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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Mexican Style Roasted Corn with Cotija Cheese

The spiel on the back of the bag here claims this dish is inspired by elote, a style of Mexican corn often sold by street vendors. Every time I've seen it sold on the street, it's been on the cob. I had my first ear of elote some eight years ago when I lived in Southern California. Delicioso. There are definitely some similarities here and maybe a few differences. Let's take a look.

First of all, each kernel of corn is pristine: whole, plump, robust. They're far more perfect than anything I've witnessed on the streets of L.A. It is kinda fun to eat corn straight from the cob, but you can scoop the niblets into your mouth at least twice as fast with this Trader Joe's offering, provided you have a big enough fork and spry enough food-shoveling hand. And the kernels are all in various states of roastedness—some are deeply charred and black, some are yellow and barely scorched at all...but most are somewhere in between, not unlike traditional elote.

With the TJ's Mexican corn, there seems to be a lot more oil and sauce. With traditional elote, you might have butter, chili powder, hot sauce, lime, and a few other seasonings. The overall flavor is very similar, but I prefer the texture of the traditional seasonings to the unusual dissolving pellets of sauce that come with this product. I didn't dislike them by any means, but I'd still prefer to administer my own personalized amount of seasoning from the shaker(s) of my choice.

But by far the most disappointing aspect of this product is the exceptionally tiny packet of cotija cheese. It provides a delightful zip to the dish, but there's simply not enough of it to go around. I immediately found myself zeroing in on the clumps of corn that had the most cotija within them and quickly depleted my dish of the coveted cheese while more than half of my corn remained. The corn isn't terrible by itself. The sauce/seasoning alone makes the dish enjoyable, but the mixture isn't nearly as memorable without the cotija cheese. In my humble opinion, at least twice as much cheese is required here.

Sonia likes the corn and says it reminds her of her childhood, but she insists the sauce isn't spicy or flavorful enough. She agrees that more cheese is needed, as well.

Three and a half stars from this gringo. A meager three from a Mexican-American woman that grew up eating elote on a regular basis.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.


  1. I agree, you can never have too much cotija cheese! Does TJ's still sell it by itself? (They used to but I don't recall seeing it in quite a while.)

    1. I don't think I've ever seen cotija cheese sold by itself at TJs...but I'd get some if I did!

    2. I recently looked for some cotija at TJ's and didn't find any. It was a sad day for my huevos rancheros.


  2. The corn is the same as the roasted corn sold without any seasoning (and with a brighter, better flavor). This version of elote is too soupy with the very (to my taste) spicy sauce. And not enough cheese! A miss not a hit.

  3. I just tried the corn for dinner tonight. And I have to say, coming from a Latina, it's not that bad. I did have to tweak it a little bit, by adding a few fresh ingredients, but the end result was good. Normally, I would opt for actually making the corn myself, but in times of not feeling like cooking, this is definitely worth the price. To avoid the "soupiness" mentioned, I cooked the corn until all of the sauce was absorbed, added a little mayonnaise, a squirt of lime, half of the cheese, and chopped cilantro to the mixture itself. I then topped it with the rest of the cheese and a little more chopped cilantro for presentation.

  4. I'm thinking since TJs already sells a frozen roasted corn it's best to just doctor that up since elote ingredients are so simplistic and easy to keep on hand

  5. Okay I tried this stuff and I took out about 1/2 to 2/3 of the spice "pellets", and it was AWESOME. I will def. buy again and add to my rotation, and I think it would be great with a squirt of lime and some cilantro!

  6. I agree with you about this. It was disappointing and I REALLY wanted to love it. But, they need to make some improvements. More flavor, more creamy cheese, etc.

  7. My family loves this with a small amount of mayo, and a squirt of lime.


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