blend, which includes paprika, garlic, and cayenne, are present in the chicken bites and take the whole meal to a newer, zestier level. The cheese sauce blend is more creamy than gooey, so it doesn’t weigh down the penne pasta. This is a good portion, filling and in no need of a side dish. Breadsticks, though, certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
Saffron Road Chicken Pad Thai
Saffron Road says that their company is on a mission to make good food from different world regions and stay focused on ethical processes, including sourcing meat with no antibiotics, like the meat used in their Chicken Pad Thai. This dish is a popular go-to at Thai restaurants. Saffron Road’s version of the stir-fry entrée features roasted white-meat chicken with carrots and scallions over rice noodles that stays true to the original. Peanut sauce is the highlight here, giving both the chicken and the noodles a rich flavor. The noodles can be a little on the sticky side, so take a second to stir it right before or immediately after the meal is cooked.
If you can handle it, this is a dish that’s good with a little kick of heat. You won’t find too much spiciness in Saffron Road’s offering, but feel free to add some hot chili or tabasco sauce to your liking.
Frontera Chicken and Chorizo Taco Bowl
Frontera Foods’ frozen meals are an offshoot of the Frontera empire, headed by Chef Rick Bayless. According to Frontera, Bayless is has spent decades studying Mexican food culture and its techniques. He opened Frontera Grill in Chicago in the late ’80s. Frontera’s products also include an array of tasty salsas, skillet meals, and cooking sauces for home use.
This bowl brings pork chorizo sausage with its smoky taste together with chunks of chicken breast for a two-meat party. The chicken has a softer texture than the sausage, which has you sinking into more of a juicy, toothy bite. It’s a smart texture pairing. That combo is elevated by red peppers and potatoes and a tomato-chipotle sauce that makes for a winning entrée. It comes with grains that soak up all of the delicious, mingling flavors. If the yum-factor of this bowl isn’t enough of a selling point, how about the fact that it only has 290 calories, according to Frontera?