Mexican Street Corn, often referred to by its proper street name, elote, which roughly means “corn cob” in Spanish, is grilled corn covered in mayonnaise or sour cream, topped with chili powder, Cotija cheese, and lime.
Growing up in California’s Bay Area, I came across this savory delight every week, oftentimes from street vendors also peddling Chicharones de Harina, fried orange wheel chips soaked in lemon juice and Valentina hot sauce, and on a lucky day, mango adorned with a generous sprinkling of Tajín. Needless to say, these are good eats.
I’ve also come across a more modern trend where the traditional Cotija cheese that cakes the outside of the grilled corn is replaced with crunched up Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which brings me to the natural progression and potential dream creation of Mexican Street Corn Cheetos.
The bag boldly states “TANGY – SPICY – CHEESY” on both the front and back, so before digging in, even though I’ve had actual elote, I know exactly what I’m expecting. The aroma from the slightly slime-colored but eye-catching green bag nails those three elements. I get a citrusy tang flirting with spice and a general fried smell wafting up from the uniquely yellow-tinted crunchy Cheetos.
The first thing I notice in the flavor is the cheese, but it’s not the typical cheddar-meets-nacho kind of artificial cheese that defines Cheetle seasoning. It’s sharper with a touch of that umami quality you get from parmesan with its earthiness and slight funk. Not only is it cheesy, but it’s also creamy, with the distinct tang of sour cream that really stands out with a hint of buttery richness as well. Cotija cheese is really similar to parmesan when dried and aged, and I’m impressed with the depth and uniqueness of this cheesy flavor that is truly as luscious as something that’s crunchy can be.
The cheesiness is followed quickly by the taste of lime and rounded out by spice, but it’s far from the type of spicy usually associated with the brand. It’s a much more of an ancho chili powder taste than heat, and the flavor does a pretty good job of emulating the balance of an elote experience, which isn’t particularly hot. There are also notes of garlic and onion floating in the background.
Since the first ingredient in Cheetos is enriched corn meal, it goes without saying that the corn-flavored chips have an inherent corniness to them that permeates every bite. The only thing absent from the profile of an actual elote stick is the sweetness of fresh corn, which Trader Joe’s added to its sensational Elote Organic Corn Chip Dippers (my favorite chip of all time). But I don’t really mind that missing element here. The cheesiness’s depth and tang are impressive, and they make these Cheetos unlike any that I’ve had before.
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 3.25 oz bag
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (21 pieces – 28 grams) 160 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, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.