Trader Joe's frozen food aisle

Trader Joe’s is a foodie’s dream, chock full of amazing deals, unusual finds, and shortcuts to making easy meals everyone loves. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re stocking up on staples, planning a dinner party, or want to browse and see what ends up in your cart. With their relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, and generous return policy, even their often jam-packed stores don’t deter fans.

Trader Joe’s freezer section is a highlight for many shoppers, offering a wide variety of cuisines and dietary options. No need to fork out big bucks on restaurant meals; whether you’re in the mood for Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, or Italian, Trader Joe’s has something to tempt you. And with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options galore, this grocery giant makes scrumptious meals simple.

If you are an air fryer fan, you already know this cooking method ensures crispy results without deep frying, which is not only a healthier choice, but makes keeping your kitchen clean a snap. And any Trader Joe’s devotee will be happy to know that the beloved chain offers many fan favorites perfect for the air fryer, so read on for our top picks.

1. Mandarin Orange Chicken

bowl of Mandarin orange chicken

Trader Joe’s offers so many options that even the most intrepid shopper can find themselves overwhelmed. If that describes you, try the Mandarin Orange Chicken, one of the most beloved TJ’s products that also comes in a soy-based vegan option. The Mandarin Orange Chicken and the Chicken-less Mandarin Orange Morsels mimic General Tso’s chicken you’d order from a restaurant — fried chicken coated in luscious spicy-sweet orange sauce. Serve it with rice and vegetables (we love broccoli), and you can have a delectable meal in practically no time.

While TJ’s instructs customers to make this dish by baking the chicken and heating the sauce separately, Redditors agree that air frying brings crunchy perfection, an absolute ringer for deep-fried. Remember that you still need to heat the sauce separately — the air fryer would not do well with syrupy sweet orange sauce all over it.

One debate about TJ’s Mandarin Orange Chicken revolves around the sauce. Some find it too sweet; others don’t like the spice level. Don’t be afraid to doctor up your sauce packet if that describes you. Adding honey, orange juice, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, or garlic in any combination you love will make your orange chicken perfect and give you extra sauce to coat the rice and veggies. That win-win will keep Mandarin Orange Chicken on your shopping list forever.

2. Potato Pancakes

plates of trader joe's potato pancakes

Potato pancakes and latkes are different, although most think of both as shredded potatoes made into small cakes, fried in oil, and served crisp with applesauce or sour cream. Latkes actually began as buckwheat cakes fried in chicken fat before evolving into the potato-based fritter we know and love (via The Atlantic). Trader Joe’s also calls its Potato Pancakes latkes, but let’s not quibble about exact recipes. It’s more important to know that air frying these concoctions gives you a yummy crunch that goes beautifully with any meal, or as a snack all by themselves.

Several Reddit users noted that air frying the Potato Pancakes works far better than baking them in the oven because they cook faster and crisp up perfectly. One Redditor pointed out that air frying was the only way to make them and advised, "I like them extra crispy, so I do 375F for 10-12 minutes. Just eyeball them."

While all air fryers are different, it’s worth noting that the advice to watch them is wise. Air fryer fans get to know their machine and develop an instinct for how long things take to cook, so take your model into account for all cooking directions. Luckily, Trader Joe’s Potato Pancakes are fully cooked, so it’s simple to judge by the color of the crust. One taste from the air fryer will likely lead to constant potato pancake cravings – you’re welcome.

3. Mac and Cheese Bites

pan of frozen mac and cheese balls

Mac and cheese is a favorite comfort food of just about everyone, so when breaded, deep-fried balls of mac and cheese started popping up at parties and on restaurant menus, we wondered why this hadn’t been a thing forever. This tasty treat is said to have been inspired by Alain Ducasse, considered one of the top chefs in the world, at none other than the Cheesecake Factory’s test kitchen, according to Vox. From there, mac and cheese balls snowballed in popularity, and we can hardly remember a time without them.

Trader Joe’s knows a trend when they see it, and their Mac and Cheese Bites have become a customer favorite. With a light panko breading and an unbelievably cheesy sauce made with cheddar, Havarti, Swiss, Gouda, cream cheese, Monterey Jack, and Pecorino Romano, we can’t get enough of them. While they turn out fine in the oven, Reddit users love air frying Mac and Cheese Bites, pointing out it’s the best way to get the crispy, crunchy outside to highlight the creamy mac and cheese inside.

