The 12 Best Trader Joe’s Frozen Noodle Dishes, Ranked

The 12 Best Trader Joe’s Frozen Noodle Dishes, Ranked

If there’s one thing we can always count on Trader Joe’s for, it’s offering frozen dinners that are absolutely clutch for those moments when we don’t feel like cooking but want something tasty to eat. And among the myriad options, the frozen dinners that hardcore Trader Joe’s fans love most are the many noodle-based meals. Not only are there a wide range of frozen Italian pasta dishes at Trader Joe’s, but they also excel at easy-to-prep Asian noodle entrees. A few minutes in the microwave, sautéed in a saucepan, or popped in the oven and — voila! — you’ve got Chicken Chow Mien or Fettuccini Alfredo with no unruly cleanup.

As Uproxx’s resident Trader Joe’s stan, I took a trip to my local store to check out a dozen noodle options currently available at the grocer, ranging from Beef Pho to… Pepperoni Pizza Mac ’n Cheese (it’s a thing, but it’s not great). Then I tasted and ranked them all from worst to best, because eating is my favorite pastime (after tasting wine, of course).

Hopefully, the reviews and ranking below help guide your future Trader Joe’s purchases. The best part about the whole experience? None of the items tested cost more than $7. Now stuff that napkin in ya shirt and grab your utensils. It’s noodle time!

12. Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese Bowl

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

I’m a bit perplexed by this frozen pasta dish. Mainly, I’m wondering just how high the recipe creator at TJ’s was when they came up with this one. Big rounds of pepperoni slices are front-and-center in this odd pasta meal. The meat completely covers the top of the dish, but after a few minutes in the oven or microwave, you can dig in and see the layers of macaroni, cheese, and dollops of tomato sauce.

The biggest issue here is that the flavors of pepperoni pizza and macaroni and cheese just don’t mesh well. The meat and red sauce overpower the chewy noodles that serve as the base. The cheese isn’t quite mozzarella or cheddar, but more of an incredibly salty béchamel that kind of ends up tasting like… well, nothing.

Bottom Line:

I don’t get this one and my tastebuds don’t appreciate it much either. I see where TJ’s was going with this, and it definitely has an imaginative edge that an incredibly stoned eater may appreciate. But even after facing a bong all 4/20 long, this version of pizza and macaroni and cheese just isn’t very good.

11. Fettuccini Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $7

Tasting Notes:

This is fettuccini alright, the flat noodles prove it! That’s about as far as the bells and whistles go for this.

It’s made with Grana Padano Parmesan, which provides the signature “Alfredo” flavor. The problem is there’s just not enough of it. The noodles are almost dry, with a light coating of cheese sauce, when they should be drenched in it. The density and size of grilled chicken pieces are pleasing to the eyes, we’ll definitely give TJ’s credit there. But the white meat chunks are also dry and don’t add much excitement in terms of texture or flavor.

This could have used a little bit more sauce, a crack from the pepper mill to bring out the nuances of the cheese, and a sprinkle more seasoning (perhaps nutmeg) to amplify the flavor of the chicken. And gosh, some flat-leaf parsley would have gone a long way for color. The whole dish is as bland in overall appeal as it is in taste.

Bottom Line:

This dish is blah. It definitely tastes like something you pulled out of the freezer, which is the opposite of why I like TJs in the first place. After a few bites, you’ll wish you just ordered takeout instead. By the time you doctor this up, you could’ve just cooked your own — it’s super easy.

10. Family Style Meat Lasagna

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $6

Tasting Notes:

There are multiple layers of flat lasagna noodles in this dish, so we’ve decided it fits our parameters (though we did scratch gnocchi from the running). That said, it tastes like the lasagna served during middle school lunch. The flavor shows up well in the sauce and the noodles are fine enough. A thick slather of ricotta cheese between layers reminds you that, yes, you are indeed eating lasagna. But the meat is weird AF.

You know it’s meat because the packaging says the lasagna is made with a mix of ground beef and pork. But if you stare at it too long, you may start to wonder, “Is it really?” The ground meat is chewy and has an oily film-like coating that causes it to disintegrate in your mouth in a way that I will call “unnerving.”

Bottom Line:

It’s not the worst lasagna ever. But the meat is undeniably strange. That makes the whole dish so much more questionable. Maybe leave this one in the freezer and grab Trader Joe’s wholly flavorful and not at all eyebrow-raising vegetarian option, the Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna, instead.

9. Penne Arrabbiata

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

This is supposed to be a spicy pasta dish, hence the arrabbiata sauce. It won’t set your mouth on fire, but there’s a noticeable tangy kick from the chili peppers. The penne noodles are perfectly al dente. The flavors of the onion, garlic, white pepper, and parsley are reasonably present.

Bottom line:

Overall, this frozen pasta dish isn’t Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” but it gets the job done in regards to expectation fulfillment and reasonable satisfaction. Chop up some veggies and throw in a couple of pieces of shrimp or sausage or meatballs. That’ll help take this pasta to the next level (you don’t have to worry about this sort of tweaking with higher-ranked entries).

8. Joe’s Diner Mac ’n Cheese

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Trader Joe’s Diner mac and cheese isn’t the childish blue-boxed blues of Easy Mac. It’s better than that. But still, it’s not anything to rave about.

