REVIEW: Lay’s Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

I love Tex-Mex – breakfast tacos, fajitas – you name it, I’ll eat it. But, my favorite Tex-Mex invention is hands down: queso.

As part of their annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest push, Lay’s has unleashed another presumably LTO flavor – Southwestern Queso – to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, Lay’s had to be politically correct and name it “Southwestern Queso” but is there really any other kind of delicioso queso like this?! I think not. I am currently living very far away from the “Southwest,” so I was pretty stoked to see something, anything queso.

When I opened the bag, I was surprised that there was no pungent smell invading my olfactory system. In attempts to make up for the flavor not actually tasting like what it’s trying to mimic, a lot of limited edition foods overcompensate with smell or at least I think so. Unfortunately, this notion gave me false hope that the chips would actually taste like queso. Anyways, the smell of these reminded me faintly of BBQ; I couldn’t really pinpoint it immediately.

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 2

The chips looked like a normal seasoned chip color – a twinge of orange, but not neon Cheetos orange. Unlike the photo on the bag, they were also speckled with additional seasoning which reminded me of speckling on Lay’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. Is it bad that I was surprised that the chip pieces were actually whole? I recall Lay’s being really brittle/always cracked for some reason. But, these whole oval slices looked like they actually came from a spud.

Like the smell test, I couldn’t really immediately identify what I was tasting. I kept thinking BBQ but realized the prevailing taste was another Lay’s favorite: Sour Cream & Onion. But, the aftertaste was like Cheddar & Sour Cream. So, the extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese (don’t ask haha). After a handful of chips, I was surprised that I was picking up on a little heat as well. But, it wasn’t too spicy.

Lay’s, what about this tastes like my beloved queso?

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 3

After my tastebuds were saturated in salt and artificial flavoring, I concluded that it wasn’t good but wasn’t terrible for a chip. But, don’t you dare try to tell me that this is queso-flavored. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

If I were naming the flavor I’d name it: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion with a little bit of Hot ‘n Spicy BBQ. After this disappointment, I took a peek at the ingredient list. Lay’s attempted to make it look like they tried with “Southwestern Queso Seasoning”, red and green bell pepper extract, paprika extracts and even blue cheese. Either R&D really sucked or this “Southwestern Queso Seasoning” is the Franken-creation I previously mentioned.

I keep telling myself that some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex, but Lay’s Southwestern Queso flavor is a really hard sell.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: No pungent smell. Whole chips that look like they actually came from a spud! Some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex?
Cons: What about this tastes like my beloved queso? Extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

REVIEW: Lay’s Poppables (White Cheddar and Sea Salt)

Lay's Poppables

In between its flavor experiments (long live the cappuccino chip!), Lay’s has decided to try switching up the form factor on the beloved potato chip for its next innovation. The results are named Poppables for their popped up 3D shape that can easily be popped into your mouth.

Before you read any further please take note, though, that these are high class potato snacks.

Exhibit A – the eye catching design on the top of the bags as Harper’s Bazaar tells me that polka dots are recently back on trend.

Exhibit B – the o in Poppables needs a dot below it, which the internet tells me is a diacritic mark, whatever that is. Do you pronounce it differently? No clue.

Exhibit C (and if you weren’t already convinced this is the dead giveaway) – notice that the two featured flavors are not just cheddar but white cheddar and not just original but sea salt.

Lay's Poppables 2

I’m surprised they didn’t go further with possibly aged white cheddar or pink Himalayan salt or something. I, myself, alternate between drip coffee and espresso, so I do like to think of myself as highbrow every now and then meaning I was very, very excited to try out these bite-sized snacks.

Lay's Poppables 3

Their shape looks like a lattice cut potato chip and an M&M had a beautiful snack baby. A very hollow but starchy one. Each is about the size of a quarter and significantly puffed out towards the center. The crunchiness is definitely a highlight as there are so many layers to bite through from the unique shape.

After the crunching gives way, the flavors definitely make their arrival. The sea salt ones have a tiny bit too much saltiness to them as it increases the more you chew. The white cheddar, though, have a nice crunch followed by intense cheesy flavor that then transforms into your classic potato chip profile. I found myself continually popping these into my mouth as they are a lot lighter than expected and not heavy at all (until you have eaten half the bag, though).

