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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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trader Joe's Sweet Corn Tamales

So, a few weeks ago, I started a new job. It's closer to home, it's less stress, and it pays a lot more. Those are all good things. That's not to say that the place isn't a little bit of an unusual environment. Walk inside and probably the first thing you'd notice is the giant indoor walk-thru arboretum, and if you happen to glance off to the side, you can see the little pond with picnic tables around it. That's pretty sweet. And there's a pretty decent little employee cafe inside with made-to-order sandwiches and whatnot. My previous job didn't have any of that, not even the cafe. If you wanted a sandwich, it had to come from a vending machine. And that was at a flagship, otherwise state-of-the-art facility. Oh, and their microwaves sucked. My new job even has the same microwave that I own, and it's a good one. What they lack, though, is almost comical. There's no sink or hot water tap in almost any of the break rooms, making my routine morning French Press o' coffee a tougher task. But get this - they don't even have a freezer where people can store their frozen meals. There's none. There's a fridge, though, which keeps most lunches semi-frozen enough until lunch. You'd figure, if they can stock a pond and have some indoor trees that require upkeep every two weeks, there'd be a freezer somewhere. Maybe that's just me.

I mention all this because no matter where I work, I gotta eat lunch, and for the longest time, Trader Joe's tamales have been a staple of my noontime feasting. They're easy to make, they're inexpensive, and as Nathan pointed out a while ago, they're surprisingly good. In Pittsburgh, at least, the Sweet Corn Tamales are a new option, which I was only too glad to pick up, as the chicken, cheese and beef ones get a little old after a while.

They're...okay. Not great, but not bad, either. I'm not sure if the tamales themselves or my work's lack of freezer-hood are to blame, but they're kinda a weird texture, at least in my experience. It's definitely a different masa than the other types, which I could tell before even tasting due to its lighter color and softer, kinda soggier texture. A lot of folks on our Facebook page said to be sure to place a wet paper towel over them while nuking, lest they get all dried out. I didn't, because it's impossible to get to a sink without going to the bathroom where I work, and yet, after three minutes in the microwave, they're pretty soggy still. I'll be willing to split the blame.

As for taste, the corn masa exterior tastes like good sweet ol' cornbread, which I'm all about. Inside there's a respectable amount of fresh-ish sweet corn and little green chiles. The chiles don't add much (if any) heat, and the manchega cheese (which is fairly mild anyways) isn't all that prevalent, so overall, these tamales just taste like sweet, semi-chunky cornbread. Some slightly spicier chiles, and some queso mas fuerte, and they'd be much better. As is, they'll probably make my semi-regular lunch rotation, but I think that's more a function of TJ's small cheap lunchworthy entrees than anythng else.

Sandy doesn't really like tamales based chiefly on texture. We've been to Mexico and have eaten some fairly authentic ones, and even then, the masa shell makes her gag a little. So, in fairness and to avoid unilateral Golden Spoonage awarding, I asked our Facebook page what they thought about them. Overall, it was a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from amorous declarations ("I totally love these!" says Lindsey; "I eat them all the time and they rock!" says Kristine) to utter contempt ("I love tamales...these disappointed on all fronts" says Karen), with most folks in the middle. The average score that peeps gave them was about a 2.5 to 3, which seems about right. I'm not utterly opposed to them, but I definitely like the chicken and cheese ones much better. So, it's a 2.5 or 3 from me as well.      

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Corn Tamales: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
P.S. - I completely whiffed on snapping a picture of the nutritional info for these. I'll add it the next time I buy'em.


  1. Your review was spot on. I thought mine was soggy because of the wet paper towel, but now I see that was not the case. Ah well... love me some TJ's!

  2. OK, they were sampling these one day at TJ's and what MAKES them is what they had on top -- a mixture of two parts salsa to one part sour cream. YUM! With that drizzled on top, you can kick up the heat all you choose, and it adds a lot. I have never had them naked, and imagine I'd give it just 5 or 6 out of 10 that way too. Try the topping, yo!

  3. I steamed mine on the stovetop, as the directions suggested and they were still mushy. If they had called them sweet corn pudding it would have worked, but they are not tamales. As far as the taste I thought they were good, the green chilies didn't make much of a difference however I ate them with TJ Guacamole and hot salsa and was able to turn up the heat.