11 Trader Joe’s Frozen Appetizers, Ranked Worst To Best
Planning, cooking, and serving dinner is a lot of work. You have to look up a recipe, shop for the ingredients, and then actually put everything together. And after a long day of work or school, you probably don’t want to think about making appetizers as well. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the fun, snack-sized bites we all love to indulge in before we start our entrees. That’s because Trader Joe’s offers a wide variety of different appetizers to choose from in its frozen section. These pre-made, prepared appetizers are super easy to throw into the oven right before you serve dinner, which makes them super accessible to even the busiest among us.
However, there are some Trader Joe’s appetizers that are better than others. We’ve tasted some of the most popular options in the TJ’s frozen section and ranked them. We started with our least favorites of the bunch. Of course, you should give them a try for yourself before you write them off, but if you ask us, they’re not the best the grocery chain has to offer. Then, we make our way through the list to our absolute favorites, the appetizers that we would snack on every day if we could.
Let’s take a closer look at the best and worst of Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers.
11. Vegetable Spring Rolls
Although there are definitely places where you can grab a solid spring roll, all too often, they’re kind of bland. We’re not surprised that that’s the case with Trader Joe’s Vegetable Spring Rolls. They’re filled with a mixture of kale, shredded tofu, mushrooms, and edamame, which all sound delicious together. But once you take a bite, you might be less than impressed. We wish these things were seasoned a little more liberally and that they had a crunchier exterior. (You may be able to achieve that with an air fryer, but we made ours in the oven.)
The vegetable spring rolls from Trader Joe’s aren’t exactly bad, and they could make a decent appetizer if you didn’t have anything else in the freezer to choose from. However, you’re much more likely to find top-quality spring rolls at your local Chinese-American restaurant than you are to find them in the freezer section of a Trader Joe’s. For those who are really, really craving veggie spring rolls, this appetizer will do the trick. But if you’re just looking for the best of the Trader Joe’s frozen section, you can pass up on this appetizer entirely.
10. Cauliflower Pancakes
Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a Jewish dish that are crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, and although they’re incredibly filling, they’re a great way to start a meal. However, if you’re trying to get more veggies into your diet, you may want to opt for Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Pancakes instead. Just be warned: They’re definitely not as good as the real thing. Potato latkes have a distinctly starchy texture, while these cauliflower pancakes definitely taste like they’re made from veggies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you won’t be getting that traditional taste you may be looking for.
The best part about these Cauliflower Pancakes is the fact that they contain leeks and Parmesan cheese, which gives them some much-needed flavor to cover up the blah taste of the cauliflower itself. However, they’re still a bit bland — we wish they had more happening on the flavor front.
If you want these cauliflower pancakes to come out with the best possible texture, you’re going to want to cook them in the oven. When we tried making them on the stovetop, they took on a greasy texture that made them a less-than-pleasant appetizer. Overall, we weren’t too impressed with this "healthier" alternative, but there are certainly worse ways to begin a meal.
9. Potato Pancakes
What if you don’t want the healthier version of latkes and instead prefer to enjoy the real deal? If that’s the case, then you need to get your hands on Trader Joe’s Potato Pancakes. They are undoubtedly a step up from the cauliflower version of the appetizer, although they’re still not our favorite option available at the grocery chain. For these Potato Pancakes, the stovetop is definitely the way to go. If you ask us, you actually kind of want to get an oily texture here, as it’ll make the latkes taste more like the real deal.
There aren’t many ingredients included in this appetizer that give it a lot of flavor, but the onions provide a slight sweetness and intensity that keeps it from being too boring. But if you ask us, potato pancakes are best enjoyed with some additional toppings. Applesauce and sour cream are the gold standards, and they taste delicious with this pre-made version of latkes. You don’t have to limit yourself, though — feel free to get experimental and try adding cheese, chives, or even some creme fraiche to the mix.
