What's the Deal with 'Mildly Sweet' Oreos?

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

My dealings with Asian desserts can be divided into two categories: the not very sweet, and the very very sweet. In the latter category you'll find bubble tea, syrupy shaved ice, condensed milk treats, packaged snacks, and the like. But most, I'll admit, aren't: starchy red beans, mild dessert soups, delicate jellies, rice flour cakes, coconut broths...you get the idea.

It's in that spirit that Oreo launched a "Mildly Sweet" version of the cookie to take over the Asian market. The regular recipe wasn't catching on with local tastes—consumers found the cookie too bitter and the creme too sweet—so they modified the recipe and launched a new marketing strategy, which included some different cookie shapes (like hollow straws with creme wrapped around the middle), and instructional ads on how to twist, lick, and dunk:

It's a stark contrast from the usual Oreo modification strategy of adding crazy flavors or textures or so much other stuff that the poor little cookie has an existential complex about whether it's still an Oreo at all. Mildly Sweets are the opposite: plain Oreos, but less of themselves.

As it turns out, a less sweet Oreo isn't a healthier Oreo. A 34-gram serving of regular Oreos contains 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar. An equal serving of Mildly Sweets has about 4 fewer grams of sugar, but the same total carbohydrates, calories, and fat. On scales this small, international differences in nutritional information measurements could mess with the numbers, making it hard to get an exact comparison, but one thing is clear: these aren't health food.

Anyway, how do they actually taste?

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The Mildly Sweet is noticeably lighter than the regular.

The good news: they're not one of the wretched Oreo disasters we've witnessed (looking at you, Berry Burst Ice Cream).

The bad news: if you're used to normal Oreos, they taste...bland. The cookie isn't just less bitter—it also tastes less like chocolate, has a less gritty-cocoa texture, and if it's less sweet, it's also less interesting. Oreo cookies are nothing if not distinctive. This formulation takes that distinction away.

The creme filling fares worse. Without the extra sugar, it tastes more like the Crisco swirl that it basically is. The texture is chalky, crumbly, and hard to lick up properly.

But here's the thing: that's coming from someone who's spent his entire life eating and loving Oreos just the way they are. Of course these close-but-not-quite cookies won't taste as good. And hey, some people like Newman-O's; others must like this stuff. The Asian market has latched on to the new recipe Oreos, and I don't think that's just because of the marketing. But if you love the original Oreo, this isn't going to win you over. Want a less-sweet cookie? Head over to an Asian grocery and pick up some other biscuity, chocolatey Japanese snacks. Those mushrooms are pretty awesome.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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