Skip To Content
  • Thanksgiving badge

I Attempted To Make An Entire Thanksgiving Meal Using Pre-Cooked Trader Joe's Foods

I saved money and time, but still put together a delicious meal.

Nicole Ench/BuzzFeed

Confession: I'm obsessed with Trader Joe's. From their salad kits to their frozen meals, the aisles are full of creative and delicious gems. So with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I decided to try out some of TJ's best seasonal products.

I scanned the aisles for the best Thanksgiving finds, then cooked an entire holiday meal — from apps and turkey to sides and dessert — using nothing but pre-made dishes.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

So, maybe you're not too keen on cooking or you're stuck hosting a last minute Thanksgiving. Perhaps you're just looking for a dish to contribute to a Friendsgiving pot luck.

20th Century Fox

Whatever the case, here are some of the best tried-and-true Thanksgiving products at Trader Joe's, and how you can use them to cook a complete, decadent, and seriously tasty holiday meal.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

But first, a quick note: I bought one of every prepared food mentioned and my grocery bill was $40. This was the perfect amount to sufficiently feed four people (with some leftovers). Depending on the size of your party, I'd suggest buying more.

BuzzFeed

Trader Joe's has no shortage of pre-made party apps that will hold people over until dinnertime. I decided to go with turkey cranberry meatballs ($4.49) and camembert and cranberry sauce filo dough bites ($3.99), both of which can be found in the frozen aisle and feel super fall-y and festive.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

What's super convenient is that you can heat up both of these apps at the same time in the oven. Just plan to pop them into the oven about 20 minutes before guests arrive, and they'll be piping hot and ready to serve once everyone is here.

Both of these apps were virtually impossible to mess up, and you could easily trick anyone into thinking they're homemade. The camembert bites were gooey and melty, and the meatballs had a slight sweet flavor from the cranberries that felt very festive and unique.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

In order to keep the meatballs moist, I'd cook them for a few minutes shorter than the package directions indicate (they're already cooked so you don't have to worry about undercooking). And you could serve them with a side of cranberry sauce for dipping.

BuzzFeed

Everyone knows the side dishes are the best part of Thanksgiving dinner, right? Right. Luckily, Trader Joe's has a pretty insane lineup of pre-made sides.

Cornbread Stuffing Mix ($3.99)

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

This one takes a little bit of assembling, but only about 10 minutes of "cooking." You just mix the seasoning packet with butter and water, bring it to a simmer, add the bread mixture, and let it sit until the cornbread soaks up the liquid.

For so little effort, this stuffing was delicious. And I liked that the box offers instructions for people who prefer their stuffing on the dryer or moister side.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Cauliflower Gratin ($3.99)

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

10/10 would make this again. It basically tastes like mac and cheese, except it's cauliflower. The cauliflower gets soft and chewy, but the breadcrumbs give it a crunchy texture, and it's so cheesy. This would be a hit on any holiday table.

Hatch Chile Mac 'n' Cheese

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

TJ's frozen mac 'n' cheese is a staple in my kitchen. During the fall, I'm obsessed with their butternut squash version. And when that goes out of season, the hatch chile mac 'n' cheese gets me through winter. It happens to be the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving spread. The chile gives it a little bit of a kick, which cuts the seriously cheesy, rich pasta.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Roasted Pecans ($4.99)

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Every table should have a sweet potato casserole, but TBH it's kind of a pain to make from scratch. Enter: This store-bought version. You just pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes, then top it with the crushed pecans. You could add some marshmallows and a drizzle of maple syrup too, if that's your thing. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of sweet potato casserole because it's a bit too sweet for me, so this was my least favorite side dish of the bunch.

Mashed Cauliflower ($2.99)

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

One of my favorite things about Trader Joe's is that they make it easy to eat healthy, thanks to lightened-up swaps like spiralized carrot pasta, riced broccoli, and so much more. This mashed cauliflower is no exception. You just heat it up on the stove and it turns into a convincing mashed potato substitute in minutes.

The mashed cauliflower is a bit denser than your typical light and airy mashed potatoes, but it still tastes decadent and very creamy. You can also add a bit of shredded cheese to make it thicker.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

If you're crazy about light and fluffy mashed potatoes, though, you may be a bit disappointed and should stick to the real thing.

I'd make any single one of these sides again. All tasted delicious, took almost no time to prepare, and tasted like they could've been homemade.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed

I'll be honest, I'm terrified of roasting turkey in my apartment. The last time I tried roasting a whole bird I set my smoke alarm off. Luckily, TJ's sells a bone-in, pre-brined half turkey breast ($6.99/lb).

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

It comes in a bag, covered in herb butter. All you have to do is heat it up while basting occasionally, let it sit, and then slice it. It's ready to eat in about 30 minutes flat.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

The packaging also provides instructions for making a quick pan gravy using the drippings, olive oil, and flour. You can whip it up in just a few minutes.

Now I'll admit, I was pretty skeptical. But the turkey got crispy on the outside while staying super moist on the inside. The herb butter was also delicious.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Let's be honest, it's definitely not as pretty as a full thanksgiving Turkey, and if your guests like dark meat, they may be disappointed. But overall, this turkey took minimal effort and was really satisfying.

With the turkey fresh from the oven, Thanksgiving dinner is served.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

And you'd never know absolutely nothing was cooked from scratch.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed

Of course, I didn't forget about dessert, which is arguably the most important part of Thanksgiving. I always have a tough time choosing between apple and pumpkin, so I decided to get both.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

I got a rustic apple tart ($4.99) and a pumpkin cheesecake ($6.99), which were both in the frozen aisle.

Heat the apple tart in the oven for 20 minutes until it's warm throughout. The cheesecake just has to thaw. You can leave it in the fridge for four hours (or overnight), or to quickly thaw it, remove it from the box and leave it at room temperature for an hour.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

No matter how full you are, I guarantee you won't be able to resist having seconds of these babies.

TBH, the dessert was probably the highlight of the meal. Both tasted incredible, and there's no "baking" required. So thanks to Trader Joe's, you really can have your pie and eat it too.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

If you're looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration, check out Tasty's complete Thanksgiving coverage.

BuzzFeed