If you’re anything like me, simply thinking about Trader Joe’s frozen food section gives you a sudden rush of energy. You’re telling me I can pick up a bag of food, cook it, and eat it in under 20 minutes? Count me in. I think you can only understand a fraction of my excitement when I found Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken. After a long workday, nothing is better than throwing some orange chicken in the skillet and having dinner all under 20 minutes for a fraction of the cost of takeout.
Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken has been a fan favorite for years. After debuting their popular “Customer Choice Awards,” the Trader Joe’s team quickly realized what a big hit they had created. It has been voted to be the overall favorite and best product that Trader Joe’s has sold for over eight years in a row. Long before then, the fan-favorite hit the infamous wooden shelves back in 2004. Since then, it’s become a staple in many households, including mine.
Right off the bat, after cooking the Mandarin Orange Chicken, anyone can easily see that it looks like takeout. However, the great part is it tastes even better. The initial serving size is about ⅕ of the bag, but shortly after eating it, I didn’t want to stop eating it because it’s so great! If you’re serving a family of four you’ll probably want to pick up two bags (which for under $10 its practically a steal)!
According to Trader Joe’s website, the juicy and tender chicken chunks are in crispy breading, generously coated with a house-made sauce of fresh California orange peels, ginger, garlic, green onions, and soy sauce.
As it’s cooking, the aroma of fresh ginger fills the kitchen, accompanied by the sweet smell of orange. The orange chicken pairs very well with Trader Joe’s Vegetable Fried Rice and Jasmine Rice. For this tasting we opted for the vegetable fried rice ($2.99 a bag) and it was devoured along with the chicken. Again, for a family of four, two bags of rice is recommended as well.
It is very sweet – this is a meal for those of you who have a severe sweet tooth, like me. TJ’s Mandarin Orange Chicken is a perfect entrée that can easily be paired with any side dish and be mistaken for Chinese takeout.
What’s Inside the Bag?
Inside the bag you’ll find frozen battered dark meat chicken chunks and two packets of frozen Mandarin Orange Sauce.
Cheaper than takeout?
You do the math ($4.99 plus $2.99 = $7.98) for two or $15.98 to feed a family of four a delicious Chinese meal that rivals the best takeout has to offer. While it’s not as easy as picking up the phone and ordering, you’ll be happy to have this fan favorite in your freezer and be eating delicious Chinese food in under 30 minutes.
Going to a potluck and didn’t have time to prepare a dish? Pick up a few bags of Mandarin Chicken, heat and serve, your friends or co-workers will thank you.
On the back of the bag, TJs lists two different ways the entrée can be cooked: conventional oven or stovetop. Our preferred method is the oven for several reasons. 1. No additional oil is needed. 2. The chicken is evenly cooked with a tender inside and crispy outside 3. The sauce and side dishes can be prepared while the chicken is heating.
After preheating the oven to 400 degrees F, simply spread out the frozen chicken pieces on a baking sheet.
This batch was baked for 19 minutes and the result was tender juicy pieces of chicken.
The skillet method works fine as well but it requires more tending to. Since the vegetable fried rice was being made on the stovetop and we planned to heat the sauce on the stovetop as well it was easier this time to bake the chicken in the oven.
You’ll notice two packets of Mandarin orange sauce are included in the bag. The sauce comes frozen and should stay frozen until you are ready to use.
I decided to defrost the sauce in hot water and then warmed it in a sauce pan over a low heat.
Once the chicken was done in the oven and nice and crispy I added the chicken to the saucepan.
Mix the chicken in the saucepan and generously coat with the Mandarin orange sauce.
Shortly after mixing, the sauce perfectly coats the chicken turning into a sweet glaze that’ll make your mouth water by the smell.
What Didn’t We Like?
As with anything that gets breaded or battered you’ll be left with some scraps that end up just being chickenless batter. There is nothing worse than expecting to bite into a piece of tender juicy chicken only to be left with a mouthful of fried batter covered in orange sauce. We liked the dish enough to give it a pass on this but wish that the quality control experts at TJ’s supplies would pull the chickenless pieces before they package them!
Would We Buy It Again?
For just $4.99, you can’t beat this great deal. Quality taste and cooking experience, nothing compares to the accessibility and price of this entrée. Not to mention that it’s relatively easy to make and even easier to scarf down. Instead of taking hours to find each individual ingredient to make orange chicken from scratch, Trader Joe’s has done the work for you by taking a cult classic and turning it into something manageable and tasty. It is more convenient, especially for those of you that are busy like me and looking for a quick and easy quality meal.
You can literally see the tender juicy dark meat chicken with a nice crispy outside coated sauce.
Where Can I Find It At My Local Trader Joes?
The Mandarin Orange Chicken can be found in the freezer aisle, by the other selections of Trader Ming’s Asian inspired entrees and appetizers such as the vegetable and chicken fried rice.
It’s easy for me to see why Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken has become a fan favorite. They have absolutely knocked it out of the park with this entrée. Whenever you’re waltzing your way through the aisles of your local Trader Joe’s, be sure to pick up a bag of Mandarin Orange Chicken before you check out and try it out yourself. Trust me; you will not be disappointed!