If you're a fan of salt and vinegar potato chips, you're probablyActuallyas. You probably like it when your eyes weep a few tears, your nostrils flare a little, your lips turn white from all the spices, and your tongue is coated in all that sour, salty smell.
You want to open a bag that explodes with vinegar-scented air so forcefully that you pop outwow yesAfter eating an entire bag, you sometimes wonder if your tongue won't fall off right away, and it probably would be worth it if it did.
Who was the first genius to decide what salt and vinegar should be put on a potato? The Irish snack brandtaytoit was supposedly the first to market flavored chips. They pioneered a technology in the 1950s to add seasonings directly to the chip (actually called "crisp"), starting with cheese and onion and then adding salt and vinegar.
But even before that, many places in England served fish and chips with salt and malt vinegar to every table, which was also a key force in this flavor combination.
SEHQ is home to many fans of S&V chips. It was only natural that this taste test had to happen. So we tested 15 different brands to find our favorites.
Most of the big chip players have a salt and vinegar variety. We took all the popular brands we could find.
- teapot brand(kocherbrand.com)
- Kettle brand, reduced fat
- Lay's Kettle(website)
- Whole Foods 365(website)
- Camino 11(website)
- trader joe(website)
- cape cod(website)
- Cape Cod, reduced fat
- deep river(website)
- Miss Vickies(website)
A real pinch of salt and vinegar catches the eye. There is kick. Not for wimpy chip eaters (stick with the tortilla chips). Your taste buds will wake up instantly—hello vinegar. French fries should be flavorful, salty, and like any good French fries, crisp and not too greasy.
Most of us at SEHQ are serious fans of S&V chips. This means that we want our fries to reach our mouths with vinegar. Non-fans skipped the tasting; some swore they would have gag reflexes if they were force-fed. So we didn't go there.
Flavors ranged from weak (are you sure it has vinegar in it?) to delicious. We tend to like stronger, more powerful, mouth-burning flavors.
When it comes to chip texture, some of us prefer the thicker chip style; others prefer the thinner, crispier type, like classic Lay's. The winners of both varieties are included in the tasting results.
#1. Kettle Brand Fries (7.11)
This had all the virtues of a good salt and vinegar chip, especially if you're serious about vinegar. "Vinegar hits you afterwards and hits hard!" said a taster. It's spicy, tart, and gets interesting with every handful. The fries are crisp, not greasy and have a very strong potato flavor. This is the quintessential salt and vinegar chip here.
#2. Miss Vickie (7.05)
"Well those are my thoughts when I think of salt and vinegar chips," Ed said as he dove into a bag. In fact, we had them outside before the tasting began and found that Ed had already unsuspectingly grabbed them and dropped the bag."Hey, where did Miss Vickie's bag go...[*looks at Ed, caught with empty pocket*]...Ed!!!"When tested alongside the winning Kettle brand, they were slightly less vinegary. The acidity is slightly toned down, but not so much as to disturb the balance of flavor. It's a solid bag of S&V.
#3. Cape Cod (6.33)
This is the classic you'll want to eat with a boxed sandwich at the beach. Very vinegary but well balanced with the salt. There is a hint of spice and a very light sweetness. And remember the pickles? Yes. In the right sense. "Nice crunch, nice pop," said one taster. A good chip.
#4. Blanco (6.18)
While many of the other brands were on the thick end of the spectrum, they are thin. "It dissolves on the tongue like a host," said a taster, to give you an idea. Pretty aggressive vinegar punch here, and it tastes like real vinegar too. Like someone let them bathe in a Heinz bottle. "WOAH Vinegar. How could anyone eat more than one of those?" Many tasters appreciated the sour taste, but beware: it is a vinegar bomb.
#5. to (6.05)
These are thin and crisp with a body similar to Wise chips. They are very salty.Actuallysalty. Not as much vinegar as Wise's and we wish there was something to make up for the salt. But we'd still be happy to eat a bag.
#6. Lay's Kettle (5.89)
Chip Soft Salt and Vinegar, we haven't forgotten about you. These are really more for the classic fries people posing as S&V eaters. True S&V enthusiasts may laugh. "Ha, really? You call that salt and vinegar?" The chip itself is crunchy and full of potato, but something sweet happens towards the end that masks the salty experience. They aren't as intense as many others, but some tasters appreciated their smooth personality and rated them higher.
#7. Dirty (5.55)
a case ofsalt > vinegar.We wanted more vinegar here. In the end, they usually just taste salty. If you like salt more than vinegar, you might like Dirty's. They are ridiculously crunchy. Crunchy scratches on the palate.
#8. Trader Joes (5.22)
A rarer case ofvinegar > salt."All vinegar, hardly any salt," said one taster. Hard and thick with a strenuous chewing process. Some felt it had an old texture.
#9. Cape Cod, low fat (5.06)
We tried a few low-fat versions just to see if the difference was significant. And that's usually all. But as far as low-fat fries go, they're not that bad. Good salt, good vinegar, good crisp. If you have a calorie calculator in your pocket, you won't compromise on flavor too much.
#10. Whole Foods 365 (5.0)
Ka-runch.These are tall. You can't eat them in a library, say. If the critical factor is high on their list, they'll have you covered. But in terms of flavor, it was another unfortunate case of too much salt and too little vinegar.
salt and malt vinegar?
Of the 15 brands we tested, only Boulder Canyon said they were made with malt vinegar, not generic distilled white vinegar. (Although Lay's bag has a picture of a malt and vinegar bottle, it is labeled simply "Salt and Vinegar.") They tasted sweeter, maltier and, to many tasters, not like the real thing. S&V. If you opened such a package and were expecting classic S&V chips, you might be disappointed. At least initially. Maybe you grew up in taste like Ed and Robyn.
They just don't deliver the same bitter punch. It's like if you buy some chocolate and burn it in that chocolatey way, then you get caramel.
Why do others fare worse?
As you can see, not all chip brands have achieved the above results. What happened to these absentees? They were usually pretty bland and boring. "More vinegar, please" was a common complaint. Or there was a vinegar taste, but no wrinkles. And you want a little wrinkles, right? They should not be flat. The texture was also important. Some fries tasted stale and hard. You don't want to remove the fillings when eating French fries.
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