REVIEW: Hot Pockets Sweet Treats

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats  Apple Cinnamon and Cinnamon Roll

Like the illustrious Meryl Streep at the Academy Awards, Hot Pockets on a junk food blog need no introduction. If you’ve never kept a stash of Hot Pockets because they were the only food your kid would eat or because you were too tired to cook or wait for delivery, then you a) are a liar or b) need to tell me your life secrets.

Tongue burns aside, Hot Pockets has done a lot for us over the years, providing shoppers with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options, and now with the Sweet Treats line, it’s moving to desserts.

Why hasn’t the brand thought of this before? Turns out it has. This time, it’s ditched the icing and purchased stock in cinnamon, offering two varieties: Cinnamon Roll and Apple Cinnamon. Each package includes four servings (“sticks”) that measure about two by five inches in size and, after one minute in the microwave, amount to several bites if you want to be a dainty eater.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Cinnamon Roll 1

Cinnamon Roll was first on my menu, and immediately noticeable was the thorough sprinkling of ground cinnamon over the stick’s crust. Except for the cinnamon, the crust was similar to what you would expect from a savory Hot Pocket: a stiff, bready vessel that can be held in your hand and still contain filling without falling apart. While the cinnamon flavor was apparent, I detected almost no sweetness or other accompanying flavor from the crust itself.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Cinnamon Roll 2

Described on the package as a “sweet cream cheese filling,” the contents tasted primarily of (surprise!) warm cinnamon, margarine, and a tinge of underwhelming sweetness. In the microwave, the filling suffered from a little spillage, as Hot Pocket fillings tend to, but in this case, it helped to moisten and flavor the crust’s exterior.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Cinnamon Roll 3

The inside of the stick was under-filled with an oddly-textured mixture that, when scraped out with a fork, could be best described as thick blobs of cinnamon-flavored paste. Only one bite yielded a tang reminiscent of cream cheese but with none of the sweetness promised, and I might not have noticed the taste at all if I hadn’t been searching for it. And as someone who could eat cream cheese/cream cheese icing out of a plastic bag on the highway, I promise I was searching.

So did this Sweet Treat remind me of a cinnamon roll? Not really. While the cinnamon and margarine flavors worked well together, the treat’s lack of pillowy dough and a sweet, creamy component stopped it from achieving middle-of-the-cinnamon-roll-level greatness.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Apple Cinnamon 1

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Apple Cinnamon 2

After the disappointment of Cinnamon Roll, how did Apple Cinnamon fare? Utilizing the same crust, Apple Cinnamon was much less aggressively seasoned, instead balancing the cinnamon and sugar to provide the crust with some extra sweetness and a little bit of crunch.

Hot Pockets Sweet Treats Apple Cinnamon 3

Inside contained a well-balanced mixture of diced apples, thickened sweet goo, and a hint of cinnamon that let the apple flavor shine. While Apple Cinnamon too could have used more filling, the presence of the fruit made the filling feel more ample and satisfying than Cinnamon Roll’s. I would buy this one again as an apple pie substitute in a pinch.

Despite their varying levels of success, Hot Pockets Sweet Treats suffer from a lack of both identity (are they desserts? sweet breakfast options? holiday cinnamon novelties?) and creativity in flavors. With varied crusts and fillings (think peaches in a flaky pie crust or chocolate hazelnut cream in a croissant), Hot Pockets Sweet Treats could have the potential to make a trip to the microwave a little more exciting.

Purchased Price: $2.79 each
Size: 10 oz. box/4 sticks per box
Purchased at: Giant Eagle
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Cinnamon Roll), 6 out of 10 (Apple Cinnamon)
Nutrition Facts: (1 stick) Cinnamon Roll – 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. Apple Cinnamon – 160 calories, 4 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef

Food trucks are all the rage these days. (Or, you know, they were like, a couple of years ago. Tell you what—go back in time a couple of years, read this review, and vigorously nod your head at my lede. Thanks.)

In fact, there’s a good chance you’re probably eating at a food truck this very instant. So am I. But while your Food Truck Experience likely involves artisanally crafted meatballs or, say, some sort of Cajun-Korean fusion sandwich, mine was a Hot Pocket.

You know, Hot Pockets.

Bastion of the down-trodden. Savior of the late night drunkard.

Like food trucks, Hot Pockets were once a cool, exciting happening; but that era went out with the Sega, Reebok Pumps and, SNL being water-cooler conversation. Where once stood a delightful, microwavable rectangle of deliciousness now sits a flaccid box of mediocre ingredients and un-melted cheeses.

