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9 Trader Joe’s Hacks for Easy, Delicious Dinners

Orange chicken and rice in a bowl on a wooden table surrounded by oranges.
Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is a haven for easy-to-make meals, and it’s surprisingly easy to upgrade a basic dish into something that looks and tastes gourmet!

Let’s be honest: For plenty of us, Trader Joe’s products are a lifesaver when it comes to tasty meals that can be thrown together without much hassle (especially when it comes to their frozen dishes).

If you’re ready to take these easy dishes to the next level, it’s actually pretty simple! All you need are a few more ingredients and a few more minutes, and you can upgrade your favorite meals with these easy hacks.

Cheese Filled Fiochetti with Pink Sauce

A plate loaded with Trader Joe's fiocchetti.
Trader Joe’s

These delicious little pasta pockets are filled with a tasty cheese blend and tossed in a creamy, lightly tomato-y sauce. You can punch up the flavor with just a couple of simple additions to the sauce.

Start with: 1 bag of frozen Cheese Filled Fiochetti with Pink Sauce

The upgrade: Cook as the package suggests until the sauce has melted. Then, add some (about a teaspoon to start, but do it to taste) of the Soffritto Seasoning Blend and allow it to finish cooking in the covered pan. For the last couple of minutes, uncover it and sprinkle a little parmesan over the surface of the pasta and let it melt, then stir it all together.

Fettucine Alfredo

Fettucine alfredo is a total classic, and one that’s super easy with a frozen version. If you want to get a little more flavor into the dish, one simple ingredient can give you a richer sauce with a slightly herbed flavor.

Start with: 1 bag of frozen Fettucine Alfredo

The upgrade: Cook as the package directs, but once the sauce has melted together, stir in a couple of teaspoons of Boursin cheese for extra creaminess and a kick of flavor.

Tip: If you want the thicker sauce without the Boursin flavor, instead of stirring in Boursin, sprinkle a thin layer of parmesan cheese on top of the almost-finished pasta. Let melt for a minute, then stir in.

Fried Rice Bowl

Who doesn’t love a good Asian fried rice bowl? You can replicate your favorite takeout by combining and customizing these freezer section staples.

Start with: 1 bag of frozen Vegetable Fried Rice

The upgrade: Cook up your favorite of the frozen Asian meats offered at Trader Joe’s (the Mandarin orange chicken is especially good for this), then toss it with the fried rice to make your own takeout “rice bowl” meal. You can also add in your favorite sauce—it’s a totally customizable, at-home version of a takeout staple!

Dumpling Soup

Take your favorite savory dumplings and combine them with a flavorful broth for a warm and comforting soup on nights where you just don’t have time to start from scratch.

Start with: Frozen Gyoza (either the vegetable or chicken is fine)

The upgrade: Instead of pan-searing them to eat as individual potstickers, turn them into homemade dumpling soup simply by cooking them in your favorite from the ready-made broths: chicken, vegetable, or miso ginger.

Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

A bag of black bean pasta, a can of olives, a block of cheese, a bottle of enchilada sauce, and a bag of corn on a wood board
Amanda Prahl

Black bean pasta, plus spicy enchilada sauce, creamy cheese, and a scattering of corn and olives—what’s not to love?

Start with: Organic Black Bean Rotini

The upgrade: Instead of just cooking it up and serving as a pasta salad like other rotini, turn it into a gooey, protein-packed casserole! Undercook the noodles just a little, then layer in a baking dish with the Enchilada Sauce, half a bag of frozen corn, a can of sliced black olives, and your favorite shredded cheese, and bake until bubbly.

Peruvian Sausage and Rice

Whether you like your sausage spicy, sweet, or in between, this hack lets it shine by mixing it with flavor-packed Peruvian-style rice and some veggies.

Start with: Peruvian Style Chimichurri Rice

The upgrade: First, before starting to cook the rice, slice and cook some of your favorite sausage. Then, add the sausage slices to the rice as you cook it on the stove. You can also add some of your favorite veggies to the mix!

Gorgonzola Gnocchi

Someone pouring a glass of wine with plate of Trader Joe's gnocchi on the table.
Trader Joe’s

What could make gnocchi with a creamy, sharp gorgonzola sauce even better? A blend of earthy, slightly nutty mushrooms.

Start with: Frozen Gorgonzola Gnocchi

The upgrade: Cook the gnocchi partway according to the package. Then, toss in some of the frozen Mushroom Medley, and finish cooking until everything is cooked all the way through and comes together in a creamy, tender dish.

Seafood Paella

Intimidated by the idea of paella? Don’t be! This easy version brings together all the seafood flavor and delicious spices, without hours of hassle.

Start with: Frozen Seafood Paella

The upgrade: Classic Spanish paella often includes both seafood and chicken.

The next time you have leftover chicken (preferably chicken thighs, as they tend to be more tender and juicy than the white meat), simply chop it up and toss it in at the end of cooking the frozen paella.

Give the chicken just a few minutes in the pan with the rest of the dish to heat through and absorb some of the flavors without disintegrating from being “recooked” too long.

Chile Cheese Cornbread

If you’re tired of the same old cornbread, mix it up by stirring in some chiles and cheese for a spicy surprise.

Start with: 1 box Cornbread Mix

The upgrade: Follow the recipe on the box to mix up the cornbread batter. Stir in one cup of shredded cheddar cheese and one small can (drained) of chopped green chiles. Bake as usual for a spicy, Southwestern cornbread!

Tip: If you like olives, add in one small can of sliced, drained black olives too!

These hacks are just a few of the many options for easy, quick dinners, perfect for weeknight cooking. Feel free to experiment in your own kitchen with adding and combining different ingredients—you might just find a new favorite!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »

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