trader joe's mandarin orange chicken
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Out of all the fan-favorite frozen meals in Trader Joe’s freezer section, none are quite as famous and popular as the Mandarin Orange Chicken. Customers love the meal so much, in fact, that Trader Joe’s had to retire it from its annual Customer Choice Awards after it swept its respective categories multiple years in a row. But in a surprising development, customers are now saying that the beloved meal just isn’t quite as good as it used to be.

For the uninitiated, Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken features chunks of chicken with crispy breading and a sweet and spicy orange sauce. A customer took to Reddit this week to ask fellow shoppers what they think of the frozen meal after noticing a downturn in the item’s “quality.” The post racked up nearly 100 comments from other Trader Joe’s customers who agreed that the quality of the chicken had deteriorated in recent years. They complained about the poultry’s texture, the size of the pieces, and even the sauce that comes with it.

“Either too chewy or too crispy, seems like they use smaller [lower] quality chicken pieces as well nowadays,” a customer commented on the post.

“The past couple of times I’ve gotten it the chicken has been either fatty or chunks of gristle, and I’m not sure if my tastes have changed but I swear the sauce is sweeter than it used to be. Even mixing it with white rice and vegetables it’s still too sweet for me,” another wrote.

trader joe's mandarin orange chicken
Courtesy of Trader Joe’s ©2023

Some of these customers have stopped purchasing the orange chicken altogether because of the recent quality issues. They’ve been turning to more reliable Trader Joe’s frozen meals instead, like the Beef & Broccoli and BBQ Teriyaki Chicken (which happens to be a favorite among our staff as well).

“The BBQ Teriyaki Chicken is usually right next to it in the freezer aisle, and we’ve been buying that instead recently,” a customer wrote.

“Their beef and broccoli is better [in my opinion]. It’s a very small quantity but the beef is crispy and sauce is good,” another commented.

Some even suggested trying out Costco’s Crazy Cuisine Mandarin Orange Chicken instead, which we preferred over Trader Joe’s version in a recent taste test.

Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to our queries for comment on the quality complaints.

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