Life

Flamin’ Hot Chips, Ranked On Heat And Flavor

Flashback to the days of Middle School. You’re awkward, your mom still buys your wardrobe, puberty is making you weird and disgusting, you’re experimenting with hairstyles and it isn’t working… it’s a dark time that most people work very hard to forget. But there is one thing from that era that still follows you around, a shameful secret that you’re hiding from your new, “adult” friends, maybe even an intimate partner. An indulgence you’ve been caught red-handed (literally) trying to hide.

We’re talking about your love for all things Flamin’ Hot. Trust us, you’re not alone. Whether you’re about the Cheetos, Chester’s Fries, Munches, Ruffles, Doritos, or Lays, we see you — scrubbing your fingers so your pre-dinner snack binge doesn’t get discovered. We won’t tell, promise!

But with Flamin’ Hot products being banned in the UK because they contain Yellow 6 and Red 40 — both made from petroleum and linked to hyperactivity in children — it’s safe to say that if you’re indulging in Flamin’ Hot anything, you want to get the good stuff. To help you navigate that, I bought up as many Flamin’ Hot products I could find to tell you which of them are worth eating which aren’t. Like a very sophisticated science experiment.

To make it easy to separate the good from the absolute trash, we’ve ranked each chip on spice level (1-5), flavor, and whether it’s worth ingesting all the chemicals for. Let’s get to it!

15. Ruffles Flamin’ Hot BBQ By Jayson Tatum

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level: 1

The Chip

It turns out that Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum knows as much about spicy snacks as I do about basketball, which is to say, “nothing at all.” These just aren’t in the least bit spicy, they taste like a less smokey iteration of normal BBQ chips. I don’t blame Tatum for this, Frito Lay probably hit him up for this partnership and he just mashed two flavors that he likes together and called it a day.

Still, it’s a shame to have your face on what is easily the worst Flamin’ Hot product currently on the market. Which is sad, especially when Ruffles Baked Flamin’ Hot exists.

Is it worth it?

Not even a little bit. Jayson Tatum’s mom wouldn’t even buy these.

14. Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Baked

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 1

The Chip

Awful. This flavor had to be made because someone who only eats Baked chips wrote an angry email to Frito Lay about how there aren’t enough Flamin’ Hot Baked options. If you’re a person so concerned about your health that you’re buying baked chips, maybe Flamin’ Hot isn’t for you to begin with? Unless you like the taste of cardboard, which is Ruffles Baked Flamin’ Hot tastes like.

And smells like! There is a certain staleness to the way Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Baked smells — it’s weird. Anyway, there isn’t a single appealing thing about this chip.

Is it worth it?

If you like slightly spicy cardboard, sure.

13. Lays Flamin’ Hot

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 3

The Chip

This one hit me the hardest, I love Lays, it’s my go-to potato chip brand, so I fully expected Flamin’ Hot Lays to deliver. They smell great, with a greasy spiced scent that fools you into thinking you’re in for a delicious treat, but when you bite down it’s just… gross for lack of a better word. They’re light and crispy, but have this off-putting rancid taste to them, as if the Flamin’ Hot chemicals have somehow rotted the potato.

In terms of spice, they create some heat that lingers on the tongue, but not in a pleasing way — you’re going to want to wash this down with something that’ll burn the potato flavor off your tastebuds, like a cold can of soda. Or turpentine.

Is it worth it?

Lays makes a dozen great potato chip flavors, get any of those over this.

12. Doritos Flamin’ Hot Nacho

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 2

The Chip

I might get some heat for this one because I imagine Doritos Flamin’ Hot Nacho has its fans — Doritos heads are the most unhinged chip fans out there (I made this up, it’s people who only eat Takis, they’ll kill you) — but these… aren’t good. Like Lays, Doritos makes a lot of different flavors, and some of them even lean in that spicy territory, but the Flamin’ Hot just sucks out all of the flavor from this one. I can only describe this flavor as “red,” they taste the way they look.

On the nose, you get the nice comforting smell of tortilla, but the chew on this chip is just a little too thick for being this one note in the flavor department leaving you with a whole lot of nothing to chew.

Is it worth it?

