10 Flaming-hot Facts About Cheetos

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
Cheetos statue
The 17-foot Cheetos statue is currently in (where else?) Cheadle, Albert, Canada. Frito-Lay Canada

If you were to drive through small-town Alberta, Canada, you might see a very familiar, yet unfamiliar, sight: a 17-foot (5-meter) homage to Cheetos, the ubiquitous snack food known for leaving sticky orange dust all over the fingers of its fans. The statue, which is three fingers covered in Cheeto dust holding a bright orange puff, is now available to view in the town of Cheadle, Alberta.

The town's name is a cheeky homonym of the term the brand uses to officially describe the beloved finger-dust — "Cheetle." Canadians who don't live close to Cheadle can keep an eye out for the statue later on, as it's touring the country after November 4.


The fact that hundreds of people are flocking every day to view the statue in all of its orange glory shows how well-loved the snack is. In fact, sales of Cheetos and sister product Doritos continue to grow, bolstering the bottom line of parent company Frito-Lay (which, in turn, is owned by PepsiCo). Still, the fact remains that many people don't know all that much about the beloved puffs. Here are some of the wackiest and — dare we say — cheesiest facts to know about this celebrated snack food.

1. Cheetos Has at Least 50 Flavors

Everybody's heard of classic Cheetos, Cheetos Puffs and the Flamin' Hot variety, but there are at least 21 flavors to be found in Canada and the U.S., and more than 50 around the world! Some of the more unusual flavors include strawberry, fresh shrimp and Mountain Dew.


2. Flamin' Hot Allegedly Launched a Janitor's Career

In 1976, a Frito-Lay janitor named Richard Montañez managed to get a meeting with the CEO about a spicy new flavor of Cheetos that Montañez had been creating in his spare time. The CEO loved the recipe and it eventually became known as Flamin' Hot Cheetos. This savvy maneuver propelled the janitor to a big promotion; he eventually became executive vice president of multicultural sales and community activation for PepsiCo North America. The story even inspired actress Eva Longoria to direct a feature film biopic, called "Flamin' Hot." As of October 2022, "Flamin' Hot" is listed in post-production, and stars such heavy-hitters as Dennis Haysbert and Tony Shalhoub, with Jesse Garcia playing Montañez. (Frito-Lay now says that Montañez didn't create the Flamin' Hot Cheetos, but rather that it was created by snack food professionals at their company.)


3. 12 (Mostly Artificial) Ingredients Make Up the "Cheese Dust"

Think of the dust as more of an "essence of cheese," rather than the real thing. In fact, 12 ingredients are involved in the making of the Cheetos cheese dust, including MSG, salt, sugar, vegetable oil, vitamin B, whey, yellow 6, enriched cornmeal and more. Celebrity chef Alton Brown worked long and hard to make a copycat recipe, which includes nutritional yeast, buttermilk powder and other ingredients that, when put together, he describes as being "extremely habit forming."


4. Cheetos Are Designed to be Addictive

It probably won't shock you that junk food scientists know exactly how to tickle your tastebuds. But this is intense. Back in 2013, The New York Times interviewed a food scientist who wrote a guide for snack food industry insiders. Cheetos, the scientist said, "is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure." He zeroed in on how the puffs seem to melt in your mouth. "It's called vanishing caloric density. If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there's no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever."

A doctor likened Cheetos to "a kind of mild opiate addiction." Flamin' Hot Cheetos, in particular, create a "burning sensation," and in response our bodies release natural opioids, the doctor said. Yikes!


5. You Can Cook With Cheetos

Flamin' hot cooking
Flamin' Hot Fries and Flamin' Hot Chipotle Ranch Wings were on display at Flamin' Hot Spot, Cheetos' new limited-time restaurant with a menu inspired by chef Roy Choi at Madera Kitchen in Hollywood, California, 2018. Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Frito-Lay North America

Whether crushed or incorporated whole in a recipe, Cheetos are a useful, if unconventional, cooking ingredient. But don't take our word for it — the Cheetos website is full of shockingly delicious-looking recipes, including fried green tomatoes, Flamin' Hot tamales, pumpkin pie, turkey parm and even Flamin' Hot chocolate gingerbread cookies.


6. Thousands of Cows Are Involved in the Making of Cheetos

OK, despite our earlier comment, there is some actual cheese in Cheetos. In fact, something like 5,000 dairy cows put their udders to work to produce the milk necessary to make the cheddar cheese for the seasoning. That fact is courtesy of Thrillist, who got it from the director of communications at PepsiCo, Inc./Frito-Lay North America. A year-long production run requires 11 million gallons (42 million liters) of milk, which equates to 2,200 gallons (8,238 liters) of milk for every cow.


7. Cheetos Got 'Healthier' to Qualify for School Lunches

Back in 2014, President Barack Obama's administration put the smackdown on certain foods to lower the amount of junk food kids ate for school lunches. In response, Cheetos reformulated their recipes to be low-fat and whole grain in nature so that they'd be approved for school sale. (They were.) While the experts who drew up the rules acknowledge they didn't have Cheetos in mind when they wrote up the "smart snack rules," they say that lowering the fat and salt on any snack product is a good thing.


8. A Cheetah Bested a Mouse in Cheetos Marketing

Cheetos Fashion Show
Models walk the runway as Cheetos unveiled fan-inspired versions of the #CheetosFlaminHaute look at The House Of Flamin' Haute Runway Show + Style Bar Experience during Fashion Week in New York City, 2019. Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Frito-Lay

Fans of Cheetos in the early years probably remember that a mouse (with no specific name) was the original mascot. Near the end of the 1970s he was canceled, only to be replaced by Chester the Cheetah a few years later. Cheetos will apparently go to any lengths for marketing. It held its own fashion show in 2019.


9. Cheetos Goes Sweet for Easter

In 2015, Cheetos released its first-ever sweet snack in the U.S. in the form of "Sweetos." The cinnamon-and-sugar snack debuted in time for Easter and is still released in limited runs. Billed as "cinnamon sugar puffs," Sweetos are shaped like eggs.


10. Cheetos Were Once Extra-colorful

The early 2000s were a strange time, what with all the flip phones and Y2K paranoia. Perhaps that's why it seemed like a good idea when Cheetos introduced "Mystery Colorz," spelled with an era-appropriate "Z." Although the Cheeto pieces were the standard orange, they turned the tongues of tasters either blue or green when consumed. Apparently, this strange occurrence was made possible by an additive in the Cheetos (which were shaped like Xs and Os). Once the additive came in contact with saliva, the color-changing effect was activated. Not surprisingly, they didn't last.