For a cheesy (or, rather, “cheez”-y) salty snack, it’s hard to beat Cheez-Its. They’re easy to mindlessly pop in your mouth with maximum crunch, and because they’re baked crackers, they’re slightly better for you than nacho cheese chips. And unlike other off-brand foods, off-brand Cheez-Its are just as good, if not better than the original! That’s because the recipe for Cheez-Its is simple, so it’s easy to replicate and easy to improve upon.
Finding the Best Off-Brand Cheez-Its
Some of the versions I tasted are made with vegetable purees, flours and extracts for a nutritional boost. Others are made to fit in with specialty diets, like vegan, low-carb and gluten-free. And then there’s the store-brand Cheez-Its that deliver all the same flavor at a fraction of the name-brand price.
I tried seven Cheez-It dupes to see how they stacked up to the real thing:
- Trader Joe’s Cheddar Cheese Rockets
- Aldi’s Savoritz Baked Cheese Crackers
- Lil’ Dutch Cheddar Cheese Crackers
- From the Ground Up Cheddar Crackers
- Made Good Cheddar Star Puffed Crackers
- Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers, Farmhouse Cheddar
- Good Thins Gluten Free Three Cheese Crackers
Here are my highly scientific findings.
Trader Joe’s Cheddar Cheese Rockets
These utterly adorable rocket ships look more like Goldfish than Cheez-Its, but they’re the only cheese-based cracker my local Trader Joe’s sells so we’re going to roll with it. Not that I should have any problem with that! These crackers shoot for the moon and totally stick the landing. Bonus points for not going overboard with the salt, which too many crackers do to obscure the blandness that lies within.
Bottom line: Trader Joe’s Cheddar Cheese Rockets are a confident cracker, offering easy munchability with plenty of cheddar cheese flavor.
Savoritz Baked Cheese Crackers
What makes Cheez-Its great is the fact their flavor progressively increases in intensity as it sits in your mouth. At first it’s an extra-toasty saltine with a faint note of mild cheese. As you chew, that note has swelled into a melt-in-your-mouth sharp cheddar flavor. Aldi’s Savoritz Baked Cheese Crackers start off almost identically, but there’s no build, no crescendo. See how Aldi’s off-brand Doritos performed in our taste test.
Bottom line: They make you think that they’re Cheez-Its for a few seconds, but then they give up. If you ignore the element of betrayal, they’re a perfectly fine cracker.
Lil’ Dutch Cheddar Cheese Crackers
These off-brand Cheez-Its from Dollar Tree boast right on the front of the box that they’re made with real cheese, but I can’t taste much of it. If you put the thought of cheese out of your head entirely, I’d say this is one of the best value items you can find at Dollar Tree!
Bottom line: They’re not bad—they’re little orange saltines, and saltines are delicious! But as cheese crackers, these are disappointing.
From the Ground Up Cheddar Crackers
From the Ground Up crackers are made from cauliflower, so I didn’t expect that they would taste much like Cheez-Its. And wouldn’t you know, I was right! These crispy, ultra-thin crackers don’t actually contain any cheese at all. Instead, they have a powdery coating of salt, vegetable powders and other flavorings meant to replicate the taste of cheese. It’s not really fair to think a plant-based, vegan-friendly cracker could be seen as a viable Cheez-It alternative, and as such, it should be judged on its own excellent merits.
Bottom line: These taste like a snackable version of cauliflower gratin more than Cheez-Its, so if you’ve been waiting for something like that to come around, your time has finally come.
Made Good Star Puffed Crackers
Made Good Star Puffed Crackers are another iffy entry into the off-brand Cheez-It category, as they’re tiny, puffy stars with actual nutritional value rather than small, salty rectangles whose only job is to make you feel good. They’re organic, gluten-free, food allergen-free and 100% vegan, which explains why there’s no cheese flavor whatsoever. But that’s not to say they’re flavorless!
Bottom line: These are a legitimately stellar snack, even though it’s hard to describe the flavor of “failed cheese” in a tantalizing way. Maybe you can figure that out when you buy a bag, which I highly recommend.
Simple Mills Farmhouse Cheddar
Simply put, Simple Mills makes darn good off-brand Cheez-Its. A base of almond flour, sunflower seeds and flaxseed is used to make these crackers gluten-free, with the unintended side effect of amplifying all the best notes cheddar cheese has to offer. There’s also faint notes of rosemary, which heighten the experience even further.
Bottom line: They’re thin, square and vividly orange like Cheez-Its are, but slightly larger, making them ideal for snacking whether you’re gluten-free or not.
Good Thins Three Cheese
We began this list assuming that Cheez-Its were the gold standard as far as cheese-flavored crackers were concerned, but Good Thins Three Cheese Crackers may have Cheez-Its beat. Each bite explodes with real cheese flavor, with notes of salt and savory in perfect balance. You can easily eat a box of these without much in the way of regrets, which is excellent news for those of us who mindlessly shove crackers into our mouths while watching TV.
Bottom line: These gluten-free, brown rice crackers are made with a powdered blend of Parmesan, cheddar and Gouda, and they are glorious.