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Making Cheetos At Home

This was sorta kinda touched upon briefly in 2006 with this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/339798 but it wasn't very satisfying.

For me, Crunchy Cheetos have always been one of those weird snacks that I adore but cannot really recognize as "actual food" because I have no idea how they are made. I know from reading the package that they are made of corn meal and vegetable oil, with powdered cheese and sour cream as the main flavorings. From Wikipedia, I now know that they are a "heated dough that is extruded and then fried or baked". So, is it like a strange cousin of pate au choux? Is it really a dough made of nothing but corn meal, vegetable oil and salt, piped into hot oil? Could it really be so simple? I will experiment with any suggestions posted and then relay the results.

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  1. IrisLaRue, I have to ask: Why would you want to make something that exists in its Platonic form already, available extremely cheaply at any 7-11?

    I mean, you'd have to create a weird, tangy cheese powder, then learn some bizarre industrial process of exploding corn meal into those tortuous gnarls of deliciousness. Reminds me of the worst, food-hostile excesses of the execrable molecular gastronomy (AKA food abuse) world.

    I say just buy a bag of the real thing and enjoy it. Frito-Lay's snacks are generally best-in-class in most respects. Making Cheetos at home is like refilming "Showgirls" on a camcorder with your best girlfriends over nine bottles of white Zin.

    4 Replies
    1. re: dmd_kc

      I almost choked on my breakfast as I read your 'Showgirls' analogy. It was priceless!!

      1. re: dmd_kc

        i don't know. Somehow, I imagine a re-filming Showgirls with a group of girlfriends and bottles of Zin as having the potential to be much, much better than the original...

          1. re: dmd_kc

            dmd_kc , You get the Hilarious-Post-of-the-Year award!!!

          2. Marc Summers on Food Networks "Unwrapped" had a segment on snack foods and they featured Cheetos. The top secret is the extruding process at high pressure to make the "puffed" thing before they put the cheese on it. So I don't think you're going to have much success in trying to duplicate it at home.

            1. Yeah you need a high pressure extruder to create those babies.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bryn

                Seriously, this is one time I'm going to tell you to give up your dream. A home kitchen in this case can't replicate an industrial plant.

              2. There is a special place in hell reserved for naysayers.

                Salty deep-fried pate au choux coated with cheese dust works for me. I say go for it. You don't have to worry about shelf life at home. That's a huge obstacle in creating this stuff. You get to improve on the original since you can make them to please your palate.

                Flamin' hot cheetos are the liquid oxygen that jolts the smoldering embers of my reward center into supernovae every time. Pair with a cold corona and slice of lime.

                1. I'm in the 'why not try' group here. My guess is that you can't duplicate the Cheetos. But maybe you can find something cool and possibly better as you try. That being said, I'm not sure choux is your best base. It doesn't do well at creating tiny air pockets. I'm thinking a batter that had baking soda/powder would work better. The key part though may be the "extruding" into the hot oil. Right now I'm thinking a spaetzle press would work well - it would certainly be speedy!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lupaglupa

                    Agree, choux forms large air pockets, not small onces. But maybe choux modified with baking soda? Problem is that baking soda can have a strong taste if used too liberally.

                    1. re: foodsmith

                      I find if you get the non-aluminum variety that there's little taste.

                      Maybe egg whites?

                  2. I admit I laughed when I saw the title of the post but count me in the 'why not give it a try?' group. It's unlikely that you'll get the same texture or flavour as packaged Cheetos but you never know. Maybe you'll create something even better! (some classic dishes have come out of fortunate accidents). Please do report back if you give it a try. Good luck!

                    1. Try! Try! Try! And report back, please, with photos. It sounds like a fun, and potentially delicious, experiment.


                      1. Iris,
                        I was thinking something like a cheese straw that is fried instead of baked might produce a good result.

                        You could add cornmeal to the recipe in place of some of the flour to give it that corn texture and crunch. Then instead of extruding, roll the dough between your hands until it's a small rope. Deep fry....? Does that sound like it would work?

                        1. I saw one of those shows where they showed how Cheetos were made. Interesting stuff. Can't remember if they puffed the corn before frying but it is fried and then coated with cheese powder.

                          Had a Cheetos craving the other day and bought a bag. Took me three days to snack through it and I probably won't eat Cheetos again for another two years. Next time, I'll remember to get the single-serving bag instead of the large one!

                          1. When I saw the title of this thread, I admit my first thought was, "You gotta be f-in' kidding me....", but then I realized that I'm the idiot who intends to make his own shoyu. So...go for it!

                            1. I know someone who knows someone who used to make the cheese for Cheetos. They'd start with a hunk of cheddar cheese about the size of a Sedan, dehydrate it, and add salt and anti-caking agents to it. Voila! Cheese powder.


                              1. Cheat-os!

                                Wouldn't you be able to do something like a cheese-flavored hush puppy dough, extrude it though a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip, and roll the browned squiggles in cheese flavoring like Penzey's sells for popcorn?

                                Why the heck not?? You might be starting the next new trend. M-m-m-m-m. Sesame-Parmesan, Cumin-Chive, Chile-Ginger.

                                They wouldn't necessarily have to have cheese, but start with a superior corn flour, preferably stone ground, whole grain, for the best corn flavor. To me, Cheetos are as much about the corn as the cheese!