Every Flavor of Cheez-It, Ranked

Yes, there are actually 21 different flavors of Cheez-Its.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Before we go any further, I have a confession. If you asked me two weeks ago what I thought about the humble Cheez-It, I would have probably given you a simple and uninspired "meh." The mention of the snack would make me think about the halcyon days of middle school snack-time, the soiled floor of my mom's '97 Ford Explorer... and not much else. So when I was tasked with ranking "every single flavor of Cheez-It," I assumed the lift would be low and simple—after all, how many flavors of Cheez-Its can there be? And, more importantly, how different can they be? 

Well, when I stared down 21 (yes, 21) boxes of distinctly flavored Cheez-Its, I realized just how sorely I had been underrating these tiny little windows of flavor all of these years. Each variety had a different taste. Every box was a new adventure. 

In light of my reformation, here is every flavor of Cheez-It, lovingly ranked by a recently converted Cheez-Them head.

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21. White Cheddar Reduced Fat

It's not this flavor's fault. It started off at a disadvantage. "Reduced fat" means less fat than the rest of these generally fatty flavors—what could we expect, here? It's like starting off a footrace whilst chained to the bumper of my mom's '97 Ford Explorer. 

Anyway, these are just OK. If you'd like a snack with the fat reduced, they are probably fine. If you don't care to reduce your fat intake—and since you are reading a ranking of Cheez-Its, I can only assume that's the truth—then please, just go with the real deal. Life is short and we also might be living in a simulation, anyway. 

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20. Whole Grain

The only distinguishing factor around this flavor is that the crackers are made exclusively with whole grain. But I checked the back of the box, and these have the same exact total calories and carbs as their, um, non-whole grain, "Original" counterparts. Is this supposed to be healthy? Have we only been getting half our daily grain intake from ordinary Cheez-Its?

What I was left with here, was a barrel of questions. Why are these even a necessary cog in the Cheez-It wheel of flavor fortune? What is this funny aftertaste? When do I get to try regular Cheez-Its, that don't taste like off-brand knock-offs? I'll settle with zero to partial grain, instead. Nutrients be damned. 

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19. BIG

These are like normal Cheez-Its, only bigger. That's really all there is to it. 

I can see the Cheez-It brain trust in their development lab now, struggling to find a new idea, with one plucky employee boldly raising their hand, saying "Excuse me boss... what if we kept the original Cheez-It flavor that everyone knows and loves, but made them... bigger?!"

While bigger is (sometimes?) better, in my newly converted state of Cheez-It appreciation, I have to say the original size of the Cheez-It (approximately 26 by 24 millimeters) is pure snacking perfection. I cannot rank these higher, simply on principle. 

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18. Hot and Spicy Grooves 

And now we have reached our first "Groove" entry in the list. For the uninformed, the Groove style of Cheez-Its don't come with a complimentary Quincy Jones LP, but instead feature a ruffled surface, not unlike Ruffles... or linoleum siding. 

Why do these exist? Perhaps for the contingency of Cheez-It-mongers who simply cannot deal with the relatively smooth surface of their crackers, and yearn for something... more. It's only human nature to insatiably crave. 

But alas, I must echo the sentiment above: The shape and texture of the Cheez-It is something close to perfection, and anything that adulterates that perfection is something to be wary of. I do respect the effort though. Kind of. 

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17. Duoz: Cheddar Jack

Another brand anomaly in the land of the 'zits, the Duoz line does the previously unthinkable: It puts two separate flavors of Cheez-Its in the same damn box. It's the crossover event of the century. And this entry is particularly notable as it pairs the excellent Cheddar Jack flavor with something that… isn't a Cheez-It at all: pretzels. 

I don't know about you, but when I open up a box of Cheez-Its, I expect Cheez-Its. Not some watered-down trail-mix BS. It's like opening up a Coke and finding some Skittles floating in the middle. Still... it was kind of good. And actually, Skittles-Coke sounds kind of good, too. Well, at the very least, they aren't the best. 

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16. Duoz: Bacon and Cheddar

Another in the line of taste bud-befuddling Duoz, this bacon and Cheddar mash-up might seem like a dynamic duo made in savory snack heaven.

