There are few things that genuinely excite us when it comes to the latest food products (believe us, we’ve pretty much seen it all), but when it comes to Lay’s and the introduction of a new flavor (or flavors!), you’d think Beyoncé just casually dropped into our office, unannounced, to gift us with blue diamonds that she handpicked herself.
Chips are universally beloved and there is, perhaps, no other universally-recognized chip than a classic Lay’s, fried and salted to perfection. Its creative iterations, a result of their innovative Do Us a Flavor campaigns, have sparked nationwide hysteria with consumers clamoring to try bags before they fly off the shelves.
Enter the company’s latest brilliant marketing tactic: the Tastes of America tour, featuring geographically-inspired flavor combinations available only in the regions that produced them. (You can also order a variety pack on the Lay’s website to try them all.)
The Chowhound editorial team got their hands on all eight of the bags and ranked them from worst to best. Check out our entirely subjective thoughts below. If there’s one thing we’ve learned while doing these, it’s that nobody shares the same preferences. Ever.
8. Thai Sweet Chili
This probably isn’t the worst flavor on the list. In fact, it pretty much ranked middle-of-the-road for our entire team. The problem is that it wasn’t bold enough to make any sort of statement, which is a huge disappointment given its touted Thai origin. If you’re looking for the best Thai chip on the market, look no further than Kettle’s Spicy Thai variety. They are the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
7. Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese is a gift from the Southern gods, but mostly because of its amazing texture play. Unfortunately, that’s difficult to capture in chip form. We realized that this chip also tastes better when eaten alone. Its taste subtleties can be easily drowned out by some of the other flavors’ powerful ingredients. That being said, you’d fare better with a cheddar and sour cream Ruffle. Perhaps dipped in pimento cheese? Mmm. So meta.
6. Chili con Queso
We didn’t mind these, but they weren’t unfamiliar. It tasted quite similar to the taco and nacho varieties of Lay’s chips’ past. Kudos for cutting down on the cumin, though. Any flavor with that spice is Bethenny Frankel-level aggressive (a.k.a. unwelcome).
5. Deep Dish Pizza
This was, perhaps, the most polarizing flavor of the bunch. You either loved it or hated it—there was no in between. Those who enjoy tomato and ketchup, this one’s for you. Those who hate anything tasting remotely artificial, you’ll need immediate access to a trash can. You’ve been forewarned.
4. New England Lobster Roll
The only flavor we were getting with these was butter, which means Lay’s deserves the ultimate congratulations for capturing the true taste of America.
3. Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice
They should just change this flavor to Old Bay Seasoning and call it a day. Granted, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Old Bay, but the use of crab can be slightly misleading. We did, however, pick up some lemon notes, which took them from generic and predictable to interesting and slightly complex.
2. Fried Pickles with Ranch
You can’t go wrong with pickle-flavored anything. These were definitely more subdued (because of the ranch addition), but still packed that dill punch we so frequently crave. If you’re pregnant, you’ll want these on stand-by.
1. Cajun Spice
Honestly, we’re surprised something so simple came out on top, but you can nosh on a bag and never get sick of them which, by chip-eating standards, makes them absolutely perfect.