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This review could have been short. Really short.
Because the Light in Sodium Bean & Cheese Burrito had the right instructions on it, and the Regular one did not. Reason enough to avoid purchasing the Regular version.
I picked them up kind of on a lark, really. In the past we've preferred to review the Light in Sodium versions of Amy's products whenever we could because there's just so much sodium in convenience foods in general. This time, the two products were on the same shelf in the grocery store, and I was a little surprised to see that even the Regular version was (still) low enough in sodium (at 580 milligrams) to meet our criteria of about 600 milligrams or less per serving. While we couldn't actually do a blinded taste test (for various reasons), we could at least compare the two varieties and see if we would prefer one over the other.
We compared the Nutrition Information on both packages: the only differences between the two are that the Light version has 20 more calories (330 vs. 310), over half the sodium (280 milligrams vs. 580), 5 more carbohydrates, and 1 more gram each of protein and sugars. (Each has 7 grams of fiber.) The ingredients list is identical except that "sea salt" appears second to last in the Light version as opposed to 5th from last in the Regular version. The ingredients must be listed in order of greatest weight to least - so we know that while both contain added salt, the Light version contains less - and does not contain salt substitutes. Interestingly, the last time we reviewed their Regular Bean & Cheese Burrito (over ten years ago), the burrito had only 280 calories and 540 milligrams of sodium.
We started our microwaving with the Regular version. The package directs you to remove the plastic sleeve, then place the burrito on a plate and cover with a lid or another plate. Heat on high for 1 minute, turn the burrito over, heat for another 30-45 seconds, then allow to sit for 1 minute. Our microwave is pretty powerful at 1200 watts, so we always choose the lower end of the recommended cooking times in order to avoid overcooking. The good news was that the burrito did not explode - always a hazard when microwaving burritos. The bad news is that when we cut it in half to taste it, it was cold in the center. Huh?
We looked at the Light in Sodium version, and its instructions are very different: remove the sleeve, wrap loosely in a paper towel, microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Now that's more like it! (Except it did split itself open.) We could have stopped the testing right there: we can't recommend something if the cooking instructions do not heat the food properly; it's not safe. But we decided to forge on, so we put the Regular burrito back in the microwave for another 30 seconds on high.
These burritos are basically what you'd want a bean and cheese burrito to be, with a creamy, cheesy overall flavor, firm pinto beans, a little white rice (moist, not dry), and a mild Mexican style tomato sauce. The amount of filling is appropriate to the amount of (whole wheat) tortilla, which is tender and not dry or chewy.
Did the Regular version taste noticeably saltier than the Light in Sodium version? Not really - but we did notice that although the Regular version seemed to have a stronger overall cheese flavor, we found that we could taste the green bell pepper and ingredients other than the cheese in the Light in Sodium version.
Overall, the Regular version was less subtle than the Light version, with the cheese flavor drowning out the other flavors. Some of the panel preferred one; some preferred the other, but overall the vote went to the Light in Sodium Bean & Cheese Burrito - and not just because it had the correct instructions.
(Yes, we have contacted Amy's to let them know of the problem. If we hear from them we'll let you know.)
Reviewed: May 3, 2013