Frozen side dishes are a quick, easy way to round out a meal, as well as incorporate grain and veggie variety into your diet. Another plus to frozen vegetables is that they have a much longer shelf life, but minimal nutrient loss, when compared to fresh. See our best choices, packed with produce and whole grains, that might make your weeknight a little easier.

By Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
December 08, 2016
Illustration: Christina Harrison Text: Daniel Boone

Unlike our other frozen food taste tests, we didn't taste every side dish that met our criteria. Instead, we focused on finding frozen sides that offered something different - a unique product, an interesting ingredient mix, or a great convenience product. Check out these fresh-tasting favorites we discovered.

Taste Test Winners:

Trader Joe's Roasted Corn

Roasted corn has great flavor but it can be a lot of work - which is why we loved finding this product. The corn is sweet and crisp and has a great smoky, grilled flavor. The corn has no seasoning (including no salt) which leaves the options for how it's used wide open. Add it to tacos, a salsa or dip, or season with a touch of cilantro, olive oil, and salt to eat as a side dish by itself. $2.49, gluten-free, vegan

Serving size: ⅔ cup

Calories 110; Fat 2g (sat 0g); Protein 3g; Carb 19g; Fiber 5g; Sugars 7g; Chol 0mg; Iron 0mg; Sodium 0mg; Calc 0mg

Trader Giotto's Organic Riced Cauliflower by Trader Joe's

We were a little skeptical about how the frozen cauliflower would stand up. Sure, the convenience would be nice, but would it have any texture? We were pleasantly surprised; the product retained great texture and tasted almost identical to fresh riced cauliflower that had been steamed. One warning though - just like fresh, you need to season the cauliflower before serving. $1.99, gluten-free, vegan

Serving size: ¾ cup

Calories 20; Fat 0g (sat 0g); Protein 2g; Carb 4g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 2g; Chol 0mg; Iron 0mg; Sodium 70mg; Calc 20mg

Earthbound Farm Roasted Organic Sweet Potato Slices

Baked sweet potato wedges or fries are a staple side for many, but slicing the hard spuds thin enough to cook evenly takes some muscle. We loved these sweet potato slices for the convenience. They taste like fresh sweet potatoes slices you'd make yourself - a great alternative when you're short on time. $3.99, gluten-free, vegan

Serving size: ⅔ cup

Calories 140; Fat 1g (sat 0g); Protein 2g; Carb 32g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 23g; Chol 0mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 170mg; Calc 40mg

Up Sides Exotic Grains & Roasted Vegetable Blend

The unique blend of brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, black beans, corn and roasted peppers made this steam-in-the-bag whole grain side stand out. There is a light cilantro-chili pepper seasoning in the pilaf making it a great side for Tex-Mex, as well as a entrée bowl base that can be topped with items like roasted chicken, cheese, and salsa. $3.50, gluten-free, vegan

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories 150; Fat 3g (sat 0g); Protein 4g; Carb 26g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 2g; Chol 0mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 360mg; Calc 20mg

Path of Life Garbanzo & Lentils with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Basil

Garbanzo beans and lentils are two foods you rarely see frozen, but they steam nicely offering a great alternative to the usual starchy sides like rice and quinoa. A subtle garlic-basil seasoning highlights the legumes' earthy flavors and fresh bite. vegan

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories 230; Fat 8g (sat 1.5g); Protein 11g; Carb 27g; Fiber 9g; Sugars 3g; Chol 0mg; Iron 4mg; Sodium 360mg; Calc 40mg

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Veggie Fries Kale, Tuscan Herbs & Potatoes

While you shouldn't expect these to taste like French fries, these veggie fries were a hit with our testers. Made from potatoes, kale, and white beans and seasoned with garlic and herbs, they're a nice alternative to traditional frozen potato fries with a little more fiber and protein. Several testers purchased at home, and reported the fries even got a thumb's up from their kids. $4.99, vegan, gluten-free

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories 160; Fat 6g (sat 0.5g); Protein 4g; Carb 22g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 0g; Chol 0mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 20mg; Calc 40mg

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Alexia Artisan French Rolls

Cook as many as needed to get French rolls that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. If you love French bread, but have trouble stopping at one serving, then these Alexia rolls are a great idea to keep on hand instead of buying a baguette. $4.69 for bag of 8, vegetarian

Serving size: 1 roll

Calories 110; Fat 0.5g (sat 0g); Protein 5g; Carb 20g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 1g; Chol 0mg; Iron 0mg; Sodium 230mg; Calc 0mg

Alexia Artisan Whole Grain Rolls

These come out of oven crisp on the outside, but dense and soft on the inside. The hearty, slightly sweet flavor of wheat is predominant in these rolls. Most tasters liked this flavor, but if you're not a fan, opt for the French roll instead. $4.69 for bag of 8, vegetarian

Serving size: 1 roll

Calories 110; Fat 1g (sat 0g); Protein 6g; Carb 19g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 2g; Chol 0mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 190mg; Calc 20mg

​​​​How We Tested

Only frozen foods that met Cooking Light’s nutrition guidelines were tested. Products were eliminated based on the following: lack of calorie and/or protein adequacy, lack of whole grains, presence of trans fat or hydrogenation, presence of significant added sugars, and presence of artificial coloring or sweeteners. All frozen foods were cooked according to package directions and taste tested by a panel of Cooking Light editors and staff. To ensure consistency, Breville microwaves were used to cook all foods.

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