The Trader Joe’s subreddit points out that air frying is the best way to cook anything breaded, and we agree. TJ’s Mac and Cheese Bites are just one delicious example. Air fryers can’t be beaten if you want a quick, easy way to make healthier versions of deep-fried favorites.

4. Chicken Gyoza Potstickers

plate of Chicken gyoza with chopstick

Gyoza and potstickers are not identical, although they’re kind of like kissing cousins. Both are stuffed dumplings served with dipping sauces, but gyoza has thinner wrappers that put the spotlight on the filling. Potstickers are larger, with thicker dough sharing the stage with the stuffing. Trader Joe’s avoided confusion, simply calling them Chicken Gyoza Potstickers. Whatever you call them, these dumplings are yummy, filled with chicken and cabbage and flavored with soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil.

Gyoza is delicious added to soup and can be cooked right in the stock for a simple meal. Still, many of us love them as an appetizer, snack, or side dish along with a stir fry or pad Thai. When it comes to eating gyoza one by one, they taste better (and stay gripped with your chopsticks) when they’re made traditionally, with a crispy browned half. You can fry gyoza in oil and steam them to finish cooking them, or if you’re feeling super chef-like, go for a fancy browned edge and steam them in a slurry of flour and water.

The trusty TJs subreddit assures us there’s an easier way to make Chicken Gyoza Potstickers (if you guessed air frying, you’re correct). Users noted that air frying for 12-15 minutes gave a terrific crunch without any toughness. Best news? No need to worry about steaming since these dumplings are fully cooked. So for simplicity, and that crispy bottom every gyoza has to have, fire up the air fryer.

5. Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potato fries with ketchup

While everyone knows they aren’t the healthiest way to eat potatoes, sometimes you just want some French fries. Nothing goes better with a burger, or can sub in as a base for that Canadian favorite, poutine. Sweet potato fries are another delicious option, and although they are surprisingly similar to regular fries in terms of nutrition (via Men’s Health), Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Fries are a customer fave. Although Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Fries come out of the bag partially fried, they are better nutritionally than a plate of (invariably deep-fried) restaurant fries, with 190 calories and 9g of fat per ounce (via MyFitnessPal).

There are a few tips to keep in mind to get the crispiest fries from the air fryer. If you read package directions, Trader Joe’s usually specifies that their frozen foods don’t need to be thawed, so hopefully, it goes without saying that Sweet Potato Fries should be air-fried right from the freezer. What you might not realize is that popping them into a cold air fryer to cook isn’t the best idea – preheating your air fryer is the best way to get evenly cooked fries with golden crunchy outsides and creamy sweet potato flavor inside. This method ensures that the fries don’t start to thaw as the air fryer comes to temperature, which could leave you with a less-than-appetizing plate of soggy fries. Redditors agree that air frying these Sweet Potato Fries is a no-brainer, turning them amazingly light and crisp.

6. Cauliflower Gnocchi

bag of Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi

Digging into a delicious plate of gnocchi at a restaurant and trying to replicate the dish at home could leave you questioning your life choices. These delightful Italian potato dumplings quickly turn into a sodden pile if, like many of us, you were told to boil gnocchi like other pastas. While fresh, handmade gnocchi turns out beautifully after a quick boil, packaged gnocchi loses its fluffy interior and ends up gluey and unappetizing. Alternatives to boiling include sheet pan meals to give the gnocchi a golden crust and fluffy insides that will have you scrambling for more.

In case you haven’t noticed, though, we think anything roasted in the oven can be improved in the air fryer, and Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi is no exception. Customers love this plant-based meal that’s low in calories with fewer carbs than traditional gnocchi. Whatever additional ingredients, spices, or sauces you have on hand can work perfectly against the backdrop of cauliflower, making it ideal for quick weeknight dinners. Redditors point out that pan-frying Cauliflower Gnocchi made them gluey, while the air fryer turned them into "crispy pillows of heaven" on the second attempt. Others said air frying was life-changing, and when it comes to these gnocchi, we certainly agree.

7. Breaded Fried Ravioli

Fried ravioli with marinara dipping sauce

In recent years, you may have seen fried ravioli passed at a cocktail party, wedding, or on an appetizer menu at a restaurant. Still, one of several origin stories dates back to the 1940s, when a chef at a St. Louis restaurant accidentally dropped a ravioli into the deep fryer and loved the results (per St. Louis Magazine). Who cares who invented it, though? Ravioli, delicious to begin with, become even better once fried, with a crispy outer coating around the melty cheese filling. These handheld apps are usually dipped in marinara but can be enjoyed on their own if you prefer.

