Since the dawn of creation, mankind has faced two fundamental questions when it comes to procuring food. The first, “How do I cook this?” is easily answered thanks to the advent of microwaves, grills, and fancy sous-vide machines I can’t afford. The second, and perhaps exponentially more important for our survival, is a question which is not so easily answered: “How can I stuff this with cheese?”
Thanks to the recent Pact of Saltiness agreed between Auntie Anne’s and Arby’s, this question just got a whole lot easier to answer. As if sent just in time for the dog days of summer baseball season, the new Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets combine cheddar cheese with the salty and yeasty greatness of a soft pretzel. What’s more, having them available hot and ready allows me to avoid awkwardly standing in the grocery store frozen foods section, all the while staring at a box of Nacho Super Pretzels while wondering, “Do I dare?”
I’ll be honest with you if you’re willing to be honest with yourself. As you’d expect, these are absolute salt bombs. But isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for in a fast food side item? Last I checked, we weren’t raving about the crispness of the lettuce in the McDonald’s side salad, or the bright sweetness of the grapes in a Chick-fil-A fruit cup. No, Arby’s Pretzel Bites are more primordial in their appeal, and despite leaving me feeling one skipped heartbeat away from a heart attack, I kind of liked them.
No one is going to confuse these for a main course. The bites are definitely “nugget” sized, with a shiny buttery-spread coating and soft feel beneath coarse grains of pretzel salt. Mine were definitely warm, fogging up the plastic container so much that I grew concerned they might steam themselves into a glutinous ball of cheese and pretzel salt.
Wasting no time in averting such a disaster, I discovered the give of each bite to be gentle, with a malty and earthy sweetness balancing a savory butter taste and, of course, the crunchy salt granules. Likewise, I enjoyed the moist and chewy crumb, which avoided the dry and crumbling texture that prepackaged pretzel rolls sometimes have.
I realize processed cheese is amongst the most polarizing topics in our world today, so I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying you’ll either love or hate the filling. I personally love it. Thick, but gooey in a way that would allow you to sculpt a Leaning Tower of Cheeza, the cheddar filling is plentiful while having that je ne sais quoi flavor of a melted then cooled slice of a good old Kraft Single. On its own it might pass for too much, but combined with the malty sweetness and buttery texture on the pretzel bites, it creates an addictive grilled cheese effect.
I admit the processed cheese makes the bites overly salty, but at the same time it creates a snack that’s good enough to eat without sauces. That said, I appreciate Arby’s open dispensers of Honey Mustard Sauce, which add a nice blend of sharpness and sweetness to the dipped bites.
While I liked the bites, I do think they are a little on the pricey side for their size, and freely admit their heavily salted flavor and overly chewy texture will definitely turn some off. Still, they solve an age old snacking question without me having to take any undue risks, and satisfy a need for a salty and cheesy indulgence.
(Nutrition Facts – 5 pieces or 83 grams – 210 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 1560 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 1 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein..)
Item: Arby’s Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 5 pieces
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Guilty pleasure salt-bomb appeal combines nicely with malty sweetness of the pretzel. Cheese is thick and gooey with some actual cheddar flavor. Buttery spread aftertaste. Pretzel portion tastes fresh baked and yeasty.
Cons: A little expensive for the serving size. An awesome source of sodium, and by awesome I mean capable of giving you a heart attack. Will completely turn some people off with saltiness and thick processed cheese texture. Getting yelled at in the grocery store for holding the freezer door open.