8 Best Costco Prepared Foods To Buy And 7 To Avoid

Costco chickens in a row
Costco chickens in a row - calimedia/Shutterstock

Ah, Costco. The land of a thousand things you didn't know you needed until you walked through its warehouse-like aisles. While patio sets and huge 4K TVs are tempting buys, it's the food we're usually here for. Cotsco's big box strategy is a known cost-saver, especially in the grocery department where everything from fresh produce to canned goods is sold in huge quantities for less than you'd pay at your neighborhood grocery store. But there's only one place to look if you want to save yourself time along with a few extra dollars: The Costco prepared foods department.

Also known as the deli, Costco's prepared food section is a treasure trove of meal-prep delights, from take-and-bake comforts to assemble-it-yourself meal kits. While the big box retailer has several mouthwatering hits on its hands, not every prepared food the deli pumps out is worth a taste. There are just some dishes that even the most avid Costco lovers can't abide. Luckily for you, you don't have to waste your time and money trying out each individual item. We took to the internet to get a collective temperature check on Costco fan favorites and have even tried quite a few ourselves to get a personal taste of the good, the bad, and the greasy. Next time you're gearing up for a Costco run, keep in mind these eight prepared foods to buy and seven to avoid.

Read more: 14 Popular Chain Grocery Stores For Meat, Ranked Worst To Best

Buy: Rotisserie Chicken

Kirkland Signature rotisserie chicken at Costco
Kirkland Signature rotisserie chicken at Costco - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

You can't talk Costco without mentioning its cult-favorite rotisserie chicken. Reliably juicy and tender, the poultry is packed with just enough savory flavor to satisfy both picky eaters and epicureans alike. These birds tip the scales at a solid three pounds each (bones included), making them perfect for feeding a hungry crew of three to four. At just $4.99, this chicken is an inflation-proof weeknight meal, especially when you pair it with one of the deli's ready-made salads.

The deli churns out these golden brown birds all day long, but there is a way to ensure that you're grabbing the absolute freshest rotisserie chicken. While you're browsing the aisles, keep your ears primed for the sound of a bell. When the bell tolls, that's when a fresh batch of chickens has been set out for your purchasing pleasure. But don't sweat it if you miss that ding — the birds are never left hanging for more than two hours before they're swapped out in accordance with USDA regulations.

Avoid: Tortellini Pasta Salad

Four tubs of Costco tortellini pasta salad
Four tubs of Costco tortellini pasta salad - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

What could go wrong with stuffed pasta salad mixed with cured meats, olives, and pearls of mozzarella? A lot, apparently. While the idea of an antipasti-inspired salad anchored by hearty cheese-stuffed pasta is a solid one, there's just something off about Costco's version.

Firstly, the pasta itself seemed a tad overcooked, leaving a mushy mouthfeel that's just not pleasant to munch on. The overall flavor was lacking a bit of oomph, too. Instead of the fresh flavors of classic Italian cuisine or even the zesty punch of Olive Garden-style Italian vinaigrette, the dressing here just fell flat, and there was way too much of it. The overdressed salad felt greasy, especially with those huge chunks of cured meat and mozzarella in the mix. The dish really needed some veggies or fresh herbs to cut through all the fat, which might be why Costco chose to throw in some sliced black olives — a major misstep in a string of bad decisions.

All-in-all, this carb-loving writer sides with most Costo shoppers who just can't stand this bucket-sized pasta salad. For the $5.49 per pound price point and Costco name, we'd expect a bit more pizzazz.

Buy: Chicken Street Tacos

Costco chicken street taco kit
Costco chicken street taco kit - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot easier. Costco's chicken street taco meal kit covers all the weeknight dinner necessities in one grab-and-go package that's priced just right for budget-conscious shoppers. While pre-cooked meat can be a gamble, this particular taco kit pleasantly surprised this Costco shopper with its hearty portion of juicy chicken flavored with a blend of smoky and not-too-spicy seasonings. Alongside the well-seasoned poultry comes corn tortillas, shredded cheese, shredded cabbage slaw, zesty salsa, and lime cilantro crema — a winning combo that ensures you can build your perfect bite without any extra effort.

