The Ultimate Guide to Flamin’ Hot Snacks (2024)

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There’s a Flamin’ Hot snack for everyone—which one is yours?


Kat Thompson

There’s nothing quite like the artificial red powder that coats fingertips and stains tongues while delivering tingles of heat. Yes, I’m talking about zesty magic that is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos—a chip that was allegedly invented by a Frito-Lay janitor in the ‘90s who was inspired by the Mexican elotes he ate growing up (though this rags-to-riches tale is currently being disputed). Since the chip’s ideation, Hot Cheetos have gone on to become one of the most beloved hot chips in the world, and have amassed a large portfolio of other delectable Flamin’ Hot snacks.

Despite the diversity of Flamin’ Hot products available today, including bags of popcorn and rings of Funyun, not all Flamin’ Hot snacks are created equal. Some we barely consider hot, while others lack the mouth-puckering notes of limón. Some are more crunchy than others. And some are actually hot enough to proudly hold the title “Flamin’ Hot.”

Because there are so many Flamin’ Hot snacks to choose from, we decided to taste every chip available to us—alongside about 25 of Thrillist’s staffers—and discover which are the most mellow, which have the best crunch, which are most likely to make you salivate, which is the most balanced in flavor, and which holds the title of spiciest.

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Baby steps

This category might as well be named Flamin’ Not because out of all the Flamin’ Hot snacks we tried, these were the lightest in terms of spice level. That doesn’t detract from their greatness; it just means that the snacks in this category are for those who are hesitant about indulging in a chile-fueled chip—and that’s OK! Baby steps, people. We’ve ordered them from least spicy to mild heat, so indulge in what’s right for your heat tolerance level.

Smartfood Flamin’ Hot
The Smartfood White Cheddar Flamin’ Hot Popcorn is certainly less spicy than the other popcorn, and if that piques your interest then great. Cheese is the forward note here—spice is an afterthought. White cheddar is a pretty strong flavor in itself, so the dust that you’re accumulating on your fingertips is mostly of the cheese variety, not the cardinal red Flamin’ Hot powder.

Doritos Flamin’ Hot Nacho
Similar to the Lay’s Flamin’ Hot, these chips kind of taste like their original form, Nacho Cheese Doritos, but perhaps a bit dustier and redder. They’re certainly cheesy, if that’s what you’re going for, but most comments from our tasters noted that they weren’t different enough from their predecessor.

Ruffles Flamin’ Hot
I was hoping with all the ridges Ruffles have, as they like to remind us, that this variation would pack a lot more heat. Unfortunately for us spice enthusiasts, the tongue-tingling is lacking. One taster noted that it “tastes like sour cream and onion and also bad breath” while another commented that it’s “not hot at all.” The crunch of Ruffles is familiar and present, but if you’re looking for Flamin’ Hot you won’t find it here. Instead, expect a salty ridged potato chip and not much else.

Ruffles Flamin' Hot Cheddar & Sour Cream
Like its predecessor above, this new version of Ruffles is pretty lackluster when it comes to heat. That being said, they're a bit more flavorful than the other Flamin' Hot Ruffles; the pungent kick of sour cream and savoriness of cheddar is the first thing you taste, before the chip dissolves into any other oily potato snack. If you're a fan of cheddar and sour cream, and want the faintest pin prick of heat, this is a good option. Otherwise, I find them a little bit funky—the smell is a touch off.

Lay’s Flamin’ Hot
These might as well have been regular Lay’s that were sneakily sprinkled with red dye or paprika. The heat level is so low that one taster said, “they just taste like normal Lay’s with a tiny bit of spice.” The key word here is tiny; if you’re obsessed with that oily, potato-flavor that original Lay’s has and want the most miniscule amount of heat, these are for you.

Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Popcorn
I genuinely enjoy this Flamin’ Hot Popcorn, which launched earlier this year. It’s one of those snacks that I just keep reaching for, handful after handful. Maybe it’s because the spice is so light; it makes it easier to devour without regrets because I’m not burning my tongue off. “I appreciate the effort here,” one taste tester stated, acknowledging that innovation is important. The popcorn is airy -- not stale -- and has just a touch of that classic Flamin’ Hot flavor. I’d swap these out for movie theater popcorn any day.

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Most mouth-puckering and best flavor balance

If you’re craving a spicy chip that will truly make you salivate, you’ve come to the right section. These chips have heat, sure, but they also provide more nuanced flavors: bright hits of lime, vinegar from pickles, and measured saltiness. These are the chips for people who don’t want to annihilate their taste buds, but do want to pucker up.

Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle
If you love pickles you’ll love these chips. They’re tart and the scent of dill is fragrant and present. One taste tester referred to these as the “pickleback version of a chip,” which is a great compliment if you love pickleback shots (I do). Although the flavor of vinegar is prominent, it doesn’t overshadow the heat; these chips are equal parts spicy and flavorful. Buy this for the pickle fiend in your life, even if that pickle fiend is you.

Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Limón
These are a classic twist on the original Hot Cheetos and one of the earliest spin-offs. The limón flavor is acidic, but partners with the spice well; it’s definitely not as sour as other hot chips on the market (specifically Takis Feugo). Even so, the lime flavor is prominent—this chip feels like it’s equal parts salty, spicy, and sour.

Doritos Flamin’ Hot Limón
If you prefer a triangle of tortilla to the curly corn of Cheetos, then these are the preferable option over the Flamin’ Hot Limón Cheetos. The flavors are almost the same—bright, sour, salty, spicy—but the Flamin’ Hot Limon Doritos certainly taste the slightest bit cheesier and have the appealing snap of a typical tortilla chip.

Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Chipotle Ranch
This is kind of a bonus category. Though these chips didn’t necessarily make our mouths pucker, there was nuance to its flavor: layers of smoky chipotle, creamy and cooling ranch, and garlicky herbs. It wasn’t overly spicy or too pungent with sour cream; instead, the flavors worked in tandem to provide a surprisingly complex chip. Our taste testers gave it a 10/10. We dug it, too.

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Best crunch

The crunch of a classic bag of cheetos is satisfying, sure. Those gnarled puffs of corn are classic, but sometimes the best things come from innovation and new iterations. Enter Flamin’ Hot Funyuns and Kettle Cooked Lays: two entirely different textures with crunch way more satisfying than the original. These are the chips for people who want to have subtitles turned on while they watch TV and devour a bag of snacks because they can’t hear over the sound of their own munching.

Funyuns Flamin’ Hot
Funyuns remind me of being a kid again. The pale yellow circles reminiscent of onion rings are fun and packed with a sharp onion flavor, but the addition of Flamin’ Hot powder is joyously welcomed. Above all of that, they are favorably crunchy while also being simultaneously airy and light. Call it witchcraft, call it smart chip engineering, but these loops are a lot of a good thing in a small infinite package. They aren’t too spicy—the onion flavor is definitely more forward here—but you’ll find yourself continuously reaching for more with their crispy texture.

Lay’s Kettle Cooked Flamin’ Hot
These chips got the award for being “the one to take to a desert island” by one of our taste testers and it’s easy to see why. They are enjoyably hot, much hotter than the majority of this list, but even more notable is the kettle-cooked, crunchy perfection. You can’t hear your own thoughts when you’re eating these chips—they’re that crunchy—and you’ll find plenty of folded chips in your batch (arguably the best kind of chip). If you’ve ever had kettle-cooked Lays, you know that these make the regular version look like limp noodles.

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These are the spiciest offerings within the world of Flamin’ Hot. Depending on your spice tolerance, these could be life-threatening or a gentle warming, but either way they’ve got plenty of cardinal red dust to tickle your tongue or send you gasping for water. We’ve ranked them from the least spicy to the spiciest, but all of them pack more of a punch than the other chips. You’ve been warned.

Cheetos Puffs Flamin’ Hot
I feel like there are two camps within the Cheetos fan base: fans of the OG chips and fans of the puffs. Neither is wrong—both are delicious but offer completely varying textures. The puff is light and airy, but maintains good heat because the powder is generously dispersed. One of our tasters said these reminded them of “classic cheese doodles, but make it adult.” We’d be inclined to agree. I’d say the Flamin’ Hot puffs are less spicy than the original, but still pack a punch; expect to find your finger tips well-coated in chile-laced cheeto dust while enjoying the springy bite akin to packing peanuts.

Cheetos Flamin’ Hot
If you’ve come to this list, I assume you know about the wonders of the original Flamin’ Hot Cheeto—the chip that started this Flamin’ Hot renaissance. If not, here’s all about it in brief: it’s crunchy, it’s spicy, it’s good smothered in nacho cheese or eaten by the handful. These chips are deemed “the venerable OG hot snack” by our eaters, and considered a “top three for sure.” They’re spicier than almost all the chips on this list, only losing out to the XXtra Flamin’ Hot (which, to be honest, only tastes marginally hotter). This is a classic flavor, and if you’re new to the world of Flamin’ Hot snacks, maybe start here.

Doritos Flamin' Hot Cool Ranch
You would think that something with the word 'cool' in its name would imply that this chip actually has a cooling effect, but you'd be wrong. The Flamin' Hot Cool Ranch is one of the newest, spiciest iterations in the Flamin' Hot canon. These dusted tortilla triangles actually gave me a chili-induced coughing fit, and yet I couldn't stop reaching for more. They are genuinely spicy, but the Cool Ranch dust provides a delightful tang that works well with the heat. It's wonderful not having to decide between two flavors of chips I adore now—I can have it all in a single bag.