Hot Pockets, how I miss thee.

But like your Milli Vanilli cassette and your Hyper-Color shirt, there is a time and place for the HP. A quick-fire lunch. A late night when you’re legally too drunk to make it to Taco Bell. A bizarre occurrence where you’re angry at your colon. These are all prime examples of when one SHOULD pull open the plastic, insert the meat-chunk into the crisping sleeve, and prepare to wreck your toilet.

If you’re doing that, though, be wise. The optimal Hot Pockets flavors rank as such: 1) 4 Meat & 4 Cheese Pizza 2) Beef Taco 3) BBQ Recipe Beef (lol at that name, by the way—“recipe.” What??) 4) Steak & Cheddar 5) Philly Steak 6) “Hickory” Ham & Cheese 7) Meatballs & Mozzarella 8) Any of the “Breakfast” Pockets.

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef 1

This new Pocket—the one I had, apparently “inspired” by a food truck—would be like, 63rd on the list.

According to the box, it was engineered in conjunction with “Komodo Food Truck” which stands for “Dangerously Good Food” and “a gourmet experience like no other.”

Per my Google searching, “Komodo Food Truck” is “a real thing,” but good lord, I’m not sure how they’d ever be okay with such a lackluster representation of their brand. (Oh, well, money.)

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef 2

This thing was garbage, plain and simple. Oh sure, it looked fine from the outside—normal-ass Pocket proceedings. Inside, however, lurked an adventurous mush that appeared to be some sort of miser’s answer to beef stew. There were carrots — lots of them — and a few disingenuous peas, and some brown paste. I saw a few errant specks of “angus beef” but that seriously could’ve been my imagination. Because I didn’t taste them.

Hot Pockets Food Truck Spicy Asian-Style Beef 3

Instead, I tasted sweet, crunchy carrots and a dull hint of heat (the box brags that there are jalapenos involved). Point being, this thing tasted like a warm mass of microwaved newspaper that your grandmother spit out her mostly-eaten piece of grape hard candy into. It was grotesquely sugary and there was but a singular beef to be found.

And really, is that what we want in a Hot Pocket?

Because I thought we demanded better.

But maybe that’s today’s thinking, really. This…entitlement. Maybe I’m viewing this through the lens of a modern man who knows that Milli Vanilli was a grand disappointment, that Pumps won’t make me a better basketball player, and that SNL maybe hasn’t been funny ever. (Or, for arguments sake, it’s funnier than ever and the era we fondly remember was actually mostly pretty bad, save a handful of sketches.)

Anyway, don’t buy this Hot Pocket if you see it loitering. Holy shit, it’s bad and you’ll regret it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Pocket – 290 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Um, nostalgia? Cheap. Sega Genesis.
Cons: Microwaved awfulness. 63rd best Hot Pocket. Grandma’s hard candy. Carrot City.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Snackers Baked Mac & Cheese Bites

Hot Pockets Snackers Baked Mac & Cheese Bites

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results; but they also say if at first you don’t succeed, you should try, try again.  So, are “they” advocating madness?  These are the kind of thoughts that run through my head as I review my second mac & cheese-based product in two reviews.  And a pretty good indicator of why I majored in English rather than Philosophy.

Hopefully you’re all familiar with Hot Pockets, or the slightly lower-calorie alternative Lean Pockets, my preferred indulgence because I like to pretend I could still swim a mile in less than 20 minutes (nope) and we can’t all eat like Michael Phelps. 

You may also be aware of HP’s “Snackers” brand, an attempt to offer a smaller alternative to their usual burrito-sized offerings.  The bag contains 12 pieces (3 servings) of pastry crust stuffed with macaroni & cheese and promises to microwave in just over a minute, which is big because regular Hot Pockets take 2 full minutes and who has that kind of time these days?  Not me, that’s an extra review and a half I could have written.  These things require a craftsman’s touch!

(By the way, I know 4 pieces may not sound like much as a serving size, but given how thick each triangle is, trust me that it isn’t insignificant.  I guess technically you could eat a full package as a meal, but that would be a lot.  Count on either splitting them with a friend or just not having a side dish if you decide to down the whole bag at once.)

