Crunch and Munch
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We Sampled 16 Kinds of Potato Chips — These Are the Best (and Worst)

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Crunch and Munch
Cheapism

Crunch and Munch

Americans have been snacking on potato chips for a long, long time. Legend has it that potato chips were invented in the 1850s by a chef in Saratoga Springs, New York, although recipes for thin-sliced, fried potatoes appeared in cookbooks earlier in the century. Whatever their origin, potato chips are one of the most popular snacks in America today, available in a dizzying array of flavors and styles. To help you narrow them down next time you’re in the snack aisle at the store, we taste-tested 16 kinds of plain potato chips, including low-fat and low-sodium options, from popular national brands. The results are listed in order from best to worst, with our favorite potato chips singled out for special attention.


Related: Snack Food Showdown: Trader Joe’s vs. Aldi


Lay’s Classic | Best Plain Potato Chip, tie
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Lay’s Classic: Best Plain Potato Chips (Tie)

Cheapism Taste Test Winner–Best Potato ChipsThin, crisp, a bit greasy, definitely salty … this is the potato chip that seems to show up in everyone’s school lunchbox, business box lunch, and office vending machine. Like Coca-Cola and Heinz rule their respective categories, Lay’s sets the standard for how a plain potato chip should taste.


Related: We Tried 13 Ketchups and Ranked Them From Best to Worst

Cape Cod Original with Sea Salt | Best Plain Potato Chip, tie
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Cape Cod Original: Best Plain Potato Chips (Tie)

Cheapism Taste Test Winner–Best Potato ChipsFor those who prefer a less salty (than Lay’s) thin-sliced potato chip, we also recommend Cape Cod. These chips had a delicate crunch with subtle potato flavor and just enough sea salt to balance that familiar greasy, oily finish all fried foods have.


Related: We Tried 9 Brands of Microwave Popcorn and This Is the Best

Lays Stax Original | Best Potato Crisp
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Lay's Stax Original: Best Potato Crisps

Cheapism Taste Test Winner–Best Potato ChipsMade from compressed, dried potato flakes, not slices of whole potatoes, Stax and rival Pringles aren’t true potato chips — technically, they’re “crisps” — but they’re sold right alongside true chips, so we’re including them in our roundup. Stax (and Pringles) were among the saltiest-tasting chips we sampled, with plenty of snap and a strong but not overwhelming starchy finish (that’s the dried potato for you).


Related: 27 Tasty Ways to Cook Potatoes

Kettle Brand Sea Salt | Best Kettle-Style Chip
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Kettle Brand Sea Salt: Best Kettle-Style Chips

Cheapism Taste Test Winner–Best Potato ChipsKettle-style chips are cut slightly thicker than regular potato chips for serious crunch, and the skins are left on for added flavor. We loved the crisp, satisfying snap as we munched, and the subtle seasoning allowed the surprisingly full, earthy baked-potato flavor to shine through.


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Great Value Kettle Cooked Original Potato Chips | Best Kettle-Style Chip, runner up
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Great Value Kettle-Cooked Original Potato Chips: Best Kettle-Style Chips Runner-Up

Most Walmart-brand products we’ve tasted over the years have been good but not great. The kettle-style potato chips, however, surprised us with a savory flavor that hinted at roasted potato skin with just enough salt for balance. This was easily the best cheap store-brand potato chip of the bunch


RelatedWalmart's Chocolate Chip Cookies Beat Top Brands in Taste Test

Ruffles Baked Original | Best Baked Potato Chip
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Ruffles Baked Original: Best Baked Potato Chips

Cheapism Taste Test Winner–Best Potato ChipsNo potato chip — or other snack food — is all that healthy. But if you are watching your diet and want to enjoy some chips now and then, this is your best option, with about half the fat and sodium of traditional chips per serving. Baked chips like this one are made with dried potatoes, and without the residue of frying oil, that strong if somewhat flat potato flavor comes through.


Related: The 20 Least Unhealthy Junk Foods

Lay’s Baked 65% Less Fat Original | Best Baked Potato Chip, runner up
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Lay’s Baked Original: Best Baked Potato Chips Runner-Up

Lay’s version of baked potato chips wasn’t bad, but it was definitely a step behind Ruffles. Thinner than Ruffles, the Lay’s lacked that familiar snap and crunch we crave in a potato chip, and the overall flavor was only moderately tasty.


Related: 20 Cheap and Tasty Ideas for Chips and Dip

Good & Gather 50% Less Fat Kettle Cooked Potato Chips | Best Low-Fat Chip
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Good & Gather 50% Less Fat Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips: Best Low-Fat Chips

Cheapism Taste Test Winner–Best Potato ChipsWith a skull-ringing crunch that was on par with Great Value (yet with half the fat), Target’s Good & Gather chips were another pleasant surprise. Our tasting panel found these to be a perfect mix of hearty potato flavor and salty seasoning. They were surprisingly flavorful for low-fat chips and definitely the best of Target’s offerings.

Simply Ruffles Sea Salted Reduced Fat Potato Chips | Best Low-Fat Chip, runner up
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Simply Ruffles Sea Salted Reduced Fat Potato Chips: Best Low-Fat Chips Runner-Up

Fat is what gives food — any kind of food — its flavor and depth. Reduce the fat, and most of the time flavor fades somewhat. A pale imitation of “classic” Ruffles and not as tasty as the Baked Original chips, these still pass muster if you're craving chips but watching your diet.


Related: 20 Snacks to Pack to Avoid Airport Rip-Offs

Lay’s Kettle Cooked Original
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Lay’s Kettle-Cooked Original

Like the other kettle-style chips in our roundup, the Lay’s version had plenty of crunch to please our panelists. But compared with others in our taste test, the Lay’s were the least appealing — not bad by any means; just a notch below in terms of balanced flavor and seasoning.

Pringles Original
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Pringles Original

Like Lay's Stax, Pringles are made of potato flakes, not whole sliced potatoes, giving them their distinct flavor. They weren’t bad, just too salty for our collective taste.

Good & Gather Kettle Cooked Sea Salt Potato Chips
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Good & Gather Kettle-Cooked Sea Salt Potato Chips

That familiar crunch is there, but Target’s kettle-style potato chip had a funky fried flavor that tasted of stale cooking oil and left an unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth.


Related: 25 Target Brand Products That Shoppers Love

Lay’s Lightly Salted 50% Less Sodium Classic
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Lay’s Lightly Salted Classic

These had relatively little flavor compared with the other Lay’s entries in our taste test, and 50% less sodium … dare we say almost too little salt?

Great Value Original Potato Chips
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Market Pantry Classic Potato Chips
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Market Pantry Classic Potato Chips

With a wimpy crunch, oily and mildly salted, these tasted like cut-rate Lay’s Original potato chips. Pass.

Zapp’s New Orleans Kettle Style Voodoo
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Zapp’s New Orleans Kettle-Style Voodoo

The ringer of the bunch, Zapp’s prides itself on chips that carry an extra wallop of flavor. In this case, it’s the sharp Cajun tang from garlic, turmeric, and paprika, plus a kiss of barbecue smoke. After we had sampled so many plain potato chips, this one made our eyes open wide. The flavor isn’t to everyone’s liking, but a few of our panelists couldn’t stop snacking on these.