While frozen dinners may not be as popular in the United States as they used to be, they are still a part of the regular diet of many Americans. With a virtually limitless number of varieties of frozen dinners on the market, you’re sure to find something to pique your interest. From healthy to gluttonous, and from American classics to unique dishes that originated halfway around the world, you can likely find it in the frozen food section of your local grocery store.
The convenience of frozen dinners is unbeatable. Typically, as long as you have a microwave, you’re only a matter of seconds away from having a hot meal at your fingertips. There’s simply no way to prepare a dinner from scratch at anywhere approaching that speed. Beyond convenience, frozen dinners are also proven to be cost-effective.
Unfortunately, not every frozen dinner that you can find at grocery stores is worthwhile. Although some are great, many are forgettable — or worse. In this ranking, we will rank popular frozen dinners. We’ll begin with the worst and finish with the best.
16. Hungry-Man Smokin Backyard Barbeque
Hungry-Man hit grocery shelves back in 1973 with the promise of providing larger portions than the typical frozen dinner. As the name suggests, their goal is to deliver portions that are man-sized. While the Hungry-Man Smokin Backyard Barbeque isn’t lacking when it comes to portion sizes, everything else about it is absolutely atrocious.
The Hungry-Man Smokin Backyard Barbeque has two kinds of meat: a grilled chicken patty that’s glazed and a pork patty drenched in chipotle barbecue sauce. Both of these meats are disgusting. The chicken patty itself has no flavor and the glaze has a chemical aftertaste, while the pork patty tastes like a decaying McRib and the chipotle barbecue sauce is horrid. It’s so sweet and the chipotle flavoring is so inauthentic that it’s much worse than any grocery store barbecue sauce you could possibly find.
This frozen meal also comes with mashed potatoes, kernels of sweet corn, and a chocolate brownie. The potatoes and corn are relatively decent but the brownie will add to your disappointment. It looks like it should have a rich chocolate flavor but it’s actually quite airy and light.
15. Amy’s Veggie Loaf
If you follow a vegan diet, you may be tempted by Amy’s Veggie Loaf. This plant-based frozen dinner is not only vegan-friendly, it’s gluten-free, kosher, and contains no tree nuts. Even if those attributes sound tempting and fit what you look for in a meal, don’t you dare buy this frozen disaster. If you ignore this advice, you will rue the day.
Amy’s Veggie Loaf is just plain gross. The loaf itself not only tastes bad, it falls apart too easily. Even with the brown gravy on top, it doesn’t taste anything like meatloaf. Instead, it tastes like old, congealed veggies with a lifeless gravy that only piles on another layer of sadness. To add insult to injury, it comes with grainy mashed potatoes that will coat your mouth with a chalk-like substance.
The only saving grace of this frozen dinner is the tasty corn and peas that come on the side. But, obviously, that doesn’t compensate for everything else that is wrong with this culinary catastrophe.
14. Stouffer’s Baked Chicken
Stouffer’s, a brand with roots that can be traced back all the way to 1914, is generally a reliable name in the world of frozen dinners. The glaring exception to that generalization is the Stouffer’s Baked Chicken. Once upon a time, this stuff used to be good. But these days, Stouffer’s evidently changed their recipe and reviewers are not happy. The source of the unhappiness is Stouffer’s allegedly switching from including an authentic chicken breast in this frozen dinner to including a faux chicken breast that’s been molded to look like it’s the real thing. Yuck.
On your first bite, you will tell there is something strange about this baked chicken. It’s fatty and so stringy that it’s guaranteed to get stuck in your teeth. While the included gravy is decent enough, there’s not enough of it to make much of a difference. The mashed potatoes are also adequate but they too suffer from a lack of gravy.
13. Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice & Beans
When you look at the box of Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice & Beans, you’ll get the impression that this is an adventurous frozen meal that’s ready and willing to deliver Mexican yumminess directly to your taste buds. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. This frozen dinner is entirely forgettable and is nothing like what your abuela used to make.
Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice & Beans features rice, beans, green chile, zucchini, sour cream, and mozzarella cheese. To your eyes, this meal appears like it will offer at least some spiciness. Amazingly, it’s not spicy at all in reality. All the ingredients are really bland and everything sticks together, which makes it difficult to eat.
If you have a boring palate and you like your Mexican food to be mild, this frozen dinner won’t disappoint too much. But if you’re expecting any spice or any diversity of flavors, you’ll be left in tears while you try to swallow this mush.
12. Hungry-Man Boneless Fried Chicken
The best of the Hungry-Man frozen dinners is called Hungry-Man Boneless Fried Chicken. This meal is still more quantity than it is quality, however it’s leaps and bounds better than anything else this brand sells.
