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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Tucson Tamales

Green Chile & Cheese Tamale and Breakfast Sausage & Cheese Tamale

Green Chile & Cheese Tamale from Tucson Tamale

Just two weeks ago we reviewed our first tamales from Alpha Foods.

Spoiler: that was a mistake.

At $5.79 apiece, not only were they pricy, but they weren't gluten-free. In terms of flavor, the first was disappointing from the standpoint of filling-to-masa ratio, but then the second's "chik'n" had the grainy texture of cheap sausage and an oddly metallic aftertaste.

Today's tamales are from Tucson Tamale, a family-owned business that grew out of one of the owners' Mexican-American family tradition of getting together on the weekend to make tamales. Now, all the tamales are still made by hand and all of their tamales are certified gluten-free.

Two weeks ago the Alpha Foods tamales couldn't decide whether you should take the tamale out of its husk before microwaving. One said one thing, one another. Today Tucson Tamale is straightforward, at least for the two varieties we tested: keep the tamale in its packaging.

There are steaming and microwaving options for both thawed and frozen tamales, but for microwaving from frozen each tamale took 2 1/2 minutes, with 1 minute resting. Then remove tamale from plastic packaging, unwrap the tamale from its corn husk, and eat.

Green Chile & Cheese Tamale from Tucson Tamale, after cooking

This is clearly closer to how tamales are meant to be - at least when you microwave them from frozen. The Green Chile & Cheese tamale has 280 calories, 410 milligrams of sodium, and 3 grams of fiber.

The masa is smooth and creamy and tastes like a big mouthful of fresh corn, but it does seem a little pasty, which may be due to microwaving from frozen. The vibrant, roasted Hatch green chiles are gently spicy, and the cheddar cheese adds plenty of smooth umami.

Another impressive point is that the filling is well-distributed from one end of the tamale to the other: unlike some burritos we've tasted, there's no big mouthful of nothing but wrapper (whether tortilla or masa) at either end. Every bite is full of sweet corn, bittersweet-spicy chile, and umami cheese. At $3.49 we wouldn't mind eating this every day.

Breakfast Sausage & Cheese Tamale from Tucson Tamale

The Breakfast Sausage & Cheese Tamale has 340 calories, much more sodium at 660 milligrams, and less fiber - just 2 grams.

Breakfast Sausage & Cheese Tamale from Tucson Tamale, after cooking

The panel found this tamale to be a little bit dryer than the Green Chile & Cheese tamale - which, again, we are guessing is due to the microwaving process.

But here's what our panelists said about the flavor:

"The flavor of Mom's sausage and cornbread stuffing."

"Definitely a party in my mouth. Is there another one?"

The savory pork has a definite sage note and this tamale includes diced potatoes as well as cheddar and Jack cheeses. It's like eating a really good, soft piece of cornbread topped with pork sausage and cheese. "Where is the down side?"

As noted, the sodium is a little higher than for the Green Chile & Cheese, but that's to be expected from a product containing sausage. Of the two, we think the Green Chile & Cheese is better, but both are really good.

Posted: February 10, 2023