You know when something tastes better in your memory than it actually does? That’s Planters Cheez Balls and Cheez Curls for me.
I distinctively remember Mr. Peanut and the blue cylindrical can sitting on the coffee table, which was the designated snack table, in our family’s living room. So, was I excited to see Planters bring it back for a limited time? Heck yeah! But, Chester Cheetah has ruled the curl and poof category uncontested for over a decade now and for good reason.
Looking at the can now, I wonder why I didn’t ever question a peanut mascot on a corn-based snack. Anyways, when I opened them with said odd graphic, I was taken aback by the fluorescent orange because I forgot how traffic cone-colored they were. I know that’s part of the charm because they’re from a time when we had purple-colored ketchup and neon-colored soda. But in today’s push for less artificial flavors or colors, it’s a bit jarring. It didn’t help that they were noticeably more neon than Cheetos. But, props to Planters for keeping these babies true to form.
Because I wanted to save the best for last, I started with the Cheez Curls. They were noticeably more flavorful and saltier than Cheetos. The fluorescent-ness translated to better cheez coverage. But, I enjoyed Cheetos’ crunchier texture and that the last flavor was more corn-forward.
I was curious as to why the corn was more pronounced, so I looked into the ingredient list. The first ingredient is degerminated yellow corn meal, but for Cheetos it’s enriched corn meal. I’m not a food scientist so don’t quiz me, but Google says that the degerminating process strips some pieces off of the corn to make it shelf stable. The enriching process adds back some the lost vitamins and nutrients from the degermination. Maybe in this process, Chester also adds back some corn flavor. I wouldn’t put it past that Cheetah!
Another theory I have is that the Curls (and Balls) contain semisoft cheese whereas Cheetos just uses a cheese seasoning. Again, no food magician here but I think of how cheese-forward a semisoft curd is versus a dried cheese seasoning. In my mind, this translates as the corn really just being a base vehicle for the cheese, which is why it’s not as corn flavored as the Cheetos.
As for the Cheez Balls, it’s clearly the same cheez so points for consistency. However, there was a subtle stale oil smell wafting from the can that I didn’t get with the other. Besides that, unlike the Curls, there were less texture and flavor differences with Cheetos Puffs. Interestingly enough, the Balls have both semisoft cheese and dried cheese seasoning.
All in all, pick up a can of Cheez Curls and Balls for nostalgia’s sake because it’s only around for a limited time. And I don’t foresee Planters extending that because they simply can’t stand up to Cheetos’ dominance and better taste. Sorry!
(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – Cheez Curls – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein. Cheez Balls – 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)
Purchased Price: $1.98 each
Size: 4 oz. containers
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cheez Curls)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Cheez Balls
Pros: Fluorescent orange glory and retro packaging. The Curls and Balls use semisoft cheese instead of just dried cheese seasoning which makes me think that it’s a bit more of a premium product than Cheetos! Great cheez coverage!
Cons: They’re just not as good as Cheetos, IMHO. Cheez Balls have a bit of weird stale oil smell.