REVIEW: Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Chipotle Ranch

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which I refer to endearingly as OG Hot Cheetos, and I go way back. Almost three decades ago, its street cred and my love for them was established. They were basically the currency of my elementary school days – traded in snack-size Ziploc bags for durables like shakeable Dr. Grip mechanical pencils (very cool back then too).

Of course, my enterprising after-school institution caught on. They sold “individual packs” to us crazed hooligans for 25 cents. Adult me is pretty sure that those one-ounce packs were the kind you buy in a variety pack labeled “not for individual sale.” Point is – the OG trusty, just-enough-heat deliciousness has never failed me.

So when the new Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Chipotle Ranch hit shelves, I thought, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” However, I went in with little to no expectations because I wasn’t quite sure what chipotle ranch was supposed to taste like dusted on a “cheese-flavored snack.” To me, it sounded more like a dipping sauce or something over-slathered on a sad sandwich.

There was no shock value when I opened the bag because they looked like the same ol’ same ol’. When examined closely, I saw more flecks of seasoning so it looked slightly redder, but that was about it. What did shock me was the BBQ-esque smell coming from the bag. I rationalized that chipotle was supposed to evoke a smokier connotation, which could be similar to BBQ. I also couldn’t un-smell Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists.

Even as I took my first crunch, the more pronounced corn flavor totally reminded me of said Fritos. The initial corn note evolved into a whisper of ranch – thank goodness, the last thing I wanted was cool ranch-esque flavoring – that was rounded out by a slight smokiness from the chipotle, and ended with heat.

I will say that it wasn’t spicy as the OG. The ranch seems to dampen the heat, but I was okay with that because it didn’t completely kill the burn. The diminished heat actually allowed me to shovel them into my mouth at a quicker pace. There was definitely still an undeniable addictiveness. But it was a mind-trip the entire time like when I ate a deconstructed Caesar salad at some hoity-toity restaurant. It tasted like Caesar salad but the form looked nothing like it. But in this case, I was tasting Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists but seeing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Just to make sure, I did a taste-off between the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Chipotle Ranch and Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists. They definitely smelled similar, but said Fritos tasted way more pungently BBQ, sweeter from the honey, and weren’t spicy at all. So there’s definitely a difference.

If you put a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in front of me, I’m going to eat them no matter what flavor. But, if I had a choice, I’d stick to the OG.

(Nutrition Facts – about 21 pieces – 170 calories, 11 grams total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 8.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Still have an addictive quality. Diminished heat allowed me to shovel Cheetos into my mouth at a quicker pace. Not exactly like Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists. Complex flavor journey – giving R&D props!
Cons: OG Flamin’ Hot Cheetos still taste better. Tasting Fritos but seeing Cheetos. Lots of justification needed for the flavor nuances, like why it’s less spicy, etc.

REVIEW: Limited Time Only Tostitos Cantina Sopapilla Cinnamon & Sugar Tortilla Chips

Limited Time Only Tostitos Sopapilla Cinnamon  Sugar Tortilla Chips

The Limited Time Only Tostitos Cantina Sopapilla Cinnamon & Sugar Tortilla Chips bag suggested I top ice cream with the chips. Since vanilla is THE neutral flavor, I went through the difficult task of finding vanilla ice cream.

Now some of you might’ve read that last line and thought I was being sarcastic because buying vanilla ice cream is super easy, but I was not.

I spent an unusual amount of time in the ice cream aisle deciding what to pick up. I’m pretty sure I looked like a shoplifter to the security guards watching me from the cameras as I walked up and down the aisle, interrogating myself about vanilla ice cream.

Should I get regular vanilla, vanilla bean, French vanilla, or Madagascar vanilla?

Should I get ice cream or gelato?

Or should I be lame and get frozen dairy dessert or frozen yogurt?

If I get the Dreyer’s, do I get Slow-Churned or Grand?

Should I buy a pint, quart, half-gallon, or that huge one gallon pail that I can reuse to make sand castles?

Do I go with the organic Three Twins?

