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Do Costco's Frozen Chicken Bakes Live Up to Fresh Ones? I Tried Both

I sampled the frozen Chicken Bakes sold at Costco to see if they taste as good as the food court version.
FACT CHECKED BY Chris Shott

Costco's food courts serve up a range of popular bites and treats, from the massive pizza slices to the ever-affordable $1.50 hot dog combo. Yet, few of the many beloved food court offerings are quite as unique and iconic as the Chicken Bake.

This food court option falls somewhere between a sandwich and a Hot Pocket, featuring chicken, cheese, Caesar dressing, and bacon, all baked inside a crispy crust. Many customers have grown to appreciate Chicken Bakes for their convenience and "tasty" flavor. But even the most diehard fans may not have tried (or even know about) another version of the food court item sold in Costco warehouses.

If you look in Costco's freezer aisle, you'll find frozen Kirkland Signature Chicken Bakes that offer tantalizing convenience and value. Each box contains six individually wrapped sandwiches that customers can heat up in an oven or microwave at their leisure. The product is currently selling for $13.59 at my local Costco in Edison, N.J., which breaks down to $2.27 per Chicken Bake.

That's notably cheaper than the $3.99 price tag for a typical food court Chicken Bake, so shoppers could theoretically save a lot of money in the long run by grabbing a box of the frozen pockets in lieu of the fresh ones. But do the frozen versions taste as good as the fresh ones you'll find at food courts? I recently set out to answer that question for Costco members by comparing the two in a taste test.

The Method

Costco food court and frozen Chicken Bakes on wooden cutting board
Zoe Strozewski for Eat This, Not That!

During a recent Costco run, I grabbed a box of Kirkland Signature Chicken Bakes from my warehouse's frozen aisle and then snagged a fresh one from the food court on my way out. Once I arrived back home, I immediately heated up a frozen Chicken Bake in my oven per the package instructions so I could sample it alongside the one I got at the food court.

As a disclaimer, many customers suspect that Costco changed the recipe for its fresh Chicken Bakes a few years ago—and not for the better. They say the new version is smaller, contains less filling, and is overall less satisfying. Some shoppers absolutely detest the alleged new Chicken Bake recipe, while others say it's still tasty enough, even if they don't enjoy it as much as they used to.

"They're still good. Not as good as they used to be, but still good," a fan wrote on Reddit earlier this year.

Nevertheless, the point of this taste test isn't to determine how tasty the Chicken Bake is now compared to in the past. Instead, it's to see if the frozen version can hold a candle to the Chicken Bakes available at food courts right now. Read on for my thoughts on the taste, texture, and appearance of both versions, followed by my final verdict!

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Fresh Food Court Chicken Bake

Costco food court Chicken Bake
Zoe Strozewski for Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per Item)
Calories: 840
Fat: 32 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 2,650 mg
Carbs: 83 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 52 g

The look: Golden brown, girthy, and overall pretty tempting. The crust had been baked super well-done and was covered in a generous layer of caramelized cheese. The interior had a decent amount of filling, but looked somewhat dry. It weighed in at 330 grams on my kitchen scale.

The taste: Comforting and decently tasty, but not without its flaws. On the positive side, the crust was deliciously crispy, not too thick, and flavorful thanks to all of the melted cheese decorating the top. I also appreciated the flavor of the filling, which was cheesy, tangy from the Caesar, and salty from the bacon pieces.

On the other hand, the texture of the filling left a little to be desired. The chicken was chopped sort of finely. I would have much preferred big, juicy pieces of poultry. The filling was also slightly dry and had more of a goopy than saucy feel to it.

Overall, the food court Chicken Bake is enjoyable yet far from perfect. I wouldn't necessarily expect anything better than this for just $3.99.

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Frozen Chicken Bake

Kirkland Signature Chicken Bake, frozen
Zoe Strozewski for Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per Item)
Calories: 540
Fat: 19 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g, Trans Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 1,370 mg
Carbs: 58 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 35 g

The look: In terms of appearance, the frozen Chicken Bake was a very far cry from the fresh one. For one, it was significantly smaller, weighing in at just 225 grams compared to the 330-gram fresh version. The crust was also paler and had a much stingier layer of caramelized cheese, while the inside looked even dryer than the fresh Chicken Bake's interior. Unlike the food court iteration, the frozen variety had bits of green onion distributed throughout the filling.

The taste: This frozen version fell short in almost every way. For starters, the crust was breadier, thicker, and completely lacking the crispy factor I loved when sampling the fresh Chicken Bake. The crust had also become oddly gooey wherever it touched the filling, even though I followed the heating instructions exactly. To make matters worse, the filling was dry, had barely any bacon, and straight up lacked flavor.

If there's anything the frozen Chicken Bake has going for it, it's that the chicken pieces are bigger than they were in the fresh version. But I still couldn't stomach more than a couple of bites.

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The Verdict

Costco Chicken Bakes cross sections
Zoe Strozewski for Eat This, Not That!

If it wasn't obvious from my wildly contrasting reviews, the frozen Chicken Bakes do not live up to the fresh ones in any shape or form. The classic food court Chicken Bake has earned itself a devoted fanbase in the Costco community because it's a convenient, crispy, fairly flavorful, and affordable meal or snack. It would have been awesome to discover that the frozen Chicken Bake was 100% or even 75% as good as the fresh one, especially considering its impressive value. But even though they're less expensive, I could never see myself getting past the disappointing taste and texture.

The next time I'm craving a Chicken Bake, you'll definitely find me in the food court rather than the freezer aisle.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe