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Monday, February 24, 2020

Trader Joe's Everything but the Elote Seasoning

Circa 2008, while living in California, Sonia and I and some of our friends took a Saturday afternoon to visit the L.A. Zoo. We'd all been there before, but the zoo was just one of those things we'd do if we were bored since it was close-by and not too expensive. It paled in comparison to the San Diego Zoo, but the two hour drive and heftier price tag made our visits there slightly less frequent. We'd had our fill of Disneyland that summer, so the local zoo was decided upon. 

After watching some listless, despondent animals and groups of tourists reenacting the Three's Company intro, we started to get hungry. We rounded a corner somewhere near the hippos, and spotted an unassuming Latina lady with a big metal cart. One of our friends shouted, "Let's get elote!"

I had to turn to Sonia and ask what elote was. Moments later, I was watching the other members of our crew slather mayonnaise onto corn on the cob. "You put mayo on corn on the cob?"

And not just mayo. But cotija cheese, sour cream, lime juice, and generous amounts of red chili powder. For a moment, I thought it strange. But after I tasted it? Love at first bite. I'd eaten corn on the cob my whole life, and all I could think was, "Why didn't white people think of this?" 

Salt, pepper, and butter seemed so boring after having my first taste of real elote, but since it's not readily available on street corners outside the Southland, we haven't had true elote in a while. But let me throw my initial thoughts about this product out there to start things off: 

Is Trader Joe's Everything But the Elote Seasoning a unique, delicious condiment? Absolutely. 

Does it taste like actual elote? Well...kinda.

There are definitely detectable amounts of tangy cheese, spicy chili, chipotle, and salt, all of which I consider good and authentic as far as elote flavor goes. But I'm a little mystified as to why sugar is the number one ingredient—and you can taste it. It's definitely much sweeter than any other elote flavored thing I've ever had. Sonia's guess is that it's emulating the sweetness of sweet corn, or trying to at least. I still feel like the product would have been a tad stronger had it not been so sweet. I also wish there were a little more lime flavor. There's some "citric acid" on the ingredients, but nothing really lemony or limey comes through. I guess we could always mix it with the chile lime seasoning since it's a bit more lime-a-licious.

It's definitely a little spicy. There's an almost immediate warming sensation on the tongue, and if you eat a good bit of it, you feel it in your tummy, too. It's not super intense, but it's noticeable. I think you have to enjoy spicy heat to some degree to really get into this product. Sonia and I both love a little flavorful spice.

We found it went well with popcorn. Just sprinkle a good amount on the top of a bowl and it will cascade off the top layer and coat the kernels farther down. It's also great with actual corn niblets. We heated up a plastic baggie of Bird's Eye and tried it that way. It's a little more authentic when you have real corn. We squeezed a lime wedge into the mix and found it helped with the flavor immensely. My mother-in-law made some sopa de fideo con pollo with this seasoning. She felt like the Everything But the Elote made it much more flavorful and interesting, and she's been eating authentic elote for decades. 

For us, the final test will come when we can get our hands on some local corn on the cob, not in season in the northern midwest right now. Come August-September, we'll definitely try it and report back. Or somebody who can secure good corn on the cob this time of year leave a comment below.

Zero calories. I'm guessing since you sprinkle such a relatively small amount on the food, that you're looking at like half a calorie per serving or so, and there's some FDA loophole that allows them to round down to nothing. I'm sure some food scientist will enlighten us in the comments below while finding a way to make me sound stupid for not understanding the comprehensive FDA rules and regs for food labels. I'm just making an off-handed observation that I find puzzling, since sugar obviously contains some calories. No biggie.

My biggest complaint is the sweetness. Sonia's main reservation is the flavor of the parmesan cheese vs what real elote tastes like with cotija and sour cream. In general, though, we like it and will be experimenting more in the coming days and weeks. We're thinking we'll pair it with tortilla soup, beans, white fish tacos, and maybe even shrimp...? 

At the very least, it's a neat idea, and it yields some pretty unusual flavors of corn and popcorn. Three and three quarters stars each from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


  1. Sour cream? Is that sometimes used instead of mayo? I've tried elote corn but I think I actually prefer butter and salt. I'm very wimpy about spice.

    I'm not a food scientist, but you're right about the calorie count. I've used other things that would seem to have calories based on the ingredients but they're allowed to say none because of the small serving size.

    1. I've seen people do either mayo or sour cream and I've seen people do both.

  2. I put this on sweet potato wedges I made the other night. They came out great! The sugar helped them brown and crisp and the flavor was awesome.

  3. We put a sprinkle on potato soup, added an interesting flavor

  4. I added some to my mashed sweet potatoes and, well, let's just say....the bowl was devoured!

  5. I think Manufacturers put sugar in everything nowadays because the American public expect sweetness in all their foods (that's my theory)

  6. I believe the FDA rule is that anything less than 5 calories in a serving can be rounded down to zero. A teaspoon of sugar has 15 calories, so this weighs in at much less than that.


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