The Cronch to Monch

Salty Snacks

Having covered a number of sour snacks for this site over the last few months, it felt only fair to go to the other end of the spectrum and grab a different variety of snackables. Instead of sour, today we’re looking ar crunchy, munchy, salty snacks, the satisfying bites to fill your mouth with joy:

Wavy Lays Funyuns

As a kid I loved eating on Funyuns. They’re such a weird snack, puffed almost like a pork rind, but made of onion and salt and weirdness. They pitch themselves as onion rings but I wouldn’t really call their flavor onion. It’s more like that mid zone between ranch and onion. An artificial onion that’s still, somehow, really tasty. They’re a snack that really appealed to me back then but, over time, I stopped really eating Funyuns. Honestly, unlike with sour snacks (of which I’ve written four articles and counting), I tend not to have a lot of salty snacks in my house. I do enjoy more savor foods over out-and-out sweet treats, but chips and other salty snacks are just a sometimes food for me.

Still, when I saw the bag of Wavy Lays (that’s the name in my head even if the company is rebranding it as “Lays Wavy”) with Funyun flavor, I had to grab them. Partly that’s because unlike me and my picky tastes when it comes to salty snacks, my wife loves Funyuns… she just can’t eat them. She’s lactose intolerant and Funyuns (at least the base variety) have milk in their ingredients. The Wavy Lays version, however, does not. That meant my wife was instantly interested in these chips and, even if I weren’t curious enough to buy them for a review, my wife was gonna be all over them. So this purchase suited both of us just fine.

The chips, upon first opening, look and smell like Lays chips. The Wavy variety is thicker than the standard chip, although not as ruffled as a Ruffle (also by Frito-Lay). They look like standard chips, and I was a little sad that the chips didn’t seem more yellow, like you expect a Funyun to appear. However, once you pop the chip into your mouth, that Funyun flavor is front and center. It’s maybe not as bold as a real Funyun (if you can even say “real Funyun” with a straight face) but the flavor is there, and it’s good. Earring it is an odd experience, though, as the flavor goes from Funyun, to potato chip, and then back to Funyun as you chew the chip. It’s not bad, and it’s nice to experience the full variety of flavor, but it’s not quite the Funyun flavor experience I was expecting. Still, it is good.

After the first couple of chips, as I got used to them, I found myself really snacking on these guys. They’re infinitely consumable, just conveyor belting their way into your mouth without you even realizing it. Over time I developed the taste for them, thinking of them as something akin to a Sour Cream and Onion chip, just without the dairy. I’ve had some pretty onion-y Sour Cream and Onion chips, so that wasn’t even a knock against it. I liked the flavor and I know if I was in the mood for something with onion flavor on it, I would choose this over a more generic Sour Cream and Onion chip. That said, I don’t know how often I’ll see these as I’ve only found these out in the wild once, on a special display at Wal-Mart that implied these were around for a limited time. If they do stick around, these are ones to try, for sure.

Cheetos Minis: Flamin’ Hot

For a while the “snack tube” genre has been dominated by one brand: Pringles. The chips (which, really, are more potato crisps) have come in that identifiable cardboard and metal tube, with the stack of chips (usually flavor side down) neatly aligned in there. Light, flavorful, and tasty, I won’t deny that Pringles chips garner high praise in my book. Frito-Lay has tried their hand at competing in the past, with Lay’s Stax, and while they’re also good, something always draws me back to Pringles for my “snack tube” needs (at least when I feel like I need a tube of snacks).

Well, we have new competition on that front as Frito-Lay has brought out a new series of snacks in tubes: Minis. The snacks, currently available in three brands – Cheetos, Doritos, and Sun Chips – and two flavors each for those brands, bring the iconic snacks into compact form, all arranged in a cardboard and metal tube. And while these aren’t chips organized in a neat stack, like Pringles, these might just be the snack killers that Lays has been looking for, at least if my small sample size of a tube of Cheetos has anything to say about it.