While the words "fried chicken" are in the name, a more accurate description of the entree would be chicken nuggets. You get a pair of gigantic, juicy nuggets that pack an acceptable amount of flavor. While they’re not the best chicken nuggets you’ve ever tasted, they’re big enough to fill you up to the brim. There isn’t any gravy or dipping sauce, which is a bit of a letdown. If you buy this frozen meal, adding some tasty barbecue sauce will help infuse some needed pizzazz into the mix. Beyond the chicken, this frozen meal comes with mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and a chocolate brownie, just like the previously mentioned Hungry-Man meal.
Tip: Avoid the Hungry-Man Classic Fried Chicken. While the name is similar, it’s much worse due to soggy skin and an annoying amount of bones.
11. Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy
Even if you enjoy the restaurant chain by Marie Callender’s or even Marie Callender’s beloved chicken pot pie, don’t let that cloud your judgement when it comes to their frozen dinner. Marie Callender’s Country Fried Chicken & Gravy is the best of the bunch — and it’s barely even adequate. Let’s just say you won’t be rushing to purchase another one of these meals after you finish your first one.
This frozen dinner has two parts: chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese. The tenders are actually pretty good. They’re made with white meat and the breading is scrumptious. You won’t need to add any sauce in order to be pleased with the chicken.
The macaroni and cheese, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as good. While some frozen macaroni and cheese is really good, this side by Marie Callender’s misses the mark completely. The macaroni’s texture is too tough and chewy, while the cheese is way too watery.
10. Lean Cuisine Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes
Lean Cuisine has targeted dieters in their marketing campaigns since first hitting the market back in 1981. Their frozen dinners are hit-and-miss when it comes to taste but they are reliably low in calories and relatively healthy for you. If you want their tastiest offering, look for the Lean Cuisine Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes.
Once you finish heating up this meal, it doesn’t look very appetizing. The meatloaf has white spots, the gravy has an odd reddish tint, and the mashed potatoes look like they have dirt in them. However, as you start eating it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The reddish gravy is actually really good, the meatloaf will fill you up, and the mashed potatoes are also enjoyable.
After you finish eating it, you’ll be surprised to learn that this Lean Cuisine frozen dinner has 20 grams of protein and only 240 calories. If you’re on a diet, eating this meal for dinner will likely help you reach your goals.
9. Banquet Chicken Nuggets with Mac and Cheese
The Banquet Chicken Nuggets with Mac and Cheese (and a brownie) isn’t the best of the best but it’s definitely worth your hard-earned dollar bills. Even picky eaters will be fond of this meal.
The chicken nuggets are similar to Wendy’s chicken nuggets. While Wendy’s nuggets are a little bit better, these Banquet nuggets are a decent facsimile. The chocolate brownie in this frozen dinner is also good. It’s big, dense, and chocolatey. What more could you ask for in a brownie that’s included in a frozen dinner?
However, the real star of the show is the mac and cheese. The macaroni is the perfect texture and the cheese is creamy and delicious. In fact, don’t be surprised if you end up scraping your plate until every drop of the creamy cheese is gone. If you fall in love with the mac and cheese but aren’t too thrilled with the nuggets or the brownie, the good news is that you can purchase Banquet Mac & Cheese by itself.
8. Birds Eye Beef Lo Mein
While it’s difficult to find edible Chinese food in the frozen food aisle, it’s not impossible. Not only is the Birds Eye Beef Lo Mein edible, it’s downright good. This meal has a variety of different flavors and textures, which makes it a joy to eat.
The backbone of Birds Eye Beef Lo Mein is, of course, the lo mein. These egg noodles are hearty and tasty yet soft enough that they don’t get in the way. Mixed in with the noodles you will find beef, bok choy, and strips of carrots and onions. The beef is extra tender and will delightfully melt in your mouth. The action doesn’t stop there, though, as this frozen dinner is also blessed with soy sauce, sesame oil, ground ginger, and garlic powder.
If you like this meal, also try the Birds Eye Sweet & Sour Chicken. It comes with chicken that’s been doused with sweet and sour sauce, white rice, carrot strips, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, pineapple, and onion.
7. Zatarain’s Blackened Chicken Alfredo
If there’s one brand we can trust to do blackened chicken right, it’s Zatarain’s. With a history in New Orleans dating back to 1889, Zatarain’s knows all about Cajun food — unlike a vast majority of the competition.
Zatarain’s Blackened Chicken Alfredo successfully lives up to expectations. The bulk of this meal is the penne pasta that is covered with a zesty cheese sauce. The pasta has a great texture and the cheese sauce makes sure that every bite is flavorful. However, the starring role is played by the blackened chicken. The chicken is grilled and only white meat is present. The blackening seasoning is excellent. You’d have to travel to Louisiana to find blackened chicken that is a whole lot better.
If you’re looking for another Cajun frozen dinner, the Zatarain’s Sausage and Chicken Gumbo is also really good. It’s not the best gumbo in the world but it will surely scratch your itch for Cajun food.
6. Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl
Good Cuban food can be difficult to find in the United States. However, if you’re at Trader Joe’s and you’re in the frozen dinner aisle, you can find a Cuban meal that’s so good that you definitely need to try it before you’re six feet under the ground.
The Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl is really impressive. In the bowl, you’ll find yellow rice, chunks of plantains, black beans, red bell pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, and delicious pieces of chicken thigh. Everything in the bowl is topped with a zesty sauce that’s powered by lime juice and orange juice. While there’s a lot going on, your taste buds will be in a state of bliss.
You can eat this stuff right out of the bowl or, if you want to take it a step further, you can add it to corn tortillas. If you go the tortilla route, consider adding spicy salsa and cheddar cheese. Yum!
5. Amy’s Cheese Enchilada
For a frozen dinner that’s better than you can find at many Mexican restaurants, try Amy’s Cheese Enchilada. This meal, which even your abuela will approve of, has a pair of enchiladas that will knock your chanclas off.
The enchiladas feature corn tortillas made with organic corn. Each tortilla is filled with white cheddar cheese and monterey jack cheese, along with slices of onions, olives, green chiles, and bell peppers. To top things off, the meal is smothered in red enchilada sauce and, for good measure, a little bit more cheese. The only reason this frozen dinner isn’t higher on the list is that it’s not super filling.
While Amy’s Cheese Enchilada is gluten-free, soy-free, and kosher, it’s obviously not vegan-friendly. If you want a scrumptious frozen dinner for your vegan lifestyle, go with Amy’s Vegan Chili Mac & Cheeze. This great meal tastes so authentic that you will find it hard to believe that it’s actually vegan-friendly.
4. Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat & Sauce
One frozen dinner that never disappoints is the Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat & Sauce. You’ve probably eaten this stuff since you were a kid. If you liked it back then, there’s a very good chance that you’ll enjoy it even more as an adult. While Stouffer’s did change the recipe in 2016, the changes were for the better.
If you’ve never eaten Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat & Sauce, in the layers of lasagna you can locate beef, cottage cheese, tomato puree, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and a variety of spices. You can buy this frozen dinner as a single serving or, if you’re feeding a family, as a family size or a large family size.
If you can never get enough cheese, upgrade to the Stouffer’s Cheese Lovers Lasagna. This cheesy masterpiece has ricotta, romana, and asiago in addition to the mozzarella and parmesan. It has 50 percent more cheese than the original, so prepare yourself for a lot of gooey goodness.
3. Healthy Choice Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry
If a frozen dinner has a lot of vegetables in it, there’s usually a better than average chance that you will be disappointed. That said, Healthy Choice has apparently cracked the code because their veggies in the Healthy Choice Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry are phenomenal. By the time your meal is warm, you won’t even be able to tell that the veggies were ever frozen.
This healthy frozen dinner contains a medley of carrots, onions, red bell peppers, edamame, and broccoli. Each vegetable is the optimal texture and is packed with flavor. Joining the veggies are sliced chicken breast and a sesame soy sauce. The chicken is outstanding and tastes fresh, while the sauce makes both the vegetables and the chicken even better.
Astonishingly, the entire meal has only 190 calories, which includes a robust 23 grams of protein and just four grams of fat. For those who watch their intake of carbohydrates, this frozen dinner has only 11 net carbs. Add up all the nutritional facts and the great taste and this is without question the best frozen dinner that could also classify as health food.
2. Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Trader Joe’s has two of the top six frozen dinners in our ranking — and that’s not surprising at all. Trader Joe’s is known for their delicious frozen food, most notably the award-winning Mandarin Orange Chicken. But when it comes to their best frozen dinner, the easy winner is Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala. Try this meal once and you will agree that it’s even better than take-out. Even if you live near a premier Indian restaurant, this stuff is likely better.
This frozen dinner, which Trader Joe’s says uses an authentic Indian recipe, has a chicken breast that has been roasted and then covered in a red curry sauce that is extra creamy. To add to the authentic experience, you’ll also find basmati rice that is flavored with the perfect amount of cumin. While the chicken and curry sauce comes in a separate section than the rice, the best way to eat this meal is to mix it all together. Do that and your mind is sure to be blown.
1. Banquet Classic Salisbury Steak
Salisbury steak was invented by an American named Dr. James Henry Salisbury in the 1800s during the Civil War. All these years later, Salisbury steak remains a popular — though somewhat retro — part of the American diet. And while the Salisbury steak in this frozen dinner made by Banquet contains an unusual combination of beef, pork, and chicken, your taste buds will testify that this meat is exceptionally good. Odd? Certainly. Scrumptious? Oh, yes!
The Banquet Classic Salisbury Steak frozen dinner also has mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and a cinnamon apple dessert. The mashed potatoes are excellent, especially if you top it with the gravy that covers the Salisbury steak. The sweet corn is much, much better than the corn that comes with a Hungry-Man frozen dinner. It has a satisfying crunch and an unmistakable pop of sweetness.
To finish off your meal, the yummy cinnamon apple dessert makes sure that you’re grinning from ear to ear. The cooked apples are drenched in a combination of cinnamon and brown sugar. The result will dazzle your sweet tooth and end your meal on a high note.