Best Cheese Puffs: Start Cheesin’ With the 9 Best Cheese Puffs

The best cheese puffs are airy, crunchy, and decadent. They are most definitely my go-to cheese snack (although a Cheez-It is a very close second). That said, I can get burnt out on Crunchy Cheetos rather quickly; they’re so saturated with fat and oil, and they seem to lodge themselves permanently in my gums. A nuanced cheese curl, though, with a whimsical texture and a powerfully cheesy taste? That’s how you nail a snack, friends. It’s all about balance.

For this taste test, we judged cheese puffs and cheese curls on flavor and texture. Most brands nail the classic cheese puff texture, but the flavor varies wildly. Cheese puffs that are salty and cheesy ranked the highest—the majority of us like a bold flavor. This wasn’t at all a one-note tasting; in fact, we found out that there are some really fun and exciting innovations happening in the world of cheese puffs. There weren’t many duds, either—rather, we were comparing good snacks to other good snacks. I did a lot of research and sourced a lot of outside opinions for this ranking, too. Ultimately, we decided these nine are the best cheese puffs you can buy.

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best cheese puffs

Best of The Best

Fresh Finds Cheese Puffs

These cheese puffs from Big Lots surprised me so much that I had to get a second opinion, so I brought them over to Mythical Kitchen chef Josh Scherer’s office (the bathroom) along with a bag of Cheetos Puffs to do a side-by-side comparison. We both agreed: Fresh Finds has more flavor. What’s baffling, though, is that the name “Fresh Finds” sort of implies a healthy product, but it actually has more sodium and more fat than Cheetos. Also, if you bite into both a Cheeto and a Fresh Finds cheese puff, you’ll notice a stark visual difference: Cheetos have an orange cheese-coated  outer layer but a yellow inner layer, whereas Fresh Finds puffs have cheese flavor mixed in with the corn, making them completely orange throughout. Managing editor Gwynedd Stuart preferred Cheetos because they have a “better corn flavor,” but my colleague Jordan Myrick, Josh, and I all felt that the salt, fat, and powerful cheesiness of the Fresh Finds Cheese Puff was too decadent to be beat. These stunned their way to number one and I’m confident these are the best cheese puffs you can buy.

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Instacart

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best spicy cheese puffs

Best Flavored

Herr’s Jalapeño Popper Cheese Curls

Jordan and I both thought about ranking these at number one, but decided not to because they’re a slight departure from a traditional cheese puff. Still, the flavor here is just incredible. Herr’s just always makes such a stellar product, and I think that they might low-key have the most exciting cheese puff flavors on the market (see Deep Dish Pizza and Buffalo Blue Cheese). Herr’s Jalapeño Popper Cheese Curls are so delightfully cheesy, salty, and peppery. The jalapeño isn’t too spicy—it just provides a lovely depth of flavor. These have 7% more saturated fat and 2% more sodium per serving than Cheetos—it’s all about fat and salt when it comes to cheese curls.

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Herr’s

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best cheese curls

Best Classic

Cheetos Cheese Puffs

I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic. Cheetos Puffs have such a lovely baseline cheesy and corn-forward flavor. You could, in theory, inhale the entire bag without even realizing it. Gwynedd loves how you can really taste the corn puff mixture of these (compared to the fattier, saltier Fresh Finds cheese puffs). Personally, I’m partial to the fattier and saltier versions, but Cheetos cheese puffs are a great standard. You might be on Gwynedd’s side, though!

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best white cheddar cheese puffs

Best White Cheddar

Simply Cheetos White Cheddar Cheese Puffs

These ranked high in our Cheetos taste test, so naturally they appeared on this list as well. Sure, white cheddar might be a construct, but these white cheddar cheese puffs are so damn good! Personally, I love the flavor that white cheddar implies—a cheesy tang with some extra depth of flavor. The ingredients list sour cream, which is where that bright and zesty taste comes from. This is a great option for the white cheddar fans out there.

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best cheese balls

Best Cheese Balls

Utz Cheese Balls

We kept this giant tub of Utz cheese balls around the office after this taste test, and now Jordan and I pour out a bowl every so often as a little snack. Utz’s cheese balls have such a great texture—they’re super crunchy and delicious. The flavor is quite sharp and tangy, and these contain a lot of fat and salt per serving. No wonder they’re so addictive. 