Should I be cheap and get the store brand?

Or should I support local companies?

Do I go non-dairy?

Should I settle for Cool Whip?

But thank goodness I went through the effort and eerie feeling that someone was watching me to pick a vanilla ice cream because the Tostitos Sopapilla Tortilla Chips NEEDS ice cream or something to make them more snackable.

Oh, by the way, I picked up Häagen-Dazs.

Limited Time Only Tostitos Sopapilla Cinnamon  Sugar Tortilla Chips 3

The seasoning is inconsistent from chip to chip. Some have so much of it that they look like they were in a Tatooine sand storm. But most have a dusting that looks as if they were just standing outside on a calm Tatooine evening staring at a double sunset wanting something more in life.

Limited Time Only Tostitos Sopapilla Cinnamon  Sugar Tortilla Chips 2

The heavily seasoned chips taste very similar to the Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs, which I did enjoy. There’s even the slight butteriness those puffs have. As for the chips that have a light dusting, there’s a hint of cinnamon flavor, but it’s not bold enough to make me want to stuff my face with them.

But did the ice cream I painstakingly picked out help make the chips more face stuffable?

Limited Time Only Tostitos Sopapilla Cinnamon  Sugar Tortilla Chips 4

Yes. The combo has a cereal and milk vibe to it, and it’s now the only way I’ll eat them. So thanks for the suggestion, Tostitos Cantina Sopapilla Cinnamon & Sugar Tortilla Chips bag.

Basically, these sweet tortilla chips are like regular tortilla chips in that they taste fine by themselves, but they’re really meant to be paired with something else — salsa for regular tortilla chips and ice cream for these.

Oh, by the way, sopapilla is now my new favorite word to say. Sorry, bumfuzzle. You have been replaced!

(Nutrition Facts – about 14 chips – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.39*
Size: 9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Longs Drugs/CVS
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Reminds me of the Cheetos Sweetos Puffs. Goes great with vanilla ice cream, the combo has a cereal and milk vibe to it. Saying sopapilla.
Cons: Inconsistent amount of seasoning. Most chips don’t have a strong cinnamon flavor. Needs something else to make them more snackable. So many questions when it comes to picking up vanilla ice cream.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Ritz Crisp & Thins (Salt & Vinegar and Cream Cheese & Onion)

Ritz Crisp  Thins  Salt  Vinegar and Cream Cheese  Onion

When I first heard that Nabisco’s Ritz Crackers were moving into chips, I was terrified. I have PTSD from Cheez-It’s attempt to move into chips with Grooves. Grooves didn’t do the Cheez-It cracker justice! I have almost the same love for Ritz as I do for Cheez-It; I love those damn buttery Ritz crackers. Point is, I had high expectations for Ritz’s new Crisp & Thins.

So, what are they?

It’s Ritz’s attempt to hop on the “Better For You” train – touting oven-baked, not fried, potato & wheat chips. It launched in the U.K. first and now they’re rolling out globally. There’s a lineup of four flavors on U.S. shelves: Sea Salt, Bacon, Salt & Vinegar, And Cream Cheese & Onion. I picked out Salt & Vinegar (because I like salt & vinegar chips) and Cream Cheese & Onion (because I kept thinking it was sour cream & onion and wanted to see why Ritz had to be all frou frou about it).

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion

I first smelled the Cream Cheese & Onion ones, which didn’t really smell like much. On that basis, I vigorously inhaled the Salt & Vinegar, which was a mistake. The pungent vinegar invaded my olfactory with no mercy. 100 percent user error, not Ritz’s fault.

The chips themselves were very, for the lack of a better word, artsy but the kind of pretentious and annoying artsy. I say this because they couldn’t just choose a damn circle or square like all other crackers. Instead, they chose a puddle shape. But we all know that it probably took their manufacturing team way too long to perfect the mold for these. These puddles also had seemingly random air pockets/bubbles.

