REVIEW: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips

Funfetti.

Chocolate-covered olive.

Nashville Hot Chicken and pickles.

These are but a few flavors we won’t be tempted to try as part of Lay’s annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest. After a three-year run with some highs, some lows, and frankly just some seasoning that had no business coming into contact with a potato, Lay’s is asking for America’s feedback in a totally new competition. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Flavor Swap offers a chance to pick the next Lay’s chip flavors, but only at the cost of an existing flavor, which will be exiled to the world of Oreo O’s cereal, Dunkaroos, and Black Pepper Jack Doritos. One of the flavors on the chopping block: the iconic and always reliable Honey Barbecue.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We are getting a choice, and when it comes to the barbecue category, the new Korean Barbecue chips offer something totally different from the eight other barbecue chip flavors listed on the Lay’s website — a taste of one of America’s hottest trends.

I first discovered Korean barbecue when a crapload of Kalbi and Bulgogi restaurants showed up in my Maryland suburb. I couldn’t speak a word of Korean, but the language of grilled marinated rib eye transcends ineffective Google translators. Marinated in a combination of soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and other spices, the thin cuts of grilled meats are totally unlike those loaded with vinegary Carolina sauces or sweet Kansas City sauces. Dare I say it, in some ways they’re better.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips 2

I can’t say that’s necessarily true about Lay’s take on the Korean barbecue. The chips are definitely unique; I’ll give them that. And they’re tasty too. Darker, with a grey shadow and specs of onion and garlic powder, they’ve got an initial salty and meaty flavor which tastes like instant beef bouillon, except not quite so disgusting-sounding. The strong umami notes soon give way to a prominent smoky flavor and a touch of sweetness, and when eaten straight from the bag, they’re almost impossible to put down.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 1

Almost. The thing is, Lay’s Honey Barbecue chips are impossible to put down. It’s an orange chip with a light tomato and paprika flavor that perfectly complements its sweet brown sugar and molasses touch, and its finish is distinctly potato-ey. It’s clean, simple, and just a good old potato chip.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 2

To use a rough barbecue analogy for the chips, Honey Barbecue is about the sauce and the spice, and Korean Barbecue is about the meat and the smoke. They’re both really good, and in the case of the Korean Barbecue flavor, the chips are distinct from other flavors we’ve seen before. But the former flavor is what I’m craving on a chip, and the latter on, well, actual meat.

As much as I love the idea of Korean Barbecue potato chips and want these to stick around, I’m not ready to exile Honey Barbecue to the island of misfit snacks for them. Salty, smoky, and meaty, the Korean Barbecue chips are just a little too heavy for a potato chip flavor, and could have really used a bit of ginger or additional backend sweetness to round their flavor out. Nevertheless, I hope Lay’s toys with the idea of keeping the chips around, because the Korean Barbecue has more than earned its place at America’s culinary table.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 140 mg of sodium, 330 mg of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $1.28
Size: 2.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nails the smoky meaty flavor of bulgogi meat in chip form. Complex saltiness with sweet notes in the background. Breaks relatively new ground in an already saturated barbecue chip market. Not chocolate-dipped olive.
Cons: Soy sauce flavor tastes a bit more like Worcestershire sauce. Umami flavor covers up clean finish of the potato taste. Not enough sweetness and no ginger. Not as good as Honey Barbecue flavored chips. Kind of wanting to try a Funfetti flavored chip.

5 thoughts on “REVIEW: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

  1. True story – Korea is the only place you can still get Oreo O’s cereal. Methinks I know what I’m having for breakfast 😉 (I live in Busan)

  2. I tried the Lay’s Korean BBQ Potato Chips and they were just okay. I finished off the 2 3/4 oz bag. However, I will not purchase them again. I also tried the Lay’s Fiery Roasted Habanero. While I do not typically eat really hot chips, this flavor was good. It was hot. But, it had a special blend of heat that I think will be a hit. My favorite new Lay’s Chip is the Sausage & Biscuit. It deserved to win the 2015 Pick A Flavor Contest. My wife and I both voted for it on-line.

  3. Solid review. Not a huge Lays or BBQ fan, but I usually try some of the limited flavors.

    Much like the Smoked Gouda and Chive, these are good/fine but not “must haves”. Not sure how well it captures a Korean BBQ, but I didn’t really notice the Umami as making it taste too different than other potato chips (“covers up the clean finish of the potato taste.”

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