Best Lean Cuisine Meals: The 8 Leanest and Meanest in the Freezer

The best Lean Cuisine meals are flavorful, nostalgic, and ready in a jiff. We tried some of the most popular varieties of these low-cal frozen dinners find the best Lean Cuisines you can buy.

Confession time: I kind of love Lean Cuisine. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, when microwaved meatloaf was a totally legit health food—what a time to be alive! Perceptions have changed and health food has taken on less delicious forms, but Lean Cuisine lives on for people who want to cut calories, not cook, and still eat things like pasta in meat sauce and french bread pizza.

As of 2017, there were more than 85 varieties of Lean Cuisine on the market. Did I try them all? Hell no. I want to do a good job here, but I also want to live. I went about this taste test by curating a list of the most popular and most enduring Lean Cuisine meals, from sesame chicken to Swedish meatballs, microwaved them according to the package instructions, and then judged them based on how good they taste. I’m confident these are the best Lean Cuisine meals you can buy.

The following article contains affiliate links that may generate a small commission to us when you make a purchase through the link. Learn more about how we work with affiliates here.


best lean cuisine salisbury steak

Best of the Best

Salisbury Steak with Macaroni & Cheese

I know there’s been a lot of innovation in frozen foods in recent decades—healthier ingredients, alternative proteins, more international foods—but there’s something so perennially satisfying about a crudely formed hunk of ground beef drenched in mushroom gravy and served alongside some mac and cheese. If you’re a comfort food guy like me, a genuine fan ‘o cafeteria cuisine, I can’t imagine a better “healthy” lunch. The gravy could use more mushrooms, but the flavor is rich and beefy, and the steak itself is tasty and less gristly than the Lean Cuisine meatloaf. This came in fourth in our frozen salisbury steak ranking, mostly because it reads as healthy compared to more decadent salisbury steaks, like Stouffer’s and Hungry-Man. But in the realm of diet dinners, if you want something rib sticking, filling, and nostalgic, this is definitely the best Lean Cuisine meal you can buy.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best lean cuisine roasted turkey

Best Sad Holiday Dinner

Roasted Turkey Breast

A frozen meal that mimics Thanksgiving dinner might sound even more depressing than your typical sad little desk lunch, but I’m telling you, this is tasty enough to make you feel festive. The turkey medallions have a surprisingly pleasant taste and texture (much better than any of the chicken we tried), the gravy is savory, and the stuffing is clumpy and herby in that delicious Stove Top kind of way. My favorite part of this meal, though, are the cinnamon apples. Seriously, even with 15-plus frozen dinners to taste, I polished off every bite of those sweet, syrupy, spiced apples. A majorly nostalgic and extremely delicious dessert right there in the the tray. Brilliant.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best lean cuisine santa fe style rice and beans

Best Rice Dish

Santa Fe-Style Rice & Beans

I wasn’t in love with this Lean Cuisine, but my colleagues Danny Palumbo and Jordan Myrick helped me reconsider its virtues. Apart from the smoky taste of cumin, this corn-dotted take on rice and beans kind of lacks flavor and isn’t nearly as cheesy as it looks on the box, but with just a little bit of extra attention, this dish would really come to life. Jordan suggested either topping it with diced avocado for added richness, or dousing it with hot sauce and then piling the whole shebang into a low-carb tortilla and making a burrito. Make it your own and you’ll be in good shape.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best lean cuisine shrimp scampi

Best Seafood

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp is my favorite food, but I can’t tell you how dubious I was that microwaved shrimp would be anything but rubbery and gross. This Lean Cuisine was an extremely pleasant surprise. The angel hair pasta is tender but toothsome, and doused in a bright, citrusy garlic sauce that tastes like cooking wine in a way I kind of loved (although in my Italian-American opinion, the noodles in this dish are spaghetti not angel hair). And the shrimp is sizable, tender, and has enough seafood flavor to remind you that you’re eating something that came from the ocean (or at least a shrimp farm). My favorite part of this taste test was discovering that microwavable seafood actually works.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best lean cuisine lasagna with meat sauce

Best Italian

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

Lean Cuisine has a handful of Italian-inspired, red sauce-drenched dishes, but this Lasagna with Meat Sauce is especially cheesy and delicious. The meat in the lasagna doesn’t contribute a ton of flavor, but it does add some good texture. The sauce is tangy and feels nice and oily, and there’s a good amount of cheese on the dish too. We also liked Lean Cuisine’s Cheese Ravioli, but the portion seemed way too small. This one is more substantial, which helped it edge out its competition. What makes this one of the best Lean Cuisine meals you can buy is that it doesn’t feel like diet food at all.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

lean cuisine steak portabella

Best Beef

Steak Portabella

Okay, so, I know a “steak” took the top spot on this list, but let’s be clear: There’s a big difference between what you expect from a chop steak and what you expect from actual slices of steak steak. I was certain the Steak Portabella—slices of steak in a brown mushroom gravy with broccoli—would be inedibly chewy and gross. I’m pleased to report I was wrong. The steak is pretty damn tender and actually has a nice beefy flavor; I really liked the texture of the mushrooms with the steak, but they should consider adding about two times as many of them to the tray. I mean, it’s in the name of the dish—mushroom representation, please!

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best lean cuisine french bread pizza

Best Junk Food

French Bread Pepperoni Pizza

I’m on the record as a big fan of a Stouffer’s French bread pizza (which I firmly believe should be cooked in the oven rather than the microwave). This little microwavable pizza can’t quite hold a candle to the genuine article, but it’ll definitely scratch that French bread pizza itch in a pinch. The pepperoni is the highlight. The cheese is a little sparse and doesn’t melt all that well—low-fat cheese typically doesn’t—and the bread gets just a little chewy in the microwave, but the pepperoni slices are salty, oily, and spicy. This feels like a really fun splurge for having only 300 calories.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

lean cuisine macaroni & cheese

Best Comfort Food

Macaroni & Cheese

You know what makes frozen mac and cheese taste super good? A lot of cheese and lots and lots of butter. I learned this from Patti LaBelle, songstress and purveyor of an extremely delicious frozen mac and cheese that just so happens to have 32 grams of fat per serving (sometimes you just really shouldn’t read the back of the box). Suffice it to say, Lean Cuisine mac and cheese isn’t going to live up to its fattier and more calorie-laden counterparts, but it’s salty, creamy, and feels like junk food in a fun way. There isn’t a lot of variety in this meal, but if you want something super simple or something you can dress up yourself with, say, a handful of canned peas and some sliced-up veggie hot dogs, this is the best Lean Cuisine meal you can buy.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Sesame Chicken, Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Swedish Meatballs with Pasta, Cheese Ravioli, Macaroni and Beef, Alfredo Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

Find the best Lean Cuisine at home and share with us using #SporkedTasteTest for a chance to be featured on our social pages!


About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • You should have tried the white cheddar Mac and cheese. So good!

    Reply
  • I was disappointed by the snobby and negative tone throughout. Next time, let someone humble and open-minded write lists like these. There are a lot of us who need these “healthier” convenient options and we don’t deserve to have our food talked about so disrespectfully and judgmentally. I’m truly not mad, just disappointed.

    Reply