REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Handcrafted Chocolate Raspberry Tamales

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Raspberry Tamales

There is particular group of human beings who cannot resist a product promising a peculiar outcome. The type who must buy the exploding gumball to see their tongue turn purple. The type who invest in Netflix socks that pause one’s TV when the viewer falls asleep. The type that bids on the 1972 Pinto to see if it really explodes.* These are the humans who see uncertainties and are triggered by both an infinite curiosity and nagging stubbornness that demands, “I must find out!”

*Exploding not advised.

I am one such human. Perhaps you are, too? Being such, I was thrilled/terrified to spot these Chocolate Raspberry Tamales. Having never encountered a sweet tamale, I presume they could be wonderful. They also could be horrendous, but, as I learned when Fluffy the Cat exploded the tree in Christmas Vacation, what’s the holidays without a little strategically placed suspense?

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Raspberry Tamales 2

To wit, sweet tamales are on the reg in many regions of the world, especially in Mexico and spots of South America. They’ve been celebrated, steamed, and rustled up in variations ranging from rum raisin to dulce de leche and don’t look like they’re on any cusp of endangerment. Nonetheless, I had my hesitations. My bold and stupid hesitations.

Trader Joe’s was generous in putting instructions for steaming these in a boiling pot of water or slipping ‘em in the microwave for two minutes on half power. Wanting my journey into chocolate consumption to be swift, I opted for the microwave, buzzing one inside a damp paper towel as the apartment became infused with the smell of chocolate.

Three microwave beeps later, I unrolled the tamale from its husky shell to find what looked like a holiday fudge. Indeed, one bite was enough to convince me that someone had taken the middle of an undercooked brownie (my favorite part) and smooshed it with chocolate fudge. Avoiding the grit of hand-ground cornmeal, the masa dough is smooth and pillowy as a $2500 memory foam mattress, a texture that avoids the mealy taste of corn and allows the cocoa and semisweet chocolate to pop right out.

If this was Star Wars, those chocolate chips would be on the Dark Side. Because this is not an alternate fictional universe with evil Sith Lords, this Dark Side is for the best as the nutty, roasted coffee-like notes of the dark chocolate chips allows the sweet, fudge-like richness of the dough stand out. I’m relieved to discover that Trader Joe’s avoided the messy goop that a raspberry jelly filling might’ve entailed and instead blended the raspberries right in the dough. What they ended up with is a tamale that has hint of tart fruitiness at the end and a little warmth from the cinnamon spices they pinched in there, but, on the whole, this is all chocolate, all the time.

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Raspberry Tamales 3

No question: compared to fruitcake, this wins. Compared to the toil of making sugar cookies with festive sprinkles laboriously hand-cut into shapes of magical woodland creatures, this wins. Compared to what my mind thought this would be versus what it actually is? Oh, buddy, this wins big time, thus reinforcing, again, that the presumptions of my brain are not trustworthy.

These tamales tie in flavor with fudge, ping in with a bit of fruity variation, avoid the gloopiness of raspberry filling, and nail it on ease of preparation for a festive treat. Take note, small children: Santa Claus is coming to town and he wants some tamales, stat.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 tamale – 230 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Handcrafted Chocolate Raspberry Tamales
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4 tamales/10 oz. package
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Like a gooey brownie. Melty semisweet chocolate chips. No obnoxious raspberry jelly blobs. Butter is involved. Chocolate, chocolate, all the time. Strategically placed suspense. Netflix socks.
Cons: Want to eat the whole bag. Try to expand patience by putting bag away. Still want to eat the whole bag. Limited time. Will not appease raspberry lovers. Limited time. Exploding Ford Pintos. The unfortunate demise of Fluffy the Cat.

12 thoughts on “REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Handcrafted Chocolate Raspberry Tamales

    1. Very fashion-forward. 🙂 The package mentions soy and milk allergens, and, while there’s no statement about gluten, I’ve got a buddy who’s gluten-intolerant and we did a thorough scanning of the ingredients. There’s a pinch of the vague yet menacing “Modified Food Starch” at the very end, which has a smidge of gluten (oh no!). Hope that helps a little!

  1. Tasted these at TJ the other day and found it to be akin to a chocolate molten lava cake. And would be wonderful with some warmed raspberry sauce on top. 🙂

  2. I was expecting these to look nothing like “real” tamales. But wow, they do look the same. Kudos to Trader Joe for this product.

  3. Very disappointing. I like less sweet desserts, but I think they forgot to put any sugar in mine. Hardly any raspberry and no cinnamon flavor. Got 3 left which will be going into the trash.

    1. Huh. This is exactly why I like these–they are not too sweet. The corn and chocolate give it a richness that doesn’t taste like grossly supper-sweet brownies or cakes. And who was looking for cinnamon here anyway?

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