Trader Joe’s Chicken Shawarma Bowl Review – Trader Joe’s has a long history with ethnic frozen foods, ready to eat for a meal. We have Chicken Burrito Bowl, Chicken Chili Bowl, Orange Chicken Bowl, and Shrimp Sriracha Bowls and I have generally given favorable reviews to these bowls because they are quick, easy, and have enough calories for a single meal. Something you can take to lunch at work and microwave and save money (vs buying at a food truck or something) and eat without a lot of mess.
On one of my shopping trips to Trader Joe’s last week, hunting for new products, I spotted these in the freezer section and went Wow! This is surely going to be a big hit for Trader Joe’s. If they get it right. As we shall see, the proof is in the pudding as they like to say and Trader Joe’s doesn’t always pull it off.
What is Chicken Shawarma?
Traditional Chicken Shawarma is made by a vertical rotating spit that is heated from the side (unlike a traditional rotisserie which is horizontal). This cooking method and preparation go back a very long time, likely over 1000 years. Shawarma is an Arabic rendering of Ottoman Turkish which translates to “turning”. Originally, it was mutton and lamb and then chicken, pork and beef were added as time went on.
The vertical roasting method spread quite far and other cultures use the technique now. Doner Kebab is one such preparation. Gyros and Al Pastor to name two others. These were all derived from the Shawarma technique.
You can find authentic Shawarma where you find large populations of people of middle eastern decent. New York City, Boston, Chicago, LA, etc. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we really have to go look for it but it’s out there. (We have Chicken Teriyaki joints on every corner so there is that).
What’s in Trader Joe’s Shawarma Bowl?
Right on the box, they tell you it is in the meal. Basmati rice, shawarma flavored chicken, red bell pepper, spinach, pickled red onion, and a creamy garlic sauce that appears to be yogurt. That all sounds great! Looking at the ingredients, this all looks legit. As usual, Trader Joe’s uses whole food products, no fillers, fake sugar or even real sugar if they don’t need it. All the spices look spot on.
There are 400 calories per bowl, which is just perfect for a filling meal.
This should be a slam dunk on Trader Joe’s part, but it starts to fall apart as soon as you take your first bite.
I decided to do this in the microwave to save time and most of these bowls are fine out of the microwave.
You are supposed to heat it up and then stir then heat it up again. Mine was so hot after the initial heating I didn’t bother to stir and reheat. I just stirred it and let it cool off a bit. It actually smelled awesome when I took off the thin plastic covering.
Unfortunately, this is where the fun ended.
When I took the first bit I had a pretty good bite of the yogurt sauce. That is some weird stuff. It stated medicinal and like something was wrong with it. I am not sure if it was the garlic or the yogurt that tasted so bad.
I pressed ahead and found that the rest of it tasted pretty good. The chicken was spiced just right. The blend of Shawarma spices seemed spot on. The only other quibble was that was a bit soupy at the bottom. But that wasn’t nearly as bad as the yogurt sauce.
I think Trader Joe’s missed the mark a bit on this one. I like most of the flavors that they have. There are plenty of vegetables and chicken and the flavors, besides the yogurt sauce, are actually pretty good. But as you can see from the picture it’s a bit of a mess with the yogurt sauce and the way it tastes. Plus too much liquid at the bottom made it kind of soupy. If Trader Joe’s would provide a separate pouch for the yogurt sauce like they do with the Mandarin Orange Chicken Bowl, I think this would be a step up from where it is now. As it is, I can only give it 6 Bells out of 10 and probably won’t buy it for a while and see if they fix their issues.
COOKED BASMATI RICE (WATER, BASMATI RICE), COOKED SHAWARMA SEASONED CHICKEN MEAT (CHICKEN MEAT, WATER, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF POTATO STARCH, BLACK PEPPER, CARDAMOM, CUMIN, CINNAMON, CORIANDER, YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVOR, GRANULATED GARLIC, SEA SALT, PAPRIKA, TURMERIC, CAYENNE PEPPER POWDER), RED BELL PEPPER, WATER, SPINACH, SOUR CREAM (MILK, CREAM, BACTERIAL CULTURE), OLIVE OIL, PICKLED RED ONION (RED ONION, WATER, APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, CANE SUGAR, WHITE VINEGAR, SEA SALT), YOGURT (MILK, SKIM MILK POWDER, CREAM, BACTERIAL CULTURE), GARLIC, SPICES (CUMIN, ALLSPICE, CAYENNE PEPPER POWDER), CORN STARCH, SEA SALT, TURMERIC, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, GARLIC POWDER, XANTHAN GUM, PAPRIKA, RED CHILI PEPPER FLAKES.
- CONTAINS MILK.