Cheetos XXtra Flamin’ Hot
Here they are: the spiciest chips in the Flamin’ Hot lineup. Does that mean they are the spiciest chips ever? Far from it for me, a Thai girl with a spice tolerance on the higher end of the spectrum, but I’ll admit that they do have enough heat to be enjoyable without being overpowering or unpleasant. They’re my favorite chip within the Flamin’ Hot canon because I always crave more spice—and these do the trick while providing that classic crunch of a regular cheeto.

Some eaters noted that it doesn’t taste that much spicier than the regular Hot Cheetos, which I agree with to some extent. The bag claims to be twice as hot; the main difference I note is that the heat tastes more direct whereas with a regular bag of Hot Cheetos, the heat slowly builds over time. If you want the spiciest Flamin’ Hot you can handle, you’ve found it in this crinkly bag—but if you’re a real spice enthusiast, these may be too gentle. Either way, I’m still devouring them.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter@katthompsonn.

The Ultimate Guide to Flamin’ Hot Snacks (2024)


What is the snack in the movie Flamin Hot? ›

Richard Montanez: Appears during the montage of giving away bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. He wears a navy blue plaid shirt at a family picnic party.

Are the xxtra hot Cheetos actually hotter? ›

Scoville Rating of Xxtra Flamin' Hot Cheetos

This places them at a similar heat level to cayenne pepper. When pitted against the Carolina Reaper, they might seem modest, yet for a snack, they pack a serious punch. It's also important to note that these hot Cheetos are spicier than any others offered by Frito-Lay....

What is the hottest Cheeto? ›

Cheetos' Smoky Ghost Pepper Puffs Are Only Here for a Flamin' Hot Minute. This pepper-shaped addition to the Flamin' Hot family is the hottest one yet.

Is it OK to eat Flamin Hot Cheetos? ›

Flamin' Hot Cheetos meet all applicable food safety regulations, as well as our rigorous quality standards. That said, we realize some consumers may be more sensitive to spicy foods than others and may choose to moderate consumption or avoid spicier snacks due to personal preference.”

What happened to Clarence from Flamin Hot? ›

Roger Enrico joined Frito-Lay in early 1991, two years after Reagan left office. Frito-Lay cut 1800 jobs later that year. Clarence Baker, played by Dennis Haysbert, was based on a co-worker Montañez had at the plant. He died several years before production of the movie and a different name was used for the character.

Why are the xxtra hot cheetos discontinued? ›

We have simplified our production to best meet the current overall demand. Because of this, we have temporarily paused the production of Cheetos Crunchy XXTRA Flamin' Hot. We know that's disappointing, but rest assured, our plans are to start back production as soon as possible!

Is 8000 Scoville hot? ›

On the Scoville pepper scale, jalapenos range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. They're considered spicy but not too hot for most people. Since many are familiar with the heat level of jalapenos, it makes them useful when comparing the spiciness of other peppers and chiles.

Why are Takis better than Hot Cheetos? ›

Takis are known for their bold taste that is spicy and seems to pack heat in every bite with flavors such as Nitro and Fuego. Takis might also edge out Flamin' Hot Cheetos because of their distinctive texture. Both hot and spicy snacks have great taste and flavor, but Takis has a longer flavor that will last.

Why is Flamin Hot so addicting? ›

That spice, and the ensuing endorphin release, is part of what makes Flamin' Hot Cheetos so tempting to devour handfuls at a time.

What was the original Flamin Hot snack? ›

It's hard to imagine Frito-Lay's cheesy snack line without the brand's lip-burning Flamin' Hot Cheetos right in front. The spicy snacks, first released in 1991, have earned an enduring following. And we have janitor Richard Montañez to thank.

What chip is the spiciest? ›

Paqui's One Chip Challenge consists of a packet with one extremely hot tortilla chip which contains two of the hottest chillies in the world as certified by Guinness World Records -- Carolina Reaper Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper.

Who invented Takis? ›

A specific person is not credited with the invention of Takis, but rather, an entire company. Takis were developed and released by a company called Barcel in Mexico in 1999, coming to America in 2006. Since then, Takis have grown to be one of America's favorite snacks.

What is the largest Cheeto ever found? ›

The World's Largest Cheeto

Originally found in a bag of Cheetos in Hawaii by Navy Officer Mike Evans in 2003, the Cheeto was originally on eBay. Eventually, the Cheeto was rehomed after local radio DJ Bryce Wilson started a campaign to bring it to Iowa.

What is the red 40 in hot Cheetos? ›

Flamin' Hot Cheetos contain food additive dyes Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which have been linked to adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in some children.

What is in Flamin Hot Munchies? ›

Inside each bag of MUNCHIES® snacks, you'll find a tasty mix of some of your favorite snack brands, including SUNCHIPS®, DORITOS®, ROLD GOLD® and CHEETOS® snacks!

What do they put on Flamin Hot Cheetos? ›

According to the back of the bag, Flamin' Hot Cheetos seasoning consists of an assortment of: Salt, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate, Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Onion Powder, Whey, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, and the ever elusive “Natural Flavor.” Not a tremendous amount of help there, but luckily many ...


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