No, let's taco 'bout value. For roughly $15 per package ($5.49 per pound), you get all the trimmings for 12 street-style tacos that could easily feed a family or provide multiple meal-prep meals for one. It's like getting a taste of your favorite food truck right in your own kitchen, but with plenty of seating and without the hefty price tag. All you have to do is heat, assemble, and eat.

Avoid: Mac And Cheese

Pan of Costco mac and cheese
Pan of Costco mac and cheese - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

As it turns out, there is such a thing as too much cheese. The general consensus among the Costco faithful is that the brand's mac and cheese is far too rich and greasy, and yet somehow bland. While a mix of cheeses does lend a more upscale flavor to the comfort food classic, the lack of basic salt and pepper is apparent.

It turns out that the reason for the complaints over the lack of flavor could be the result of a shortcut method employed in Costco's recipe. While most classic mac and cheese recipes require a bechamel sauce into which you melt the other cheeses, Costco's version supposedly uses premade alfredo sauce as the base. If the premade sauce isn't well seasoned, then the cooks at the deli may be unaware that they need to add additional seasonings to the blend in order to spice things up. While this is mostly speculation on our part, the lackluster results remain the same. With the amount of doctoring needed to fix Costco's mac and cheese, we'd rather just make our own.

Buy: Meatloaf And Mashed Potatoes

Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes meal
Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes meal - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Hearty portions, homestyle flavor, and minimal prep time? Costco's classic meatloaf and mashed potatoes hit all the high notes of a weeknight meal that's sure to please even the pickiest palates. Tender, juicy meatloaf is smothered in a ketchup-forward glaze that pairs perfectly with creamy, butter-topped mashed potatoes. It's like a hug for your taste buds — and your wallet. At just $3.99 per pound of meat and potatoes, this comfort food classic gives plenty of bang for your buck.

The secret to Costo's fan-favorite meatloaf is actually pretty simple. According to one Costco employee via Reddit, the meatloaf is scratch-made every day from freshly ground beef, onion, and a secret blend of seasonings, just like grandma used to make. The mouthwatering results speak for themselves, and shoppers agree that Costco meatloaf is a winner. A lifesaver on nights when you just don't feel like cooking, this meal can just be popped directly into the oven while you put up your feet for a bit. In almost no time (well, really about an hour), dinner is served. But the best part? If you eat right out of the tray, there's no cleanup involved.

Avoid: Shepherd's Pie

Costco Shepherd's pie on marble countertop
Costco Shepherd's pie on marble countertop - rowdygos/Reddit

Costco's shepherd's pie doesn't exactly hit the spot. The texture is the downfall of this mammoth-sized meal, with many shoppers lamenting the mealy potato topping, overcooked veggies, and mushy meat filling. This dish isn't winning any awards on the flavor front either, with some commenters finding the pie filling to be oddly sweet.

Taste and texture aside, another reason this dish isn't always well-received among the Costco faithful is its misnomer. While the pastry is labeled as "shepherd's pie," it's actually a cottage pie, a small difference that marks a major point of division among fans. The main difference between shepherd's pie and cottage pie is the meat used. The former features lamb, while the latter is filled with beef, like Costco's so-called "shepherd's pie."

A pie by any other name, this meal misses the mark across the board, especially when it comes to taste. This shepherd's pie just doesn't deliver, leaving your tastebuds clamoring for more depth of flavor, more texture, more everything, really. So, while it might be a convenient dinner to feed a crowd, we'd pass on this one and stick to Costco's more reliable prepared foods.

Buy: Beef-Stuffed Bell Peppers

Costco's beef-stuffed bell peppers
Costco's beef-stuffed bell peppers - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

It can be hard to find an affordable and healthy(ish) heat-and-eat dinner at the grocery store that isn't a salad but Costco delivers with its beef-stuffed bell peppers. These plump beauties are filled to the brim with savory beef and rice, all smothered in a rich tomato sauce and melted cheese for a flavor explosion in every bite. All you have to do is pop them in the oven or the microwave to heat through and dinner is served. At $4.99 per pound (less than $1 per serving), these protein-packed peppers are essentially a full meal for the whole family for the same price as a pound of Costco ground beef.

But here's the real kicker — they taste homemade. The flavors are spot on, the textures are perfect, and the nutrient-rich meal is as comforting as a hug from your grandma. In fact, they taste like she could've whipped them up herself.

