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.
What is a popper? The jalapeno popper is a thing certainly. Is it a class of things? Is it so different that we can’t consider it simply to be an “appetizer”, an “hors d’ouever” or even a “bite”? What makes cheese-filled jalapenos deserving of the name, but not – say – bacon-wrapped water chestnuts? Sadly, this is beyond the scope of our article today. Suffice to say that if the only requirement to be a popper is that you enjoy popping them in your mouth, then Trader Joe’s Southwest Jalapeno Poppers most definitely fit the bill.
Trader Joe’s has developed for us this tasty new appetizer to grace our plates at sporting events, birthday parties, themed get-togethers, or generally anytime you want people to come over and eat up all your food.
The southwestern popper is a combination of white chicken meat, roasted corn, black beans, diced jalapenos, spinach and jack cheese all rolled up and melted together a meatball-sized glob of mini-Mexican dinner. This glob is more or less held together by a coating of red white and blue tortilla chip crumbs because hey, why not, Trader Joe’s probably has a ton of left over tortilla bits from their bags of Red White and Blue Tortilla chips.
The result of all this are some really good, bite-sized, finger food appetizers that will be eaten up as soon as you set them out. Each popper is, essentially, just one-mouthful of chicken burrito – an idea so simple that it’s shocking Taco Bell hasn’t been doing it for years. It’s all the classic Mexican food ingredients you love (meat, cheese, beans, et al), but instead of bothering to wrap them up they’ve just been left at the bite-size level – perfect for picking up ‘twixt thumb and forefinger and, dare I say it, popping.
If there’s anything not to like about Trader Joe’s Southwester Style Chicken Poppers it’s that they don’t really hold together well. Look at that picture on the box again – notice that there are no toothpicks sticking out of them. That’s because a toothpick would be about as helpful for picking these up off the plate as an acetylene torch would be for picking up marshmallows. The tortilla crumb coating just doesn’t bind the contents very well at all, and even after a good long bake in the oven these poppers are still given to falling apart at the end of a fork.
That means that poppers are really meant to be finger food – but for such a snackable morsel, that’s not really a big problem. Just be sure to buy a couple boxes if you plan on entertaining – they’ll go fast.
Would I Recommend Them: Yup, these appetizers are both filling and tasty.
Would I Buy Them Again: I might set some out for the Super Bowl party.
Final Synopsis: Bite-sized burrito balls, minus the wrap.