I’ll not that I went with a tube of Cheetos because, honestly, I’m not as big a fan of Doritos or Sun Chips. The latter has a weird texture I’ve never gotten behind, while the types of Doritos I will eat aren’t the usual flavors. I like their Salsa Verde or Black Pepper flavors, not Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch, which is, of course, exactly the flavors that were brought out first for minis. Those are the iconic flavors, and that makes sense. Cheetos, though, I can enjoy in either normal or spicy flavors, and I’ve always liked their Puffs better than the Crunchy variety (not that I’m entirely opposed to Crunchy, either), so this was a natural grab for me.

And these little puff balls did not disappoint. They have that Puffs crunch I like, not so hard as the Crunchy variety but still nicely toothsome. They also feature a bold amount of flavor, certainly giving you that Cheetos taste you crave. I grabbed the Flamin’ Hot variety because I like spice, and the spice was good here. It’s nice to see a brand come out with a heat level you can feel which doesn’t absolutely burn your mouth. Flamin’ Hot is calibrated just right for continuous snacking, and the tube makes that snacking really easy.

The benefit of a tube for these snacks, over a bag, is that you can tilt the tube into your mouth and pour. I found I’d dump three or four mini balls into my mouth, crunch, and then go back for more. It’s a properly aligned vessel for snack cravings, letting you get your munch on without getting your hands dirty. Honestly, I think I might like this way of eating the Puffs better than the bag. It’s cleaner, easier, and I don’t have to mess around with the bag or worry about stuff spilling as easily. This is a solid improvement for the snack.

While I doubt I will go for the Sun Chips variety at any point, I could at least see picking up the Doritos eventually. New flavors would make me more inclined towards those snacks, and even the basic variety, in tiny form, could be useful in certain dishes I like to make. But when it comes to cheesy tube snacking, Cheetos has won me over.

Old El Paso Fiesta Twists: Salsa Verde

I know Old El Paso as the taco shell and salsa company. If you want to make cheap and easy tacos, you buy Old El Paso. That’s not to say their stuff is bad, just that it’s the common variety in grocery stores. It’s cheap, it’s convenient, and it’s reliably decent. Those are all elements I think most of us like in tacos, the ultimate street food that always sounds good. There’s never a bad time for tacos and, from experience, there’s never a bad time to at least break out the Old El Paso. That’s why practically everyone buys their stuff.

With that said, I wouldn’t have expected to find myself munching on snacks with the Old El Paso name that weren’t taco related. And yet, going through 7-11 to grab a hot dog, there I find Old El Paso snacks. Fiesta twists, which come in two varieties: Salsa Verde and Cinnamon Churro (there's also, apparently, Queso and Zesy Ranch flavors, but I haven't seen those in the wild yet). Considering I’m not a huge cinnamon fan, I knew which type of snack I was going to try. Besides, as I noted above, I really like the salsa verde flavor on snacks and chips, so this seemed like a logical, instant buy for me.

Opening up the bag, the twists give off the smell of corn and a little bit of spice. It’s not overpowering, just a hint of the flavor to come. They are large, puffy twists, the general size of a Cheetos Puff but more ridged. It’s like it a Cheeto tries to turn into a Ruffle but only got half way. The texture is similar to a Cheetos Puff, a touch firm but with nice give once you get it between your teeth. It has a satisfying crunch. Enjoyable to chew on as the puffs crackle and break apart. And they aren’t greasy feeling, just airy and light, making for a satisfying feel.

The flavor, too, is really nice. It’s subtle at first, salty with a hint of something more. But then the salsa verde kicks in, ramping up and filling the taste buds with flavor. There’s a spicy finish at the end, leaving the mouth happy with the experience. I could easily see popping these, over and over, to continue the spicy and flavor, letting it ride for a while on my tongue as I chew. It’s a nice flavor, and a solid experience as a whole. Surprising, really, because I figured these would be more like Bugles (which they were hanging next to) but these have those snacks beat in every way.

I’ll give it to Old El Paso, then: like with their tacos, their Flavor Twists are solid and reliable. These are a snack that, in the right mood, I could see myself grabbing again. A good effort and a tasty twist.