I had been under the impression that all tamales had to be freshly made in order to taste good. At all of the gatherings I had eaten them, they were either purchased at a little Mami and Papi's restaurant and taken directly to the party location, or they were handmade on site by family.
Levels of skepticism were through the roof when we spied these Chicken & Cheese Tamales in the frozen section at TJ's. Sonia's had tamales from chain restaurants, sit-down restaurants, and grocery stores, and any hot-blooded Mexicana will tell you that they just don't taste right unless they're fresh and homemade.
We decided to be brave and try Trader Joe's brand. We just reheated the two tamales in the microwave and then unwrapped them from their corn husk shells. After the first bite, I was impressed, but I didn't think there was any way Sonia would be quite as thrilled. On the contrary, she was pleasantly stunned as her tastebuds told her that TJ's had done the nearly impossible once again. Now don't get me wrong, these are by no means better than fresh, homemade tamales, but as Sonia put it, "They're the next best thing."
If you're a first time reader—or someone who just really knows your tamales, you might be thinking "Hmmm...I bet this guys works for Trader Joe's. There's no way an objective reviewer could be so enthusiastic about frozen tamales."
Sometimes I wish Trader Joe's would hire us to do what we do on this site full time...but then, we probably wouldn't have the freedom to rip them apart when they trick us with products like Spiced Cranberry Cider or Turkey Meatloaf Muffins.
No, trust me. We are objective, outside reviewers giving our honest opinions and trying to help out our fellow TJ's shoppers. And really, this is just another reason we love doing this website: Trader Joe's is always surprising us with unique, high-quality food products at a good price. Imagine that...frozen tamales worth eating. Sonia gives them a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I do too.
Bottom line: 8 out of 10.