18 Indian Foods From Trader Joe's, Ranked

We're big fans of Indian food in general, and we also happen to be huge fans of Trader Joe's. Testing and ranking Joe's Indian food is as fun as it gets.

We've enjoyed the Chicken Tikka Masala many a time, for example. We've had lots of sub-par Tikka, but Trader Joe's version isn't one of them, and we're not alone in thinking so — which is why it's not on this ranking. It's the golden standard for everything else on this list. Is it worth getting any of Trader Joe's other Indian food products? We quickly found out the answer is a resounding yes. How have we been missing out on all these fantastic finds?

So that you don't make the same mistake we did for far too long, here is our ranking of Trader Joe's Indian foods from worst to best. From curry to channa masala, there's a world of delicious options to choose from.

18. Kitchari

We always regretfully have to rank something in the lowest spot, and this time, it's Trader Joe's Kitchari pouch. What's kitchari, you ask? It's a one-pot dish of grains and legumes scented with spices and cooked until each component breaks down into the other. When we heated it up, we certainly got that "breaks down into each other" vibe, because, while thick and warming, it resembles oatmeal or porridge. It needed more contrast, both in flavor and texture, but, hey, we would still eat it for dinner when harried.

Spoiler alert: We actually ranked all the frozen meals better than the shelf-stable pouches, which wasn't a surprise. We can't speak for every Indian Fare-marked offering at Trader Joe's because we did not try every single one of them, but overall, the frozen foods tasted of higher quality and were far more satisfying. This kitchari is fine to buy if you know you already like it, but we'd opt out otherwise.

17. Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas

Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas are a solid toss-into-the-cart choice, but let the facts be known: The outside could be flakier and the inside could be more plentiful and flavorful. Instead, they're tasty little snacks, nothing more. They stayed pretty pale, not all golden-tipped, and it was hard to properly crisp up the exterior without burning it, while still getting the insides piping hot.

We decided that the best way to eat these samosas is to enjoy them as a part of a fun snacky dinner. Better to not expect them to be the star of the show, because they didn't have enough zing or chicken tikka filling to go the extra mile. But with some sauces, some fries tossed in Indian spices, and other accompanying bits and pieces, no one will complain. Besides, they're mini, and everyone loves mini foods! Too bad they don't have as much flavor as the frozen tikka masala.

16. Butter Chicken With Basmati Rice

Indian food often has tons of flavor, which makes it well worth the cooking effort. When frozen food does away with the effort — even the effort of ordering online and picking it up — you can concede a bit of that flavor. But not this much.

Butter Chicken has never been the most challenging or spiritually awakening dish, so we knew that no matter how good it was, it likely wouldn't be as zesty as a masala or vindaloo dish. In its creamy tomato-based sauce, it's really more like Indian comfort food. This frozen meal was fine. It was pretty comforting, but also slightly distressing since it didn't taste as good as we'd hoped. We simply couldn't find many flavors. If you're staring at the freezer case at your local Trader Joe's deciding which box to grab, unless you are only just dipping your feet into the world of Indian food and need something as American as possible, we recommend picking something else.

15. Madras Lentils

The Madras Lentils is the other pouch meal we tried. The base of this dish is lentils and kidney beans, which soak up the tomato-based sauce flavored with onions and ginger. Though the "madras" part refers to the type of curry used, we wouldn't have known just by tasting it. More spice, please! We really wanted that curry flavor. Still, you can easily beef this up (no pun intended if you want to keep it meatless) by adding other vegetables or some of your own fresh-grated ginger, and there's nothing wrong with eating food from a pouch when life gets away from you. Besides, you really can't beat the convenience. We could definitely see ourselves eating this as a work lunch and liking it just fine, particularly with some naan on the side.

Are you getting to love lentils bit by bit? Brush up on all the varieties and get started cooking them into rich vegetarian meals.

