Puff Piece

When Earth Balance, a company once known only for producing vegan buttery spreads, announced that it was expanding its product line into the unlikely realm of snack food, it was impossible not to be curious. How would expertise in spreadable condiments (and now non-dairy milks) translate to munchable morsels? Hunting down these new offerings has been hit and miss, so I’m thankful that company representatives kindly stepped in and sent me a complete collection.

What really caught my attention and appetite were the Vegan Aged White Cheddar Flavor Puffs. Above all else, this sounded like (and later proved to be) a snack worth seeking out. To my knowledge the only other vegan puffs on the market are Tings, which don’t compare to this new cheesy doodle. While Tings taste like nutritional yeast, the Earth Balance Puffs, taste like… Wait for it… Cheese! Yes indeed, subtle nutty, tangy, savory, and funky notes combine to create something startlingly delicious, and undeniably cheesy. Though they may look like large, furry cashews, their flavor is enough to prompt proclamations of “I can’t believe it’s vegan!” from eaters young and old. Bearing a much denser, more substantial crunch than the classic doodle, they’re more filling than the averaged puffed junk food, but it’s still dangerously effortless to plow through an entire bag in one sitting. Just the right amount of salt keeps you reaching for one more, and as a bonus, there will be no tell-tale dayglow orange “cheez” fingers afterward.

After such a positive initial experience, I was clamoring to tear into the next bag in the set: Vegan Buttery Flavor Popcorn. First impressions were not as positive, as opening the bag released a plume of artificial “butter” scent. Off-putting and chemical in nature, it could be compared generously to Molly McButter. Mercifully, that aroma doesn’t carry through to the flavor. The crisp, fresh kernels are in stark contrast to traditional movie theater popcorn, typically a greasy lard bucket with a bit of popcorn on the side. No slick fingers here, but a distinctly buttery flavor can be found throughout. Applied with finesse, it doesn’t beat you over the head with “BUTTER!”, and bears the perfect hit of salt on each tender kernel. I should never have doubted that Earth Balance, forefathers of all things buttery and vegan, would nail this flavor with ease.

As for the Vegan Aged White Cheddar Flavor Popcorn, just imagine that same crisp, corny base coated in the previously described cheesy powder. The harmonious blend produces my favorite snack of them all, which I would consider the ultimate movie munch. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine who wouldn’t enjoy this, and if it were possible, I wouldn’t want to meet them.

Finally, taking a sharp departure from the previous light and fluffy nibbles, P.B. Popps stands out from the crowd in both flavor and appearance. Described as “popcorn cuddled in peanut butter and a bustle of oats,” I’m not sure my own tasting notes can really compare to that statement. Employing round mushroom kernels as opposed to the butterfly popcorn kernels in the previous savory offerings, each dense sphere is a veritable peanut butter bomb. The somewhat soft, creamy exterior gives way to a solid crunch, with whole roasted peanuts and oats intermingling throughout. Reminiscent of decadent granola clusters, the popcorn loses its characteristic corny flavor underneath the heavy coating, acting more as a vehicle for the sweet and salty nut butter. Peanut butter lovers will surely adore the stuff, but I’m not quite sure it has a place in my own snack food lineup.

While the buttery and peanut-y popcorn offerings are perfectly worthy of a midday snack attack, it’s the cheese flavors that mark a big leap forward for vegankind. It’s a brave new world out there, and the food is only getting better (and cheesier.)

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18 thoughts on “Puff Piece

  1. One of the things I hate about not living in the US is the fact that I don’t have the chance to try so many vegan products/brands and Earth Balance is one of them!

    1. Fingers crossed that this one makes it across the globe! I think it has the selling power to do so in a matter of time.

      PS, I can’t seem to leave any comments on your blog. The CAPTCHA plugin is broken so there’s nothing I can enter into the anti-spam box.

  2. I haven’t tried the popcorn but I LOVE the puffs! I try not to eat the whole bag but it’s that good!

  3. I love when you do reviews and let us know what’s worth buying. Vegan processed food can be expensive, so I like to know it’s worth it! Thanks :)

    Look at all your cookbooks over there on the right! Holy cow! You’re awesome! :)

  4. I miss cheese puffs! These sound like the perfect replacement. I didn’t know EB was branching out to snack foods, I will have to check Wegmans next time I go to see if I can find some.

    1. As far as I know, the snack foods are only available in Whole Foods stores right now, but hopefully they’ll extend their reach in short order. There’s certainly a demand for it!

  5. Like some previous commenters, I’m not in the US and drool over all that you have available. I’m only 45 minutes across the border, but still! If I can’t find these snacks here in Canada, I’ll be sure to grab some on my next cross-border shopping trip.

  6. I can’t wait to try both of the new cheesy snacks when I get to the US next week. I’ve been reading about them for sooooo long now and they sound perfect!

  7. I will freely admit to sharing and finishing an entire bag of the puffs with my boyfriend. Sadly, WF can’t keep them in stock and I havent’ had any in over a month!

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