REVIEW: Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Smoky Ghost Pepper Puffs

I’ve never been much of one for eating something hot just for the sake of saying I did it. I don’t need a Guatemalan Insanity Pepper to make me feel macho. But I like spicy things. I usually get my Thai food “Thai hot.” I over-wasabi when I eat sushi. A little burn – when correctly applied – makes me feel alive.

While I’ve never had an ACTUAL ghost pepper, the flavor seems to have popped up everywhere over the past year plus. Burger King did an orange-bunned ghost pepper Whopper last October. Arby’s had the Diablo Dare last year, too. And within the past few months, Wendy’s has gotten in on the act with a ghost pepper sandwich and fries.

I’ve had none of these. It’s not because I’m not interested, don’t get me wrong. It’s more like if I’m not eating fast food to review for this site, I’m usually only interested in getting something tried and true. Something I know I’ll enjoy. Like everything else, fast food has gotten too expensive; my metabolism ain’t what it used to be.

The nice thing about the new Flamin’ Hot Smoky Ghost Pepper Cheetos Puffs, however, is that it’s pretty low risk — even if they’re terrible, I’m only out a single Abe Lincoln. And I don’t mind tossing a bag of chips.

(Okay, that’s a lie. I’ll hang on to it for years, slowly nibbling away and also offering them up to unsuspecting guests with a friendly, “Hey, you like to consume food. Would you like a handful of these? How about the whole bag?” Eventually, they’ll grow stale and inedible, at which point I will still have a few pieces at a time for the next three months before I finally pull the trigger on a full expulsion.)

From an appearance standpoint, you know exactly what you’re getting into with these. In addition to being shaped like peppers, they are an aggressively violent shade of red. A slight smoky vinegar aroma wafts up when you open the bag. That artificial smoke flavor is prevalent in the first second of the bite – I was surprised by that and appreciated the layered flavoring – and then the heat immediately sets your tongue on fire. There was no “slow build” here, just immediate and unapologetic mouth-arson.

If you don’t like hot, well… come on. Did you really think you might enjoy these? If you’re someone who doesn’t like chili unless it makes you weep and you end each night with half a pack of Tums, you may be unimpressed. These didn’t make me cry. They were tolerable, but even still, the hottest Cheeto (or chip or cracker) I’ve ever eaten.

Additionally, I enjoyed the fact that these weren’t just novelty-hot. There were nuanced layers of flavor and an appreciable complexity you don’t find in many other “hot” snacks. But still, a little goes a long way, so let’s not be surprised if this bag sees the next presidential election. As long as the other people in my house keep remembering to close the bag up tight, anyway.

Purchased Price: $4.30
Size: 7 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams) 160 calories, 12 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

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