14. Spiced Chai Black Tea Concentrate

What do we really appreciate during a massive test of Indian food? A beverage to reset our palates between bites. Maybe it was out of practicality that we added the Spiced Chai Black Tea Concentrate to our carts, but we drank it out of choice. Still, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, if your Indian food or drink doesn't have lots of flavors, you're choosing the wrong one. We like our chai more spicy than sweet, which is also more authentic. Trader Joe's puts us right in the middle of the road, teetering over to the sweet side.

Traditional spices like cinnamon, ginger, and clove do come through. But it needed more of the tantalizing, unique flavor stemming from more cardamom or even the crackling lift of black pepper. Since it's a concentrate, the opportunity was there to really go big on flavor and let partakers dilute it to their personal liking. Oh, well. It was still delicious, but it needed more oomph.

13. Vegetable Masala Burger

A Vegetable Masala Burger with authentic Indian spices: Now this is some good work, Joe! Frozen veggie burgers can run the gamut of "meh." Bland, dry, chewy, crumbly, mushy, the list goes on. But when they're good, they're a great way to have an easy yet satisfying meatless meal.

In the world of Beyond Meat, it's easy to write frozen veggie burgers off as antiquated, but don't make that mistake with these. Putting a hefty dose of herbs and spices is a great way to level up a boring burger, and using masala spices is brilliant. Those spices include turmeric and ginger, which come through just enough to give it a nice earthy, warm flavor. The heft and satisfaction come courtesy of a diverse blend of veggies including bell peppers and onions plus starches like corn and potatoes. Want to cook up a homemade veggie burger that's even heartier and tastier than this? You can't do much better than a juicy black bean burger!

12. Channa Masala

Channa Masala is a dish made from chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and spices. While it sounds like staples thrown together and heated up, we quickly discovered that it's far more than the sum of its parts. Channa Masala is a small moment of cozy comfort food in our chaotic lives, and we're thankful for it. Similar to the kitchari and madras pouches, it's easily dressed up with extra spices or pantry staples, and like just about everything else on this list, it goes swimmingly with a scoop of those delicious flatbreads.

Overall, the dish is a little drab, but it's nice stick-to-your-ribs fare with an Indian flair. It also is deeply satisfying, with one package providing 13 grams of vegetarian protein. We wouldn't spend all day looking forward to dinner if it were on our weekly meal plan, but we wouldn't feel disappointed, either. It would be a great recipe to try whipping up yourself to get started exploring making homemade Indian cuisine.

11. Traditional Indian Style Flatbread

The Traditional Indian Style Flatbread is a staple for your Indian meal. There aren't any extra special spices going on here, so we took the opportunity to really critique the base flavor of the bread itself. Truthfully, there isn't much of it. It's plain and simple, nothing to write home about, but does the job of scooping up Chicken Tikka Masala in fine form. We wish it had more butteriness, yeasty notes, or maybe even some stone-fired flair, but it's perfectly suitable. To really find everything to love about naan, though, you might try baking it yourself. It's hard to mess up, and the fruits of your labor are good for your soul.

Both the Tandoori and Garlic Indian Flatbreads are available frozen, too, for your utmost convenience (though it is hard for us to imagine not getting through a bag of these fresh ones before they go bad.) Or, you can do what we do, and buy fresh but freeze any leftovers or slices that you know you won't get to quickly enough.

10. Vegetable Biryani

We consider Vegetable Biryani a real takeout classic. An order of biryani, an order of chicken tikka, and a side of samosas? You're good to go. Frozen rice-based dishes are often lackluster, so we didn't set our expectations too high.

It is a fun rice and vegetable mixture, and in some cases, meat. Here, the meat is replaced by "dumplings," which we were skeptical about but ended up loving. The vegetables you shall find in this dish are lima beans, green peas, cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower... need we go on? They manage to stay fork-tender while holding their shape amidst the seasoned rice. Sure, some of the rice was a little chewy and clumpy instead of light and airy, but overall a nice effort. The dumplings were the fun touch that pushed it from good to almost-great, puffy little nuggets of savory flavor. For a vegetarian meal that offers lots of Indian flavors and a few different components, this is a solid pick.

