The Best Dinner Shortcuts to Make from Trader Joe's Box Mixes

Start with these mixes, add a few stir-ins, and you'll have a seemingly fancy meal in minutes.

A Trader Joe's storefront that's white with black accents and has a red "Trader Joe's" sign over the door
Photo: Trader Joe's/Allrecipes

Getting a quick dinner on the table that tastes good and is healthy is always the goal, but when you can do it without really having to think? Now that is a win. With the help of these Trader Joe's mixes, a few stir-ins, and some clever flavor hacks, you'd never even know these weren't made from scratch. Here are our favorite savory boxed mixes from Trader Joe's.

Falafel Mix

Front shot of Trader Joe's Falafel Mix box
Trader Joe's

Traditional falafel requires an overnight soak of dried chickpeas plus a bunch of other ingredients, including parsley, cilantro, dill, onion, garlic, and several spices. This mix requires water, i.e., it really can't get any easier. After stirring together the dry mix with water, you do have to wait for the batter to hydrate, which is at least 30 minutes, but considering its entirely inactive time, this mix is a brilliant time saver. Just before forming them into balls, stir in something fresh and green, like chopped fresh parsley or scallions to give them a little more color and make them seem homemade. I tried deep-frying, baking, and air-frying the falafel and while I highly recommend you deep-fry them for the best texture, air-frying was a close second. Keep Trader Joe's garlic naan or pita in your freezer, or serve these delicious nuggets over a salad. Either way, make sure you serve them with tzatziki (also available at Trader Joe's!) or plain yogurt as they're so much better with a sauce.

Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

Straight on shot of 3 boxes on Trader Joe's Shells and White Cheddar Cheese boxes

Even though mac and cheese is seemingly a "kid food," I can guarantee you know as many adults that dig into this cheesy pasta as little ones. I love that it's organic and uses white Cheddar, as that's what I also use when making it from scratch. You can make the mac and cheese plain, but I always like throwing in some frozen peas and chopped frozen broccoli for added veggie helpings. Or make it a complete meal and add protein with a can of salmon or tuna in olive oil. Stir in a little extra cheese and milk to get the creamiest results.

Rice Orzo Pilaf Mix

Straight on shot of a box of Trader Joe's Rice Orzo Pilaf Mix

Pasta and rice together in a side dish? Yes, please! This super easy pilaf needs just 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of water, though I often use chicken stock to give it even more flavor. Just before serving, stir in some fresh chopped herbs, slivered almonds, or toasted pinenuts (or all three!) and you have restaurant-worthy pilaf. Paired with Baked Dijon Salmon or Crispy Baked Chicken and some steamed green beans, and you'll have a beautiful dinner in 30 minutes.

Cornbread Mix

Side angle shot of a box of Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix

Yes, you can make this cornbread mix per the directions and serve it alongside chili but you can also use it as the base of one of these 16 Dinners That Start with a Box of Cornbread Mix. Unlike other brands (ahem, looking at you Jiffy), the Trader Joe's cornbread mix isn't too sweet so it's perfect for all these savory meals. My personal favorite is this Southwestern Chicken Pot Pie made in your Dutch oven.

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