King of the Ring: Flamin’ Hot™️ Chips Ranked

Spicy snacks go head-to-head

Infamous Chip by Thrillist

As someone whose grandmother formerly worked at Frito Lay and as a Southern California resident, I know a thing or two about the wares ole Chester the Cheetah has had to offer. Created in the late 80s by then-janitor now-future biopic star, Richard Montañez, the chip has become wildly successful in the LA Latinx market and around the world. It has been met with controversy, immortalized in a Forever 21 campaign, and oh did I mention the movie coming out?

Mr. Flamin’ Hot himself, Richard Montañez by the Hustle

We know they’re a great chip, there’s no arguing that. But the real question is, which is the best? The most flavorful, the most mouth-watering, the most runny-nose inducing? My years of expertise in the field should prove more than sufficient to find out. I’m ranking these based on the bare chip — no additional fixin’s like lime, Tapatío or Tajín in this countdown. I’m also only looking at the Flamin’ Hot™️ family of products, banishing the red-headed stepchild known as Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos as well as Tapatío Cheetos back to the mad scientist’s lair from whence they came.

0/10 We Do Not Stan by Consumerqueen

20. Baked Flamin’ Hot

Starting at the bottom of the barrel we have Frito Lay’s misguided attempt at disguising their golden goose as a healthy snack. As described on their website, the main difference in these chips is that they are baked rather than fried, reducing fat compared to regular potato chips and regular cheese flavored snacks. The fact that they did not directly compare it to say, their own original Flamin’ Hot™️ Cheetos is pretty funny but the flavor on these is not. It’s Flamin’ Hot™ ️in name only, the signature spicy chili favor dulled by the hubristic venture of making the chip healthier. Many poor unfortunate K-12 students are subjected to this mummer’s farce of a chip, whose baked flavor lands it at the bottom of the list.

Chester on some Herbert West-levels of concoction by Influenster

19. Crunchy Flamin’ Hot™️ Chipotle Ranch

Ranch belongs on salad and fries, not in my polypropylene laminated aluminum bag of Cheetos! The only things these chips have going for them are the color palette (yes fully saturated aqua blue and fire engine red!) and the fact that Chester is full-on using a molcajete on the package, solidifying his status as the Latinx icon he is. The flavor is too much, picture the aforementioned Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos but with a little more zest. When will manufacturers stop trying to Frankenstein together flavors that might work well together in their true forms but certainly do not translate to whatever Willy Wonka-situation this ended up being?

Okay Sure by Videos of Products

18. Munchies Flamin’ Hot™️

A fun concept, and definitely a top contender in let’s say a hospital vending machine, the Munchies Flamin’ Hot™️ land at number 18 because of the overwhelming pretzel to hot chip ratio. The kosher salt rocks imbedded in the pretzels are gout-inducing, and not a fun time for the soft palate of your mouth. Bald chips (chips without much seasoning powder) are frequent fliers in this bag. And Sun Chips don’t even have a spicy variant so what exactly is in here?

Number 17 by Schoolsnackshop

17. Fantastix! Flamin’ Hot™️

Another “healthy” version of a popular Flamin’ Hot™️ product, seemingly made specifically to skirt around healthy school lunch guidelines as they meet USDA whole-grain rich criteria, these aren’t awful on their own. It’s in comparison to the original, coupled with the sheer magnitude of much better hot chips that land this one at number 17.

Number 16 by Amazon

16. Fritos Flamin’ Hot

️Fritos Flamin’ Hot™️ are not a bad chip, but are essentially just red Fritos. They have that oily corn chip Frito flavor that overshadows the spicy seasoning by a wide margin. The chips tend to be on the balder side, with the signature troll toenail shape still in effect. A suitable party chip for folks who want a spicy option for those who are not friends with Scovilles. If you’re a fan of this one, Taco Bell offers a Beefy Crunch Burrito featuring the chip.