Are there better appetizers in Trader Joe’s frozen food section? Definitely. But if you’re craving latkes and don’t want to make them from scratch, these are a decent alternative.
8. Mac and Cheese Bites
Sure, you can always make mac and cheese for dinner, but what if you just want a small portion as a way to start your meal? That’s where Trader Joe’s Mac and Cheese Bites come in. They’re just what they sound like: little balls of mac and cheese that have then been breaded so they form a perfect two-bite snack. The crunchy layer of breading adds some much-needed texture to what would otherwise just be a simple mac and cheese recipe. The inside of the bite is extra cheesy and gooey — luckily, the cheese sauce isn’t too wet or soggy. Overall, you get a pleasant textural experience that’s definitely a step up from a standard bite of plain mac and cheese.
Our main issue here is really all about the flavor. While you do get a good dose of cheesiness with every bite of these mac and cheese bites, the flavor is pretty underwhelming. If there were some spice or even a noticeable level of cracked black pepper in these Mac and Cheese Bites, it would make a huge difference. As it is, though, they’re a bit bland. We think they’re at their best when they’re accented with a few drops of hot sauce. However, if you prefer to take it easy on the spice anyway, you may love these mac and cheese bites just as they are.
7. Party-Sized Mini Meatballs
Trader Joe’s already has some solid meatball recipes in its freezer section, so we were excited when we saw the store’s Party-Sized Mini Meatballs. Instead of serving you a full-sized version that you would typically expect to find in a spaghetti-and-meatballs type of situation, Trader Joe’s gives you a bite-sized alternative with this fun snack. Because they’re so small, they’re perfect as appetizers — you can grab a quick bite without making yourself too full to enjoy the entree. They contain both beef and pork, which gives them a rich, complex flavor that doesn’t even need any sauce to keep them interesting (although putting them in a sauce certainly wouldn’t hurt).
Surprisingly, we thought that these meatballs were actually better when they were cooked in the microwave rather than in the oven. When you choose to cook them in the microwave, they hold onto more of their moisture. That being said, they’re far from soggy — they just have the juiciness you want when you bite into a fresh meatball. If you take them out of the oven, though, you’ll notice that they crisp up slightly more, which gives them a tougher, slightly crunchier texture. It’s up to you to decide which cooking method you like more, but either way, you’re probably not going to be disappointed.
6. Seasoned Corn Ribs
Trader Joe’s offers a slew of the more typical appetizers you’d expect to find in a restaurant or on the kitchen counter at a friend’s home. But if you’re looking for something that’s more of a departure from the ordinary, you have to check out Trader Joe’s Seasoned Corn Ribs. If you love the taste of corn on the cob, chances are, you’re going to be an even bigger fan of these corn ribs. They take on the shape of ribs and retain that firmer texture of corn on the cob. At the same time, they’re significantly easier to eat than corn on the cob (and they’re less messy too).
They’re already seasoned with vegan butter, olive oil, and salt, but feel free to get creative with these and add even more ingredients to the mix. We love eating them with cotija along with some chili powder and lime juice for an elote-like vibe.
All too often, appetizers contain meat and can sometimes feel like they’re on the heavier side. If you’re looking for a more vegetable-forward option, these Seasoned Corn Ribs are certainly the way to go. Plus, they also work well as a side dish if you’re not into making appetizers on a regular basis.
If you’re looking for a crispy, crunchy appetizer that’s super filling and tastes amazing, then you can’t go wrong with the Middle Eastern-inspired kibbeh from Trader Joe’s. These meatball-like appetizers have the perfect texture to keep you feeling satisfied even when it feels like dinner is taking forever. Unlike the party-sized meatballs we tried from Trader Joe’s, these kibbeh are much more heavily spiced. We could particularly pick out the flavor of cumin, which makes the texturally pleasing appetizer even more delicious. You might also pick up on notes of coriander and paprika. All the spices come together to create a memorable kibbeh experience, even if you’ve never tried the dish before.
