The Best Dinner Shortcut I Buy Every Time I'm At Trader Joe’s

I tried every pre-marinated protein and this one is in a league of its own.

Customers shop the frozen foods aisle at Trader Joe's grocery store.
Photo: Dorothy Alexander/Alamy Stock Photo

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a Trader Joe’s, you know how easy it is to get distracted by the new products, snacks, cheeses, and other generally exciting-but-decidedly-not-dinner items. I recently wrote about my favorite $2 lunch find, and now I’m sharing my other favorite weeknight shortcut from the store: the best pre-marinated meat from Trader Joe’s. 

TJ’s offers a wide variety of marinated proteins ranging from whole, spatchcocked chickens to different cuts of steak. Well, I tried them all and one stands far and above the rest. It’s so good, I buy it every time I go to the store. In fact, I even polled a Trader Joe’s Reddit forum, and they agreed, too. Without further ado, let me introduce you to the Shawarma Chicken Thighs.

My Favorite Dinner Product from Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s’ Shawarma Chicken Thighs are a godsend on busy weeknights, and that’s why I keep them on hand—usually in my freezer—at all times. Absolutely packed with spices and Middle Eastern flavor, they’re shockingly delicious, budget-friendly, and instantly inspire countless dinners. 

According to TJ’s the secret is in the spices, “a shawarma spice marinade made of onion, garlic, sea salt, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and parsley.” Paired with juicy, tender, hard-to-overcook boneless chicken thighs, this chicken goes from package to grill (or oven) to table in under 20 minutes.

Grilling is my favorite method to cook the Shawarma Chicken Thighs, which come marinated but not cooked. On the grill grates, the sugars and spices in the marinade caramelize and char, giving the chicken that incredible smoky flavor you’d get in a Middle Eastern restaurant or gyro shop

Once cooked, I’ll plate the shawarma chicken in a pita or wrap, atop salads, in a grain bowl, or pair with a selection of Trader Joe’s dips for a little DIY mezze platter. The chicken thighs are so delicious, I never leave the store without stocking up on a pack.

trader joes chicken shawarma thighs cooked and served on a pita with shawarma toppings like cabbage and tzatziki.

Courtney Kassel

Is This The Best Protein From Trader Joe’s?

But is it just me who feels so strongly about this product? I took to Reddit and polled Trader Joe’s super fans, and guess what? They felt the same. 

“I'm obsessed with the shawarma chicken thighs! I eat them almost every week,” said Reddit user high_fructose26. Another wrote, “Chicken shawarma hands down.”

I Tried Every Marinated Meat at Trader Joe’s (So You Don’t Have To) 

To really prove the Shawarma Chicken Thighs are the best, I sampled every marinated meat I could get my hands on at Trader Joe’s. Generally speaking, I preferred the marinated chicken options to the beef, which I found to be too salty and tougher, lower quality cuts of meat. They ranged from good to okay, but none even came close to the Shawarma Chicken Thighs. And, at $6.99/pound, the chicken thighs were also one of, if not the most budget-friendly option.

My runner-ups were the Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken and the Carne Asada or Pollo Asada. If there are any to avoid, I’d say the Sesame Teriyaki Beef Skirt Steak and Bool Kogi (Korean-inspired short ribs); they were both really salty, and pretty pricey. Skip those two, and instead marinate some steak yourself with TJ’s Soyaki Sauce—it’ll taste better, and feel better on your wallet. 

Next time you’re at Trader Joe’s, maybe give some of these options a shot, but definitely add the Shawarma Chicken Thighs to your cart. I promise, you’ll thank me later.

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