PS: The best way to prepare it isn’t even listed on the package instructions.
Hello, I’m Hannah — and one thing you should know about me is that I’m a huge Trader Joe’s fan. I have my all-time favorites and go-to’s that I buy time and time again, but I also spend way too much time browsing through the aisles of my local TJ’s keeping an eye out for new and intriguing products.
If there’s one aisle I couldn’t live without, it’s the frozen section. Trader Joe’s frozen food is in a league of it’s own. It’s where I find so many freezer staples that I love keeping on hand for lazy yet delicious meals. One of those staples that I can’t live without is the Mandarin Orange Chicken.
Trader Joe’s orange chicken is certainly not a new, buzzy product, but it’s an OG for a reason. So I decided to review it in depth to see if it still stands up to the hype and figure out what makes this stuff so popular. So whether you’ve never tried this frozen meal or you’re curious for some tips and tricks to make it even better, read on.
Here she is in all her glory: a bag of Trader Joe’s Mandarin orange chicken. 👑 You’ll find it in the frozen aisle near the rest of TJ’s Asian-inspired food, like the soup dumplings and fried rice. This product costs $4.99, and it contains a heaping portion of battered chicken and two packets of gingery Mandarin orange sauce.
According to the nutrition facts, each bag of orange chicken contains five, one-cup servings, at 320 calories each. One allergen note: the chicken (dark meat FTW) is breaded in corn starch and flour, so unfortunately it’s not gluten-free.
According to the instructions, there are three ways to prepare the chicken: in the oven, in a skillet, and in the microwave. The oven method is the most popular, and it’s a hands-off approach to crispy, golden-brown chicken. But in addition to these reheating methods, I’m going to add a fourth into the mix: air frying.
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend reheating anything in the microwave if you have another option. I’ve tried heating up TJ’s newer iteration of this popular frozen meal — Mandarin-Style Orange Chicken Bowl — in the microwave, and the final result just isn’t the same. While this would still certainly be edible after nuking it, the chicken tends to get mushy rather than crunchy.
Next, I tried heating the chicken in the oven. I let my oven preheat at 400°F for 10 minutes before baking the chicken on a single layer on a baking sheet for 18 minutes.
At the same time, I microwaved a package of handy dandy frozen brown rice (another Trader Joe’s staple), and I also heated up the sauce packets in a microwave-safe bowl for two minutes.
By the time my timer went off, the chicken was already perfectly golden.
So I tossed the chicken with some of the sauce and served it over a bowl of rice.
Next up: the air fryer method. Since the packaging didn’t contain any instructions, I did my best guesswork. I air fried the chicken at 400°F for about 14 minutes, flipping halfway through until they were suuuper crispy and browned all over.
The air fryer method made the breaded chicken pieces sooo much more crispy! They literally tasted freshly fried and pretty freaking good on their own, even without the sauce.
But mixed with the Mandarin orange sauce, this chicken is next level. It honestly tastes like restaurant Chinese food…even better than take-out because it’s right out of the air fryer and doesn’t have time to get soggy.
Ultimately, I would eat either the oven-heated or air fryer orange chicken all the time. In terms of frozen food, IMO this is one of the best quality meals you can buy. The chicken itself looks like, well — real chicken. It isn’t a sketchy grey color or rubbery in texture like many frozen chicken dishes can be.
And taste-wise and prep-wise, the air fryer method most certainly takes the cake.
It’s worth mentioning that the packaging contains only chicken — no rice or veggies or extras that you might want to add for a complete meal. But for some easy meal inspiration, you could enjoy it with the following:
Oh, and one of my favorite TJ’s hacks of all: You can always set aside the Mandarin orange sauce and toss the breaded chicken with another sauce or seasoning à la makeshift boneless wings. Try it with buffalo sauce, ranch seasoning, Thai chili sauce, honey mustard, or butter and lemon pepper seasoning.
TL;DR: Every freezer needs a package of this TJ’s orange chicken. It’s a godsend for lazy nights, picky eaters, or days when you just want something comforting and easy. And IMO, it’s one of the best frozen meals you can buy. Plus, for $5, it’s a serious bang for your buck. A bag can generously feed two-three people, and paired with rice and a veggie, you can stretch it even further. The air fryer method is my favorite way to heat up this frozen meal for ultimate crispiness, but the oven method is totally delicious too.
What Trader Joe’s product should I review next? Tell me in the comments below!