Taste Test Tuesday: Ranking Store-Bought Tortilla Chips
14 brands were put to the test to honor National Tortilla Chip Day
In my book, (or, less figuratively and more literally, my pantry) tortilla chips rank below potato chips as a go-to salty snack food. However, if you traipse down any supermarket snack aisle, you’ll see the tortilla varieties are not that far behind the potato chip offerings. Plus considering the tortilla chip’s ultimate partner salsa has been touted in various media reports as the new ketchup since about 2008, it’s time I gave tostadas, as they are were originally called, their due.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Rebecca Webb Carranza, credited with inventing the tortilla chip in Los Angeles in the 1940s at the El Zarape Tortilla Factory she owned with her husband. Tired of throwing away misshapen tortillas that came out of an automated tortilla machine, Carranza cut them into triangles and threw them in the fryer. She received the Golden Tortilla award in 1994 for her contribution to the Mexican food industry, and while it’s no James Beard Award, it sure as heck beats out the Blackened Banana Trophy I received in high school Home-Ec class.
Related: Potato Chip Taste Test
Enough about my high school accolades and onto methodology—in a blind taste test, 17 judges compared 14 brands of salted tortilla chips (yellow or white corn only) in flavor and texture. Judges were looking for good corn flavor, no oiliness, appropriate salt levels, and a sturdy and crunchy chip. All were first eaten plain, and then paired with guac and salsa to assess dipping performance. The chips were rated on scores of 1 to 5.
Here is the ranking from our least to most favorite.
Green Mountain Gringo: Score: 2.13 ($2.99 for 8 oz bag)
“Bland as cardboard” and “not much flavor” dominated the comments about this brand with the catchy name but not much else going for it.
365 Tortilla Chips: Score: 2.19 ($2.99 for 16 oz bag)
The Whole Foods Everyday brand was a “dry” chip that didn’t “have enough salt” or “flavor” and “broke when dipping,” which had one taster commenting: “this made me sad.”
Trader Joe’s Salted Tortilla Chips: Score: 2.21 ($1.99 for 16 oz bag)
A “strong corn flavor” couldn’t save TJ’s well-priced bag as many found the texture off-putting (“hard”) and others maintained they were “stale.”
Tacupeto Corn Chips: Score: 2.34 ($5.99 for 16 oz bag)
An “okay taste” and “crunch” had several judges giving this San Diego-based tortilla manufacturer decent flavor scores but most disliked the texture (too “thin” and “they do break” when dipping). A few tasters added they were “greasy.”
Donkey Authentic Tortilla Chips: Score: 2.37 ($3.99 for 14 oz bag)
“Zero flavor” and “not enough salt” sunk this no preservative, small-batch chip that most reviewers did credit with a “good crunch.”
Xochitl (pronounced so cheel): Score: 2.4 ($5.49 for 16 oz bag)
A few tasters picked this as their favorite for the “light and crispy” texture, but most found them “way too thin” and “not sturdy,” while others lamented that there was “not enough salt.”
Calidad: Score: 2.44 ($1.99 for 12 oz bag) ($1.99)
“Too salty” was the most common complaint of this inexpensive chip sold at Walmart and Sam’s Club. Some found it “light” and “pretty good” while other judges stated it was “too thin” and “dry.”
365 Organic Tortilla Chips: Score: 2.5 ($2.99 for 16 oz bag)
The mixed scores for the While Foods organic chip can be summed up thusly: “meh.”
Garden of Eatin’: Score: 2.82 ($3.99 for 16 oz bag)
This “thick,” “sturdy” chip, part of natural and organic foods company The Hain Celestial Group, garnered positives for its “dip-ability” but lost points for an “average flavor.”
Santitas: Score: 2.85 ($2 for 11 oz bag)
A “nice crunch” and “proper salt level” propelled this Frito-Lay-owned brand to respectable scores by most tasters.
Tostitos Frito-Lay: Score: 2.90 ($4.29 for 13 oz bag)
“Good crispness” and “saltiness level” had most judges giving high marks to this well-known brand. The chip lost points for some because of a “weak corn flavor.”
On the Border: Score: 2.93 ($3 for 12 oz bag)
A few tasters didn’t care for the “average flavor” but a majority approved of its “corn taste” and all but three agreed it had a “light and airy” texture with a “great crunch.” Truco Enterprises, a food and beverage producer specializing in Tex-Mex products and based in Dallas, owns the brand.
Herr’s Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips: Score: 3 ($2.50 for 13 oz bag)
“Very salty in a good way” and a “thin and crisp texture” had most judges giving solid scores and a second place finish to this family-owned, Pennsylvania-based snack manufacturer.
Trader Joe’s Organic Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips: Score: 3.1 ($2.69 for 16 oz bag)
In a narrow victory, TJ’s organic brand won for its “mid-saltiness,” “thick and crunchy,” texture, and “lots of corn flavor.”