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion Orange

In the same vein of pretentious artsy, it looked like they tried very hard to have a baked look – one side of the chip had scorch marks. They really reminded me of naan bread – oblong-ish shape, air pockets, and with the occasional imperfect scorch marks. The Cream Cheese & Onion had a slight orange tinge, while the coloring of the Salt & Vinegar was just normal, pasty cracker color.

Ritz Salt  Vinegar Crisp  Thins Salt  Vinegar

At this point, I concluded that these would probably be nothing like the buttery crackers that I know and love. But, you know what, I was okay with it – I knew I couldn’t hold Ritz back from their healthy chip dreams.

The Cream Cheese & Onion surprisingly tasted more like subtle cheddar & sour cream than sour cream & onion. Trusty ol’ cheddar & sour cream is always salty cheesy goodness, but it’s nothing mind blowing and I’m still eye rolling at the artsy fartsiness. However, I can’t believe I dismissed the air pocket/bubbles because they made the texture. Something about the crunch of the cracker with the extra oomph from the air pockets is amazing. Never judge a book by its cover, y’all!

As for the Salt & Vinegar, same textural amazingness but unlike other salt & vinegar flavored chips, there was a subtle-y sweet aftertaste. After almost an entire bag of them, I concluded that it might just be from the chip itself being wheat and potato that’s helping to balance out the vinegar tang.

After two bags of munching, I really appreciated that my fingers weren’t left with a greasy, powdery residue. There was some, but nothing like the usual chip residue mess.

Valiant “Better For You” attempt, Ritz! It might actually work; I liked the Salt & Vinegar ones so much that I’d consider replacing my usual salt & vinegar kettle chips with them.

(Nutrition Facts – 21 Pieces – 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 270 grams of potassium 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price:
Size: 7.1 oz. bag
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cream Cheese & Onion)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Salt & Vinegar)
Pros: Nothing like a Ritz Cracker, but tasty AND “better for you”. Textural amazingness. No greasy, powdery residue.
Cons: Why the artsy fartsy chip shape & names? Cream Cheese & Onion is just semantics for cheddar & sour cream.

REVIEW: Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

If a Cheeto isn’t cheese flavored, is it even a Cheeto? Would a Cheeto by any other name smell as sweet?

These questions have puzzled scholars and philosophers for ages. Ok, well at least since 2015 when Frito-Lay first introduced Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs. The brand’s first foray into sweet snacks was, shall we say, a little underwhelming. So imagine my surprise to see that Cheetos Sweetos have multiplied and their new Caramel Puffs have bounced onto grocery store shelves just in time for what Frito-Lay calls the “spring snacking season,” but normal people might call “Easter.”

I imagine that this is all a sneaky ploy by Frito-Lay so that moms and dads – sorry…I mean, Easter Bunnies – everywhere might make room in Easter baskets for some crunchy snacks. Judging by the caramel-induced sugar high that Chester Cheetah seems to be having on the packaging, I imagine that this would be welcomed by children all over the world.

I opened my bag of Caramel Puff Sweetos, and was immediately accosted by a horribly artificial caramel scent, reminiscent of an off-brand candle you’d pick up at a drug store on the way to a birthday party you forgot about. The smell wafted throughout my entire apartment, causing my boyfriend to shriek with disgust from another room.

Each Sweeto is vaguely “Neil Armstrong’s bootprint on the moon” shaped, and is dusted with a heaping helping of brown powder. Surprisingly, unlike regular Cheetos, the powder stays firmly adhered to the Sweeto and doesn’t come off on your fingertips, which I guess is good for keeping astronaut gloves clean.

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs 2

Preparing for the worst, I popped a Sweeto into my mouth, and was shocked by how quickly the Sweeto dissolved on my tongue like a sickly-sweet breath strip. The artificial caramel flavor is only recognizable for a second, and then is immediately replaced by the taste of corn, which is then further replaced by an off-putting aftertaste. It’s like the Matryoshka doll of bad snack food.