Here Come the Kernels by Eat This Much

15. Chester’s Flamin’ Hot™️ Popcorn

Apparently from Mr. Cheetah himself, Flamin’ Hot™️ popcorn is among the $2 Only line, retailing at two dollars flat at gas stations and grocery stores everywhere. It tastes like bagged popcorn and the firmness borders on styrofoam packing peanut territory. Eating even a few of these results in kernels stuck in between your teeth. You can keep this one, Chester.

Nasty But In the Janet Jackson Way by BestProducts

14. Lay’s Flamin’ Hot™️ Dill Pickle

For those who love a Van Holten’s Hot Pickle, these have the tangy kick without the 520mg of sodium in one serving size. Lay’s have been known to experiment with strange chip flavors, and I know what I just said for number 19, but this one works because it’s not too complicated. It’s not an attempt at, say, deep-dish pizza. No, the humble Lay’s Flamin’ Hot™️ does not presume to overreach or overstay its welcome. It just is. And for that, our tastebuds are in full military salute.

Tried and True Staple by Target

13. Lay’s Flamin’ Hot™️

The cool older sibling of the Flamin’ Hot™️ Dill Pickle Chips. This chip has a mortgage and a 401k. This chip gets good benefits at work. This chip would loan you money to pay your car registration. One of the oldest among the Flamin’ Hot™️ pantheon of products, it is a tried and true staple of classroom potlucks everywhere. Just enough kick for us Scoville addicts and just mild enough for the weaker willed. Still, a chip that errs on the balder side, but the seasoning is strong enough to offset the meager dusting these seem to get.

Just Good Stuff™️ by Amazon

12. Ruffles Flamin’ Hot™️

Another chip that has stood the test of time for classroom parties and beyond, the Ruffles Flamin’ Hot™ ️are a strong midrange hot chip. The “Because Ruffles Have Ridges” argument holds true here — the Ruffles variant beat out Lay’s due to the ridges storing more seasoning, boosting their ranking to number 12. The sturdier nature of a Ruffle also helps improve their rank, with the increased crunch factor coming into play.

Thank You Munchos by Amazon

11. Munchos Flamin’ Hot™️

Topping off the hot potato chip gauntlet we have the Munchos Flamin’ Hot™️, another of the $2 Only family of products. Like the Lay’s Flamin’ Hot™️ Dill Pickle chips, these have notes of vinegar. The Munchos variant is more of a hot wing sauce, coupled with the light melt-in-your-mouth potato chip Munchos is known for makes it hard not to polish off the whole bag.

GTA Hot Cheetos by ABC News

10. Flamin’ Hot™️Cheetos

The granddaddy of them all. The gateway drug to spicy snacks. The topping that folks put on elote, sushi, pizza, and god knows what else. The original Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which carried the torch to illuminate new possibilities for spicy snacks everywhere. Where would we be without the signature red-and-yellow snack, I do not wish to know. A groundbreaking chip that has only been improved upon with time. Thank you for your continued service and dedication to turning fingers red.

Chester’s First Homage to His Latinx Roots by Cheetos

9. Flamin’ Hot™️ Limón

The very first of the Flamin’ Hot™️variants, which first implied Chester the Cheetah’s Latinx roots in using limón over lime, was a product of the Latinx remixing of popular snacks by adding lime juice, extra hot sauce like Tapatío, and a smattering of chili powder like Tajín. It was so prevalent and popular that Frito Lay took matters (and royalties) into their own hands, making the flavor official and commercially available. A slight improvement over the original but enough to land it at number nine.

Not Dunyun with Those Funyuns by Pintrest

8. Funyuns Flamin’ Hot™️

It’s so beautiful to see the marriage of two things that truly work together. The spiciness of the Flamin’ Hot™️ seasoning with the trademark Funyun flavor is a match made in tastebud heaven. The chips are a kick up in spicy levels from the other variants, and the chips themselves tend to have consistent seasoning coating. I don’t even like regular Funyuns, but the Flamin’ Hot™️ kind are hard to pass up.

