I’m not sure if this is true in every region or state, but in the Bay Area of California, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos reign supreme. I would imagine it’s the same in at least Los Angeles, San Diego, and most of Texas, where the youth get adapted to heat seeking at an early age. Whether eaten straight, topped with fresh lime juice, or dunked into cream cheese, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have felt like a dominant force since they burst onto the snack scene in 1992.
Until relatively recently, though, Frito-Lay has kept it pretty modest with the varieties — Flamin’ Hot, Xxtra Flamin’ Hot, Puffs, and Limon being the only changes that come to mind until 2017’s Chipotle Ranch twist — one of my personal favorites. In recent years the Flamin’ Hot floodgates have opened and the seasoning has popped up on several other chip styles and flavor remixes, including the latest member of Chester Cheeto’s family, Flamin’ Hot Tangy Chili Fusion.
When I first saw the name and color of the bag of this new Cheetos, I envisioned a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos colliding with a purple bagged Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, and that’s kind of what these are like, but they’re absolutely in a spicy lane of their own, too.
The color is the same menacingly deep red that instantly stains your fingers, with a pungent, spicy, and smoky aroma that wafts from the bag. The most notable flavor that immediately jumps out is the smokiness, which has a sharp and intense bite like chipotle chili peppers. The smokiness quickly evolves into a more familiar Flamin’ Hot spice with just a touch of sweetness and finishes with a legit tangy acidic punch akin to vinegar and lemon juice. Crunching away at these slightly greasy airy delights is no problem at all, with the heat building as you eat, which encourages the salty snacking spiral like no other.
I was expecting a more pronounced sweetness, probably because of my Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos association, but it never really comes, aside from a bit of herbaceous bell peppery flavor. In fact, when tasting these side by side with a bag of Flamin’ Hot Limon, the Tangy Chili Fusion is less sweet and more sharply tangy than the Limon, which has a citrusy sweetness that’s even more pronounced next to the smoky charred tang and bold intensity of the Fusion.
It will be interesting to see how long these stick around because they’re very good, but I’m not sure many would choose them over the original Flamin’ Hot, and I certainly wouldn’t take them over my favorite all-time Cheetos Mexican Street Corn. Tangy Chili Fusion is a fun and surprisingly aggressive twist on a modern classic from the king of spicy, salty snacks.
Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 8.5 ounces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (21 pieces, 28g) 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 grams of total sugars, and 1 gram of protein.