Avoid: Bacon Cheddar Burger Kits

Costco bacon cheddar burger kits
Costco bacon cheddar burger kits - Melika808/Reddit

Costco's pre-packed meal kits tend to be a hit among shoppers, but the brand's latest venture in this space seems to be a big miss. Following the introduction of the bacon cheddar burger kits in stores earlier this year, Costco shoppers on Reddit were quick to point out the item's initial flaws. Firstly, commenters pointed out the futility of a make-your-own-burger kit without buns. They also noted the visibly dry texture of the pre-cooked patties, lamenting that they'd rather buy frozen burgers and cook them themselves. And the final nail in this kit's coffin? The veggies already appear wilted even before being exposed to a hot burger patty.

While we haven't tried this bacon cheddar burger kit ourselves, and we certainly encourage everyone to form their own opinion, we're inclined to join these unhappy shoppers in skipping this purchase. At $6.49 per pound, this kit is far from the most economical option on the shelf. If you're craving a pre-prepped beef option, we'd recommend reaching for the meatloaf and mashed potatoes or beef-stuffed bell peppers instead.

Buy: Chili

Costco beef chili
Costco beef chili - inorbit007/Reddit

Costco's beloved tub of beef chili sparked quite a bit of online debate when it returned to store shelves in late 2023. As with any good old-fashioned American debate, spirited Costco fans took to the comments section to argue the merits of the inclusion of beans in a product labeled "chili." While some shoppers see no issue with adding beans into the mix, some passionate chili connoisseurs were less than thrilled, with one reviewer referring to the product as "bean soup with cheese."

Whether you think chili should contain beans or not (this one does), most reviewers agree that this gargantuan tub is worth a try. Aside from the divisive kidney and pinto beans, the hearty soup contains seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and a generous dose of shredded cheddar cheese on top. Costco's beefy, smoky chili deserves a spot in your weekly meal rotation for its surprising depth of flavor and cost-effective price point of just $3.49 per pound for a roughly four-pound tub. As an added bonus, it freezes well, too.

Avoid: Wraps

Costco deli wraps
Costco deli wraps - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

Grab-and-go lunches like wraps can be huge time-savers for busy, wannabe meal preppers. Unfortunately, Costco's pre-made wraps aren't exactly winning any awards with most shoppers. Unless they're consumed right away (or at least within a day of purchasing), Costco's well-intentioned wraps tend to turn into a mushy mess with very little flavor to save them.

The brand's traditional turkey pinwheels seem to be the most egregious offenders — their small size could be a factor here — while the wraps made with Costco's fan-favorite rotisserie chicken, like the Southwest chicken wrap, tend to fare slightly better. Despite a few shining stars, most folks agree that the price tag doesn't match the quality.

While there are certainly a few wraps worth grabbing for a quick lunch, these are the rare exceptions. And even if the wraps are well-reviewed on flavor, they don't tend to last more than a day in the fridge before succumbing to a sad, soggy fate. You're better off skipping the pre-made version and stocking up on the wrap essentials found on Costco's shelves.

Buy: Enchilada Bake With Rotisserie Chicken

Costco's enchilada bake with rotisserie chicken
Costco's enchilada bake with rotisserie chicken - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

We've already waxed poetic about Costco's rotisserie chicken. Now imagine that juicy bird plucked, shredded, and doused in a smoky enchilada sauce, packed into tortillas with pinto beans, and smothered in cheese topped with a fiesta's worth of colorful diced bell peppers for good measure. Pop that bad boy in the oven, and it's winner-winner weeknight dinner.

But the best part about Costco's enchilada bake? The hefty casserole feeds roughly six to eight hungry mouths — especially if you pair it with a pre-packed salad kit or side of rice. That works out to a wallet-friendly $4 (or less) per serving of gooey goodness. Even if you're just feeding a family of one or two, the leftovers make a mouthwatering lunch. Just like a homemade casserole, the flavors of this smoky, cheesy, chicken-packed bake seem to meld together even more after an extra day or two in the fridge. It's a win-win.

