4 Types of Tamales At Trader Joe’s (Cost, Recipes & Reviews)

9 mins read

When it comes to frozen entrees, Trader Joe’s has their system dialed in. So, it’s no wonder that they have been a long-time supplier of some pretty popular frozen tamales.

If you’re wondering what a tamale is, it’s pretty simple. Tamales are made primarily from ground corn and are shaped like a burrito. Wrapped in a corn husk, tamales usually contain a mixture of cheeses, veggies, and/or meats at their center. Served hot, tamales are savory, delicious, and filling.

Tamales are cooked by steaming, and all of the tamales sold at Trader Joe’s are pre-steamed and fully cooked. All you have to do is re-heat them and enjoy.

Trader Joe’s chicken Cheese Tamales

What Kind Of Tamales Do Trader Joe’s Have?

As one can expect at Trader Joe’s, their tamales don’t just come in one variety. In fact, Trader Joe’s carries up to five different varieties of tamales at a time.

At my local Trader Joe’s, I was able to find the following varieties:

  • Trader Joe’s Beef Tamales
  • Trader Joe’s Chicken & Cheese Tamales
  • Trader Joe’s Cheese & Green Chile Tamales
  • Cedar Lane Sweet Corn Tamales

At other TJ’s locations, you might also be able to find Cedar Lane Pulled Pork Tamales depending on supply.

The cost of Trader Joe’s Tamales varies by type and brand:

Trader Joes Tamales Price

Trader Joe’s meat tamales cost $3.99 per bag (each bag contains two tamales), while their vegetarian tamales cost a little bit less at $3.79.

Cedar Lane Sweet Corn Tamales cost $3.49, which also includes two tamales.

Below, you’ll find the packaging for each of the four tamale varieties I found, including ingredients lists and nutrition information.

Trader Joe’s Beef Tamales

Trader Joe’s Beef Tamales

Trader Joe’s beef Tamales nutrition

Trader Joe’s Chicken & Cheese Tamales

Trader Joe’s chicken Cheese Tamales

Trader Joe’s chicken cheese Tamales nutrition

Trader Joe’s Cheese & Green Chile Tamales

Trader Joe’s Cheese & Green Chile Tamales

Trader Joe’s Cheese & Green Chile Tamales Nutrition

Cedar Lane Sweet Corn Tamales

Cedar Lane Sweet Corn Tamales

Cedar Lane Sweet Corn Tamales Nutrition

Are Trader Joe’s Tamales Healthy?

The first thing to know here is that Trader Joe’s store brand tamales are significantly healthier than the Cedar Lane Tamales. TJ’s brand doesn’t add any sugar to their recipe, whereas Cedar Lane has 6 grams of added sugar per serving (and we’re honestly not sure why… who adds sugar to a tamale?).

The Cedar Lane tamales are also higher in cholesterol and fat, likely because they add another non-traditional ingredient to their recipe: butter. (Again… just why?)

Our suggestion is that if you’re trying to be health conscious while also enjoying some delicious tamales, steer clear of Cedar Lane.

When it comes to TJ’s brand tamales, the two main things to be aware of are that tamales in general are pretty high in sodium and carbohydrates. But when it comes to fat and sugar, these tamales are impressively low on both fronts. They also contain some healthy fiber and protein, both critical macronutrients for everyone’s diet.

The question of how often you should eat tamales depends on who you are and what your dietary concerns are. In some parts of the world, tamales are a staple food eaten regularly, so as long as you’re not concerned about your carb intake, then there’s really no reason not to eat tamales as often as you want.

Another benefit of opting for TJ’s brand is that their brand policy guarantees that the corn used to make these frozen tamales is non-GMO. Trader Joe’s Tamales are also naturally gluten free.

How To Make Trader Joe’s Tamales?

Trader Joe's Tamales Cooking Instruction

Preparing TJ’s Tamales is super easy since they are pre-cooked and just need to be re-heated before eating.

To prepare your tamales in the microwave:

  1. Remove one or both tamales from their plastic packaging.
  2. Wrap the tamale(s) with a wet paper or cloth towel and place on a microwave-safe dish.
  3. Heat on high for 3-4 minutes or until heated through (cook times will vary).
  4. Let stand for 1 minute.
  5. Carefully remove from towel and corn husk wrapper before serving.

To prepare your tamales in a steamer:

  1. Place about 1 inch of water into a pot with a steamer basket on top and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
  2. Remove tamale(s) from their plastic packaging and place in the steamer basket.
  3. Cover and steam for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.
  4. Carefully remove from steamer and let stand for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from corn husk wrapping before serving.

Trader Joe’s Tamales Recipe

One of the best things about tamales is that they are a meal on their own. Pre-cooked and easy to re-heat, Trader Joe’s Tamales don’t need anything added to them in order to be enjoyed.

That said, there are plenty of ways to spice up a tamale to make it even more of a satisfying meal.

To make your Trader Joe’s Tamales even more delicious, try out these ideas!

You can also try getting even more creative by giving this Easy Tamale Casserole recipe a go from Norine’s Nest. This recipe calls for whole, ready-made tamales, so TJ’s frozen tamales would be the perfect go-to ingredient.

Trader Joe’s Tamales Review

First, we’ll get the bad news out of the way. Cedar Lane Tamales just… don’t sound good. We weren’t even looking for negative reviews, and this is what we found from some Reddit users.

Trader Joe's Tamales Review 1

Now, onto the good news.

TJ’s shoppers seem to really like the store’s own brand of tamales.

Here are some great reviews about Trader Joe’s Chicken & Cheese Tamales:

Trader Joe's Tamales Review 2

And some more about their Beef Tamales:

Trader Joe's Tamales Review 4


How long do Trader Joe’s tamales last in the fridge?

To extend the shelf life of your tamales, they should be stored in the freezer. However, if you store them in the fridge, you can expect them to stay fresh for 3-5 days. Be aware that Trader Joe’s brand foods do not contain preservatives and that corn ferments easily, so tamales kept out of the freezer may spoil quite quickly.

Are Trader Joe’s sweet corn tamales gluten-free?

Yes. All tamales sold at Trader Joe’s are naturally gluten free.

Did Trader Joe’s discontinue green chile tamales?

Nope! Trader Joe’s still carries their Cheese & Green Chile Tamales in the frozen section. Some store locations might not stock all varieties, and supply chain issues sometimes interfere with product availability.

How do you warm up Trader Joe’s tamales?

Tamales can be heated either in the microwave or in a steamer on the stovetop. They should not be heated in the oven or in a frying pan, as this could burn the outer corn husk wrapper.


Whether you’re stocking your freezer up with easy snacks and lunches or just satisfying a craving for some Mexican food, Trader Joe’s Tamales are the perfect answer. They’re fairly inexpensive, decently nutritious, and just plain delicious. Remember to grab the TJ’s brand tamales over Cedar Lane if you can. Enjoy!

1 Comment

  1. I find the best way to cook trader Joes’ tamales is to soak six or so paper towels in water and then wrap them around the frozen tamale with the corn husk on. Put it in the microwave with a cover for 4.5 minutes and then unwrap the them. The wet paper towels steam the tamales perfectly, keeping them moist, while just microwaving them alone dries them out.

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