REVIEW: Cheetos Popcorn (Cheddar and Flamin’ Hot)

Cheetos Popcorn  Cheddar and Flamin Hot

Some of you might have questions after seeing these bags of Cheetos Popcorn, like:

Is this like Chester’s Popcorn that has been around for a while?

Will Cheetos and Flamin’ Hot seasoning ever be bottled so I can put it on my own popcorn, chips, pretzels, and fingertips?

Is Chester Cheetah skinny because he runs a lot or because he doesn’t have a typical cheetah diet and eats only Cheetos-flavored products?

I can’t answer any of those questions, but I do know Cheetos Popcorn, both Cheddar and Flamin’ Hot varieties, taste like what you would expect from popcorn that’s coated with Cheeto Dust. Oh wait, I’m sorry. I’m obligated to write, “coated with Cheetle.”

Now I’m sure the term “Cheetle” brings up more questions, like:

Is that some kind of orange beetle? Are these coated in orange beetles? Is this like a real-life Slurm?

Why is the cheesy dust on Cheetos named after Don Cheetle? Also, how come he doesn’t get to have his own Marvel movie?

“Cheetle” is the official name of what we used to call, unofficially, Cheeto Dust. It’s the stuff that gets stuck to our fingers while eating Cheetos with our hands and goes down our noses when we pour the cheesy snack into our mouths from the bag.

Cheetos Popcorn Cheddar

And it’s Cheetle that gives Cheetos Popcorn Cheddar its vibrant orange color and that cheesiness we know and remove from our fingers using our mouths. Like a bag of Cheetos (Puffs or Crunchy), I could eat this popcorn all day. It’s that good. However, I could see how some folks might find the level of flavor to be too mild.

There is one odd thing I noticed about the snack. When I suck the Cheeto Du…I mean, Cheetle off my fingers, it tastes like Cheez-It crackers. Maybe that’s just me and my fingertips excrete cracker-flavored sweat. Yeah, suck it, dogs and your Fritos-smelling paws!

Cheetos Popcorn Flamin Hot

As for the Flamin’ Hot one, I didn’t care for it at first. Initially, it tasted like Cheetos was doing a crossover with Campbell’s to create spicy V8-flavored popcorn. But after eating a few more, the popcorn began to taste more like the Flamin’ Hot I’ve come to love.

Despite our rough introduction, I ended up liking the red-coated popcorn, although not as much as the Cheddar ones. Also, I don’t know if it’s just me again, but I found the level of spiciness to be lower than other Flamin’ Hot products, even though every kernel is coated so well that they look like the head of Captain America’s nemesis, Red Skull.

With both varieties, I thought the popped kernels were noticeably smaller than other packaged popcorn I’ve procured, but I guess that means more could fit in the bag.

If you’ve wanted Cheetos (or Flamin’ Hot) flavoring on a snack with slightly better nutritional values than corn puffs and chips, then there’s no question Cheetos Popcorn is what you want.

DISCLOSURE: I’d like to thank Cheetos for sending me free samples. Receiving them did not influence my review in any way. Although, the 8 out of 10 rating might make you suspicious. But I assure you getting free samples did not.

Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 7 oz. bag (Cheddar), 6 1/2 oz. bag (Flamin’ Hot)
Purchased at: Received from Cheetos
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cheddar), 7 out of 10 (Flamin’ Hot)
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams) Cheddar – 160 calories, 11 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. Flamin’ Hot – 160 calories, 11 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Great Value Holiday Sugar Cookie Popcorn

Great Value Holiday Sugar Cookie Popcorn

What is Great Value Holiday Sugar Cookie Popcorn?

Walmart’s store brand has upped its game when it comes to seasonal products. One of its new yuletide items is a sugar cookie–flavored microwave popcorn. Even though “sugar” is in the name, there’s no sugar added; this microwave popcorn is flavored by “natural and artificial flavor” and sucralose.

How is it?

I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. My coworker said, “It’s like they took a syringe and injected a full sugar cookie in each corn.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely adjacent to a sugar cookie flavor.

Great Value Holiday Sugar Cookie Popcorn Closeup

It has a buttery element that is less reminiscent of popcorn and more reminiscent of sugar cookies. It’s sweet, but not as sweet as kettle corn. This would be a great snack to munch on while watching a holiday movie like How the Wonderful Elf Died Hard Home Alone on 34th Street.

