In the relentless pursuit of novel ways to stuff our faces with exciting new flavors, American companies sometimes go astray and sometimes hit that sweet spot between the familiar and the new. Japanese food companies, on the other hand, tend to just think of fucked-up combinations and then execute them, content in the knowledge that they’ll sell enough to make a splash, and then quickly retire these new tastes to the land of wind, ghosts, and limited-edition flavors. (Seriously, there are over 100 Kit-Kat flavors in Japan, most of them retired.)
We don’t write about every new flavor of potato chip, Kit-Kat, or Cheeto that comes along, because they’re frequently subtle (and not that weird) enough to just slip by our consciousness. But the recent release of Pepsi-flavored Cheetos to the Japanese market had us intrigued. Most weird Cheeto (or Dorito, or Lay’s) variations are savory, but these took the Cheeto concept to a whole new level: How do you cram the singular taste of cola onto a corn-based snack?
The answer is very, very strangely. Pepsi-flavored Cheetos offer some serious cognitive dissonance: They’re sweet, but crunchy, and they gently fizz on your tongue the first time they come into contact with saliva. But then, as some intrepid A.V. Club employee pointed out, you realize that Pepsi-flavored Cheetos basically just taste like cola-flavored breakfast cereal, and it all pops into focus. That said, these things are not of this Earth, and you would not want to eat them on a regular basis—or even eat more than a couple at a time. There’s a hint of lime flavor at the beginning, then the slight fizz, then the unmistakable flavor of flat cola. It’s like nothing else exactly, which apparently was the point. Don’t look for them at an American retailer near you any time soon—we’ll stick with cheese and spicy cheese, thank you very much.
The Pepsi Cheetos (the two brands share a parent company) were just the tip of the iceberg of a massive chip backlog that had been building at AVCHQ, so in addition to them, we also sampled the four flavors from a recent Lay’s chip-flavoring competition in Canada. Lay’s did the same contest in America, conjuring Sriracha, Chicken & Waffles, and Cheesy Garlic Bread, which we Taste Tested a while back. They do things a bit different up there in Canada, ya der hey, and they ended up with Maple Moose, Perogy Platter, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup, and Creamy Garlic Caesar.
None of these, I’m not shocked to report, are as notable as Pepsi Cheetos. They range from pretty decent (Perogy Platter, which attempts to mix bacon and onion flavor, and the pleasantly simple Creamy Garlic Caesar) to pretty horrible (Maple Moose may actually contain moose, though none of us have ever tried it). Grilled Cheese & Ketchup was pretty noxious also, with a strong emphasis on the ketchup. I predict the super-safe Creamy Garlic Caesar will take the $50,000 prize. It should also be noted that Martin Short is the spokesperson for this contest, because he’s from Canada, don’tcha know.
Next on the block: Kettle Brand Maple Bacon chips. The bag features a cute drawing of pancakes, bacon, and syrup. The chips taste like sweet maple barbecue, and they’re quite delicious—not really abnormal in any way. It’s no coincidence that these are the only American chips in this Taste Test. Safe, reliable, tasty American chips. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Finally, back to the Japanese Cheetos. We also tried Cheeseburger Cheetos, and they are not good at all. There’s a mustiness to them that recalls a basement filled with wet cardboard. I think the flavor attempt is ketchup and American cheese, but there’s nothing but yuck here. Terrible.
But at the end of the day, Pepsi-flavored Cheetos exist. Scientists spent time in a lab formulating them. A hardworking farmer grew corn and sold it to Chester Cheetah so that he could shape it into crunchy bars of weirdness. Thank God the ingredient list is in Japanese.
- “To the chagrin of Suicidal Tendencies, it’s been a while since I’ve actually had a Pepsi, but from what I can recall I don’t think it ever tasted that much like a lime.”
- “The Pepsi chips do simulate the carbonated bubble feeling of drinking a soda, which is kind of disturbing when actually chomping down on something.”
- “I’m bewildered by the citrus flavor, though I guess that’s better than anything that tastes like Pepsi, which any civilized person knows is terrible.”
- “These are just Bottle Caps in chip form.”
- “Though they tasted more like lime than Pepsi, they were surprisingly good and their primary setback was all the judgment you feel for liking them.”
- “I thought they were disgusting, and they made me want to spit them out of my mouth.”
- “Oh my God, they’re fizzing!”
- “I have to give credit to these for being able to find a way to transition through three distinctly terrible tastes. It starts with a faux-burger flavor before moving to (what I can only assume) is expired cheese, then finishes with pickles. In a sense it’s a facsimile of a burger, but not one I’d ever want to eat.”
- “The cumulative effect of all those ridiculous chip flavors is making my stomach very angry at me.”
- “These aren’t bad. They have a smokiness that’s punctuated by the pickle flavor, but that’s about all you taste. Stop trying to put burgers on chips, snack-makers!”
Lay’s Maple Moose Chips
- “Up until the moment I tried these chips I was unaware what a moose tasted like. But, if these are any indication, they taste like a piece of wood burned with gasoline and then rolled around in dirt. And then there’s maple syrup on top, which adds nothing but confusion to the whole ordeal.”
- “I understand it’s Canada, and they’re proud of their syrup and wildlife. But this is unbelievably terrible. We should close our embassies there because of this.”
- “I’m pretty sure there’s an actual ground-up moose in there.”
Lay’s Perogy Platter Chips
- “Surprisingly, this succeeds for being subtle and not overwhelming with any one particular flavor note. It’s a solid chip, but the things that kept it from being repulsive were also the things that kept it from standing out in any noticeable way.”
- “This tastes like nothing. Really. There are some flavors here, but they don’t amount to anything coherent. These would cause riots in Warsaw.”
Lay’s Garlic Caesar Salad Chips
- “These taste like Sour Cream & Onion, and since I’m not a fan of that flavor I don’t appreciate it being Trojan-horsed on me like this. Dicks.”
- “This is quite tasty. I don’t normally like creamy chips, but the garlic and Caesar-dressing flavor work pretty well here. Though I’d probably feel like puking if I ate an entire bag.”
Lay’s Grilled Cheese & Ketchup
- “I’d like to think these were developed after astronauts sent back a ton of ketchup-flavored powders from space, because I can’t think of any other reason someone would put such a thing into production.”
- “Conceptually, this is wrong. I don’t know how they eat their grilled cheeses in Canada, but they’re incorrect. I didn’t have as strong a reaction to this as everyone else—maybe my chip wasn’t dusted with enough horrible-tasting chemicals.”
Kettle Brand Maple Bacon Chips
- “These I would eat again, as it’s mostly just a smoky maple, which kind of gives it a mesquite-barbecue feel. It swings and misses on its intended flavors, but it’s actually pretty good in spite of that.”
- “These are made with a higher-quality chip to begin with, so they have that initial advantage. And they’re basically just a sweet BBQ flavor.”