If you ask us, these kibbeh are best cooked in the oven, where they’re able to take on that lovely crispiness that makes them so appealing. However, if you don’t want to bother turning the oven on, you can also just throw them into the microwave. The consistency will be slightly soggier, but it doesn’t make too much of a difference.
Although you don’t get many kibbeh in one of these packages, they taste so good that we can’t help but buy them anyway.
4. Mini Chicken Tacos
Who knew that pre-made frozen tacos could taste so good? Trader Joe’s Mini Chicken Tacos are surprisingly packed with flavor, despite the fact that they come in a plastic bag. Trader Joe’s is not playing around when they call these tacos "mini." They’re significantly smaller than your average street taco, so you can eat several without feeling full. They contain both chicken and a verde sauce, which are formed into a kind of patty that’s found squished into a tiny corn tortilla. Despite the lack of fresh ingredients, the flavor combo here is seriously tasty. These tacos aren’t spicy, but they do offer a kick of flavor that keeps things interesting from the first bite until the last.
We cooked our Mini Chicken Tacos in the oven, which yielded a slightly crispy texture. However, if you want an even crunchier experience, you might want to cook your mini chicken tacos in an air fryer or on the stovetop instead. Then, if you want to keep things interesting, you can add other ingredients to the mix. Sprinkling some cheese on top of these tacos would make for a delicious addition, or you can add a few drops of hot sauce. Even if you decide not to add anything, though, there’s a good chance you’re going to enjoy this fun appetizer.
3. Chicken Gyoza Potstickers
Can you find better gyoza than the frozen variety available at Trader Joe’s? Of course. But sometimes, you want an easy appetizer on the go, and you just happen to be at TJ’s. If that’s the case, then the store’s Chicken Gyoza Potstickers are definitely the way to go. These potstickers are full of a mixture of chicken, cabbage, and onion, and they’re seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger powder. They all come together in little pouches bursting full of flavor. And since they’re already cooked all the way through, you can easily cook them with just about any method you can think of.
If you prefer fried gyoza, you can easily make these in a pan, but we love adding them to soups and steaming them for a different textural experience. No matter how you cook these gyoza, though, you’re in for a real treat. The intensity of the ginger powder paired with the earthy richness of the sesame oil gives the gyoza an extra flavor boost every time you bite into one.
2. Perfectly Pickled Pups
One of the newest appetizers in Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer lineup is the store’s Perfectly Pickled Pups. They’re basically tiny hot dogs that are breaded in a dill pickle-flavored batter. As you can imagine, the results are delicious. Instead of making your own pigs in a blanket or corn dogs, you can get this updated version of the classic right at your local Trader Joe’s. The uncured hot dog gets hot and juicy in its little bready container, and it remains hot for a long time — perfect for when you’re serving appetizers to your guests. But as you can imagine, the best part of this appetizer is the dill-flavored breading. It tastes seriously similar to a pickle, which gives this snack the perfect punch.
If you cook these bad boys in the air fryer, they get a distinctive crunch to them, which adds to the salty, savory flavor perfectly. Pair them with a cheese dip if you want to add an extra layer of complexity and texture.
1. Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese and Caramelized Onions
When you want to really impress your guests with your appetizers, you have to find the Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese and Caramelized Onions at your local Trader Joe’s. The flaky pastry crisps up perfectly, creating an interesting texture that you wouldn’t expect from a previously frozen appetizer. But the filling is what really stands out with this product. The feta cheese melts slightly, but it still holds onto some of its signature firm texture, which gives this appetizer more body and bite. The caramelized onions offer a softer texture along with a savory sweetness that makes every bite irresistible.
Although many of the appetizers on this list are delicious, we especially love these pastry bites because they feel so elevated. You could serve these at a casual weeknight dinner or offer them to your guests at a fancier, more formal affair when you’re trying to make the best impression possible.