And while the Cheddar carries itself well, the bacon flavor ends up tasting more like liquid smoke than a sizzling skillet of the good stuff. Unless you grew up in a magician's household and have a nostalgic soft spot for the smell and taste of liquid smoke (which would be very whimsical, by the way), you probably won't want to eat too many of these in one sitting. They taste like David Blaine's fingers. I mean, probably. 

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15. Original Reduced Fat 

Way back at #21—our de facto “worst” entry—I bemoaned the reduced fatness of the cracker, claiming that its very reduced fat essence inherently made it a lesser Cheez-It. Obviously, you might be wondering why the Original reduced fat variety managed to leapfrog six other entries.

This is an unusual case: the reduced fat flavor, for whatever mystical or scientific reason, has a crispiness that slides somewhere between the regular consistency and the charred texture of the Extra Toasty crackers (more on those, later). So what we have here is a middle ground between the slightly soft, crumbly standards and the purposefully “well-done” Extra Toasty. It has a mouthfeel that might actually hit the sweet spot for some Cheez-It fans. Alas, the slightly “off” taste that was present in the White Cheddar reduced fat flavor is still detectable here. If this was the only Cheez-It you’ve ever experienced, you’d probably think it was fine. But. if you’ve had the real stuff, it might be hard to adjust your buds here. It’s like going back to normal Oreos after experiencing the hedonistic pleasures of Double Stuf.

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14. White Cheddar Grooves

See No. 18, but with a better flavor. 

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13. Original Grooves

See No. 14 on way to No. 17, but with the best flavor of all the grooves. Also, Original Grooves would be an excellent Quincy Jones album, by the way.

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12. Pepper Jack

It's not that these pepper jack-accented bad boys were unpleasant—they weren't, and I could definitely snack on them continuously. But… they were just lacking an edge. I expected the pepper jack flavoring to really kick things up a proverbial notch, but instead I was left with a slightly underwhelming spiciness that left more of a lingering, middling aftertaste than what I expected—or more importantly—wanted.

Thus, these Cheez-Its are relegated to the B-squad.

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11. Duoz: Jalapeño and Cheddar Jack

Now, the problems I had with the pepper jack Cheez-Its are totally solved with the jalapeño flavor. It tastes like spicy, savory cheese—and when lumped in with the balls-out pleasantness of Cheddar Jack (one of the best flavors on this list, spoiler!) you have a pair of studs that actually stand on their own, but also work together.

It's like a Star Wars movie, in the comfort of your own mouth. 

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10. Duoz: Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar

I know. You are going to call me a veritable snacktime hypocrite for bemoaning the stylistic aberration of the pretzel/Cheez-It mashup back at No. 16, but embracing this popcorn-centric pair.

Well, honestly: fuck it. I have to live my truth.

While it is kind of... weird (for lack of a better word), this combo really reminded me of the sectional tins of popcorn I would sometimes be gifted during Christmas. It's an excellent salty-savory combo, here, and I cannot deny how much I enjoyed it even if it means contradicting myself. Wouldn't you rather have an honest reviewer than a consistent one, anyway?

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9. Cheddar Ranch Grooves

Let it be known, I am occasionally known to enjoy and partake in ranch dressing. And while I vastly prefer the "regular" Cheez-It style to the new and (not so) improved Grooved variety, this specific flavor is only available in the Grooved capacity. 

Which is a damn shame. It's like finding out the next Star Wars movie can only be viewed via the screen on your old Tamagotchi. Great concept/execution. Just OK format. 

Oh well. 

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8. Duoz: Sharp Cheddar and Parmesan

This is Duoz, done right. The two flavors here intertwine and gel like peanut butter and pickles, Elon Musk and Grimes, or Cheez-Its and strong(ish) opinions about Cheez-Its.

The sharp Cheddar and Parm dance so well together, you will want to make sure you snag one of each in every bite. These are Cheez-Its working together to make a better future for snacking. And we salute the entire Duoz project for making all this possible. 

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7. Extra Toasty

Many people consider the "burnt" Cheez-Its in the box to be the belles of the (cheese) ball, the tops of the (cracker) heap, and—generally—the best part of the Cheez-It experience. I had a roommate in college who would actually take his Cheez-Its, and cook them in our oven for 15 minutes to make them extra crispy. In his own words, the extra bake time "... really aired out the flavor of each and every cracker, and added a delicious, extra crunch to each bite that just makes the entire experience a little more satisfying. And the brown, slightly charred texture reminds one of perfectly burnt toast on a relaxing Sunday morning on the back porch."