Still, though, it’s not addicting. I usually can inhale popcorn (as long as it’s not overly saturated with artificial butter flavor), but with this sweet version, I’m satisfied with a handful or two, and I don’t feel like eating more.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Is there anything else you need to know?

I obeyed the packaging’s rule not to use the microwave’s popcorn button, even though everyone ignores that. The recommended minute and forty-five seconds was perfect for my home microwave, but it was entirely too short for the office microwave.

Also, it tastes much better than it smells.

Conclusion:

I can’t munch on this treat indefinitely, but Great Value deserves an A for ingenuity.

Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 14.04 oz. box (6 bags)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bag) 340 calories, 21 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of total sugars, 0 grams of added sugars, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Crunch ‘n Munch Popcorn Clusters (Birthday Cake and Brownie Brittle Crunch)

Crunch  n Munch Popcorn Clusters  Birthday Cake and Brownie Brittle Crunch

Who needs an actual birthday cake when you can have birthday cake-flavored popcorn instead?

“Not me,” I thought as I gleefully tossed a bag of Crunch ‘n Munch Birthday Cake Popcorn Clusters into my shopping cart in lieu of a pricey bakery cake. Internally praising myself for frugality, I decided to throw in a bag of Brownie Brittle Crunch variety too. Turning 22 deserves celebration, after all.

Birthday Cake Popcorn Clusters

Created to bring an entire birthday party to your mouth, this flavor features rainbow-sprinkled, cake batter-flavored popcorn alongside miniature sugar and birthday cake cookies.

Crunch  n Munch Birthday Cake Popcorn Clusters

Aesthetically, I’ve got to admit this is one of the most attractive popcorn treats I’ve ever seen. Beyond color, each kernel was visibly loaded with a thick coating of candy, cookies, and surprisingly large confetti sprinkles. It’s one of those snacks you only have to glance at to know you’re in for a great experience.

It doesn’t disappoint on the taste front, either. Although the layer of candy enrobing each kernel didn’t taste as strongly of birthday cake as I would have liked, I’m willing to give it a pass anyway for being so sweet, thick, and pleasingly crunchy.

In addition to being delicious in its own right, the candy coating’s strength also helped the cookie chunks adhere to the popcorn, causing small clusters to form in the process. The bits, although tasty and a nice textural contrast from the candy coated-popcorn, didn’t have much flavor by themselves. In fact, I found it pretty much impossible to discern the birthday cake cookies from the regular sugar ones, and it would be easy to forget the inclusion of two distinct types of cookies pieces if it weren’t for the description on the back of the bag.

Brownie Brittle Crunch Popcorn Clusters

Throwing a bone out to chocoholics everywhere, Crunch ‘n Munch’s Brownie Brittle Crunch flavor includes chocolate-glazed popcorn alongside brownie brittle, brownie cookies pieces, and praline almonds.

Crunch  n Munch Brownie Brittle Crunch Popcorn Clusters

Unlike the Birthday Cake Popcorn Clusters, this variety isn’t as photogenic – sporting a brown-on-brown color scheme that reminds me more of burnt Jiffy Pop than a decadent treat. Normally, this wouldn’t be much of an issue for me because I don’t typically expect my popcorn to be worthy of a full-page color spread in Food Network Magazine, but its flavor was also a flop.

The biggest problem was the popcorn’s coating. It wasn’t terrible, but I was expecting it to taste much more cocoa-forward than it was. Instead, I found its taste to be more similar to a chocolate-flavored hard candy than a chocolate lover’s dream come true.

The brownie cookies and accompanying brittle didn’t fare much better. Much like the birthday cake and sugar cookies on the Birthday Cake one, the cookies and brittle pieces here were nearly indistinguishable from one another, and you’d be hard-pressed to identify where one starts and another one ends when chomping down on a large cluster of popcorn.

Speaking of indistinguishable components, I’d say the praline pieces fall into this category. After eating a couple of handfuls and not detecting a single one, I poured my bag out into a bowl and embarked on a personal mission to find and consume every praline I could find. For all my trouble, I was beyond sad to discover only five lonely pieces in my bag, which was a real shame, considering pralines almonds are one of humanity’s crowning achievements in confectionery.

