We Tested 5 Brands of Cheese Puffs. Here’s What We Thought

Updated: May 04, 2023

After testing five popular brands, we're covered in orange crumbs. Find out which cheese puff got top marks.

Different brands of cheese puffs lined up on a table with some of each poured into separate numbered bowlsPhoto: Taste of Home
Photo: Taste of Home

We all have those guilty pleasure snacks—you know, those maybe-not-so-healthy treats that you just can’t stop eating. (Take a page from our junk food copycat recipes.) For me and a lot of Taste of Home staff, the guilty pleasure is cheese puffs. Salty, crunchy, cheesy—these snacks embody the addictive junk-food spirit. But it turns out that many of us had differing opinions about the best puff out there. Some of us argued for classics like Cheetos, while others claimed that natural brands put a healthier and tastier spin on this classic.

Well, there was only one way to settle the debate: a blind taste test. Grabbing five different brands, we decided to settle this as objectively as possible. With hand wipes at the ready to combat our cheese-coated fingers between bites, we took this challenge on. See how the puffs stacked up. While you’re at it, find out the best off-brand Doritos that are beautiful in their own right.

5. Chester’s Cheese Flavored Puffcorn

Average rating: 5.9/10

Bowl with the number 4 filled with cheese puffsPhoto: Taste of HomePhoto: Taste of Home

“This reminds me of a packing peanut.”

Out of our five contenders, Chester’s Cheese Puffcorn came in last. These super airy, melt-in-your-mouth puffs had a few rave reviews (mine included), but were panned overall by our judges. This snack had that taste and texture of traditional puffcorn but was dusted with cheese flavor (if you’re a puffcorn lover like me, give this recipe a try). For most testers, that foaminess wasn’t a selling point—crunch was a major factor in this test. In the end, we all agreed we’d eat this snack at a party, but would probably never buy it for ourselves.

4. Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Puffs

Average rating: 6/10

Bowl with the number 3 filled with cheese puffsPhoto: Taste of HomePhoto: Taste of Home

“If someone said to go out and buy cheese puffs and you got these, you did it wrong.”

Edging out Chester’s by a slim margin was Pirate’s Booty. This brand markets their puffs as being better for you, with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The panel definitely picked up on this—there was a more natural cheese flavor and color to these puffs, but the taste was mild and short-lived. The aftertaste was not unlike rice cakes (which makes sense since rice is a main ingredient here), but it lacked the punchy cheese flavor we desired. In the end, this one didn’t fully satisfy our cheesy cravings.

3. Utz Cheese Balls

Average rating: 6.8/10

Bowl with the number 2 filled with cheese puffsPhoto: Taste of Home
Photo: Taste of Home

“I could go through a whole tub of these.”

While Utz Cheese Balls didn’t quite get top marks, they were by far the most fun snack we tried all day—they’re just infinitely poppable. We also found them to be one of the crunchiest options, which won them a lot of points. Flavor-wise, these puffs were pleasantly cheesy but had some buttery notes as well, making them a pleasantly savory treat. We didn’t have too many negative opinions about these petite puffs, but they ended up in the middle of the rankings due to some exceptionally cheesy competition.

2. Great Value Cheese Puffs

Average rating: 8.4/10

Bowl with the number 1 filled with cheese puffs beside papersPhoto: Taste of HomePhoto: Taste of Home

“These have a robust, cheesy flavor.”

These generic cheese puffs almost eked out a victory. They have that signature cheese puff shape (long and fingerlike), plus the neon orange color that makes this snack so fun. Great Value also boasted a hefty crunch and a nice punch of cheese the second we took our first bites. The flavor of these puffs was definitely intense, but it didn’t stick around too long. Overall we loved the crispness and the airiness of this puff. Our major criticism was that these were just a bit too salty—knocking them down that tenth of a point they would’ve needed to tie with our winner.

1. Cheetos Puffs

Average rating: 8.5/10

Bowl with the number 5 filled with cheese puffsPhoto: Taste of HomePhoto: Taste of Home

“This has the most orange residue—the sign of a true cheese puff.”

Barely edging out our generic brand for the win was Cheetos Puffs. This classic snack got high marks for the ultra cheesy taste. Unlike Great Value, Cheetos had a subtle corn flavor, as well, making what I think was a more complex (yes, we’re talking about snack foods) and well-rounded puff. Testers also noticed that these were the biggest puffs of all, providing us with more crunch per bite. In the end, the old favorite reigned supreme.

To recap this puff panel, our rankings are as follows (from favorite to least favorite): Cheetos Puffs, Great Value Cheese Puffs, Utz Cheese Balls, Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Puffs and Chester’s Cheese Puffcorn.

Different brands of cheese puffs lined up in front of a windowPhoto: Taste of HomePhoto: Taste of Home

The Takeaway

Crunch is king.

Our top three picks were all given scoring boosts due to their crunchy textures. Texture turned out to be just as critical as the cheesy flavor itself. Of course, there are some who are partial to melty puffcorn, but the crispness of the Utz, Great Value and Cheetos snacks helped make them crowd favorites.

Forget real cheese flavor.

We all thought Pirate’s Booty had the most realistic cheese flavor, but we also agreed that when you’re craving cheesy puffs, you’re not necessarily looking for authentic. We all loved the addictive, neon-orange cheese-like taste of the other puffs.

Cheesy fingers are a good thing!

Getting that orange dust off your fingers can be a real pain, but the residue also stood as a symbol of quality in our test. We all commented on the crumbs the cheese puffs left behind, and the general consensus was, the more the better. In fact, the lack of cheesy dust counted against our two lowest-ranking snacks!

You might assume we were all cheesed out by the end of this taste test, but in fact, we were left wanting more! I definitely dove in for more cheese balls, but if you find yourself with extras, try incorporating some into this tasty snack mix.

People grabbing cheese puffs from bowls as they take notesPhoto: Taste of Home
Photo: Taste of Home