9. Vegan Tikka Masala

Since the world at large gives Chicken Tikka Masala such high marks, we had to also try the vegan version and see if it had any resemblance to the non-vegan one. Obviously, chicken isn't vegan, but you'd expect the sauce to also pose an issue. Actually, while others are often bolstered with dairy products like heavy cream, Tikka Masala sauce is thickened with coconut milk, so it's naturally vegan! It all comes down to that chicken.

Some of us expected the worst, while others were mildly cheerful about our prospects. The "chicken," honestly, tastes nothing like chicken, but still tastes unconventionally and surprisingly delicious. It's more like the Biryani dumplings, juicy and in chunks of various sizes that are soft enough to cut with your fork, but they don't fall apart all over the place. The sauce has plenty of flavors thanks to those authentic spices, infusing the "chicken" in a slow-cooked style. If you're vegan or looking for an easy Meatless Monday option, give these meals a try.

8. Fiery Chicken Curry

Are you all about spice in your Indian food? Trader Joe's has the Fiery Chicken Curry just for you. We love a smooth, creamy sauce, and we love it even more when there's a ton of spicy flavor to offset the rich texture. This fiery curry has both in spades. The chicken is almost certainly the same meat used in the Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala with a different jacket on, right? Even if it's not, it tastes like it, so if you enjoy the texture of the meat in those options but like a lot more spice, go for it.

We agreed that the impact is less "fiery" and more, well, like a scented candle, but a really nice scented candle. The hardcore spicy food people on our team shrugged their shoulders and said that this curry is no big deal, but the rest of us reached for the water. If you're a member of the "the spicier the better" crew, you may enjoy cooking up a spicy Indian stew with a game-changing pop of sweetness.

7. Brown Basmati Rice

As you search for the more fun stuff like Paneer Tikka Masala With Spinach or Vegetable Masala Burgers, do not forget the crux of almost any upcoming Indian meal: rice. Allow us a brief respite from all the fiery foods for a mention of Brown Basmati Rice. Far too many times have we diligently shopped for every other component, and even picked up a fun snack to reward ourselves, only to get home and realize that we're out of rice.

Luckily, Trader Joe's has a lovely Basmati rice for a lovely price, so you can feel great about regularly purchasing it from the same store. Once you figure out how to cook it just right, which is a bit of a challenge for novices, you'll find that you can never have enough of this stuff. Brown, as opposed to white, rice means you're getting whole grains, plus a deep, toasty, hearty flavor that's a solid building block for all the luxurious spiced sauces sure to steep their way in.

6. Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer is one of those dishes that doesn't look like much on the outside but tastes like a million bucks once you get into it. A spinach sauce, for one, may be enough to get you skipping to the next product on the list, but wait! What if we tell you that it's scented with lots of garlic, onion, and ginger and cooked until it becomes a rich and velvety base? Doesn't that sound better? And what if we then reveal that those chunks aren't dry white-meat chicken or rubbery tofu, as it might appear at first glance, but actually cubes of cheese? Yes, it's basically a bowl of souped-up, spiced, saucy cheese. Are you with us now?

Trader Joe's authentic Indian recipe is a great way to have convenient access to this underrated, vegetarian meal. Cozy yet complex, it's a whole new way to enjoy greens and cheese without eating spinach and artichoke dip or another boring salad.

5. Lamb Vindaloo

The Lamb Vindaloo is coming in hot. Lamb is somewhat polarizing when it comes to meat. All ethics aside, it's a far cry from mild-mannered chicken, which easily fades into the background of whatever flavoring is used and is even much more gamey and woodsy than beef or pork. But if you enjoy the complex, earthy, almost smokey notes of a nice cut of lamb, you'll know that it can make for a deeply satisfying dish. It certainly does here.