Minor flaws and laughably minuscule serving size aside, I found both of these loaded ‘n coated popcorn snacks to be a step up from your everyday caramel corn. While neither may be entirely able to entice me to forgo a traditional birthday cake in the future, I can certainly see myself stashing these in my purse on future trips to the movies.

Purchased Price: $2.68 each
Size: 5.5 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Birthday Cake), 6 out of 10 (Brownie Brittle Crunch)
Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) Birthday Cake – 140 calories, 4 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 16 grams of total sugars, 16 grams of added sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein. Brownie Brittle Crunch – 130 calories, 3.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 14 grams of total sugars, 14 grams of added sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Smartfood Flamin’ Hot White Cheddar Popcorn

Smartfood Flamin Hot White Cheddar Popcorn

What is Smartfood Flamin’ Hot White Cheddar Popcorn?

Summer may be winding down, but things in the snack aisle are just heating up! Combing Frito-Lay’s flagship cheddar-dusted popcorn with a burst of its flagship heat, Smartfood’s Flamin’ Hot White Cheddar Popcorn is here to keep things toasty long after sweater weather has arrived.

How is it?

Smartfood Flamin Hot White Cheddar Popcorn Closeup

Red. So very red. Even after seeing the bag, I didn’t quite expect the popcorn to be as generously coated in fiery cheese dust as it was. Even though Frito-Lay decided to shy away from artificial flavors, it didn’t hesitate to break out the whole arsenal of FD&C food colors in a way that would make a box of crayons jealous.

Eye-catching color aside, this whole-grain snack doesn’t have much else that makes it stand out. Unlike Route 11’s regionally-famous Mama Zuma chips, which I’m positive only exists to appeal to the same people who found Sonic’s Reaper Spicy Margarita enjoyable, the heat in Smartfood’s Flamin’ Hot Popcorn is woefully lukewarm by comparison.

That’s not to say it’s terrible, though. The popcorn starts super mild, but the heat gradually builds as you keep eating it. It never got to the point where my eyes began to tear, but it was present. Also, I found it to be just strong enough to make me keep eating – much like how the super-secret spice on Doritos makes them dangerously addictive.

Unfortunately, Smartfood’s signature white cheddar flavoring ends up playing second fiddle to each kernel’s red-hot coating. It’s just barely present – providing a bit of buttery creaminess desperately needed in pre-popped popcorn – but it’s just not sharp enough to stand up against the heat.

Is there anything else you should know?

Let me clarify something – although this popcorn is a little on the warm side, it’s not spicy. With all its heat stemming from a mysterious blend of proprietary natural flavors, this popcorn lacks the complexity of a heavily spiced meal at your local Mexican joint. Instead, it tastes more similar to the blind heat of having just eaten a spoonful of cayenne pepper.

Conclusion:

Although Smartfood’s new Flamin’ Hot White Cheddar Popcorn isn’t nearly as fire-hot as it looks, it packs just enough heat to keep things interesting, and I didn’t have any problems with finishing off a bag in quick order. Just don’t expect anything especially unique.

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 1/2 cups) 150 calories, 10 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of total sugars, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Popcorn

Hershey's Popcorn 1

Making caramel corn is a subtle art.

Compared to regular popcorn, it has a lot more elements that have to be executed well in order for the final product to be spectacular. There has to be enough of it to carry its flavor, but it can’t be so glopped on that the popcorn is in a cocoon of sugar.

The toppings have to complement the caramel, and they have to be evenly distributed to allow most of the pieces to get some drizzle. Don’t forget about the salt, either! There has to be enough of it to balance out the sweetness from everything else, but there also can’t be so much that the entire experience veers off towards the savory side.

Given that caramel corn has so many things going on at the same time, it’s easy to see why most seem to fall short in one aspect or another. Not one to back down from such a challenge, Hershey’s has decided to give us not one, but two new takes on this classic treat!

Hershey’s Popcorn Milk Chocolate

Hershey's Popcorn Milk Chocolate

With its Milk Chocolate variety, Hershey’s topped each cocoa-and-caramel-coated kernel with a drizzle of its signature milk chocolate. Everything about it, from the delicious cocoa aroma emanating from the caramel to the smooth drizzle, was all about showing off what Hershey’s is famous for.

