Caramel Coated Cheetos





Introduction: Caramel Coated Cheetos

I got this recipe from a friend and made it for friends and family for Christmas.  Quite a few have asked for the recipe and there are a few tricks to getting it to work correctly.  I decided that Instructables would be an excellent way to distribute it.

Warning, this is an addictive snack!  Salty, sweet, light.  I made about eight batches and gave most of it away.  It was safer for me that way or I would have overindulged.

Step 1: Ingredients

2 ea  8oz Lay’s Natural White Cheddar Cheetos
1 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp vanilla

I have also made this with white cheddar cheese balls that I got from Sam's Club:  UTZ White Cheddar Snow Balls in a 27 oz barrel.  It comes out fine, but I found that I prefer the taste when it is made with the Cheetos.  I used 16 oz of the cheese balls and the coating comes out thicker.  I believe the cheese balls are a bit denser (heavier) than the Cheetos so the surface area is less.  YMMV.  I have not tried regular Cheetos.  The cheese flavor may be too strong.

Step 2: Tools

Large disposable roasting pan
3 quart saucepan
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Silicone spatulas

You will need the large roasting pan because you will need as much space as possible when you mix the Cheetos and the caramel together.  Do not use a saucepan smaller than 3 quarts.  The caramel will bubble and overflow a smaller saucepan.  The spatulas do not have to be silicone, but I would avoid hard plastic ones.  It is important during the final step.

Step 3: Make the Caramel Coating

You will need the following for this step:
1 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt

Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in the 3 qt saucepan.  Melt the butter first then add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt.  When you measure out the brown sugar, ensure that you pack it down and scrape it off.  You don't have to pack it down hard.  Just make sure you don't leave any air pockets. 

Step 4: Caramel Coating: Boil for 2 Minutes

Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  At first the ingredients will be in two distinct layers.  As it boils, it will combine together.  When it does, stop stirring and let it boil for 2 minutes.  The mixture will hold air bubbles and increase in volume.  This is why you should not use a small saucepan.

While you are waiting the 2 minutes, go to the next step.

Step 5: Prep the Cheetos

You will need the following for this step:
2 ea  8oz Lay’s Natural White Cheddar Cheetos

Open the two bags of Cheetos and pour them into the pan.  If your work surface is cold, put the pan on a towel or potholders.  This will prevent the heat from the pan from dissipating too quickly.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Step 6: Caramel Coating: Add the Rest of the Ingredients

You will need the following for this step:
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp vanilla

After two minutes of boiling without stirring, remove from heat.  Add the baking soda, cream of tartar, and the vanilla.  Word of caution  with the vanilla, try and sprinkle it in and stir immediately.  If you add it quickly and do not stir right away, the vanilla will travel to the bottom of the saucepan and immediately boil.  The vapor generated will rush to the surface and you could get a small explosion of molten sugar.  Luckily I didn't get hit, but it did make a bit of a mess.

Mix well.  The color will change to a lighter shade. 

Step 7: Pour Caramel Onto the Cheetos

Quickly pour the caramel onto the Cheetos.  Pour the whole thing on and try to cover the whole surface.  Do not attempt to pour in gradually while mixing.  Your coating will be uneven. 

Step 8: Mix to Cover

Using the silicone spatula, mix the Cheetos and caramel.  I find the lift and fold method the best for mixing.  Push the spatula to the bottom of the pile, lift and flip the mix over so the Cheetos on the bottom are now on the top.  Some of the caramel will have pooled on the bottom.  Try and scrape that up while mixing. 

If your work surface draws the heat away from the bottom of the pan, the caramel will harden on the pan.  This is why you should put the pan on a towel or potholders.

Do your best.  The coating will not look even at this point.  Don't worry about it, it will look much better later.

Step 9: Into the Oven

Put the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour.  Every 15 minutes take it out, mix, and put it back in.  You will see that the coating will start to even out.  The second picture here is after the first 15 minutes of heating right out of the oven before I mixed it.  

Step 10: Stir to Cool

After the final cycle of mixing and baking is up, take the pan out of the oven.  Mix gently as it cools.  Use the spatula to separate large clumps.  I find that the silicone spatula is firm enough to separate the clumps but not crush the Cheetos.  As it cools, the caramel will harden and the Cheetos will not stick together.

If you wait too long, the Cheetos will harden into clumps.  No problem, just put it back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.  Do not try to force them apart when it is cool.  They will just crack and crush.

Step 11:

After it is cool, put it into an airtight container.  Quickly give it away or you'll end up eating the whole batch.

EDIT:  Forgot to mention this tip for cleaning.  If you want to wash out the disposable pan, I recommend you put it in the bathtub and fill it with water.  The caramel will dissolve quickly.  You do not have to use hot water but it will make it go a faster.  When the caramel has dissolved, pour the water out and you can take the pan to the kitchen to wash.  It might make the tub a little oily, but it beats trying to remove the hardened caramel your kitchen sink or getting water splashed all over. 



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    It was a big hit with everyone I gave it to. I edited the last page. I forgot to mention a cleaning tip.

    WHOA - I am totally making these the next time I want to send random goodies out to my family (last month was gourmet caramel apples).