I really feel like Trader Joe’s Inner Bean fails on multiple levels. Namely, two levels. It isn’t a very tasty snack, and the name is confusing gibberish that makes people angry. Nevertheless, there is something interesting going on here, and that is worth looking at.
Let’s lay out all the problems first and see if we can figure this out. First, What does “embrace your inner bean” mean? I assume Trader Joe’s must have a reason for putting a perplexing quasi-pun on the package, but I can seriously not understand why. Yes, I know that they sell a similar snack called “Contemplate Inner Peas”. Yes, I get that this bean snack is a spiritual successor to that pea snack. The crucial difference is that while “contemplate inner peace” is a phrase you might expect someone to be familiar with, “Embrace your inner being” is confusing even with the whole bean part left out. It’s just a very, very strange name that tells you nothing about the product except that it involves beans somehow and that, apparently, Trader Joe’s has very high ideals for them.
Even if TJ gave this snack a purely descriptive name, like “Trader Joe’s Air-Puffed Bean Snack”, it would still have some hurdles to clear. What, after all, is an air-puffed bean snack? Well basically, as you will see if you buy this bag, a Cheeto that is made from milled black beans instead of corn. The result is something that does not look or taste very much like Cheetos at all.
Despite the airy content of each crisp, these bean snacks are surprisingly rigid and dense. If you want to chow down on some of these you really have to commit to the bite. In fact, the extreme structural integrity of these ostensibly grab-‘em-‘n-munch’em fun snacks inspired me to construct a small but sturdy tower from the bean treats and see how many cans of Coke it could support. Stacking the bean puffs into a Lincoln-log style cabin, I was able to stack nearly 3 cans of coke before the structure collapsed – a feat that I doubt even Flamin’ Hot Cheetos could replicate.
Taste-wise, Embrace Your Inner Beans are much more approachable. The beans have been seasoned with salt and a dash of pepper that scratches that salty snack food itch. These crunchable bean nuggets will pass snuff for any typical junk food chip at first blush. They’ve got that sort of generic, fried starchiness common to potato chips, Cheetoes, Bugles, etc. However, this taste quickly gives way to the tell-tail mealy, bean taste common to lentils everywhere. It’s not a bad bean taste – it’s just a bean taste. If you’re okay with that in your snack food, then that’s not a problem. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to be reminded of beans while pigging out, this is something to be aware of. They are, more than anything, like a dry crispy version of salted edamame.
Taste aside, there’s one area where these bean snacks excel, and that’s in the calorie count. If you wanted to sit down and pig out on this entire bag, it would only cost you less than 400 calories, while simultaneously packing in 15 grams of protein. Calorie-wise, that’s equivalent to less than 1/2 of one fun-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Despite the name, despite the hard exterior, these beans are amazingly healthy for a fried food, and still manage to satisfy that gluttonous little voice that demands salt fat all day long. Trader Joe’s has a wide variety of “reduced guilt” or “healthy” alternatives to more fattening snack foods, but generally speaking, it’s a trade off that isn’t worth it. In this case, Trader Joe’s Embrace Your Inner Beans hits that sweet spot of “healthy enough” and “tasty enough” – and that’s a rare combination.
Would I Recommend Them: Yes, these are a good healthy snack… if you’re okay with beans.
Would I Buy Them Again: No, these are too bean-y for me.
Final Synopsis: Like healthier, bean-based Cheetos.