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: Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero

Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero

Believe it or not, the habanero was once the world’s hottest chili pepper. But thanks to botany and hot, steamy plant-on-plant action, which produced spicier peppers, the habanero has been relegated to a lower heat status and has also dropped in rank on the Cool Chili Pepper Name List.

It’s been overtaken by the Ghost Pepper, Carolina Reaper, Infinity Chili, Komodo Dragon Chili Pepper, Super Duper Red Hot Chili Peppers, Naga Viper, and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion.

Oh, one of those isn’t a real chili pepper name, but the rest are real. Guess which one.

And those hotter peppers are not slightly ahead on the Scoville scale, a measurement of chili pepper heat, they’re like Golden State Warriors-ahead of the once mighty pepper. While the habanero can muster 100,000-350,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units), many of the peppers I’ve listed above go beyond (raise pinky to mouth) one million SHU.

While the habanero no longer has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s found a place on many crunchy snacks. Pringles. Chex Mix. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. And now these Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero snacks.

Well, actually, it should’ve gone. Cheetos Crunchy. Pringles. Chex Mix. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. Chips. The order should’ve been different because these cheesy, spicy snacks are a rerelease, originally on shelves in 2010. But they’re back again to be the “Official Snack of the Mexican National Team,” who probably didn’t have a say in the matter.

Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero 2

The orange and red crunchy corn puffs look like what I imagine ends up on Lucifer’s finger after digging his nose. Yes, I’m saying they look like devil’s boogers. But what tasty buggers they are.

The level of heat these bring is below the nerve stinging spiciness of Cheetos Flamin’ Hot. With these Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero I can munch my way though many of them without hesitation, but I can tolerate only so much with any Flamin’ Hot snack. But I’m not giving the go ahead sign for those who don’t like the spicy.

Since the habanero seasoning isn’t tear-inducing for me, I can taste the cheesy, peppery, and smoky flavoring on each crunchy corn puff. They’re also a little tomato-y and oniony. But a kick of lime is what makes this snack’s flavor stand out. It gives these Cheetos Crunchy a taste that’s more complex than just cheesy and spicy. And I have to say I prefer the flavor of these over Flamin’ Hot.

Sadly, this flavor will go back into the Cheetos flavor vault once the Olympics are done and, maybe, pop up again years from now to promote something else. But I don’t want that to be the case. I want it to be a permanent flavor.

But just like the habanero pepper had to accept it wouldn’t always be the hottest pepper in the world, I have to accept I won’t be eating Cheetos Crunchy Wild Habanero for a while.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 160 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: Purchased on eBay for more than the price on the packaging
Size: 8.5 oz bag
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Really spicy, but not REALLY spicy. Complex flavor that’s cheesy, spicy, smoky, and a little limey. Better than Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot.
Cons: Difficult to find. Will eventually go back into the Cheetos flavor vault. If you do not like spicy foods, do not eat this.

REVIEW: Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan)

Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan)

Over the past year we’ve seen a lot of products with movie tie-ins. But it seems most of them have come from three movies — Frozen, Star Wars, and Minions. Sorry, Avengers: Age of Ultron and whatever DreamWorks Animation movies that came out this year.

Thanks to the shape and color of Minions and their love of bananas, it’s been easy for companies to produce fun products. One that comes to mind are the Tic Tacs with Minions faces printed on them. Another are Twinkies that can be decorated to look like Minions. And then there are these Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos from Japan.

Their bright yellow color instantly makes me think of Minions, but it’s a bit disappointing they’re crunchy Cheetos and not Cheetos Puffs. And it’s even more disappointing they’re not Cheetos Puffs shaped like Minions with their faces printed on them. Come on, Japan! You can make soccer playing robots, but not Minions-shaped Cheetos. You’re slipping!

What’s also disappointing about these Cheetos from Japan are how they don’t have much of a banana flavor. There was a banana aroma that came out of the bag when I first opened it, but subsequent openings produced a strong cinnamon smell.

Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan) 2

Instead of banana, their flavor reminds me of churros, which is still awesome, but not the flavor I was hoping for. The snack also has a slight butteriness to them that’s similar to what I experienced with the Cinnamon Sugar Sweetos released earlier this year. So if you had those, you have a general idea of what these Cheetos taste like.

The Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos are tasty, but the lack of banana flavor drove me…bananas. I’m sorry. That was horrible. But not horrible enough for me to use my arrow keys to erase it from the internet.

There is hope though. The Minions movie made a BILLION dollars worldwide, so there’s a BILLION percent chance there will be a sequel. And when there’s a sequel and more money to be made, there might be another version of this snack that’ll be Cheetos Puffs shaped like Minions with their faces printed on them that are banana-flavored.

(Nutrition Facts – 75 grams – 418 kcal, 24.8 grams of fat, 194 milligrams of sodium, 45.2 grams of carbohydrates, and 3.6 grams of protein.)

Item: Minions Cinnamon Banana Cheetos (Japan)
Purchased Price: $6.98 (includes shipping)
Size: 75 gram bag
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tasty. Tastes like churros. Bright yellow like Minions.
Cons: Doesn’t have banana flavor. Could’ve looked like more like Minions. Can’t remember what the last DreamWorks Animation movie was.

REVIEW: Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

As anyone who has ever eaten Cheetos knows, 90 percent of the appeal is licking the disgusting (and by disgusting, I mean awesome) amount of cheese powder residue that clings to your fingers. Cheesy, salty, delicious, and basically deserving to be packaged and sold as a savory rendition of a Pixy Stix, the Cheeto powder would constitute my entire source of calcium should the world ever see the abolition of pizza. Its deliciousness begs the existential question though: is the quintessence of the Cheeto unique to the cheesiness of the powder, or is it just the presence of a lickable flavor powder in and of itself? In other words: if you take away the cheese, can Cheetos still be great?

A question as mysterious and elusive as ”why is there an Easter bunny?”, the springtime arrival of Cheetos Sweetos as a limited edition Easter-themed snack provides ample empirical evidence to finally put to rest this most vexing of questions.

Shaped like Easter Eggs (or, presumably, drops of cheetah poop) each cinnamon sugar puff is light and airy with a dusty brown complexion one might associate with a well-aged gouda. There the similarities with cheese cease, as the hollow crunch of each puff flees from any notion of the salty Cheeto we’re accustomed to. The powder, too, is not quite as intense in its coverage, and while a fair amount of the advertised cinnamon-sugar transferred to my fingers, I didn’t find myself in need of a good Beethoven slobbering to remove it. I considered this most unfortunate.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably because the taste falls below expectations. For something which has adopted one of the most basic adjectives in flavor for its namesake, Cheetos Sweetos don’t initially taste very sweet at all. If anything, the pieces taste like an over-buttered but under-sugared piece of slightly soggy toast, with loads of cinnamon seasoning but nothing particularly salivating about that seasoning. To put it more bluntly; they’re straight-up bland.

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs Closeup

The buttery coating isn’t bad, and really, the amount of actual cinnamon flavor is quite admirable, but each puff plays it too safe in the sweetness department, like some kind of alternative cereal ever cognizant of a dreaded lecture by the health food police. What I was expecting, and what my and I’m sure most sweet snack food eaters would have preferred, was something like Post’s Mini-Cinnamon Churros cereal. Likewise, the corn base and cinnamon flavor leave my taste buds grasping for a point of reference, one which inevitably turns to the sturdier crunch of sweetened corn-based cereals. In this case, the puffed approach hinders old Chester, who would have been better to market these in the traditional, crunchier texture of a regular (crunchy) Cheeto.

To be fair, Cheetos Sweetos aren’t bad. But they’re far from memorable, and I wouldn’t choose them as a snack over the multitude of very good cinnamon-sugar cereals out there. If nothing else, they’ve established a fundamental and universal truth that we Cheetos lovers have long pondered over. Yes, the greatness of the Cheeto resides not just in the fact that you get miles of flavored powder to lick from your fingers, but in the unique and especially savory cheese flavor of the powder, and no amount of buttered and slightly sweet cinnamon coating can ever come close to replicating that deliciousness.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 13 pieces – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Weis
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Pretty solid buttered cinnamon-sugar toast flavor. Strong and authentic cinnamon taste. Easter-themed treat which isn’t dark chocolate. Discovering the real essence of Cheeto deliciousness.
Cons: Sweetness is dull and bland. Mild corn aftertaste is distracting. Doesn’t work well in puffed form. Not getting to slobber up Cheeto powder.