Icons Only by MassGenie

7. Chester’s Flamin’ Hot™️ Fries

Here we have Chester the Cheetah’s first foray into chip concoction, the corn and potato hybrid chip known as Flamin’ Hot™️ Fries. The unique texture is what sets this chip apart from the rest of its Flamin’ Hot™️ siblings: it’s soft but doesn’t exactly melt in your mouth. It kind of…develops a sort of paste upon chewing? Whatever, it’s good and also one of the $2 Only items available for purchase.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Goodness by Desertcart

6. Chester’s Puffcorn Flamin’ Hot™️

The god tier of Chester’s items is another among the $2 Only items. Everything Chester’s Flamin’ Hot™️ Popcorn does wrong, Puffcorn does right because well, it’s not popcorn. It’s literally puffed corn, hence the name. There are no kernels to speak of and the Puffcorn is as soft as the Flamin’ Hot™ Popcorn is firm. They saw what Munchos was doing and said hold my beer. They really melt in your mouth and the seasoning itself has nothing to fight with so it tastes great. These also always have a few densely coated chips rolling around in the bag so they are a consistent good buy. You crazy for this one, Chester.

Legends Only by Delish

5. Flamin’ Hot™️ Puffs

Cheese puffs or balls are a staple of American snack culture. The garish fluorescent orange powder and trademark smile curl are immortalized in film and television. Be it in a huge transparent tub or a crinkly bag, the crunchy puffed corn snack has always been a hit. I remember eating them throughout childhood wishing for the same chip but spicy. Cheetos heard my prayers and granted us all with the legendary Flamin’ Hot™️ Puffs. Hats off to the first of our final five.

New Kid on the Block by Doritos

4. Doritos Flamin’ Hot™

Unveiled earlier this year after much social media fanfare, Doritos Flamin’ Hot™️ shot to the top of the list because of the harmonious marriage of the cheesy Doritos tortilla chip flavor and the Flamin’ Hot™️seasoning. This is for everyone who finds their Spicy Nacho flavor lackluster. These chips have been the most consistently coated to date — I have yet to encounter a bag of primarily bald chips. The ranking might lower over time when more Flamin’ Hot™️ innovations leave the Frito Lay labs but for now, they bask in the glory of the number four spot.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince by ThePetitionSite

3. Flamin’ Hot™️ Asteroids

Spurring many an online petition, the discontinued chip has left a Flamin’ Hot™️ Asteroids hole in the hearts of many. Remembered as crunchy and packed with powder, the distinct oblong shape of the package has yet to return to stores in full force. Cheetos seems to be testing out a smaller version of these, calling them Flavor Shots. With the price point to ranging from under $2 to over $5, of course. The general consensus seems to be that they pale in comparison to the original, tasting more like mini Flamin’ Hot™️ Puffs than anything. Whether we’ll ever get a full-fledged return is up for debate. Maybe they’re more like their namesake than we realized — an asteroid burning hot upon the entry of the Earth’s atmosphere, whittled down by the flame until it fades from the sky.

Ooky Spooky by Delish

2. Flamin’ Hot™️ Bag of Bones

Previously only available in white cheddar, Frito Lay said fuck it and slapped some Flamin’ Hot™️ seasoning to make this seasonal item one of the best of the bunch. Tangy and soft, the Flamin’ Hot™️ Bag of Bones are an instant crowd-pleaser with the four distinct skeleton shapes making them perfect for a Halloween party or a spooky night in.

One Chip to Rule Them All by Titan Machine Corp.

1. XXTRA Flamin’ Hot™️ Cheetos

Previously a limited-time-only item whose popularity made it a snack food staple, the XXTRA Flamin’ Hot™️ Cheetos are a godsend. With enough Scovilles to challenge the weak-willed and sate the desires of us spicy snack connoisseurs, these chips are the sign of a real Hot Cheeto fan. This is the only chip on the list that is not fundamentally improved by adding fixin’s like lime juice, Tapatío or Tajín, because in adding them all, it reduces them to the having the same taste as regular or limón Hot Cheetos. No, the XXTRA Flamin’ Hot™️ Cheetos are in a league all their own, and for that, we honor it with the number one spot. All hail the king, baby.