Hot Cheetos are the spicy, addicting snack that took America by storm when they were invented in the late '80s. These snacks have caused quite a stir from the beginning, from being banned in a number of school districts to recently becoming TikTok famous with the famous Hot Cheeto Salad. However, Hot Cheetos have a surprising origin that goes back to before TikTok and school bans- the technology that makes them was first created by the military.
Hot Cheetos and Their Military Origin
Throughout WWI and WWII, the government shipped many foods abroad to feed their soldiers. However, this was expensive and difficult, so the military was looking for ways to reduce the weight and volume of these many food shipments at the time. One invention that changed the game was dehydrated cheese, greatly improving the experience of snacking on the previously bland snacks that were shipped abroad.
After the war ended, cheese dehydrators were in need of new customers, which led them to the then-emerging snack and convenience food market. And Cheetos were born! Decades later, Cheetos expanded into other flavors, until the beloved hot Cheetos were created. However, without the military, we might still be snacking on bland, cheese-less snacks.
The History of Hot Cheetos
These crunchy, cheesy snacks are made by Frito-Lay, whose parent company is PepsiCo. Although the dehydrated cheese component was an invention of the military, Cheetos themselves were invented by Fritos creator Charles Elmer Doolin, whose test kitchen was in Dallas, Texas.
As for the invention of spicy Cheetos, officially called Cheetos Crunchy Flamin' Hot, there's been some dispute to who created this spicy snack. Richard Montañez worked as a janitor at Frito-Lay and worked his way up to the executive team, where he worked until retirement in 2019. He had many valuable contributions to the company, especially providing insight into Hispanic consumers.
The ex-janitor was involved in the launch of the Frito-Lay Sabrositas line, which was aimed at the Latino market. He has also taken credit for the success of hot Cheetos, even releasing a memoir, Flamin' Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man's Rise from Janitor to Top Executive, and Eva Longoria will soon direct a film based on his life.
However, according to the Times report, Frito-Lay's records show that Richard wasn't involved in the creation of Cheetos Crunchy Flamin' Hot Cheese Flavored Snacks. "None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin' Hot test market," Frito-Lay explained to the Times.
Hot Cheetos Today
These addicting, spicy snacks have more of a cult-following than many other snacks such as tortilla chips, Doritos, and potato chips. Similar to Takis, Flamin' Hot Cheetos are made with real cheese, with artificial color to achieve their distinctively bright shade of red, and can even be found extra spicy with the Xxtra Flamin' Hot variety. For the health-conscious, there's even Natural Cheetos, made with all-natural ingredients and white cheddar cheese.
Although we may never know the full history of hot Cheetos, we can appreciate that they wouldn't be around without the help of military technology!