El Monterey Beef Tamales Review

El Monterey Beef Tamales

We have to admit, El Monterey is kind of a guilty pleasure brand for us. We used to eat a lot of their burritos back when we were broke and working on earning college degrees, so we can’t eat an El Monterey product without feeling a little bit nostalgic.

That said, we do acknowledge that this is a budget-friendly brand focused more on making affordable food than making gourmet-level food. That doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally knock it out of the park (we really love their Charbroiled Chicken & Monterey Jack Cheese Quesadillas, for example).

So we’re excited today to be checking out the El Monterey Beef Tamales, which come in a box of five. Each one of these tamales is individually wrapped in a sheet of parchment paper and a layer of plastic, and there’s an additional plastic bag that holds all five tamales.

El Monterey Beef Tamales

Now, we’ve had tamales from other brands that use a corn husk instead of a layer of parchment paper to wrap their tamales, and this leads to a better flavor overall. So we are a little disappointed by the casual, “parchment is good enough” attitude that El Monterey has. No, El Monterey, parchment is not good enough. Besides, what else are you going to do with all those leftover corn husks?

Anyway, we assume most people will probably cook this in the microwave, so that’s what we did with our tamale. The box also gives instructions for cooking these in a steamer, but that seems like way too much work for an El Monterey product. So we just nuked ours. Note that you’ll have to leave both the parchment and plastic wrap on while cooking one of these, which is a little weird, but whatever. We managed just fine. (If you want to read the full cooking instructions right off the box, check out the package scans at the bottom of this review.)

El Monterey Beef Tamales

Now, we have to admit that it’s really hard to give a fair assessment of these tamales, because we very recently had the Trader Joe’s take on this exact same item. While we didn’t find the TJ’s version to be perfect, the El Monterey version is a huge step down from that, and it’s really hard not to compare the two brands against each other.

Can we just say that the picture on the box is completely wrong? This shows a thick tamale with gobs of ground beef pouring out of it. Not only does this contain a pretty meagre serving of beef, but the beef that is here is shredded, not ground. We don’t know where they even got that photo, but we kind of suspect they just photoshopped the whole thing using stock art of higher-quality food.

The shell ends up turning this dark, almost pumpkiny shade of orange, rather than the cornbread yellow we’re used to. It tastes decent, we suppose, but the corn flavor is a bit muted and the consistency is slightly too dry.

The beef is just okay. It definitely could have been a lot worse, and we’re actually glad to have a shredded beef rather than a ground beef (as the picture on the box erroneously shows), but we can’t help but feel like something’s missing. While there are some added spices, it’s just not enough to really sell us on these tamales. We suppose you could add some cheese and verde salsa to these, which would actually improve them quite a bit…

One tamale contains 310 calories (160 from fat) and 690 mg of sodium. Neither of those numbers is too bad until you take into consideration how small these tamales actually are. We think a hungry person could eat two of them in a sitting, which could be a problem for dieters. That would crank those numbers up to 620 calories (320 from fat) and 1,380 mg of sodium. That’s kind of a lot, right?

The El Monterey Beef Tamales are kind of disappointing, and our expectations weren’t even super high to begin with. We expected something decent-tasting for tamale-lovers on a budget, and what we got was instead just kind of a mess. Plus, these aren’t even that cheap. On sale, a box of five tamales is about the same price as two packs of TJ’s tamales (which come two in a pack). If you have a Trader Joe’s store in your area, we definitely recommend grabbing the TJ’s version over the El Monterey one. Yeah, you’ll get four tamales instead of five, but it’s totally worth it for the huge leap in quality.

To learn more about the nutrition content, ingredients, or cooking instructions for these frozen tamales, check out the package scans below.

El Monterey Beef Tamales
El Monterey Beef Tamales
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1 year ago

El Monterey tamales look more authentic than the Trader Joe’s brand. Hispanic cooks here in California and probably a lot of other states mix some of the meat cooking liquid in with the masa. Also, the beef in the tamale is almost always shredded as they use long-simmered beef chuck meat or pork meat. Also, you don’t want the outside corn masa to be too thick.

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