The mac sauce is supposedly made with a blend of cheddar, swiss, Havarti, and gouda cheeses but there’s no distinctive flavor. The macaroni noodles are… just okay. Following the heating directions down to the exact minute is a must. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a bland tray of previously frozen mush.

Bottom Line:

This pasta is inexplicably lacking in flavor — a real bummer considering the robust selection of gooey, tangy, delectable cheeses that make up the dish. Squarely middle of the road at best.

7. Fettuccini Alfredo

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $4

Tasting Notes:

It’s kinda wild how much better Trader Joe’s frozen Fettuccini Alfredo is compared to the Fettuccini Alfredo with Grilled Chicken.

It’s a light, classic pasta dish all around, but the ratio of noodles to creamy cheese sauce hits the mark perfectly. It’s not drowning in sauce, but the parm is there. You can taste the nutty, buttery, creamy cheese in every bite.

The noodles, which start out as frozen nests, maintain their consistency and texture as they cook. You’d have to cook it for much longer than the package states to really mess this one up.

Bottom Line:

When people say they’re in the mood for fettuccini but don’t want the hassle of grating Parmesan and making the pasta themselves, this is a quick and easy “next best thing.”

6. Cheese Filled Fiocchetti with Pink Sauce

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $4

Tasting Notes:

The color of this so-called pink sauce is incredibly faint. You don’t actually see any remnants of tomato paste, but you can taste it. The sauce is — and I know I’m dating myself here — the (flavor) bomb! It’s rich and garlicky with all the acidic greatness of bursting tomatoes that have been reduced to a sauce and blended with heavy cream.

Meanwhile, the fiocchetti is light and airy. And even though it’s stuffed with a blend of ricotta, taleggio, and mozzarella, it’s not so decadent that it weighs you down. Of course, that means you’re likely to eat the entire dish in one sitting, even though the package notes say it’s intended to be eaten in two servings.

Bottom Line:

Take a break from the ravioli and give this solid stuffed noodle dish a shot. You won’t regret it.

5. Linguini with Pesto & Tomatoes

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

All the flavor that was missing in so many other TJ’s frozen pastas clearly found their way in this little package because this meal is slammin’.

The linguine is light yet filling and rich with a bounty of herbs. The basil notes are the most prevalent, and the olive-oil-rich pesto coats every single noodle. It gets its creamy texture thanks to the inclusion of cashews instead of pine nuts, which are traditionally used for pesto. A spritz of acidity provided by the handful of tomatoes really brings everything all together.

Bottom Line:

If you want to make it a frozen gourmet meal, add your own protein and you’ll have a complete and balanced dinner. Otherwise, this is a winner on its own.

4. Linguine with Clam Sauce

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

Here’s another frozen linguine smash. Cook this dish on high heat for about six to eight minutes and smell the clammy aromas of the sea permeating the kitchen air. The reason why this dish ranks so high is all because of the sauce. It’s silky, briny, and chock full of flavors reminiscent of the sea — with actual clam bits dotting the sauce.

There is some noticeable salinity, but the frozen meal isn’t overbearingly salty, which is a good thing.

Bottom Line:

The noodles in this dish are pretty good. But be careful not to overcook them if you want to keep that fresh al dente feel.

3. Chicken Chow Mein

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

Stringy Chow Mein noodles get the ultimate upgrade in this frozen dinner that not only includes tender, juicy chunks of chicken breast but a great mix of veggies too. It’s got broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, soybeans, onion, chili peppers, and bell peppers. Very solid.

As if the meat and veggies didn’t already make this a monster noodle dish, the sauce definitely elevates it. It’s like a soy glaze that has a sweet, nutty, gingery undertone, complementing all the ingredients and bringing everything together.

Bottom Line:

What’s extra great about this dish — besides the flavor, which is awesome — is that there’s so much of it. With three servings, there’s almost enough here to feed the whole fam.

2. Beef Pho Soup

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

This Vietnamese-inspired beef and rice noodle soup is truly the bee’s knees. Bean sprouts, onion, green onion, cilantro, Thai basil, jalapeños, and slices of beef fill the bowl, which gets popped in the microwave for a quick six minutes.

The broth is the real star here. It’s a shining beef-based broth that is delicate and savory. It has a warming quality that seems to comfort the soul with every sip. Plus, there’s enough broth to fill up on liquid alone, though the veggies and meat certainly help get the job done.

Bottom Line:

Even though this is a previously frozen dish, it really has that takeout Pho quality. That’s huge.

1. Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Via Janice Williams

Average Price: $3

Tasting Notes:

Trader Joe’s really outdid himself with this Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe frozen pasta dish. The Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper in this thing… man, it’s truly something. Seriously, this is nearly restaurant quality (well, maybe in non-New York America, at least).

You can smell the fresh pepper and creamy cheese wafting through the air while this is sautéing on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. The cheese coating is sharp, savory, and creamy — just as a cacio e pepe should be. All the black pepper gives the dish a real kick of spice that is noticeable in every bite.

Bottom Line:

Did you go out to your favorite pasta house or to Trader Joe’s for dinner? Because this feels like it would hold up at some darling little trattoria down the road from your apartment. It’s date night quality with no hassles or required tweaks.

Share This Post