I’ve always generally regarded Hot Pockets as the fast and easy food favored by stoners and people who pee into empty Mountain Dew bottles so they don’t have to leave their computer chair and risk missing part of their guild’s raid.
On the other hand, I’ve always regarded Lean Pockets as the fast and easy food favored by cubicle monkeys who don’t really care what they eat during their 30 minute lunch break but would like to at least pretend whatever bland food they cram down their maw is mildly healthy. Added bonus: no utensils required.
Lean Pockets has introduced several different products throughout the years in an attempt to keep your taste buds a little less bored as you sit in the break room trying to ignore the loud smacking sounds coming from the sweaty guy in accounting sitting across from you at the table. There’s Stuffed Quesadillas, Culinary Creations, Seasoned Crusts, and now Pretzel Bread Sandwiches.
From Lean Pockets’ website: “Why dip a soft pretzel when you can stuff it? Premium meats, veggies, and cheese wrapped in warm, soft pretzel bread. Hello, amazing!”
I can’t ever imagine calling any Lean Pockets product “amazing”, but hey. They seem pretty proud of themselves. I won’t burst their bubble until I’ve tried it. I find the stuffing over dipping a soft pretzel angle interesting. I imagine what they’re going for here is something along these lines: “Hey, you like Auntie Anne’s pretzels at the mall, right? Enjoy dipping them in those little cups of sauce? Well, you’re at work, and the mall is too far away, so you’re going to have to settle for this enjoy this amazing Pretzel Bread Sandwich!”
It’s a thin premise, but I’ll go with it. The Pretzel Bread Sandwiches currently come in two flavors: Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar and Roasted Turkey with Bacon and Reduced Fat Cheese. I went with the former because I’m a tool and I still think I can find a fast or frozen food that actually delivers on the Jalapeño heat. The latter seems kind of all over the place: turkey is always considered the healthy white meat, the cheese is reduced fat, and yet there’s bacon, generally considered delicious but nowhere near healthy. I prefer my lunches less…schizophrenic.
What the Lean Pockets website has to say about Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar: “You can’t have a soft pretzel without the spice of tangy Jalapeño cheddar. And why not add grilled white meat chicken while you’re at it? (Oh wait, we did all that.)”
Many people would probably disagree with the first sentence. There are lots of different dipping options for soft pretzels. Lucky for Lean Pockets, I agree with them on that point. “Why not” is a bit of a slippery slope…”Why not add the chewing gum I found on the bottom of my shoe last week? Why not add the nuts and bolts I found under the bread-baking machine?” Okay, I’m being a little outrageous. But that’s what makes slippery slopes fun!
The Pretzel Bread Sandwiches come with the classic crisping sleeve. One sandwich takes 2 minutes and 15 seconds to cook in the microwave. The sandwich seemed a little small to make a full lunch. In frozen form, you can see the large crystals of salt on the sandwich, a staple of soft pretzels. After being cooked, the salt crystals melt into the crust. I was surprised to see that the crust was indeed golden brown. The smell was exactly like that of a soft pretzel you’d get at the mall or maybe a stadium. I was surprised at how fragrant and authentic it smelled.
I was disappointed when I cut the Lean Pocket open, however. It looked like a bunch of pale mush. I decided to butterfly one of the halves to really get a good look inside. There were some bits of red and green pepper, but it still didn’t look that encouraging.
I have to say, had these ingredients been inside a regular Lean Pocket pouch, my general review of the sandwich would have been “Hey, there’s actually some heat from the Jalapeños in here. The cheese is creamy. Otherwise, blandsville.” The chicken was completely flavorless and basically just acted like filler. The cheese was your typical Hot/Lean Pocket cheese, creamy but generally flavorless. What actually made these Lean Pockets stand out was the pretzel shell. It tasted just like a soft pretzel, salty and flavorful. I hate to agree with such a silly premise, but having a pretzel shell that really tasted like a pretzel made the cheese and the Jalapeños taste a lot like a pretzel dipped in Jalapeño cheddar sauce. The chicken could’ve just disappeared; even the texture of it was mushy enough to be barely noticeable.
I would have classified the Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar as just another bland but acceptable lunch option, but the pretzel shell and the Jalapeños really saved the day. The peppers aren’t hot enough that you’d need a glass of milk, but they make themselves known with the perfect amount of heat. The texture of the cheese works with the pretzel, which makes its lack of flavor more forgivable. The sandwich was a bit small and chicken itself could disappear and I never would have noticed, but overall these Pretzel Bread Sandwiches are a step above the usual boring Lean Pockets fare. It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless.
On a side note, I happened to look at a Hot Pockets review I wrote a while back and found something interesting — Lean Pockets Pretzel Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar has more calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol (over 200% more) and sodium than the Hot Pocket SideShots, and both boxes are nine ounces. That doesn’t seem very lean to me.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 piece – 280 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 15% calcium and 10% iron.)
Item: Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches Grilled Chicken Jalapeño Cheddar
Price: $1.99 (on sale; normally $2.50)
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Delicious, soft pretzel shell. Fun with slippery slopes. Perfect Jalapeño heat. The word “blandsville.” Fast and easy to make.
Cons: Mushy, flavorless chicken. Food-smacking co-workers. Bland cheese. Unhygienic computer gamers. Not exactly “lean” Pockets.