Avoid: Gyro Meal Kit

Costco gyro meal kits
Costco gyro meal kits - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

This controversial opinion may raise a few eyebrows, but Costco's gyro meal kit lands on the skip list for a few reasons. Firstly, fans are divided over the quality of the kit's ingredients. Many praise the amount and variety of veggies packaged alongside the other gyro staples, while others complained that the lettuce and tomato were wilted and soggy. Some commenters have lamented the quality of the meat, claiming that it was dry, underseasoned, and tended to shrink down when heated so that a meal kit touted to feed a family of five or six actually only fed two or three people. But the top complaint was about the lackluster tzatziki sauce.

Overall, the reviews were lukewarm at best, with most commenters saying that the gyro kit was fine in a pinch or good enough for a quick dinner — not exactly high praise. And at $6.49 per pound, you're better off just ordering takeout from your neighborhood Greek joint.

Buy: Yakisoba Stir Fry

Costco Yakisoba stir fry meal kit
Costco Yakisoba stir fry meal kit - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

While some faithful Costco fans were skeptical of the pre-cooked, dark-meat chicken in this yakisoba stir fry meal kit, most were intrigued by the generous portion of fresh veggies packaged on the side. The general consensus is that this dish is a weeknight winner. The meal is easy to prepare with minimal effort (it comes together in about 10 minutes) and tastes like takeout without the side of grease.

The main complaint (or note, really) is that while the kit comes with two huge containers of sauce, the dish really only requires one. Some commenters found that adding both servings of sauce left the dish soggy and overly salty. One way to temper the salt in Costco's yakisoba stir-fry kit without sacrificing flavor is to dilute one of the containers of sauce with lime juice. You'll enjoy an extra acidic kick and an even coating of sauce without having to deal with mushy noodles.

Avoid: Chicken Alfredo

Costco chicken alfredo
Costco chicken alfredo - Sarah Bisacca/Tasting Table

As delicious as chicken alfredo can be, Costco's version is a sad, cautionary tale of quantity over quality. While a container of Costco's chicken alfredo comes packed with around four pounds of food, this dish just misses on all accounts. The sauce is greasy and bland, the noodles are overcooked, and the chicken is surprisingly rubbery, almost as if it's been reheated one too many times. We've even seen commenters go so far as to refer to the flavor as "chemical."

Like Costco's mac and cheese, some shoppers say that the dish can be saved with some doctoring, but it's not worth the effort when you can make a homemade version using Kirkland's famous rotisserie chicken in less time. Sure, at about $3 per serving, it's a budget-friendly option. But when it comes to convenience versus quality, Costco's chicken alfredo is a swing and a miss. Save your taste buds the trouble and whip up something better at home.

Buy: Pepperoni Pizza

Costco pepperoni pizza
Costco pepperoni pizza - Andrey Sayfutdinov/Getty Images

Gigantic pepperoni pizza slices are already a Costco food court favorite for their generous portion of pepperoni and budget-friendly $2 price point, but did you know you can pick up a whole, freshly baked pie to take home for less than your local delivery spot? Sold at a jaw-dropping $9.95 per 12-slice pie, Costco's pepperoni pizza is a no-brainer when you need a quick lunch or dinner for your crew. Of course, you can also pick up a plain cheese pizza, but for the same price, you may as well go for the extra toppings!

To take advantage of the little-known food court hack just requires a tiny bit of planning. In order to ensure the freshest pizza, you'll either want to call ahead or place your order before you start shopping. That way, you'll get a hot-from-the-oven pie that's ready to go when you are — no meal-prep required.


Costco cart in Costco Wholesale parking lot
Costco cart in Costco Wholesale parking lot - Jetcityimage/Getty Images

So how did we discern which Costco prepared foods to shop and which to skip? As avid Costco prepared food fans ourselves, we used a combination of personal experience and online reviews to source this list of the good, the bad, and the forgettable. First, we considered the dish's flavor and texture. After all, if it's not enjoyable to eat, then what's the point of purchasing? Next, we looked at value. How much food are you getting for the price? And more importantly for straightforward budgeting, what's the price per portion?

While taste and cost were the two main factors to consider, we also looked at versatility. As much as we love leftovers, it can get boring eating the same thing day after day. Meal kits that allow you to customize your dish with very little extra effort, for example, earned extra points — but only if they could deliver on flavor.

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