They must have heard his insights.

And now, I kind of agree. Though I don't have a back porch. 

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6. Hot and Spicy 

I'm going to keep this succinct: I wish these were spicier. They are good. But I wish they were spicier. God, why aren't they just a little bit spicier? It's like they wanted to go there, but pulled up just short. Maybe they were scared. Maybe, they were just a little timid. Either way, they were so close

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5. White Cheddar

The best part of these White Cheddar crackers might be the delightful trail of White Cheddar residue that always lingers on your fingers after indulging in a handful of these white, tastefully flavored crackers. The crackers in question can be generally considered as the B-side to the original, orange Cheddar—like the Cool Ranch equivalent in the Doritos world.

And they are a more elegant-seeming alternative to the classic flavoring. Really, the only reason these aren't ranked higher, is that there is a (very) similar flavor that simply packs a little more oomph than this classic. But, I can't be mad if you are a little pissed these aren't higher. Trust me: I get it.

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4. Original

If you couldn't gather by now, I'm something of a snack purist. I believe that simplicity is often adjacent to godliness... at least for munchies. 

The Original flavor of Cheez-Its is still damn close to being the gold standard of the entire brand. It's savory. It's salty. The texture, shape, and thickness isinherently—always going to be the Platonic ideal of what a Cheez-It is and can ever hope to be. All other variations are simply riffs on this original of the species. And while three flavors were able to best the Cheez-It Grandaddy, it's still impressive this old hoss (invented in 1921!) can crack the top five. 

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3. Cheddar Jack 

I'll say this: the Cheddar Jack comes dangerously close to tasting exactly like the original. But, there is something, a certain cheesy je ne sais quoi, a noticeable and disarming "smoothness," that follows in the wake of the sharp Cheddar, that just lets everything about this cracker go down easy. I think that might be the Jack?

Anyway, while the top-two entries in this list might be better (and subjectively superior) riffs on the Original flavor, this one seems like it took what the Original had, and tweaked it to make it slightly better. If you don't know Jack, you really should introduce yourself. And then eat it. Eat Jack.

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2. Cheese Pizza

The peril of every would-be reviewer is the constant battle of subjectivity vs. objectivity, of "playing favorites" vs. stepping outside oneself to consider the subject from a wider lens. Unfortunately, the only taste buds I have are my own (if I had someone else's, I feel like I'd be breaking some type of law). So be warned, this is me at my most subjective.

I inherently love pizza-flavored snacks, and this riff on the familiar formula—aptly named Cheese Pizza, as if there were any other kind—truly tastes like a pizza-flavored Cheez-It. Which of course, it is. 

But still, it's so easy to mess up the formula of a pizza-based snack, and tragically, nothing has come remotely close to these discontinued gems in capturing the taste of a pizza in the palm of your hand. These are closest things yet. Which is absurdly high praise for a little square snack. They might not be your favorite, but they are almost mine. 

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1. Italian Four Cheese

When I first bit into this flavor, I let go an audible, "Oh fuck." And from there, I quickly realized that this was the height of Cheez-It-dom as I know it.

On the box, they don't tell you which four Italian cheeses, exactly, combine to make this heavenly flavor worthy of a Donatello fresco. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. Whatever quartet of cheeses come together—with all the elegance of a white Cheddar, all the sharpness of a Parmesan, all the savory notes of the original—to form this swirl of Cheez-It majesty, they do so magnificently. These are snacks you can serve on a silver platter at a cotillion, or simply eat on your couch while watching the Godfather: Part II. 

It is a flavor that is complex, yet approachable. Intense, yet soothing. Satisfying, yet prodding you to embrace that lingering feeling of always wanting more. Oh, and also, the dust it leaves on your fingers is good, too. So you don't need a napkin.

This is perfection in approximately 26 by 24 millimeters. And basically, the only Cheez-It you'll ever need. 

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Wil Fulton is a former staff writer for Thrillist. Follow him @wilfulton. Or don't, it's cool.