Trader Joe’s fills their Breaded Fried Ravioli with a blend of five kinds of cheese: ricotta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Asiago, and Parmesan, and customers can’t get enough. While you can choose to bread ravioli yourself, buying them ready-made is undoubtedly easier and makes less of a mess. Commenters on the Trader Joe’s subreddit rave about these raviolis and agree that air frying them yields perfect results, although one pointed out that if you want them crunchier, you can air fry them longer than the package instructions suggest.

Even Trader Joe’s recommends air frying their Breaded Fried Ravioli, noting that it’s an easy way to get the proper level of crispness while making the cheese filling melty and luscious. We recommend stocking up on these because nobody wants to stop eating them.

8. Vegetables

Produce on display at market

We love wandering the produce aisles at Trader Joe’s to find fruits and vegetables to make excellent meals. In addition to everyday produce, Trader Joe’s loves to throw curveballs (Winter Frost Pineberries, anyone?) with tempting offerings that make healthy eating fun. If you have trouble choosing the perfect produce, or dread the prep process that’s involved, you can often find frozen versions to save you time and trouble.

Whichever vegetables catch your eye, an air fryer will make them better (ignore this if you’re in the mood for a salad). You can save time by using the air fryer instead of boiling water on the stove, for instance, and since air fryers have built-in timers, there’s no need to worry about the pot boiling over or the broccoli turning to mush because you forgot to turn off the heat. Roasting veggies in the oven is good, but sometimes there are space issues or different dishes need different temperatures. You can save yourself the hassle by roasting veggies in the air fryer, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.

Healthy eating should never be boring; luckily, if you have an air fryer and shop at Trader Joe’s, you’re all set. Feel free to get creative with your produce, like one Redditor who uses Trader Joe’s Rainbow Carrots to make delicious air-fried fritters. One thing to keep in mind when cooking veggies in the air fryer – remember to choose types with similar cooking times for the best results.

9. Jamaican Style Beef Patties

box of Jamaican beef patties

Hand pies are considered world cuisine for a good reason – they’re easy to eat on the go and are always delicious with savory fillings of meat and vegetables. Samosas, empañadas, calzones, and piroshki are just a few of these beloved quick meals. The Cornish pasty, brought to the Caribbean by British colonialists, is thought to have spurred the idea behind the Jamaican beef patty (via Culture Trip). Both versions involve meat wrapped in pastry, but the Jamaican pie adds turmeric to form the characteristic bright yellow crust and is spicy with curry and cayenne.

Though some customers complain that there isn’t enough meat in the Jamaican Style Beef Patties, they’re a great option if you don’t have convenient access to a restaurant or food truck serving Caribbean food. The flakiness of the pastry in Trader Joe’s patties doesn’t disappoint fans, and although some Redditors heat them in the microwave, others note that if you want them to taste more like authentic Jamaican street food, air frying is a must. Circulating hot air around the patties brings the closest result to the traditionally deep-fried pastry, so we say ditch the microwave altogether when making these morsels.

10. Tofu

Crispy tofu dish with chilis

Tofu is a staple healthy protein source, but the texture and lack of flavor can be off-putting. Trader Joe’s offers an array of tofu with different textures as well as some flavored tofus (try teriyaki or sriracha). They also sell scores of sauces that make tofu taste terrific, like the Gochujang paste Reddit users love as a glaze.

If you’re new to tofu, or the thought of eating it is less than thrilling, crispy tofu could be the answer. Properly made, crispy tofu has an incredible texture and mouthfeel. This is where the air fryer makes a big difference; although crispy tofu is easy to make in a skillet or wok, it needs a fair amount of oil to get the proper crust. Plus, if your pan isn’t hot enough or you use flour as breading, it absorbs extra oil, and there isn’t much point in adding tons of excess fat and calories to an otherwise healthy food.

Redditors love air frying tofu to get that super crispy crunch, and they use it in curries, stir fry, sandwiches, and for Mexican-inspired delights. Its versatility means that seasonings are the key to making any meal you love light and healthy, and air frying lets you slash the amount of oil needed to get it golden and crisp. Two tips to remember: press the tofu to get rid of extra water, and use cornstarch or arrowroot powder rather than flour to coat the tofu, and you’ll soon be a tofu lover.