Hot Pockets Snackers Baked Mac & Cheese Bites Closeup

Diving in, the crust is fairly light and flaky. This reaffirms the package’s boast that they’re baked, not fried.  If you’ve ever had a Hot Pocket before, you know what to expect, although these taste just a bit lighter.  And as I alluded to regarding the thickness, you’re not getting hosed as far as how much mac & cheese is stuffed into each one.  I certainly didn’t feel short-changed, and microwaving the triangles caused most of them to either spill out some cheese onto the plate or at least partially crack open, reinforcing the point. 

That said, they’re not messy — I didn’t have any problems with cheese spilling out unexpectedly or big pieces flaking off, so feel free to eat these one-handed on the couch without a napkin like the savage you are.  No one is judging.

The macaroni itself is a good consistency, soft but with just enough firmness to be appealing.  It actually looks pretty similar to Kraft Mac & Cheese, but the cheese is a bit different, slightly creamier than Kraft’s flavor without being especially sharp. 

Also, it’s a little hard to describe, but the cheese almost feels like a different component than the macaroni; there’s a lot of it, and it tends to ooze around the cracks and crevices formed by the pasta and spill out in large quantities.  I’m not complaining because it tastes the same either way, but rather than truly coating the macaroni, the cheese feels more like it’s sharing space with it.  They don’t exactly meld, but it’s plentiful and tasty, so I can’t complain too much.

Probably the only other criticism I would level against the Macaroni & Cheese Bites is that they lack that certain edge, the extra component that really distinguishes good products from great products. 

Don’t interpret that as a criticism — I like the Bites, and I wouldn’t at all mind getting them again.  But an extra flavor of cheese inside, maybe something with more bite like colby jack, would’ve really put it over the top.  But as it is, this is a good, solid snacking choice that’s quick and easy to make and will fill you up.  You could do a lot worse.

(Nutrition Facts — 4 pieces — 220 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 460 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 6 grams of protein)

Item: Hot Pockets Snackers Baked Mac & Cheese Bites
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 oz. / approx. 12 pieces
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Bypassing one useless degree for a slightly-less-useless one.  Light, fairly soft crust.  4 pieces makes a good snack.  Only takes a minute and change to make.  Triangles are stuffed full of mac & (especially) cheese.  Swimming references, because when people only notice your sport once every four years, you’ve gotta jump on that opportunity.
Cons: We have yet to break the 1-minute microwave mark.  Pasta and cheese feel more like amiable co-inhabitants than a happy couple.  Not being able to eat like Michael Phelps.  Could use a little more kick.  Not lacking in fat and sodium

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger

Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger

At times, I thought the Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger tasted like a Burger King Rodeo Cheeseburger or BK’s Western BBQ Topper.

If you’re not familiar with those two Burger King sandwiches, because you’re MCD4LYFE or because you eat much healthier than I do, they’re both constructed using a flame-broiled beef patty, cheese, onion rings, and a barbecue sauce served on a bun.

This isn’t the first time Hot Pockets’ mad food scientists were able to make a Hot Pocket taste like a fast food cheeseburger. They originally did it with their Hot Pockets SideShots Mini Cheeseburgers, which I thought tasted like a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger.

Dang, those mad flavor scientists have some mad burger flavor reproducing skills.

Wait a minute. Why can’t those mad flavor scientists make a pepperoni Hot Pocket taste like a pepperoni pizza?

Anyhoo, the box doesn’t specifically say it, but these are Hot Pockets SideShots, which means instead of a crispy outer crust, they have a soft bun-like crust. According to the ingredients list, stuffed within that crust are: cooked beef pattie crumble, pasteurized process cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese, bacon, onions, seasoning, and tomato paste.

What makes these mini microwaveable marvels taste like a couple of Burger King burgers is the “BBQ sauce.” Oh, what’s with the quotations marks? Well, it’s not really a BBQ sauce, since a barbecue sauce isn’t listed in the ingredients. It’s more like a deconstructed barbecue sauce that tastes like the tangy and sweet stuff Burger King uses.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger Closeup

Each bun isn’t bursting with beef pattie crumble and bacon, like in the picture on the front of the packaging, instead there’s a smidgen of beef and an almost equal smidgen of bacon. If you’re expecting crisp bacon in these pockets of hotness, your expectations are way too high. They are as limp as a cardboard box in a rainstorm. The bacon’s smokiness and the added onions also helped these Hot Pockets taste like I’m eating a Burger King Rodeo Cheeseburger. The bun was kind of a letdown because most of the time it was dry and a bit tough, which wasn’t what I experienced with the mostly soft and a little chewy buns of the Hot Pockets SideShots Mini Cheeseburgers.

The Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burgers would make a flavorful snack or a tasty part of a complete lunch or dinner. While it still kind of blows my mind they taste like my beloved Burger King Rodeo Cheeseburger, I found that flavor to be inconsistent as I chowed my way through the two servings.

I hope those Hot Pockets’ mad flavor scientists attempt to emulate the Big Mac’s flavor for next year’s limited edition Hot Pockets flavor and calls it Hot Pockets Limited Edition Special Sauce Burger or something as unimaginative as the name Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 buns – 290 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat*, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 620 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, and a bunch of vitamins and minerals.)

*made with partially hydrogenated oil

Item: Hot Pockets Limited Edition BBQ Recipe Bacon Burger
Price: $2.49 (on sale)
Size: 4 buns
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: They taste like Burger King’s Rodeo Cheeseburger. Tangy and sweet deconstructed barbecue sauce. A nice snack. Contains seven vitamins and minerals.
Cons: Buns were dry and tough at times. Inconsistent flavor. Made with partially hydrogenated oil. Spelling patty with an “ie.” Unimaginative name.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog

Here I go again, reviewing another Hot Pocket. What keeps me coming back to the Hot Pockets product line when I know every pocket will be reminiscent of the last? Do I have a problem? Will my constant attraction to all pockets Hot, Lean, and Pretzeld ultimately be my undoing?

The new Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Hot Pocket may not be the best Hot Pocket Ive ever tasted, but it certainly provides no cure for my stuffed sandwich addiction. In other words, Im hooked on Hot Pockets. Can we make that a slogan and sell it to the Hot Pockets people? I can use the money to pay for treatment.

Psssst…Treatment includes lots and lots of burning the roof of ones mouth.

Lets start with the filling because as we all know, Hot Pockets are like my unattractive friend I want you to ask out: Its whats inside that counts. The name itself spells everything out for you. The Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Hot Pocket contains chili sauce made with beef and chicken pattie crumbles, which is suitably savory.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Innards

It also contains cheese just gooey and flavorful enough to make a good impression. But that dog part? The box claims that the chili sauce contains pork franks. The last time I ate pork frank pieces this tiny was when I was experiencing finger foods for the first time in my high chair. The Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Hot Pocket is filled with more lies than pork franks.

And if youre expecting an awesome exterior to make up for the disappointing interior, youre out of luck. The Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Hot Pocket has an unseasoned, unspectacular crust. In fact, its a lot like a plain ol hot dog bun. (Another thought… just what should I call this outer part of the sandwich if they keep changing the texture? The crust? The bun? WHAT DO I CALL THE POCKET PART OF A HOT POCKET??? Since Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Hot Pockets arent particularly crusty, Im going with “buns.” The quotation marks are in full effect.)

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Bun

I tried to remember the last time I ate an unseasoned and unadorned “bun,” and I realized that these are the same “buns” they use for the Sideshots. I guess the approach with the Sideshots was to mimic a hamburger bun, and they go for the same effect here in a hot dog bun way €¦ but when I consider the filling of the Chili Sauce Cheese Dog Hot Pocket (or lack thereof), I wish they had tried something different.

In fact, they should probably have gone back to the drawing board entirely with this sandwich, starting with the ridiculous name: “Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog.” Its like theyre saying Cheese Dog when they really mean Chili Dog, but they forgot to include the dog. Have the creators of this Hot Pocket never had a chili dog before in their lives? Why not just call it “Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Cheese?” Eliminate the weird “Sauce” part and any reference to HOT DOGS altogether. With the scanty amount of pork franks in this Hot Pocket, it wouldve been better to let us make the pleasant discovery of pork frank pieces in our chili-infused sandwich, and then wed be happy instead of incensed.

Okay, I just went on a long rant about a microwaveable sandwich. Maybe I do have a problem.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 280 calories, fat calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 620 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein, 15% Calcium, 10% Iron, 0% Vitamin C, 6% Vitamin A.)

Item:  Hot Pockets Limited Edition Chili Sauce Cheese Dog
Price: $2.49 (on sale)
Size:  2 sandwich
Purchased at: Ralphs
Rating:  5 out of 10
Pros:  Suitably savory chili with beef and chicken pattie crumbles. Hooked on Hot Pockets. Gooey cheese. Will not negatively affect my Hot Pockets addiction.
Cons: Filled with more lies than pork franks. Burning the roof of your mouth. Unseasoned bun. Quotation marks.