I’ve never been big into frozen meals, not before my gluten intolerance nor now. But when I was offered to try out a new natural frozen food line I didn’t hesitate; the packaging alone caught my eye! I was intrigued, and hopeful, that I would finally find a frozen meal I would like; one that was not too salty or high in calories that I could heat up quickly when I didn’t feel like cooking.
Saffron Road offers “gourmet world cuisine” – Turkish, Thai, Indian, Moroccan, Manchurian and good old chicken tenders, nuggets and bites. Saffron Road prides itself on all natural, vegetarian fed meat raised without antibiotics. Why is this important? I was curious of that myself. So after spending about 15 minutes googling this, I’ve learned that vegetarian fed meat contains less total fat and has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (the good fats). I also learned that 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used for animals, not humans. This is disturbing, considering how many people could benefit from antibiotics. But, I will not get into that here. Overall, it appears to be healthier to eat the antibiotic free and vegetarian raised meats.
I’d like to clarify for the sake of full disclosure that these products were sent to me free of charge for review purposes. I was not paid anything to write this review. Rest assured, I will be thorough in my review.
I had two choices: cook in the oven for 40 minutes or heat in the microwave for 5 minutes. I was hungry so I chose the later. The aromas that filled the air from my microwave, made me feel like I was about to eat a very delicious ethnic meal from an Indian restaurant. The first entrée I tried was the Chicken Tikka Masala. Described as braised white meat chicken simmerwed with Tandoori spices in a robust, creamy tomato sauce with basmati rice. All of the products have a heat indicator on the package. This one was medium. – I avoided all ‘’hot’’ entrees, as you all know I could not handle those – I loved the flavor of this entrée and it certainly had a kick to it; my lips were left burning. The sauce was incredibly flavorful and rich, but not too creamy, and the chicken was tender and juicy; not rubbery like many frozen dinners I have tried before. I love that each entrée is one portion and a sizable healthy portion at that. This one was the lowest in calories (290), fiber (3g) and protein (18g), and the highest in sodium (670mg) that I tried.
Next I tried the Lemongrass Basil Chicken. This is by far my favorite dish. The sauce was made with green curry, peppers, onions and basil. It was light and rich in flavors. The rice was a perfect texture. But, I was disappointed with the amount of chicken in the entrée. I had some plain chicken breast in my fridge left over from dinner last night and I added it to the sauce. This dish has 370 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 20 grams of protein and 460mg sodium per serving. It was pretty high in saturated fat, 6 grams, the highest I’ve seen yet.
Saffron road also makes a Lemongrass Simmer Sauce, which I also tried. It was tasty and I will most likely buy it again, but it wasn’t as good as the meal. But, much more affordable ($2.99 at my local Wholefoods) and goes a lot further.
The third entrée I tried was the Chicken Biryani; tender chunks of chicken baked in basmati rice topped with caramelized onions in the classic hyderabadi (type of Indian cuisine) style. This dish was loaded with flavors; ginger, garlic, turmeric and onions to name a few. I devoured the entire plate. This entrée had less sodium than the Masala, and I could definitely tell. (I am so sensitive to salt!) The calories were slightly higher (400) as was the protein (25 g). I believe the higher calories are due to the significantly larger amount of rice in the dish. I was surprised that this was higher in protein because it seemed to have less meat than the Masala. All other entrees had ample sauce, but this one left me craving more.
The Lamb Koftis was my least favorite meal. The sauce was a bit bland compared to the other entrees. The meatballs were also lacking in taste, and compared to the other entrees that are so rich in flavor, this was a let down for me. The meat itself had a nice texture, but could have usedmore spices. The rice was so fluffy; I absolutely loved it! This dish has 340 calories, 4g of fiber, 13g of protein, 450 mg of sodium per serving. This is the least amount of sodium yet! I always ragged on my dad for eating frozen entrees with over 600 mg of sodium. I read once, years ago, 600 mg should be the maximum in a frozen meal. This has been my rule of thumb for every frozen item I buy now. Not only is the sodium not good for you, but I personally do not like salty foods and know I would not like something with that much salt in it.
Overall, I found the entrees to be very tasty and full of flavorful, I was very impressed by this, which I have not found to be true of my frozen meals. I loved the texture of the rice in every single entrée, as well as the meat; all were moist and tender. My only compliant is the amount of meat in each meal. Each entree contained such small amounts of meat and I was left wishing there was more.
Not all of their products are gluten free, but a majority are; including simmer sauces, chicken fingers and chicken tandoori nuggets (I must try these), and the chickpea snacks. Saffron road also offers vegetarian and vegan options.