We Tried Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Boil And It's A Real Catch

Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil cooked near box
Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil cooked near box - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

There's never-ending debate as to what constitutes the perfect Southern-style seafood boil, but there's one truth about the dish that most folks can get behind: It's a labor of love. From choosing the right stockpot to keeping an eye on delicate shellfish, there's far more to the process than its name implies. That could be why so many fans are clamoring for Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil in a bag. Across social media, customers are in an absolute frenzy over the frozen seafood entree from Trader Joe's. The chain's 22-ounce boil contains all the fixings, from corn on the cob to clams, and those who've tried it say the time-saving dinner is awfully close to the real deal.Frozen seafood can be hit or miss, especially when it comes to multi-ingredient dishes like a seafood boil. That said, Trader Joe's has a stellar reputation amongst foodies for good reason. Not only does the brand's take on the festive seafood boil save plenty of prep time in the kitchen, but at $9.99 per box, it's considerably cheaper than purchasing the expensive seafood components piece by piece. I was eager to give it a try myself based on the online buzz surrounding the product. It may not be perfect, but Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil blows its competition out of the water.

Prices are as of the date of publication and may vary based on region.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

What Is The Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Boil?

Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil in bag
Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil in bag - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

While you may have had your fair share of boiled shellfish over the years, you might not be quite as familiar with traditional seafood boils. The seafood boil, or stew, is especially popular in the American South, where it has ties to Black, Cajun, and low-country cooking. These days, however, the fishy dish is gaining traction with seafood lovers just about everywhere. Seafood boil basics vary based on region and personal preferences, but recipes often showcase fresh catches like shrimp, crawfish, and crab. Corn and potatoes are essential starches for mopping up sauce, and many chefs like to include extras like boiled eggs, andouille sausage, and more. Finally, the full boil is drenched in a buttery sauce seasoned to perfection before being served to eager diners.

Trader Joe's follows the standard seafood boil recipe fairly closely and features star ingredients like shrimp, clams in the shell, and tilapia. The chain also provides the obligatory add-ins, including baby gold potatoes, sliced corn on the cob, and andouille sausage. Its spicy butter sauce is infused with classic seafood seasonings, such as garlic, onion, and paprika, along with flavor enhancers like brown sugar, red pepper, lemon, and lime. Everything is sealed in a plastic, food-safe bag for preparing your own stovetop boil -- though its box offers alternate cooking directions for making it in a skillet.

Where To Find The Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Boil

Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil box
Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil box - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

Just as its name implies, the Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil is only available for purchase at Trader Joe's grocery stores. Furthermore, the seafood special is a limited-time release for summer, meaning you'll have to act fast if you want to get your hands on it. I drove to my local Trader Joe's with my fingers crossed and managed to procure a box from a helpful crew member before it even hit the shelves.

That said, I learned the hard way that Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil is an extremely fast seller, even in the Northeast. When I visited the store a day after, I noticed all but two boxes had been snapped up by frozen seafood shoppers. Thus, to avoid awkward conversations with store employees regarding product in the back, you may want to call around to ensure it's readily available before you set sail for your nearest Trader Joe's.

How Much Does The Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Boil Cost?

Frozen seafood boil on store shelf
Frozen seafood boil on store shelf - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

Now, seafood boil is delicious, but it does come with a catch. Unless you happen to excel at catching the shrimp yourself, the cost of seafood can add up incredibly quickly. At $9.99, Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil is slightly more expensive than the average frozen dinner for two from the grocer, but it's far cheaper than trying to create a boil from scratch. And while it may sound a bit pricey, it's important to know that Trader Joe's boil is more budget-friendly than other brands. For example, Tastee Choice's frozen seafood boil, the most common alternative available in Northeastern grocery stores, retails for a whopping $15.99 per bag.