No. This is one of Doritos worst flavors. If you bought a bag of this and need something to do with it, I suggest breaking up the chips in a mortar and pestle (or blender) and using the dust as part of a fried chicken batter.

11. Funyuns Flamin’ Hot

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 2

The Chip

These aren’t that spicy but the Flamin’ Hot flavoring somehow strips away that all of that onion flavoring that makes Funyuns so unique. The chips have a nice light and airy quality to them with a pleasing crispy mouthfeel, but with the lack of heat and the subdued onion flavor, I just don’t see much worthwhile in this iteration of either brand.

Is it worth it?

If you like Funyuns, these won’t deliver what you’re after. If you like spicy chips, Flamin Hot Funyuns aren’t that either.

10. Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Cheddar

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 3

The Chip

Now we’re finally getting into the good stuff. When I opened Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Cheddar I fully expected to hate them, as this bag of chips had that familiar fart-y smell that so many chip brands suffer from. But as soon as I bit into this chip I was onboard, the cheddar cheese dust pairs nicely with the Flamin’ Hot flavor, offering you something similar to the OG Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in a more dippable and less embarrassing form factor

Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Cheddar provides a nice spicy kick that lingers in the back of your throat. It’s hot enough that you’re going to want to enjoy this chip with a drink of something as the heat will quickly build up, causing you to either eat more chips, which will make it worse, or stop eating them altogether. Nobody wants that.

Is it worth it?

Definitely, if you like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the Flamin’ Hot Cheddar Ruffles taste similar in a less embarrassing form factor that’s better for dipping.

9. Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 4

The Chip

I was excited to try these because I’ve been told by many a food writer and fan that Chester’s Flamin Hot Fries were the best iteration of the Flamin’ Hot brand, and, prior to setting out to do this article, I had never tried them. I wouldn’t call them “the best,” but I see where people are coming from as these provide a spicier kick than your average Flamin’ Hot product that tingles on the palate with a sort of mouthwatering quality.

Alas… I’m just not convinced about this form factor — which is halfway between a chip and a corn puff. They’re a little too soft for my linking and dissolve in the mouth in a mushy way.

Is it worth it?

Maybe. They deliver on the spice, and while I don’t like its potato chip meets corn puff mouthfeel, you just might!

8. Doritos Flamin’ Hot Nacho Limon

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 4

The Chip

Hopefully, some Dorito heads stayed around after I trashed the OG Flamin’ Hot Nacho chips. This is a massive improvement over the non-Limon version, despite its sickly sour smell. The Limon’ Doritos have a heavily citrus-forward flavor with a strong tingling spice that coats your tongue almost immediately.

The lime flavor keeps the Flamin’ Hot from being too dry, meaning you won’t need something to wash these down.

Is it worth it?

This is Doritos’ best Flamin’ Hot product, so if you’re a Dorito head who wants the best of both worlds, Flamin’ Hot Nacho Limon is for you.

7. Fritos Flamin’ Hot Original

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 2

The Chip

These aren’t very spicy at all, but they add a nice little kick to Fritos original corn chip. All in all, I like these a lot and if you already like Fritos I’m willing to bet you will too. The subtle heat pairs nicely with Fritos’ corn chip which is encrusted with black pepper, and the flavors don’t stick around on the tongue in an unappetizing way.

This is going to be a great flavor to dip into something, and they don’t even leave your fingers stained red!

Is it worth it?

It doesn’t really deliver on the Flamin’ Hot spice, but it’s overall a good chip flavor.

6. Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Original

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 3

The Chip

The flavor that started it all, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that the Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Original ranked highly on this list. It’s a solid mix of cheddar and spice, with a crispy and crunchy mouthfeel that’ll keep you coming back for more. While it’s lacking in the heat department, it’s in every way an improvement over Cheetos standard flavor.

Is it worth it?

The fact that there are over 10 Flamin’ Hot products stocked on the shelves at all times is a testament to how good Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are.

5. Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Puffs

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 3

The Chip

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos might be the standard but the Puffs are a substantial improvement over the original. While the Puffs are also pretty tame in the spice department, they pack a lot of flavor throughout. You’re greeted with a spicy kick and a sharp cheddar bite, with a corn puff flavor that tames things down and provides a nice soft mouthfeel that quickly becomes addicting.

