Our Honest Review of Trader Joe’s New Frozen Papas Rellenas

Trader Joe’s is a wonderland of frozen food. Where else can you get an Indian feast, meatless cheeseburger pizza, and appetizers worthy of a pretty decent catering company? And the best part is they’re always adding new, rarely seen food items to their freezer cases. One of the latest: papas rellenas. 

Papas rellenas are Latin American croquettes, made with mashed potatoes and filled with ground beef and vegetables (and hard-boiled eggs and olives if you’re in Peru), then coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Trader Joe’s papas rellenas are inspired by the Cuban version of the dish. They’re essentially fried mashed potato balls stuffed with ground beef, diced onion, and bell pepper. Sounds hard to beat. But is it a Trader Joe’s frozen food instant classic? We air fried a batch to find out.

Trader Joe’s Papas Rellenas

New TJ’s Frozen Food!

Trader Joe’s Papas Rellenas

Trader Joe’s describes these frozen croquettes as sounding sort of like “a spicier, appetizer version of shepherd’s pie” but they assure you that once you have a bite “it’s so much more.” I agree with the first part. This is a lot like a crisped ball of shepherd’s pie. Is it a lot more? Not really. But does it have to be? 

Pros: Coincidentally enough, we recently tasted a bunch of frozen shepherd’s pies before tasting these papas rellenas. And similarities were hard to ignore. Although, these were honestly better than most frozen shepherd’s pies out there. The outside is crispy. The potatoes are creamy and savory—but not too salty. The beef is subtly spiced with a hint of olive-y flavor. The biggest feat is the fact that they aren’t greasy at all. You can pick them up and take a bite and not instantly reach for the paper towels. 

Cons: I wish there was cheese involved—just a handful mixed into the mashed potatoes or perhaps some scattered into the breadcrumb coating would be great. Trader Joe’s suggests serving them with a dipping sauce, and I agree. These are cozy and comforting on their own, but they could use a little something else. I would have liked a sauce included with the croquettes—that would have really made these papas rellenas a ready-to-eat meal or appetizer. 

In the end, my cons are just quibbles. I ended up eating two of these pool ball-sized croquettes. They are cozy and filling and, as I said, better than most frozen shepherd’s pie out there if that’s what you’re craving.

Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s




About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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