Lay's Poppables 4

To wrap up on these Poppables, out of the two eatable flavors available, and while this could be debatable, I did think that the white cheddar was more desirable and capable of tingling my excitable taste buds even though both, while perishable and potentially breakable, were portable, delectable, and very satiable potato snacks.

(Nutrition Facts – White Cheddar – about 28 pieces – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Sea Salt – about 30 pieces – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49 each
Size: 5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (White Cheddar)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Sea Salt)
Pros: On trend packaging design. Potato chips and M&M’s falling in love and procreating. Crunchiness and lightness all in one.
Cons: Overuse of the suffix -able. Aged White Cheddar and Pink Himalayan Salt getting the shaft.

REVIEW: Lay’s Popcorn Caramel Potato Chips (Thailand)

Lay’s Popcorn Caramel Potato Chips (Thailand)

Even though I didn’t care for these Lay’s Popcorn Caramel Potato Chips from Thailand, I think there needs to be maw papkawn-phaabad paheyho hips.

I’m sorry. I was trying to say “more popcorn-flavored potato chips,” but I’m also trying to dig out with my fingernail a popcorn shell shard that’s stuck between my left mawlas. I mean, molars. My oral excavation is the reason why I’d like popcorn-flavored potato chips.

Maybe I should use floss. Let’s see if I have floss. I do!

Is that blood? Ugh. It’s blood. Spits. I really should floss more than the two weeks leading up to a dentist visit. Maybe four weeks?

With popcorn-flavored potato chips, I wouldn’t have to worry about popcorn shells getting stuck between my teeth and it poking my gums every time I move my jaw. I know there’s Popchips and its ilk, but they don’t have the satisfying crunch or saltiness of a potato chip. Movie theater butter popcorn-flavored potato chips would be awesome.

But these Lay’s Popcorn Caramel Potato Chips weren’t eat-the-bag-in-one-sitting good. They have a musty sweet aroma that’s inviting…me to think they won’t be good. The chips look normal, like they aren’t seasoned at all, but I got a strong hit of whatever seasoning was on the chips when I popped one into my mouth.

They did taste like caramel corn, but there were other chips that tasted like coffee, and other chips that had a nondescript sweet flavor. But all the chips had the same odd, greasy aftertaste; one that I’ve experienced in the past with seafood-flavored Lay’s potato chips from Asian countries.

Lay’s Popcorn Caramel Potato Chips (Thailand) 2

Like Lay’s Chicken & Waffles and Cappuccino flavored potato chips, these popcorn caramel-flavored chips are a nice novelty, but their flavor is not something I’d crave. To be honest, I’d rather eat actual caramel corn and deal with the papkawn sal. I mean, popcorn shell that gets stuck between my teeth.

Thanks to James from Travelling McD’s for sending these chips to me!

(Nutrition Facts – Too lazy to translate the nutrition label written Thai.)

Purchased Price: Given as gift
Size: N/A
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Not gross. Trying odd potato chip flavors from Asia. Flossing. Tricking your dentist into thinking you floss regularly.
Cons: Inconsistent flavor. Smell weird. Greasy aftertaste. Getting popcorn shells stuck between your teeth.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

I’m fairly new to Indian food.

Up until a year ago, I basically feared it. I didn’t want any part of it. I respect your beliefs, but no beef?! I had beef with your lack of beef!

Then I found out my local joint had a $12 lunch buffet. Twelve bucks? Buffet? You know I ain’t got beef with a good value, so I bucked up and gave it a shot.

It was great. Indian food is great. Who needs beef?

One of the dishes they eased me in with was Chicken Tikka Masala, which until a couple months ago I called “Tikka Mar-sala” like it was cooked with an Italian wine.

I’m fairly new, folks.

For those who aren’t familiar, Tikka Masala is a dish made from chunks of spiced meat served in a tomato and coriander sauce. The recipe varies from site to site, so I’ll just go with the spices listed in the ingredients — turmeric, cumin, paprika, tomato, onion, and garlic powders.

The chips are orange, so they look the part. They definitely smell the part. I wouldn’t say Indian food has the most pleasant aroma in the world, unless you enjoy the scent of an entire spice rack hitting your nostrils at once. If you’re familiar with Wise’s BBQ chips, I was immediately put in mind of those. With all due respect to Wise, they’re my least favorite basic BBQ chip on the market.