We were worried that a heavy, salty sauce would camouflage the meat and result in a meal that could be anyone's guess, but, nope, this is definitely lamb. We loved the rich sauce and discovered that TJ's worked hard to find a perfect balance of spices and spiciness, meaning you can taste the meat itself. It's also worth noting that finding any frozen meal with lamb can be tough to find and pricey. When this vindaloo includes high-quality, flavorful pieces of meat at the ridiculously reasonable price of $4.99, we're even more inclined to buy. This is an impressive addition to an already strong frozen lineup.

4. Mini Vegetable Samosas

Okay, we have to admit it: Of all the wonderful things we brought back from this shopping trip, the things we were most excited about were neither the spiciest curries nor the butteriest chicken dishes. They were the samosas. Are you, also, here primarily for the samosas? If so, you know the number one rule of ordering Indian takeout: Always add a samosa.

We didn't dare hope that these Mini Vegetable Samosas, or any frozen samosas, could compete with fresh takeout or a home-cooked meal, but we hoped they could be a nice consolation prize. A good samosa includes a marvelously flakey, ever-so-slightly greasy shell surrounding a cornucopia of spiced surprises inside. In TJ's version, you get peas, potatoes, and carrots. Sure, the shell wasn't perfectly flaky, but it held up much better than anticipated. We recommend a brief stint in the air fryer if you have one on hand. The filling was pleasantly spiced without overpowering the vegetables. We appreciated that we could still discern each ingredient and it wasn't just a mushy wad. Overall, we'd get these again.

3. Garlic Indian Style Flatbread

If you're grabbing a fresh bag of flatbread from Trader Joe's to go with your Indian feast, we recommend choosing the Garlic Indian-Style Flatbread. Unless you're a super-taster for whom a pinch of garlic goes an extremely long way, you won't find the addition overly brash. Instead, it just helps to boost the overall bread by leaving it more able to stand up in its own right, rather than serve as an afterthought side dish. The only caveat is that it's slightly less versatile than plain flatbread because leftovers can't be used with other random leftover foods that might clash with garlic. We love leftovers with eggs in the morning, for example, but garlic breath as soon as we wake up is pushing it.

The bread is nice and soft, slightly chewy but in just the right way, and tastes relatively freshly baked. We did notice that each one is a little dense in the puffier parts, whereas we'd prefer it to be fluffy and practically melting in our mouths. A gentle warming helped a huge amount.

2. Malabari Paratha

So, we've discussed the two kinds of fresh flatbreads and mentioned they also come frozen. What more can there be when it comes to Indian bread items at Trader Joe's? Well, the best one is also the most obscure. In the frozen section, seek out the Malabari Paratha. It definitely surprised us with its depth of flavor, and we think you should see if it replaces your usual flatbreads — of any kind and from any grocery store — in the future. 

It's so flaky! If the others are muffins, these are croissants. Though some of those ethereal layers are compromised by the push and shove that happens when the parathas are frozen, overall, they taste much fancier than they are. Heat some butter in a skillet, add a little minced garlic if you want to infuse some extra flavor, plop these in, and bam. Heavenly. Do we think they're better than naan, tortillas, or pita bread? Maybe we do.

1. Paneer Tikka Masala With Spinach Rice

Here, in the No. 1 spot, is microwaveable gold. It's literally all the best parts of the other meals we've already covered. You've got the suspiciously fresh-tasting rice, but infused with extra moisture and flavor thanks to spinach and those authentic Indian spices. You've got the cubes of melty yet firm-textured paneer cheese that's better than the inside of most mozzarella sticks. And, last but not least, you have the practically perfect sauce that makes Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala universally renowned. Put it all together, and voila, it's sheer brilliance.

We debated for a while about which is the best part of the dish. In the end, we all just happily scraped every one of the bits and pieces off the sides of our servings, the only critique is that we wished for more. More quantity, that is, because the quality certainly sufficed. Your favorite takeout spot better start watching its back.