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    I, A Trader Joe's Enthusiast, Tried The Fan Favorite Orange Chicken — Here's The Best Way To Cook, Sauce, And Serve It

    PS: The best way to prepare it isn't even listed on the package instructions.

    Hello, I'm Hannah — and one thing you should know about me is that I'm a huge Trader Joe's fan. I have my all-time favorites and go-tos that I buy time and time again, but I also spend way too much time browsing through the aisles of my local TJ's keeping an eye out for new and intriguing products.

    A section of the frozen aisle at Trader Joe's
    Hannah Loewentheil

    If there's one aisle I couldn't live without, it's the frozen section. Trader Joe's frozen food is in a league of its own. It's where I find so many freezer staples that I love keeping on hand for lazy yet delicious meals. One of those staples that I can't live without is the Mandarin Orange Chicken.

    Trader Joe's orange chicken is certainly not a new, buzzy product, but it's an OG for a reason. So I decided to review it in depth to see if it still stands up to the hype and to figure out what makes this stuff so popular. So whether you've never tried this frozen meal or you're curious for some tips and tricks to make it even better, read on.

    A woman holding an air fryer rack topped with breaded chicken
    Hannah Loewentheil

    Here she is in all her glory: a bag of Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken. 👑 You'll find it in the frozen aisle near the rest of TJ's Asian-inspired food, like the soup dumplings and fried rice. This product costs $4.99, and it contains a heaping portion of battered chicken and two packets of gingery Mandarin orange sauce.

    A bag of Mandarin Orange Chicken
    Hannah Loewentheil

    According to the nutrition facts, each bag of orange chicken contains five 1-cup servings at 320 calories each. One allergen note: The chicken (dark meat FTW) is breaded in corn starch and flour, so unfortunately, it's not gluten-free.

    The nutrition facts on a bag of Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken
    Hannah Loewentheil

    According to the instructions, there are three ways to prepare the chicken: in the oven, in a skillet, and in the microwave. The oven method is the most popular, and it's a hands-off approach to crispy, golden-brown chicken. But in addition to these reheating methods, I'm going to add a fourth into the mix: air frying.

    The heating instructions on a bag of Mandarin Orange Chicken
    Hannah Loewentheil

    Generally speaking, I wouldn't recommend reheating anything in the microwave if you have another option. I've tried heating up TJ's newer iteration of this popular frozen meal — Mandarin-Style Orange Chicken Bowl — in the microwave, and the final result just isn't the same. While this would still certainly be edible after being nuked, the chicken tends to get mushy rather than crunchy.

    Four white bowls of Mandarin Orange Chicken over vegetable fried rice
    Hannah Loewentheil

    Next, I tried heating the chicken in the oven. I let my oven preheat at 400°F for 10 minutes before baking the chicken on a single layer on a baking sheet for 18 minutes.

    Frozen chicken pieces on a lined baking sheet
    Hannah Loewentheil

    At the same time, I microwaved a package of handy-dandy frozen brown rice (another Trader Joe's staple), and I also heated up the sauce packets in a microwave-safe bowl for two minutes.

    Two bowls of rice and a bowl of Mandarin Orange Sauce
    Hannah Loewentheil

    By the time my timer went off, the chicken was already perfectly golden.

    Hannah Loewentheil

    So I tossed the chicken with some of the sauce and served it over a bowl of rice.

    Oven-heated Mandarin Orange Chicken over rice
    Hannah Loewentheil

    Next up: the air fryer method. Since the packaging didn't contain any instructions, I did my best guesswork. I air-fried the chicken at 400°F for about 14 minutes, flipping halfway through until they were suuuper crispy and browned all over.

    Pieces of breaded chicken in an air fryer.
    Hannah Loewentheil

    The air fryer method made the breaded chicken pieces sooo much more crispy! They literally tasted freshly fried and pretty freaking good on their own, even without the sauce.

    A bowl of crispy chicken next to a bowl of rice and sauce
    Hannah Loewentheil

    But mixed with the Mandarin orange sauce, this chicken is next level. It honestly tastes like restaurant Chinese food...even better than takeout, because it's right out of the air fryer and doesn't have time to get soggy.

    Air-fried orange chicken and rice
    Hannah Loewentheil

    Ultimately, I would eat either the oven-heated or air fryer orange chicken all the time. In terms of frozen food, IMO this is one of the best-quality meals you can buy. The chicken itself looks like, well ⁠— real chicken. It isn't a sketchy gray color or rubbery in texture the way many frozen chicken dishes can be.

    Two bowls of Mandarin Orange Chicken over rice
    Hannah Loewentheil

    And taste-wise and prep-wise, the air fryer method most certainly takes the cake.

    A fork holding a piece of crispy chicken.
    Hannah Loewentheil

    It's worth mentioning that the packaging contains only chicken — no rice or veggies or extras that you might want to add for a complete meal. But for some easy meal inspiration, you could enjoy it with the following:

    Oh, and one of my favorite TJ's hacks of all: You can always set aside the Mandarin orange sauce and toss the breaded chicken with another sauce or seasoning à la makeshift boneless wings. Try it with Buffalo sauce, ranch seasoning, Thai chili sauce, honey mustard, or butter and lemon pepper seasoning.

    Boneless chicken wings tossed in Buffalo sauce
    Getty Images

    TL;DR: Every freezer needs a package of this TJ's orange chicken. It's a godsend for lazy nights, picky eaters, or days when you just want something comforting and easy. And IMO, it's one of the best frozen meals you can buy. Plus, for $5, it's a serious bang for your buck. A bag can generously feed two or three people, and when it's paired with rice and a veggie, you can stretch it even further. The air fryer method is my favorite way to heat up this frozen meal for ultimate crispiness, but the oven method is totally delicious too.

    A hand holding a bowl of Mandarin Orange Chicken
    Hannah Loewentheil

    What Trader Joe's product should I review next? Tell me in the comments below!