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best spicy cheese curls

Best Spicy

Herr’s Carolina Reaper Cheese Curls

This might be my favorite spicy product ever. As advertised, it contains real, actual Carolina Reaper chili powder. So naturally these taste spicy, but they taste cheesy, too! To me, Flamin’ Hot products taste too acidic and artificial—you can tell the heat is not from real chili peppers. But, here, you really get that dry, explosive heat from the Carolina Reaper peppers. And I don’t think it’s too much, either; It’s spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. Man, Herr’s just crushes it. If you like actually spicy things, you’ll be impressed with these.

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best cheese puffs

Best Reduced Fat

Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Cheese Puffs

Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Cheese Puffs may not bring as much flavor to the table as the higher ranking cheese puffs on this list. And while they do contain less fat, it’s probably too negligible of a difference to have any real health benefits. What these cheese puffs do super well, however, is texture. They’re wonderfully crunchy, and don’t get stuck in your teeth like other cheese curls. The solid texture makes these the most munchable of the bunch. They’re light, but they still taste quite buttery and cheesy. This is a great product.

Credit: Paula Kunatee

Rating:

8/10

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best flamin' hot cheese puffs

Best Flamin’ Hot

Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Cheese Puffs

The Flamin’ hotness of these things is almost a distraction from the taste of the cheese curl itself. They’re so damn acidic (I’m guessing from the citric acid), and the overwhelming, artificial-tasting spiciness makes the cheesy flavor feel like an afterthought. Still, Flamin’ Hot products have such a pronounced and unique flavor. If you’re fiending for it, these cheese curls will provide that flavor along with a delightfully puffy and crispy curl. It’s not a bad combo. 

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

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best cheese puffs herrs

Best Mashup

Herr’s Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Cheese Puffs

I’m including these on the list because, for better or worse, they taste exactly as advertised. I mean, it’s just like eating a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich in cheese puff form. All they needed to create that flavor was some tomato powder, but it really works. Now, you might find the ketchup-y taste to be off-putting, but I appreciate what Herr’s is doing with these. It’s whimsical and wonderful and we should celebrate it. Buy these when you’re in a fun mood and share them with friends. 

Credit: Paula Kunatee / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Annie’s Organic Cheddar Smiles, Barbara’s Original Cheese Puffs, Whole Foods 365 Cheese Curls, Planter’s Cheese Balls, Planter’s Flamin’ Hot Cheese Balls, Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Cheese Puffs, TGIFriday’s Jalapeño Popper Cheese Curls, Wotsits Baked Flamin’ Hot Cheese Curls.

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

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  • Nah, Crunchy Cheetos are better than Cheeto Puffs.

    Reply
  • I agree with urnam0, and also I’m your biggest fan!

    Reply
  • Jax Cheese Curls! Amazing

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  • Love the article! I dont know if Jax Cheese Curls from UTZ qualified in your taste test cause it may be regional or the consistency may not be what you are looking for in this ranking BUT it is the absolute BEST cheese curl EVER!

    Reply
  • Omg yes finally Herrs gets the recognition it deserves! I worked at a liquor store that stocked a huge variety if Herrs and they have so many flavors, the cheese puff pizza ones i was obsessed with, but theyre all amazing!

    Reply
  • “Managing editor Gwynedd Stuart preferred Cheetos…” i saw her Halloween candy draft. She can’t be trusted. Im trying the fresh finds!

    Reply
    • 🙂

      Reply
  • Herr’s Jalapeno Poppers getting some love here, those are one of my favorite snacks of all time. They were so hard to find until Lidl showed up in my neighborhood, they keep them in stock regularly. Just ran out and grabbed a couple of bags!

    Reply
  • Chester’s puff corn for the win!

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  • I was wondering why aren’t cheetos puffcorn are on here? In my opinion, they are the best puff.

    Reply
  • Jax cheese curls for the win!

    Reply
  • Jax is by far the best cheese puff! Please give them a try

    Reply
  • Nah, this list is incomplete without Jax. How could you forget them?! They are way better than most, if not all, of this list.

    Reply
  • What about planters (peanut brand) cheese balls?

    Reply
  • The Herr’s Reaper is one of those things that I loved on first bite. Then my son told me it tasted like hotdog water, and I could not untaste that. Every time I went back for more the more it tasted like hotdogs.

    Reply