Spoiler alert: Food from a local restaurant will always be better than food from Trader Joe’s. That being said, sometimes you don’t have the funds to eat out and need a delicious, filling meal for a couple of bucks. In this series, we’ll find out if the Trader Joe’s rendition of the dish will get the job done or if it will just make you miss the real deal even more.
This week we’re tackling butter chicken. Butter chicken (which you may also see listed on menus as chicken makhani) is an extremely popular Northern Indian dish at restaurants here in America. It’s chunks of chicken cooked in a tomato and butter-based sauce and it is typically served with basmati rice and/or naan. It’s absolutely delicious. Here are our thoughts on how TJ’s version stacks up to the real deal.
Takeout: Butter chicken and basmati rice from a local Los Angeles restaurant
For our blindfolded side-by-side taste test, we ordered butter chicken from a local Indian restaurant here in Los Angeles. It took about 45 minutes for it to arrive at our office once we placed the order online. After tax and tip, an order of butter chicken and an order of basmati rice ran us about $30.
The portions are four times bigger than the amount of food you get from Trader Joe’s. You get an unbelievable amount of sauce and I love that. The chicken had a smoky flavor that you can only achieve from cooking it in a tandoori oven (something Trader Joe’s is obviously not doing). One factor that could be a pro or con is that there will be variations with your butter chicken depending on where you choose to place your order. This butter chicken was a little less creamy than other butter chickens I have had. Unlike Trader Joe’s, no two places will ever serve the exact same thing.
Trader Joe’s: Trader Joe’s Frozen Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice
This prepared meal takes about 5 to 6 minutes to cook (and by cook, I mean microwave) and costs about $3.99 plus tax. And don’t forget that you will have to make a trip to Trader Joe’s to acquire it. The grocery shopping will probably take you about 30 minutes and getting in and out of the TJ’s parking lot will take one to two hours. That’s a joke, but is it? You can also factor gas money into the cost, which will vary depending on where you live and how far you live from a Trader Joe’s.
The first thing I noticed about the product is that the container comes filled with 25% butter chicken and 35% basmati rice. Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that that is not enough butter chicken for me. I’m all about the sauce and this just doesn’t have enough.
The taste, however, is great. I’m not a big Trader Joe’s fan in general so I was skeptical going into this. It proved me totally wrong. The sauce was well-seasoned and creamy. Shockingly, the rice beat the restaurant’s rice in a blind taste test. I imagine microwaving and then immediately consuming it was better for the rice than the car ride from the restaurant. Much to my disbelief, the Trader Joe’s Butter Chicken tastes delicious.
You miss a lot of the nuance and complexity of Indian food when you eat Trader Joe’s Indian food. But if you don’t have access to an Indian restaurant or are trying to cut down on your spending, the Trader Joe’s Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice will do the trick in a pinch. It tastes great!