A Definitive Ranking of Hot Cheetos

I've been binging them for nearly two decades. I should know.

Not So Deep Thoughts
A Definitive Ranking of Hot Cheetos
Costume Designer Ami Goodheart attends The House Of Flamin’ Haute Runway Show Photo:Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Frito-Lay (Getty Images)

On the playground, I always knew having Hot Cheetos stashed in my bag was the key to pre-K clout. It was the ultimate bargaining chip — my social capital. Before my tits grew in and my single eyebrow had been plucked off, it was the hot stuff that reeled popular baddies into my orbit. “That Emily always has spicy snacks,” they’d whisper. “Would you like a spicy snack?” I’d whisper back, winking.

It’s fitting, then, that my fondest childhood memories come in the form of my grubby digits clutching a ruby-red corn puff — one part diuretic and one part perfect, spicy, beautiful little snack.

While regular Cheetos are fine, Hot Cheetos are built to stand the test of time. Like an aphrodisiac or a toxic ex, these allegedly chili powder-soaked fluffy puffs are clearly bad for us, yet we keep on running back. Hot Cheetos satisfy an animalistic craving for spice that your regular Cheetos could never: Our eyes water, our noses run, we maybe sweat a little, and our tongues burn as if the devil himself dances upon our taste buds, but damn it hurts so good.

Cheeto fanaticism isn’t just a taste or preference: It’s a way of life. Hot (Cheeto) Girls show up to the salon with spicy orange dust packed under their acrylics and in their cuticles, with no remorse. Hot (Cheeto) Girls throw Hot Cheeto-themed birthday parties for themselves, offering each of the premium varietals for taste testing as well as bowls of crushed up Cheeto dust to adorn the rims of spicy Bloody Marys. Hot (Cheeto) Girls also stash their pantries with several bags of them at all times for accessibility’s sake — just in case they come home drunk and want to dump a handful onto their chests to nosh on in bed.

Photo:Emily Leibert

But in the hierarchy of Hot Cheeto creations, some varieties are simply far superior.

  1. Chester’s Hot Cheeto Fries: My go-to post bender snack is light and airy with the perfect amount of crunch, which makes it easier to consume quickly, which is also very important.
  2. Hot Cheeto Asteroids: O sweet nostalgia, my childhood. While some first graders traded milky marbles, I offered up tiny little diarrhea-inducing puffballs! Methinks the marketing folks must have gotten a kick out of the product name, knowing they were sending literal asteroids rocketing out of our asses.
  3. Hot Cheeto Puffs: These have somewhat of a more full-bodied flavor with more substance to the actual snack, could even be a stand-in for dinner.
  4. Regular Hot Cheetos: I respect my elders, and, therefore, have some respect for the original creation — an invention that revolutionized the snack economy.
  5. Hot Cheeto Popcorn: Perhaps the biggest shocker of the lot. I once bought these because my top four were out at Ralph’s and was pleasantly surprised at the slightly nuanced flavor.
  6. Xxtra Flamin’ Hot – Sometimes a woman doesn’t need more spice in her life. But sometimes, the extra kick is just what she needs. Be warned, you must be in a particular mood to enjoy these, but when it hits, it hits.
  7. Baked: For wimps.
  8. Anything Limón – Limón as a flavor is generally very good, but this iteration departs too far from the original flavoring and, for that reason, is not my favorite.
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