In fact, it featured milk chocolate so much that the caramel got a little lost along the way. While the coating helped keep the popcorn fresh, its caramel flavor was difficult to notice among the chocolate elements.

Hershey’s Popcorn Sea Salt Caramel

Hershey's Popcorn Sea Salt Caramel

Surprisingly, the Sea Salt Caramel version shared this issue. In the absence of the milk chocolate drizzle featured in the other variety, the play between the cocoa and caramel in the coating here created a scent and taste that reminded me of a toasted marshmallow. Don’t get me wrong – this version is tasty, too – but its name is a bit of a misnomer.

The one thing about it that rings true is the “sea salt” part. It has a more noticeable salt level if you compare it with its Milk Chocolate brother. Even so, it never quite reaches the level of being too savory. Instead, I welcomed the extra saltiness to counter the whole toasted marshmallow-esque vibe going on.

Hershey's Popcorn

Did Hershey’s Popcorn rise to the sweet-and-salty challenge of caramel corn? All in all, I’d say it did well! I found both to be yummy and wouldn’t have a problem watching a movie with either flavor beside me. Now if theaters could sell this stuff!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – Sea Salt Caramel – 120 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of total sugars, 16 grams of added sugars, and 1 gram of protein. Milk Chocolate – 110 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 16 grams of total sugars, 15 grams of added sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98 each
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Sea Salt Caramel)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Milk Chocolate)
Pros: Good balance between sugar and salt. Signature Hershey’s chocolate. Perfect snacking companion for movies!
Cons: Chocolate overpowered the caramel in both flavors. Sea Salt Caramel tasted more like a toasted marshmallow than it did like caramel. Not sold at the movies.

REVIEW: Pop Secret Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Popcorn

Pop Secret Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Popcorn

Pumpkin makes me pop. It isn’t just pumpkin though. I’m a bonafide cinna-slut, and all things swirling with the spice makes me feel real nice.

Building off of the success of chasing junk food trends and releasing the birthday cake flavored and damn delicious Popfetti earlier this year, Pop Secret are back at trying to win over our trendy hearts with a pumpkin spice microwaveable popcorn.

Pop Secret Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Popcorn 2

Pushing my nose up against the un-popped Pop Secret package gives off the classic microwave popcorn artificial buttery smell with just the slightest tickle of cinnamon in the background. Poppin’ the corn into the micro releases a bit more a distinct spicy aroma, once again accompanied by a more dominant and in-your-face butter presence.

Pop Secret Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Popcorn 3

The popped bag, warm and spewing steam, has a surprisingly nice a ginger smell to it that joins in on the butter party for a little extra nostril tingle. The signature artificial bright-ish yellow color is replaced by a slightly orangey tan that does good enough to channel the skin of a pumpkin.

The flavor of the popcorn is confusing. On my first bite, I get a little squashy pumpkin flavor, but that might be my mind playing tricks in the way it interprets the slightly greasy buttery essence that all good micro-pop carries. But the flavor quickly fades.

Pop Secret Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Popcorn 4

There’s no doubt this is different than regular Pop Secret, but that’s less apparent in any big spicy pumpkin notes and much more about how un-salty it is. There’s barely any saltiness, which could work if it was replaced by cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, but there isn’t really much of that either. Every couple of handfuls I get a soft smooch of cinnamon and ginger, and I like it, but it’s far from the bold flavors I’ve come to expect from microwave popcorn.

Even though there are zero grams of sugar per bag, there is an underlining sweetness to the popcorn, thanks to sucralose (Splenda). Luckily, there’s no weird artificial sweetener aftertaste, but again, there isn’t much autumn intrigue going on either. This popcorn doesn’t taste bad, it simply tastes like kettle corn minus the crucial salty factor that completes the yin and yang of that classic flavor profile.

Does this popcorn taste like popcorn? Definitely. Is it warm and comforting and slightly sweet? You betcha. Does it deliver on the big polarizing flavor that is pumpkin spice? Unfortunately not. It’s still an enjoyable sidekick to a night in with a slasher flick, but not something you need to seek out like the almighty Popfetti from earlier this year.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp Unpopped – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: Three 3 oz. bags
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Nice pumpkin-y color. Decent sweetness. Mellow hints of ginger and cinnamon.
Cons: Not much pumpkin spice flair. Tastes more like corn than cinnamon. Could use more salty pop.