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs 3

While Chester the Cheetah’s caramel-induced-fever-dream on the packaging would make you think differently, there’s really no fun in eating Sweetos. When it comes down to it, they’re a jazzed up snack that blasphemes Cheetos. Sweetos aren’t sweet enough to earn that name, although I suppose Corntos doesn’t have the same ring to it.

In conclusion, a bag of Sweetos Caramel Puffs in your Easter basket is like the coal in your Christmas stocking. Be a good boy or girl and you’ll get some Flamin’ Hots instead.

(Nutrition Facts – about 25 pieces – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: “Look Ma, clean hands!” The Electric Sweetos Acid Test. Making bad Easter puns.
Cons: Eau du drug store candle. Barely discernable sweetness. Incredibly artificial.

REVIEW: Spicy Jalapeño Fritos

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos

Long live Fritos.

To misquote the legendary Braveheart, William Wallace:

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our FRITOS!”

Now you might be thinking that only the brave of heart would dare try the new Spicy Jalapeño Fritos. Well, let me tell you something, cowardly sirs and madams, you’d be doing yourselves a disservice with that thought process.

When a new flavor of Fritos corn chips hits shelves, I hit the ground running. They might not drop with the frequency of their flashy brother Lay’s, but they’ve kept me quite happy over the years.

So with the assurance that Fritos have always been good to me, I grabbed their “newest” flavor with a ferocity that nearly popped the bag. I put “newest” in quotes because there have been Jalapeño Fritos varieties in the past, but these are new to me.

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos 2

After intentionally popping the bag, I was hit with a smell reminiscent of Taco Supreme Doritos. Remember those delicious bad boys?

The corn chips looked standard. They had a light coating of flavor dust, but that was almost undetectable to the naked eye.

The taste was distinctly jalapeño. They’re spicy, but not crazy spicy. I’m not one of those hot sauce aficionados who likes to marathon sweat when I eat, so I can imagine these being pretty tame to all you Spiceboys and Spicegirls. Whether your Taco Bell sauce is Mild or Diablo, I think they pack enough punch for all to enjoy, so spice up your life.

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos 3

I got down about half a bag and had to stop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can easily get lost in a bag of Fritos and polish it off in one sitting, so having to pace myself didn’t bother me one bit.

As I say that, it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact regular Fritos are super oily. They’re amazing, but they’re so oily there’s almost a layer of moisture on each chip. Despite being addictive, after awhile Fritos usually give me the dreaded agita. Spicy Jalapeño took care of that problem.

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos 4

The powdery coating and the spiciness of the jalapeño seemed to neutralize the usual oiliness of Fritos. I’m sure this isn’t actually the case, but I think this also affected the crunch. The bag I bought was perfection.

I’d confidently go on record saying these were the freshest Fritos I’d ever had.

I guess I should try to give you a gauge on the spiciness. I had no clue they even made Flamin’ Hot Fritos, so I unfortunately cannot compare it to those. Taking flavor out of the equation, I would say these were about on par with Spicy Nacho Doritos. I always enjoyed those, but could never eat as many as the originals. That’s where I landed with these.

The aftertaste will actually trick your brain into thinking you just had some Doritos. The good thing is it doesn’t linger very long. I wasn’t feeling any burn a few minutes later.

Again, I’m no Spicehead, so keep that in mind. Sure, I like jalapeño in my burritos, but I don’t get too adventurous beyond that. That’s a perfect level of spice for people like me, but they’re not exactly setting the Scoville Scale ablaze.

I have no problem saying these are my new favorite Fritos. Chili Cheese used to stand alone, but hi ho the derry-o, we have a new leader in the pack. Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be a “Limited Edition” slapped on the bag, so these might be around for good. Get on it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 2grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 9.25 oz. bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Great jalapeño flavor. Spot on spice level for me. No usual Frito oiliness. No agita. Ideal crunch. Scoops variety next? These would make for a great walking taco. Spice Girls reunion?!
Cons: Spice bordered on overwhelming after awhile. Powder fingers. My inability to commit to a 10 score. My unawareness to Flamin’ Hot Fritos. Taco Supreme Doritos aren’t on my shelves anymore.