Honestly, these taste like Wise BBQ with a bit more kick. There’s a lot going on with these chips.

Chili powder isn’t one of the spices listed, but I tasted a chili element. It’s nothing too overpowering, but it builds up the more you eat. The back of my tongue was pretty hot when I was done and a fiery aftertaste lingered. That’s neutralized a bit by a faint sweetness (which might not be the right word) that I imagine was from the coconut so commonly used in Indian cuisine. This comes through more so in the actual dish than the chip, but it’s there if you look for it.

So yeah, the flavor was reminiscent of the dish. It was the texture that bugged me.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips 2

Most of the Indian food I’ve had has been soft and mushy – tender meats, rice, curries, etc. These are the hardest chips known to man, so that contrasting texture choice seems odd to me. I think these would’ve been better as normal chips, but I can admit I have a bias. I’ve never been a huge fan of kettle chips. I don’t hate them, but I’ve always found kettle chips greasier, and fear for the health of my molars while eating them.

So if you’re a fan of Indian food, or would like to ease yourself into becoming a fan, these are a valiant effort from Lay’s. I wouldn’t recommend eating too many in one sitting as these left me with…what’s the best way to say this without being gross? Later in the day I was reminded that I had Tikka Masala chips, if you catch my drift.

You’ll burp. You’re probably gonna burp. These chips will make you burp. You’re probably gonna get some indigestion. You might wanna eat these in the privacy of your own home.

One last thing, I thought this Lay’s Passport to Flavor gimmick was a tie-in with the Rio Olympics, but the bag doesn’t seem to reflect that in any way. I guess if that were the case, these chips would be called “Zika Masala.”

That’s right I.O.C., I went there. We’ve got beef.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent representation of Tikka Masala. Nice kick. Very faint coconut. Getting over my fear of Indian food. $12 buffets.
Cons: Not nearly as good as the dish it emulates. Aftertaste lingers. Basically a BBQ variant. Kettle cooked. Rio conditions. Cornball jokes. Keep gum handy.

REVIEW: Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips

Lay's Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips

I’ve had a number of Lay’s potato chip flavors from China, like Sweet Barbecue Pork, Fresh Shrimp, Fun Wasabi Shrimp, Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish, and Numb & Spicy Hot Pot. They all had the same vibe to them. They were spicy, sweet, and unusual to the point where I’m not sure if I liked them.

I can say the same about Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips.

I imagine there are some of you who aren’t familiar with Szechuan Chicken because it’s not a dish that’s ever been available at Panda Express (the chain did have a Szechuan fish dish). According to the internet, Szechuan cooking involves heavy use of garlic and Szechuan pepper.

To get the flavor and spice of the regional Chinese dish, Lay’s could’ve gone with some generic pepper mixed with other ingredients, but they went with the real deal — roasted Szechuan pepper. They also went with an ingredient called “Natural Szechuan Wok Type Flavor.” Yes! I’ve always wanted to know what wok tastes like!

Lay's Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips 2

The chips look darker than your standard Lay’s, and some areas are even darker, making them look like they’re slightly burnt. Maybe that’s from the soy sauce that’s listed in the ingredients, or maybe it’s the wok type flavor. They’re both dark. Every chip also has specks of parsley.

They have an unusual sweet soy aroma that’s will turn off unadventurous snackers. As for the chip’s flavor, it come in waves. First, there’s a strong dose of soy sauce and garlic. Then there’s a slight sweetness that’s followed by pepper. As I ate the chips, there were moments when its flavor reminded me of wasabi. There’s also an underlying greasy flavor that I can only assume is the “chicken.” Thanks to the pepper, the chips have some spiciness to them, but it tingles more than burns. But I think if you have an aversion to spicy foods you won’t like these in your mouth.

To be honest, Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips are not a flavor I’d buy again. It’s not gross, but unlike most other potato chip flavors, I won’t mindlessly eat them. I’ll have a few and then say, “I’m good.” Out of all four Passport to Flavor varieties, this is my least favorite.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Edible. Adventurous taste buds.
Cons: Least favorite of the Lay’s Passport to Flavor varieties. Flavor not good enough for me to mindlessly eat. Those who don’t like spicy food might not like them. What’s wok flavor?