11. Chicken nuggets and tenders

organic chicken nuggets with dipping sauces

Chicken nuggets are a favorite dish no matter how old you are, even if they have a reputation as kid cuisine. They’re great for dipping, and they make a quick snack, salad topper, or fabulous wrap or sandwich. Trader Joe’s offers several kinds of breaded chicken, including frozen nuggets and refrigerated Organic Chicken Nuggets. Those who love plant-based meals have options, too – try Chickenless Crispy Tenders or Impossible™ Chicken Nuggets.

Whichever TJ’s breaded chicken is your jam, air frying is the way to go when it comes time to create kitchen magic. Air fryers cook using convection, which means they blow hot air around each piece of food. The method effectively mimics deep frying, cooking food evenly and making it crispy without all the fat and calories. Thus, air fryers allow us to lighten up our favorite comfort foods without feeling like we’re missing out.

Whether you’re looking to make chicken parm or want a new twist on chicken and waffles, air frying TJ’s chicken nuggets and tenders is the place to start. Any chicken nugget worth its salt has to be golden with a crunch, even when drenched in Buffalo sauce, BBQ, or ranch, and the air fryer is the simplest way to get it. Redditors noted that even the nuggets with gluten-free breading, which can sometimes taste dusty and chewy, achieved perfection when air fried.

12. Spring rolls

Spring rolls with lime and chili sauce

Spring rolls are small and crisp with simple wrappers made of rice or wheat flour and water. These shouldn’t be confused with egg rolls, which began in American Chinese restaurants and are named for the egg added to the wrapper dough. Egg rolls are always deep-fried, but spring rolls might be served baked or steamed (via MasterClass). Trader Joe’s freezer aisle has spring rolls for any preference, including chicken, vegetable, and even Kalua Pork Spring Rolls, filled with smoky Hawaiian-style shredded pork and vegetables.

Reddit users love making Trader Joe’s spring rolls in the air fryer, noting that it takes just 12 minutes to produce perfect restaurant-quality spring rolls, complete with the crunch we all love. Remember that every air fryer gives slightly different results, so the temperature and cooking time might vary depending on your fryer. The good news? Air frying is quite forgiving, so make your best guess based on how you make similar foods in your air fryer and taste test.

While Trader Joe’s spring rolls can be heated in the microwave, toaster, and conventional oven, air frying produces consistently beautiful results. Forget preheating the oven for just four spring rolls, getting soggy results from the microwave, or waiting 25 minutes for the toaster oven – air frying will get those spring rolls on your plate faster so you can dig in.

13. Battered Fish Nuggets

Battered fish nuggets with fries

Since fish sticks have been around since the 1950s, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never tasted these fishy finger foods. Fish sticks were invented as a handy way to process fish into convenience food that’s boneless, skinless, and pleases even the pickiest toddler (via Smithsonian). Trader Joe’s Battered Fish Nuggets are made from chunks of Alaskan pollock rather than the minced fish inside traditional fish sticks, so they taste fresher, with a flakier interior.

Deep-fried fish is delicious – just thinking about that first bite of fish and chips makes our mouths water – but there’s no doubt all that fried food is a calamity for your health, wreaking havoc on the heart and arteries and leading to unwanted weight gain (via Healthline). The air fryer can rescue our waistlines and circulatory health by cooking fish that tastes fried but saves tons of fat and calories.

Reddit users agree that TJ’s Battered Fish Nuggets are delicious air-fried, delivering perfect crunchy fish every time while staying juicy on the inside. You can enjoy them as a snack or feature them in a traditional dinner with sides, or use them to make fish tacos, burrito bowls, and sliders, or even add them atop curries and stir fry before serving. Whichever way you love these fish nuggets, air frying them will make you love them even more.

14. Taquitos

Taquitos on a bed of lettuce

Taquitos, the yummy Mexican snack made from rolled corn tortillas around spicy combos of beans, meat, cheese, and veggies, are a Trader Joe’s staple. Quick and simple to prepare, they’re great as appetizers, snacks, or a light meal, ideal for busy schedules. Even so, Trader Joe’s Black Bean and Cheese Taquitos are a subject of debate; some Redditors downvote the changes in the taquitos recipe, while others defend them and stuff their freezers full. We aren’t here to judge – if you’re a TJ’s taquitos fan, we want to point out that these babies are made for the air fryer.