Tastee Choice's product is slightly larger than Trader Joe's, at around 35 ounces. That said, the slightly heftier contender also markets itself as a meal for two. Ingredient-wise, the Tastee Choice seafood boil is pretty similar to the Trader Joe's. The competitor uses mussels instead of clams, shell-on shrimp, and red-skinned potatoes instead of miniature golden ones.

Taste Test: Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Boil

Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil
Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

Trader Joe's offers home chefs two sets of directions for preparing its seafood boil. The first, and most obvious, is to boil the sealed bag in a vat of water, while the second involves heating the components in a saucepan. I opted for the traditional boiling method, which takes a mighty long time if you use the six quarts of water as suggested on the box. On a second test-run, I cut the suggested amount of water in half and achieved the exact same results. It's recommended that you flip the bag with tongs every five minutes to help coat the boil in the sauce as it cooks.

Now, I've had the unfortunate experience of trying some downright awful frozen fish dinners, but Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil restored my faith in prepared frozen seafood entirely. The corn looked crisp, the potatoes were surprisingly intact, and (most of) the shrimp seemed perfectly cooked. When I first took a bite, I was pleased to learn that the boil's looks weren't deceiving. The brightly-colored sauce, though not quite as spicy as I would have liked, proved to be rich and velvety, and the seafood tasted fresh, tender, and sweet. My main gripe was with the Andouille sausage, which had a bit too much gristle. But overall? Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil knocked it out of the park.

Trader Joe's Seafood Boil Vs. Tastee Choice's Seafood Boil

Tastee Choice and Trader Joe's frozen seafood boils
Tastee Choice and Trader Joe's frozen seafood boils - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

It didn't take long to establish that Trader Joe's beat its Tastee Choice competitor in the frozen seafood boil showdown. In fact, I thought that Tastee's Choice boil was just as disappointing as other products I had tried from the brand in the past. Compared to Trader Joe's, the Tastee Choice seafood boil tasted muddy and flat, even with the addition of extra butter. Though Tastee Choice claims to include butter, its seasoning packet contains little more than powdered "butter flavor" -- which is practically a criminal offense for a seafood boil, frozen or not. Finally, the chefs at Tastee Choice decided against deveining the shrimp, which was an unpleasant discovery to make.

Ironically, Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil seemed especially tasty when served next to the Tastee Choice take. TJ's sauce, though mild, was considerably cleaner-tasting and richer, thanks to real butter and thoughtful additions like red pepper and cloves. Trader Joe's clams were pleasantly briny and sweet, while Tastee Choice's mussels tasted gamey and chewy. Although Trader Joe's fell flat with its Andouille sausage, studded with surprise chunks of gristle, it still cinched the seafood boil victory with its baby gold potatoes. The crisp skins and fluffy, creamy flesh were a far cry from Tastee Choice's watery, stringy red potato wedges.

Is The Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Boil Worth It?

Close up of Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil
Close up of Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil - Robyn Song/Tasting Table

Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil is an excellent choice for beginners and seafood boil veterans alike, whether you're looking for a meal that won't break the bank or a way to bypass the arduous process of deveining shrimp. Each ingredient in the box is fresh, tender, and flavorful. Plus, the Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil requires virtually no preparation or cooking whatsoever, making it perfect for busy weeknights or unexpected guests. Last, but not least, its smooth, buttery sauce is easy to customize to your liking with a dash of your favorite hot sauce, spice, or a squeeze of lemon. Still, there are a few drawbacks to Trader Joe's seafood boil, though they hardly detract from its overall value.

Given the high price of restaurant seafood boils, ten dollars isn't bad at all for a luxurious seafood dinner for two. That said, you may want to whip up a starchy side like rice or cornbread to soak up the leftover sauce from this seasonal Trader Joe's release. Once plated, it makes roughly two small bowls, which may not be enough to satiate you and a hungry dinner guest. Of course, the most pressing issue of all may be finding Trader Joe's frozen seafood boil on the shelf -- so be prepared to do some fishing in order to find it.

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