Trader Joe’s, which is a cousin to Aldi, recently shared the results of its 14th Annual Customer Choice Awards. The grocer asked shoppers what nine TJ’s items they’d take with them if they were stranded on a deserted island. An overall winner was chosen, along with winners and runners up in categories ranging from beverages to cheese to entrees to desserts to household goods.
One of the award categories was vegetarian or vegan dishes, and the winner in that category was Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto. Runners up included vegetable fried rice, beefless bulgogi, palak paneer, and cauliflower gnocchi.
One of the vegetarian runners up caught my eye because I enjoy Indian food. That’s the Trader Joe’s Palak Paneer, which is a spiced dish featuring spinach and cheese cubes. I’ve tried a lot of other Indian food from Trader Joe’s such as their vegetable biryani, flatbread, channa masala, paneer tikka masala, and vegan tikka masala. Trader Joe’s usually has very good Indian food. I had not yet tried the palak paneer, though, so I made a point to drop a package into my shopping cart during my latest Trader Joe’s run so I could try this meal that is popular among TJ’s fans.
Trader Joe’s Palak Paneer cost $3.99 for a 10-ounce package at the time of publication. You’ll find this in the freezer aisle.
The package describes this as “spinach & paneer cheese seasoned with a bit of curry and chili.”
The box also states:
In India, Palak means spinach; Paneer is a fresh uncured cheese. Combine the two, and you have Palak Paneer. The Spinach is cooked with spices and a bit of chili until it is meltingly tender and is then combined with cubes of cheese to result in a delicious, vegetarian entree. Serve with rice, naan or paratha for an authentically Indian meal.”
If you’re looking out for allergens, this contains milk.
Other ingredients include spinach, paneer, onions, tomatoes, canola oil, broccoli, cream, water, spices, tomato puree, instant nonfat dry milk, garlic, salt, green chili peppers, chickpea flour, sugar, turmeric, ghee, and fenugreek leaves.
While this was listed in the vegetarian/vegan category in the Trader Joe’s Customer Choice Awards, it contains cream, milk, and ghee (clarified butter), so it’s a vegetarian dish and not vegan.
One container technically has two servings, but most people are going to eat the whole thing in one sitting. It’s sized and packaged just like a TV dinner or like a single-serve frozen meal people might take to work or school to heat in the microwave.
The entire package has 410 calories, 31 grams of total fat (40% DV), 10 grams of saturated fat (50% DV), 35 mg of cholesterol (12% DV), 1,010 mg of sodium (44% DV), 17 grams of total carbohydrates (6% DV), 9 grams of dietary fiber (32% DV), 5 grams of total sugars, no added sugars (at least not enough to count in the nutrition panel), and 20 grams of protein.
The package has directions for heating this from frozen in the microwave or in a conventional oven.
To microwave, remove the tray from the carton and puncture film two to three times. Heat on high for 2 minutes. Carefully peel film back enough to stir gently. Heat for an additional 2 minutes. Let tray sit for 2 minutes. Carefully remove film to avoid steam burns, then serve.
To bake in a conventional oven (do not use a toaster oven), preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tray on a cookie sheet on the middle shelf, leaving the film intact. Heat for approximately 20-25 minutes. Gently stir before serving.
I heated this in the microwave for a quick and easy workday lunch. It smelled very good, but I was initially hesitant about this dish because I don’t always like cooked spinach. I often don’t care for the texture, taste, or smell of cooked spinach. It has to be well mixed in or hidden with other ingredients or I’m unlikely to enjoy it. I have had paneer cheese before, though, and I knew the paneer would be good.
This ended up being better than I expected. It has plenty of paneer cubes, which I cut in half with my fork so I could get some paneer in every bite. The spinach is there, but it’s very tender and finely diced and makes up a sauce that the paneer cubes sit in. The spinach is mixed with finely minced broccoli (I didn’t know the broccoli was there until after I ate it; you can’t really taste it) along with cream, seasonings, peppers, and chickpea flour (presumably as a thickener). This is slightly spicy, but it’s still more mild than a lot of food you’ll get at an authentic Indian restaurant.
There is a lot of spinach “sauce” in this dish. I ate it as is without adding rice or naan, but if you don’t mind the carbs, a good piece of naan could help to soak up all the sauce.
Trader Joe’s Palak Paneer features tender, finely minced spinach and savory paneer cheese cubes with seasonings and spices. This meal was a runner up in the vegetarian category in the Trader Joe’s 14th Annual Customer Choice Awards, so it’s well worth trying, especially if you like Indian food. Don’t forget to pick up some rice or paratha to serve on the side.