While Cheetos staked their claim on the Flamin’ Hot flavoring way back in 1992, the mouthwatering moniker has spread to a number of snack foods, and other brands have rushed to capitalize on the mass of spicy snack devotees.
Signaling adoration for all things spicy has never been easier, with apparel, makeup, bags and home goods all devoted to honoring spicy snacks like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Takis. But do all spicy snacks measure up?
Because there are so many spicy snacks out there, we picked up 11 varieties to see what a small part of the spicy snack landscape looks like. Instead of ranking them, we wanted to provide some insight on the ones we bought, so you can make your own decision on which ones should spice up your life (and palate).
This was not a blind tasting. Participants knew exactly which snack they were eating. All were purchased at a Chicago Mariano’s supermarket. Prices reflect what we paid at retail.
Jays Hot Stuff Potato Chips
These chips smelled like childhood memories, but some tasters found them more plain than they would like, complaining that the chip wasn’t as spicy as it smelled. Still, these were a good everyday pick and had a pleasant, light sweetness. $3.79, 10 ounces
Kettle Brand Jalapeno Potato Chips
Of all the brands we tried, this one received the most complaints, with some participants saying the chips were joyless and bland. Despite its jalapeno designation, participants said this chip had a smoky flavor at best, never reaching an actually spicy level. However, it did receive some compliments as a good, salty kettle chip. $2.99, 8.5 ounces
Smartfood Flamin’ Hot White Cheddar Popcorn
This was another brand that failed to provide any real heat with the snack. Participants said the cheese-and-chile combination was gross and had an odd, bitter aftertaste. “I would not buy it and I would not serve it,” one taster wrote. $3.69, 7 ounces
These tight twists had a spike of lime with a targeted heat and a distinct corn flavor. Tasters enjoyed this one for its crunch and said it would be a nice post-work snack. $2.99, 9.25 ounces
Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Potato Chips
With a sweaty smell and an unnaturally red coating, these were deemed bland compared to the other snacks we tried, and they were not spicy at all. “It’s trying too hard to be something it’s not,” one taster wrote. $2.49, 8.5 ounces
Xtra Flamin’ Hot Lay’s Stax
Many dubbed this a Pringles wannabe, with a coating that looked like “red sawdust and sadness” on one side and a bare bottom on the other. “If I could tell the CEO to burn these chips, I would,” wrote one taster. The only redeeming quality was the delayed heat, which a few people enjoyed. $1.25, 5.5 ounces
Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos
Despite its nostalgia-inducing quality, this snack did surprisingly poorly among our tasters, who complimented it for its crunch, but said it lacked the salty and spicy hit they were looking for. $2.99, 8.5 ounces
Munchies Flamin’ Hot Snack Mix
While a few tasters enjoyed the variety this snack bag provided, others complained that it was inconsistent in flavor and spice levels. One participant said it tasted like canned salsa, and another said there were too many nonspicy pretzels to really consider this a spicy snack. $3.29, 8 ounces
Flamin’ Hot Chester’s Fries
If you served these snacks with lime and hot sauce, they may be tasty. However, they were too reminiscent of the forgotten, dried fry at the bottom of the bag. One taster said they were gross with an odd corn flavor, lacked heat and had a sour aftertaste. Multiple people said they kept eating the fries in hopes that the flavor would improve with volume, but were let down in the end. $2.29, 5.25 ounces
Flamin’ Hot Nacho Doritos
Whether or not they liked the corn flavor of Doritos, tasters complimented this chip for its nice heat and bright red color. However, it had a grainy texture and was a bit dry. $3.49, 9.75 ounces
The unanimous winner for all tasters, this snack was described as the definitive hot flavor designed to hit all the nerve centers. With a more muted lime flavor than Turbos Flamas, this snack was praised for its buttery flavor, medium spice that grows with each bite, and great crunch. One taster even said he imagined pairing it with a red wine at a party. Said another taster: “I have nothing bad to say about Takis ever. Even if there were a gun to my head, I would not talk down to these chips. Takis 2020.” $2.50, 9.9 ounces.