Processed-Cheese Craving Killer

Ritz Crackerfuls

Ritz Crackerfuls

I Paid: $3.55 for six 1-ounce cracker sandwiches (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

If you don’t have time to spread a processed cheese product on a cracker and then put another cracker on top of that product, good news: New Ritz Crackerfuls are the product for you. Made with “real cheese and … whole grain,” Crackerfuls feature Garlic Herb, Four Cheese, or Classic Cheddar “natural flavor with other natural flavors.” And the thoughtful inclusion of a stalk of wheat in the logo—plus the depiction of a rough-hewn chunk of cheese, a clove of garlic, and a sprig of rosemary on the Garlic Herb box—is reassuring to those of us who aren’t necessarily up for buying a processed-cheese-caulking-filled, individually wrapped, industrially produced cracker sandwich.

Which, of course, is exactly what you get. It was difficult to count how many ingredients were in either of the two varieties I sampled, because the ingredients break down into sublists and even parenthetical asides within those sublists. But I took a crack at it with the Garlic Herb variety and came up with a count of 30. At any rate, an estimate of 25 to 40 seems about right. And while the ingredients include some benevolent-sounding things such as unbleached enriched flour (ingredient number 1!) and whole-grain wheat flour, you also get palm and/or high-oleic canola and/or soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or soybean oil, high-fructose corn syrup, and resistant corn maltodextrin.

Actually, I don’t know if resistant corn maltodextrin is all that bad. It just seems like an ingredient with a fun, Paul Bunyan–esque tale behind it. Resistant to what? How far from the corn on the cob is this stuff? Oh, here we go. It looks like it has a lower glycemic index than typical corn maltodextrin and is therefore better for diabetics. And apparently maltodextrin in general—which is also in Crackerfuls—is a fairly inexpensive thickener used as filler in processed foods.

In defense of the product, it offers 5 grams of whole grain per serving, and 3 grams of fiber. Moreover, Crackerfuls don’t taste too bad. The salt level is nice and balanced. The sweetish, malty, whole-wheat flavor is also pleasant: present without being terribly aggressive. The Garlic Herb variety has a bit of actual garlic burn to it and a solid onion aftertaste, while the Classic Cheddar has a blander filling that’s a bit more like edible caulking.

If you’re in need of processed-cheese-based cracker sandwiches, this is the way to go. Alternatively: Visit a nice cheesemonger, buy some aged Gouda or alpine-style pasture-grazed cheese that you slice yourself, and serve it on the cracker of your choice. It’s a free country.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow Chowhound on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.

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