Friday, January 13, 2006

Hot Tamales and Hotter Tamales

I’ve always loved cinnamon. It breaks my rule about not liking “red candy” which I made for myself at the worldly age of nine, so it may just be a rule about not liking cherry candy. My dislike for red goes back to the Red Dye #2 scare in the 70s where all red candies seemed to be called “poison” by concerned parents. To this day I can’t stand red sweetarts.

As a kid I would get the box of SweeTarts at the movie theater and before eating any of them during the show I would touch my tongue to it to see what flavor it was. Reds were dismissed. Now as an adult I carefully dump out the box and remove the reds, usually giving them to The Man, who doesn’t mind me poisoning him at all.


Hot Tamales are like super cinnamony jelly beans. They used to come in a box, which meant that they were more likely to get either cloudy and sticky from dampness or extra hard from drying out. But the boxes were fun because they would make noise. You could shake it to find out how much you had left and it presented a satisfying sound while you were popping them at the movies, not that annoying plastic wrap sound.

This particular bag I picked up seemed rather odd, it had a hint of watermelon flavor to it. I can’t figure why, as I don’t think Mike and Ike’s come in watermelon flavor. But Just Born also makes mini-jelly beans called Teenie Beenies so maybe there was some cross contamination there. The real reason I picked them up was because I saw the new Hot Tamales Fire candies and wanted to compare because the regular Hot Tamales said ““Now with More Kick!” on the package.


I think Hot Tamales have been introduced in extra-zested versions before, in fact, I recall buying something in a box last September in San Francisco in a box and being rather disappointed that they were neither as hot as I wished nor as fresh. (They were cloudy looking and very grainy ... I ate them anyway.)

Happily the Hot Tamales Fire did not have a watermelon taste to it. They were wonderfully sizzling, with a good burn that actually hit my throat a little hard a few times. If I have a choice in the future between the two, I’ll definitely go for the Fire ones.


I think I could tell the difference between the two if placed side by side. The Fire ones are a little more clear, a little darker red. The originals are a good red color but perhaps more opaque. After eating about half of each bag, I mixed the two. Now I’ll just take what I get.

I’ve always found spicy candies to be very good driving candy. When I’m going long distances I like a candy with feedback, something that keeps my glands salivating (so I need less water) and keeps me awake. I usually opt for hard candies as they’re easy to travel with, but when I think of it, I usually grab some Hot Tamales.

As a side note, I checked out the Hot Tamales website, and it’s pretty cool. I mean hot. Whatever. ... I was expecting something tired and circa 1998 like you get at the Annabelle’s website, instead it’s really nicely designed flash site (loads quickly anyway, not terribly informative). I also saw on the Just Born site that Mike and Ikes come in a few different flavor combos since I last tried some, so I’ll see if someone carries those.

While cinammon isn’t eligible for the Scoville Hotness Scale (which measures capsaicin, not Cinnamaldehyde), I’d rate regular Hot Tamales as the equivalent of a Poblano Chili Pepper - a good bit of spice, but little burn. I’d give the Hot Tamales Fire a rating on par with Seranno Pepper, which means that you get a good burn going in your throat and if it catches you wrong, you might tear up.

Name: Hot Tamales & Hot Tamales Fire
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Just Born
Place Purchased: 7-11 (Hollywood)
Price: $.85
Size: 2.12 ounces
Calories per ounce: 104
Categories: Jelly, United States, Just Born

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:34 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. The only red candies I’ve ever despised were red jelly beans (especially JellyBellies)—Is it Cherry? Cinnamon? Strawberry? Perhaps new Vampire Mix Blood?  Never know what’chu’re gonna get.

    As for Hot Tamales themselves—- Blech. Never liked ‘em.  But I do like the color of the Fire ones….

    Comment by Tindy on 1/13/06 at 6:07 pm #
  2. Speaking of noisy boxes, don’t tell me you never made a horn out of one of them!

    Comment by Russ on 1/13/06 at 9:06 pm #
  3. Cinnamaldehyde??
    i’m sure you just made up that word…

    Comment by Rachel B. on 1/14/06 at 4:12 pm #
  4. Red dye #2? I thought it was red dye #40 that was poison! At least that’s what I’m telling my children… :^o Maybe this is the more modern poison

    And more speaking of boxes, I like to inhale deeply from newly-emptied Junior Mint boxes…

    Comment by Tricia on 1/14/06 at 10:00 pm #
  5. Red dye #2 was yanked, but its lethality is questionable. It was more of a political thing than anything else (surprise!).

    Comment by Russ on 1/15/06 at 12:26 am #
  6. I remember the red hot tamales in boxes, those were great.  And yes, I did the “Box-horn” thing… I remember doing that with Lemonheads and Boston Baked Beans boxes actually.

    Comment by Bryan on 1/15/06 at 9:55 pm #
  7. Cybele's avatar

    Tricia - red dye #40 may also be poison, but #2 hasn’t been on the market since the mid seventies. It’s the reason that the red M&M disappeared. Even though it wasn’t made with red dye #2, they didn’t want people to be afraid of red M&Ms; so they removed that color from the package.

    Russ - I don’t know if the Mike and Ike & Tamales boxes ever folded that way for making a noisemaker out of it. But I definitely did that with my Lemonhead’s box. Unfortunately the boxes aren’t made the way anymore.

    Comment by Cybele on 1/16/06 at 10:01 am #
  8. There IS one major downside to the box packaging method.  If one were to leave a not-quite-completely closed box of hot tamales on its side in a moving vehicle, the slightest shift in momentum would cause the candies to slide gracefully from the box and into the nether regions of the van (i.e. the carpet.)  If left unchecked (and in the hot sun for say, a week) you _may_ have a sticky mess on your hands (floor.)  But don’t ask me, I didn’t have to clean the rental van, I just ate (some of) the tamales.

    Comment by The Jack on 1/19/06 at 7:45 am #
  9. When I worked at a movie theater in high school, Hot Tamales were my candy of choice. I must have eaten 20 pounds of them in the year-and-a-half I worked there. It’s been forever since I’ve had them. I’m sad to see the box go, but I’m excited to try the new flavor.

    Comment by Nanette on 1/22/06 at 11:22 am #
  10. Cybele's avatar

    The Jack - I once ruined a beautiful Coach backpack by spilling a box of Junior Mints in the bottom and then leaving it in the car on a hot sunny day.

    Nanette - fear not, they still make the theater boxes. I saw them at Walgreen’s just yesterday! I guess they were just changing out the single serve packaing.

    Comment by Cybele on 1/22/06 at 6:23 pm #
  11. oh, yay! mmm. hot tamales. now i want some, badly. smile

    glad to know there are entries i still haven’t read. :D

    Comment by Pam on 5/04/06 at 9:10 am #
  12. haha, i’ve never liked Hot Tamales…i absolutely can’t STAND spicy candy…candy should be sweet, in my opinion. oh well.
    Mike&Ike; are so fun to chew (:

    Comment by EMiLY on 10/14/06 at 7:11 pm #
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