Taquitos are meant to be deep-fried, with all the crispy goodness that implies. While Trader Joe’s taquitos can be baked, their stovetop directions use oil for frying, though in an amount closer to a sauté than deep frying. Compared to the oven, air frying is faster; the taquitos take 20 minutes to bake but less than 10 minutes in the air fryer. Furthermore, an air fryer delivers crunch without extra oil so you can go in for another without thinking twice about it.

One complaint about air-fried foods is that the circulating air doesn’t brown food like frying or baking. If this is a problem with your air fryer model, a spritz of oil brings golden brown color like a deep-fried taquito while still keeping the fat content in check.

15. Croissants

packages of Trader Joe's croissants

Ah, croissants – the classic French pastry that melts on your tongue makes any day special. Spread with jam, smeared with butter, or enjoyed plain and piping hot, the croissant could be mistaken for simple, elegant bread, but one look at a recipe tells a different story. Croissants take days – yes, days – to make because the butter has to stay chilled at all times, and the dough must be folded and rested very specifically to clinch those flaky layers. While we love homemade treats, sometimes saving so much work makes store-bought the best.

Redditors rave about Trader Joe’s Frozen Almond Croissants coming out golden brown and delicately flaky, and rising even more on the plate after air frying. These croissants can transport you to a Parisian cafe, pastry and café au lait in hand. Other users offered a tip for making chocolate croissants even more delicious in the air fryer: Heat with the seam down to trap steam, elevating the rich chocolate filling that contrasts beautifully with the flakiness in the pastry.

No matter which variety of croissants you prefer, the air fryer is ideal for crisping them into a one-of-a-kind breakfast, snack, or dessert. Stock up on these babies and enjoy them anytime.

16. Parmesan Pastry Pups

Trader Joe's Parmesan Pastry Pups

Pigs in a blanket — tiny hot dogs wrapped in dough or pastry — are beloved by everyone (or everyone that will eat hot dogs, anyway). While nobody can agree who invented them, which part of the world can claim them, or even which century they hail from (via Foodimentary), there’s no doubt these enticing savory snacks disappear faster than it would take to finish the debate. And although the Mangalitza pigs from Austria and Hungary are actual pigs in blankets (they sport wooly coats, making them look like Seussian hybrid sheep-pigs, per Porkopolis), the wrapped hot dog snack is our preferred morsel at a party.

Trader Joe’s elevated pigs in a blanket not only by wrapping them in puff pastry but by topping them with Parmesan, a touch that makes them sophisticated enough for adults but still enticing to kids. The Trader Joe’s subreddit has fans agreeing that air-frying these bad boys make top-tier piggies everyone loves. The puff pastry tends to exude some butter, so making them in the air fryer lets that drip away rather than sitting in a puddle as they do when oven-baked. Of course, you should keep an eye on them in case that dripping fat starts to burn, but considering the air fryer makes short work of them, it should be fine unless you’re making many rounds. Although let’s face it, we always want to make endless Pastry Pups, so no judgment.

17. Mini Vegetable Samosas

Mini vegetable samosas

It’s hard to know when samosas, the flaky triangular pastry beloved around the globe, first came to be. Still, they’re believed to have been a favorite snack in the Ghaznavid dynasty in the 10th century, the region that is now Iran, Afghanistan, and northern India (via The Samosa House). The fillings changed depending on which culture made them, but common fillings were vegetables, meat, nuts, and dried fruit. The samosas we’re most familiar with today are influenced by those made in India and are savory with spices like chili peppers, ginger, curry, and coriander.

Trader Joe’s Mini Vegetable Samosas are a customer favorite that flies from freezer cases. Filled with potatoes, lentils, onions, peas, and carrots, along with a bouquet of Indian spices, they’re perfect for a snack, alongside a bowl of soup, or as appetizers at your next get-together. Reddit users agree that these samosas are fantastic air-fried because they don’t get soggy, and cook faster than baking in the oven. While there’s some debate about how spicy the samosas are, with some claiming they need a cool sauce like tzatziki or Greek yogurt to calm the spice level, others love the heat and recommend Zhoug Sauce, a very spicy Middle Eastern sauce made from cilantro, chili, jalapeños, garlic, cardamom, and cumin, for dipping. Whatever dipping sauce feels right for you, be sure to air fry your Mini Vegetable Samosas for the best samosas at home.