Trader Joe’s ain’t no slouch when it comes to making house brand snacks. Their Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks, Multigrain Crackers, and Organic Peanut Butter’s rival anything you can get from a big brand. And last year’s Cornbread Crisp’s? One of the best chili co-pilot’s you’ll find anywhere. Comin’ in strong for 2018 TJ’s have unleashed a new snack gunning straight for my cinnamon-soaked heart with Baked Churro Bites.
When I was a young lad frequenting Taco Bell more than my adult-self would like to admit, I always walked in thinking about tacos and left tasting like cinnamon and sugar. Taco Bell’s warm cinna-sugar churro-y twists were an irresistible way to leave the restaurant, and even though they might not have been part of my initial order, 75% of the time I would grab an order of them to go – happily munching my way to the sidewalk. Two years ago when Cheetos announced their new Cinnamon Sugar Sweetos for Easter, I immediately drew a comparison to my TB trips and was not disappointed. The Sweetos have continued to make seasonal appearances for both Easter and Christmas over the last couple of years, and new for this year is a second flavor – Caramel. As someone who’s diet has individual spots in the pyramid for both cinnamon AND caramel this is one of the most exciting releases of 2017 so far and I am ready – to – crunch.
The bag has a big sweet caramel aroma that hints at kettle corn and funnel cake with its combination of sweet, salty, and dangerous. The egg shape is just as I remember, with the extra squiggles in the middle providing more surface area than the Christmas time “O”, and absorb more magical Cheeto dust. Going in for my first handful I’m surprised that they taste a lot less sweet than they smelled; they definitely have a caramel flavor but it leans more towards smooth and buttery than sweet and silky. As with the cinnamon flavor, there’s no notable corn taste like you get with cheesy Cheetos, and the base itself is relatively neutral.
The texture is super light and airy with a pillowy crunch that begins to dissolve as quickly as I start chomping, and before I know it the 25 count serving size has evaporated inside of me. As with most bags of chips there are some pieces that are more heavily coated than others, and those darker ones are really tasty, but the less dressed ones are are a bit bland and flat. Fortunately, the Caramel Puff Sweetos are less greasy than the Cinnamon Sugar so the naked ones aren’t gross, just boring.
These Sweetos are very true to the original version – light, crunchy, sweet, and for me, not at all weird – but they just aren’t as awesome as the OG. The absence of cinnamon means less of a distinguished pop, and while this caramel iteration is still good, it doesn’t have the same great balance that the cheetah-bunny delivered to us two years ago. However, that doesn’t mean that these aren’t addictive and nearly impossible to stop eating, it just means that my allegiance stands strong with the inner cinna-demons and these come in second to their deliciousness.