REVIEW: Frito Lay Mountain Dew Corn Snack (Mountain Dew Cheetos)

Mountain Dew Doritos 1

I like spaceships. Serenity, the Enterprise, Galactica, Bebop, the Nostromo, the Yamato, the Heart of Gold, the Protector, the Discovery, Prometheus. All of them. I even like real spaceships like the space shuttle Atlantis and the Millennium Falcon.

They represent what’s out there. The great unknown. The vast expanses of the galaxy and the universe. And it saddens me that the national space program is in such a state of decline. If we don’t continue to expand our presence into the Local Group, how are we going to colonize and terraform Mars? How are we going to make first contact? How can we even start to think about making the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs?

The answer is that none of these things is going to be happening anytime soon unless we find a major reason to motivate us. Clearly the huddled masses aren’t interested in learning or human achievement, so I believe the motivation lies in snack food.

At some point, we’re going to run out of food ideas. Mathematically this seems inevitable. There is a finite number naturally occurring foods on our planet, so there is an equally finite number of ways to combine them. We are already there. When molecular gastronomists are forced reduce garden peas to their essence to be huffed from a balloon animal made from a section of a bison’s intestinal tract, it seems the end is almost nigh.

We’ve already started remixing with our processed foods. Bacon’s been smashed into every product in every grocery aisle. Name something you bought in October or November that didn’t have pumpkin in it. Impossible.

Even the corporations who are in charge of these things are running out of ideas. They’ve been reduced to farming out ideas to the common man through flavor contests.

The end is on its way, you guys. And that end, that day when everything has been combined with everything else, is going to be the day we head back into space. People may not be excited about studying moon rocks, but they’ll sure as hell be excited about the possibility of Limited Edition Romulan Ale Doritos and Blue Bantha Milk Oreos.

Until that day, we’ll continue dreaming and smashing together things we have. And we do that today with these Mountain Dew Cheetos from the Japanese arm of Frito-Lay.

Mountain Dew Doritos 3

As with the Pepsi-flavored Cheetos I reviewed a while back, the color of these things bothers me. Not making them bright Mountain Dew green is a wasted opportunity. This kind of product is a novelty and an attention getter, and their color should reflect that. Orange Cheetos-dusted fingers are a tradition. How great would obnoxiously green Mountain Dew Cheetos fingers be?! Pretty damn great.

The nosegrope of these Cheetos is very intensely citrus. There is a lot of lemon, and they smell sweet. There is also an underlying current of stale, flat cola. They smell very similar to the Pepsi Cheetos but with the lemon ratcheted up.

The flavor recreation they were going for falls a bit short of their goal. There is an initial blast of sour lemon flavor that is followed by some underlying sweetness. The lemon flavor tastes pretty artificial. I don’t have a problem with artificial flavors, obviously, but it tastes artificial to the point where it forces you to stop and think of the artificialness.

Mountain Dew Doritos 3

The sour blast is a bit too much here. It takes the Cheetos from the realm of “Mountain Dew” to the realm of…something with a lot of lemons. I know people who have consumed a Star Destroyer’s worth of Mountain Dew in their lives, and I’m not confident they could blind taste this and come up with anything other than a quizzical “something lemony.”

Like the Pepsi Cheetos, the aftertaste of these lingers for a very long time. I also didn’t get as much mouth-fizzing action as I hoped for. The Pepsi Cheetos are definitely the superior hybrid food, but that’s not saying a lot.

Mountain Dew Doritos 2

These are not bad. A lemon-flavored corn snack is not a terrible idea, but a lemon-flavored corn snack is really all we get here. Nothing transcendent, nothing revelatory. Just a good idea that is off the mark.

I’m already looking forward to Dr. Pepper Cheetos (and distantly to Klingon Bloodwine Kit Kats.) Until then!

(Nutrition Facts – 188 kcal, 10.3 grams of fat, 221 milligrams of sodium, 22.1 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.8 grams of protein.)

Item: Frito Lay Mountain Dew Corn Snack (Mountain Dew Cheetos)
Purchased Price: $4.50
Size: 35 grams
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Lemons. Sour blasts. Spaceships.
Cons: Wrong color. Too much lemon to be Mountain Dew. Lingering aftertaste. Lack of fizz.