Best Trader Joe’s Frozen Appetizers: 7 to Pick Up for Your Next Party

The best Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers can turn around even the crummiest party. Seriously, I’ll suffer through some lame small talk as long as I can post up next to the snack table and stuff my face with mini samosas and cocktail wieners wrapped in dough.

They’re a life-saver and time-saver for hosts, too. No need to roll out endless sheets of puff pastry when the best Trader Joe’s frozen apps are as good as pretty much anything you’d put together yourself, unless you’re Ina Garten (in which case, hi, I love you, please make appetizers for me). 

But not all Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers are good. Some of them are pretty bad, actually! We cranked up the office oven and heated more than a dozen varieties to separate the guaranteed crowd-pleasers from the bites that’ll wind up in the trash, crumpled-up into cocktail napkins. These were our seven favorites, some of them newer offerings and some of them perennial faves from the TJ’s frozen aisle.


best trader joe's frozen appetizers

Best of the Best

Parmesan Pastry Pups

An excellent thing about me (if I do say so myself) is that I make pigs in a blanket for pretty much every party I go to. No matter what the host has put out, you can bet the Lit’l Smokies wrapped in generic canned crescent roll dough (I almost never spring for Pillsbury) are the first things to go. Besides having a cute name, Parmesan Pastry Pups are the best Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer you can buy if you want to make something that literally every omnivore wants to eat, and they’ll save you the effort it takes to wrap and bake dozens of cocktail franks. These are even more decadent than the pigs in a blanket you’re used to. The juicy mini hot dogs and buttery puff pastry combine to create a delicious, greasy slurry, and the parm on top gives them even more savory flavor. I think they would have puffed up a little more if I’d cooked them in a regular oven rather than a toaster oven, but the flavor is outrageous no matter what. You’re gonna want to put out toothpicks for these so you don’t have people covertly wiping their greasy hands on your couch cushions.

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best trader joe's appetizer

Best Anytime App

Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas

Nothing is better than meat wrapped in dough (see: Parmesan Pastry Pups), and these Mini Chicken Samosas are an excellent continuation of that theme. These are small, but they pack so, so much Indian-food flavor. All the hits are there: curry, cumin, coriander. And while the filling is a little mushy—I couldn’t really detect whole pieces of chicken—the dough cooks up so nice and crispy, it all just kind of works. You’ll want to let these cool before you put them out—third-degree tongue burns are terrible party favors.

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best trader joe's frozen appetizers

Best Veggie

Mini Vegetable Samosas

If you’re putting out a spread for a crowd of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, this Trader Joe’s frozen app is a must. Like their chicken counterparts, the Mini Veggie Samosas—filled with potatoes, carrots, peas, lentils, and onions—are crispy, spicy, and satisfying, they just don’t have meat. I also think they might have amped up the heat a little bit here—I took a bite and actually coughed a little. Who doesn’t want a frozen app that reminds them they’re alive??

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best trader joe's appetizers

Best to Dip

Breaded Fried Ravioli

I am of the opinion that fried ravioli are never as good as you hope they’re going to be, especially at restaurants. Granted, I’ve never had real-deal St. Louis ravs (don’t come for me, Missourians), but whenever I order these things, I always wish I would have just gotten mozzarella sticks instead. I guess that’s why these Breaded Fried Ravioli from TJ’s were such a pleasant surprise. You might be expecting a filling of bland ricotta, but there’s something much more tasty going on here—the cheese is sharp and nutty and full of flavor. The breading is excellent too; it reminded me of Progresso Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, a pantry staple in my house. Heat up a little bowl of marinara sauce for dipping, and you’re in business.

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best trader joe's appetizers

Best Salty

Fried Olive Bites

Okay, why aren’t fried olives more of a thing and who can I yell at about this? While I work on finding the right person or persons to berate, allow me to extoll the virtues of these little, breaded TJ’s olive bites. First of all, they probably aren’t what you’re expecting (i.e. breaded and deep-fried cheese-stuffed olives). Instead, they’re made of a macerated mixture of different types of salty, savory olives formed around a blend of creamy cheeses, which are then breaded and fried. I’m not certain why it was necessary to mash up and create a dough of something that was made to be stuffed with cheese in its original form, but I have to assume Trader Joe’s has their reasons. And if you’re concerned about the salt factor, I get it, but if you can handle fried pickles, you can handle these.

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best trader joe's frozen appetizers

Best Fritter

Thai Banana Fritters

If you’re regularly consuming very good Thai street food, these may not scratch your banana-fritter itch. But if you generally like greasy fried things that strike a lovely sweet-savory balance, these are pretty damn good. The batter is light, nutty, and fruity tasting, thanks to the inclusion of both coconut flakes, coconut milk, and sesame seeds. They’re definitely savory, but they’re sweet enough that you can serve them atop a mound of vanilla ice cream. Whatever you do, lay these out on a few layers of paper towels to soak up some of the oil before you transfer them to your party serving platter.

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best trader joe's frozen appetizers

Best Meaty

Kalua Pork Spring Rolls

Okay, this recommendation comes with a big disclaimer: These are extremely, extremely greasy. If you think greasy food is gross, this is not the best Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer for you. Seriously, when you handle these, you can see pockets of grease moving around inside the spring roll wrapper. But, if you can get past that and focus on the flavor of the meat inside these spring rolls, you’ll be pumped. There’s a real fire-roasted pork shoulder flavor in these and it kept me going back for bites even after my fingers were slick with oil. These are a make-it-a-treat sort of appetizer for the intestinally fortitudinous among us.

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Spizzico di Pizza, Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese Bites, Mini Beef Tacos, Mac and Cheese Bites, Vegetable Bird’s Nests


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!

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  • Hey Gwynedd,

    Missourian here, about to kinda come at you. While I completely agree with you that cheese-filled fried ravioli is inferior to a simple mozzarella stick, traditional toasted* ravioli in St. Louis is actually filled with pork and cheese, much like actual traditional ravioli. I highly recommend you make it out to STL sometime to try some (along with lots of beer and bbq) to better understand the hype.

    *Yes, we call it toasted ravioli even though it’s fried. No idea why, we just do. I’m sorry, we’re just weird like that.

    Reply
  • I’ve had every single one of these things and they are delicious! I keep going back for more! The flavor compared to other brands is outstanding. I love the Somosa’s, can’t get enough of them, and the fried ravioli…so much better than the ones a restaurant serves. Great list, all my favs! I love Sporked!

    Reply
  • Just a heads up that one of the samosas is referred to as “samoas” in the title. Love the article though! Can’t wait to try the olives

    Reply
    • Thank you for catching that!

      Reply
  • I appreciate the recommendations but I’m telling you the only TJ appetizer that matters is the Pastry Bites Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions.

    Reply
  • Oh, but have you tried the Vegetable Bird’s Nests? A-mazing! The dipping sauce is addictive too.

    Reply
  • I can’t wait for them to bring back the dill pickle falafel this summer. They were insanely good, like a fried pickle but with the added benefit of protein, iron, potassium, and calcium.

    Reply