Hub Telegram: Cheetos are one of America’s best and most mysterious snacks, boasting both a flavor and a texture not seen anywhere in nature. The industrial processes involved make it basically impossible to replicate the Cheeto at home; not many people have massive cornmeal extruders sitting next to the KitchenAid stand mixer. But thanks to the wonderful laws laid out by the Food and Drug Administration, we can see what’s actually in them, and a little extra research can tell us whether all those chemicals are actually things we want to be eating.

Cheetos are made by creating an “enriched cornmeal” — basically cornmeal with a bunch of other stuff in it, and feeding it through an extruder that heats the liquid inside to, basically, pop like popcorn, creating the uneven texture that Wired describes as “craggy.” It’s then deep-fried quickly, rather like floating donut dough in oil, and sprayed with powdered cheese product, which is not too different from the cheese powder in a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

So that’s how Cheetos are made. But what’s in them?

Here’s the ingredients list:

  • Enriched corn meal (corn meal, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Vegetable oil (corn, canola, and/or sunflower)
  • Cheese seasoning (whey, cheddar cheese [milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], canola oil, maltodextrin [made from corn], salt, whey protein concentrate, monosodium glutamate, natural and artificial flavors, lactic acid, citric acid, artificial color [yellow 6])
  • Salt

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