They’re also incredibly satisfying — you can have six or seven puffs and satiate your Flamin’ Hot cravings easily.

Is it worth it?

If you love Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, give the Puffs a try. They’re better!

4. Munchies Flamin’ Hot

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 2

The Chip

Munchies are really close to being my personal favorite Flamin’ Hot product. Featuring a mix of Flamin’ Hot Doritos, Cheetos, Sun Chips, and Rold Gold pretzels, Flamin’ Hot Munchies is kind of like a trashy version of spicy Chex or Trail Mix. You get a little bit of everything, and while the heat is seriously lacking in this variety, that mix of wheat, tortilla, pretzel, and corn puff tastes so good together. I don’t generally like pretzels in mixes, but the Flamin’ hot pairs great, this may be one of the best use of pretzels in a mix in the whole snack universe, bested only by yogurt-covered pretzels.

Even though the Munchies contain Flamin’ Hot Doritos, the flavors all work harmoniously here.

Is it worth it?

Yes! Grab a handful and toss it in your mouth for a seriously addicting snack. Lacks heat though, so if spice is what you’re after, look elsewhere.

3. Cheetos Extra Flamin’ Hot

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 5

The Chip

Currently, the spiciest Flamin’ Hot product on the market, Cheetos Extra Flamin’ Hot is truly a spicier improvement over the original. This tastes and looks almost identical to the original so I’m not exactly sure where the extra kick of spice is coming from, but it’s definitely here. At first taste, you’ll be greeted by only a subtle heat but it’ll quickly start to compound onto itself with the more chips you eat, causing you to salivate and only crave more.

Is it worth it?

Definitely, Cheetos Extra Flamin’ Hot provides the same flavor you love from the OG but seriously kicks up the spice level.

2. Takis Fuego

Takis

Spicy Level 4

The Chip

*RECORD SCRATCH*

Yeah yeah yeah, we know, “Takis aren’t Flamin’ Hot.”

But if you grew up crushing spicy snacks in your youth, your allegiances either fell with Takis or Hot Cheetos. If you were a Takis lover, you were probably wondering where these would land. Until recently, I was a Takis guy. But recently, I’ve semi-converted.

The spice here is noticeably different than what you’ll find on the Flamin’ Hot products, hitting you instantly and creating a nice burn on the tongue before you even chew your way through this rolled tortilla chip. The way the chili pepper powder embeds itself into the folds of the tortilla is snack food perfection, ensuring that every bite brings the fire with notes of zesty lime that dance on the palate.

This is so so close. But when compared to our number one choice, Takis goes a little overboard on that lime flavor. It sticks in the mouth in a way that says “Yeah, you’re eating junk food, what did you expect?”

I’d still take these in a heartbeat over the OG Flamin’ Hot Cheetos though, or you know, just get both.

Is it worth it?

“Hot Cheetos and Takis, Hot Cheetos and Takis, I can’t get enough of these Hot Cheetos and Takis.”

1. Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Limon

Dane Rivera

Spicy Level 4

The Chip

Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Limon was definitely a response to the rising popularity of Fuego Takis. Overall, I think the balance of heat and lime works better here, the lime flavoring isn’t quite as sour, though that may be because it’s being balanced by powdered cheddar. But Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Limon isn’t just better than Takis Fuego, it’s better than every genuine Flamin’ Hot product on the market. On the nose, the Limon flavor has a zesty spiced aroma that far surpasses the smell offered by every other flavor in the Flamin’ Hot line — it’s actually appetizing, which can’t be said for most of these chips.

On the palate, the zesty lime zing of Flamin’ Hot Limon adds a lot of dimension and depth to the otherwise one-note flavor. A citrus heat is the dominant flavor, with Cheetos cheddar flavor taking a barely-there backseat, and to great effect! For whatever reason, these are slightly spicier than the OG Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, with a lingering flavor that sits at the back of the throat and burns the lips.

Is it worth it?

This is the best Flamin’ Hot product ever and just edges out Takis. The lime flavor adds depth and a nice refreshing sensation to Flamin’ Hot’s one-note spicy flavor but doesn’t blast you with lime, like our number two pick.

×