Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Trader Joe's Handcrafted Chicken & Cheese Tamales

Ah, tamales! The favorite dish of traditional Mexican fiestas and celebrations is now available at the local Trader Joe's. In L.A., tamales would show up at Christmas parties, New Year's festivities, weddings, and Bar Mitzvahs. Well, maybe not so much at Bar Mitzvahs, but you get the picture.

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.


  1. These looks delicious. Have either of you ever tried the green chile and cheese variety of tamales? They are really tasty, albeit messy, but worth trying! :)

  2. I haven't tried them yet...but I want to check them out now!

  3. And in response to a question raised on Facebook, these tamales are not particularly spicy/hot...

  4. Those look great! I'll have to try them on my next trip to TJ's. Thanks also for taking one for the team by trying the now infamous turkey meatloaf muffins--so we don't have to!

  5. In retrospect, the one positive thing I could say about the meatloaf muffins is, they're intriguingly bad, like, "How bad can they really be? *take a bite* Ooooooohhhhhhh." Try em if you dare, and rememmber, TJ's has an excellent return policy :).

  6. They are really good if you cook them in a rice steamer!

  7. My husband LOVES these! And apparently someone else did too because they kept getting stolen out of the work freezer!

  8. Oh yeah, these are delicious, as are the beef tamales.

  9. Try the Beef Tamales at some point, they're so good.

  10. OMG I LOVE these. These are my favorite lunches from Trader Joe's. Granted, I just went to TJ's for the first time last week so this blog is SO helpful in planning want to buy my next trip. They should totally pay you all to rate the food, lol.